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Chris Boyle

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Open Tech 2009[Jul. 4th, 2009|11:12 pm]

I'm sure there'll be many better write-ups of this very worthwhile event, but here are my brief impressions of each talk I went to (mostly room 3E).
VOIP radio drama
The Radio Riel Players have been recording contributions over Skype using USB mics and such. I didn't see it as open tech, except in so far as Audacity got a mention for post-production (Skype protocol docs, anyone?), but nice to see that such things are possible.
Digital Archaeology of the microcomputer, 1974-1994
Or, how to archive old software. Keep everything, including lossless audio in the case of data cassettes; record all relevant details like a good librarian or you won't be able to run it when you come back to it. Copy-"protection" methods, both enter-word-from-manual and other, are a pain. All fairly obvious I guess, but perhaps good lessons for anyone developing software that people might want in 10+ years.
Open video as the new TV
Making video is hard. These guys have some good channels, some useful code around RSS and torrents, and apparently some templates for videos.
Standards are Peace, Standardization [sic] is War!
Locking a committee in a room until they come out with what they all hate least does not a good standard make. I basically agree with this, although other approaches have their drawbacks too.
Why our internet liability laws are broken
Scary. They are. I didn't realise the state of UK law is actually worse than the DMCA in this regard: at least the DMCA requires complete, accurate takedown notices and has a significant penalty for inaccurate ones. Contrast with a generic lawerly nastygram.
One Click Orgs
A useful service for groups that suddenly need to be legally-recognised organisations, to take a lot of the faff away.
10 cultures (Bill Thompson)
The Bill & Ben show was the highlight of the day for me. Bill's argument was along the lines of: politicians need to understand the principles and capabilities of current technology (so far so good), and the fastest way to get them into that mindset is to teach them the basics of programming. An interesting suggestion, but well made, and entertaining. Edit: someone recorded this.
Ben Goldacre
Of Bad Science fame, and the well-founded media mockery was good fun to see in person. To echo a tweet, If that was Ben Goldacre hung over, I really want to see him at his best! Talking about, among other things, how widely-scattered blogs often present much more useful information than mainstream media, but it's hard for an outsider to jump in and get an overview of the story. A suggestion that sounded a bit like wikinews plus a few tools to fix it, good luck with that, but I'd like to see it succeed.
The Guardian and the Ian Tomlinson story
Mostly graphs of how well it did for them, but also some discussion of the decision to release the video online immediately rather than drip-feed information through the paper.
Opening up the Guardian
This is fantastic. I've never known another media outlet publish so much data (as in, the facts and figures gathered in the course of journalism) and most of their articles for easy programmatic access. I wish more of them did; the ability for the public to see (and make their own analysis/mashups of) the full data behind a story is a force for higher quality journalism.
Ephemerality? Real time web vs persistence
Fairly abstract discussion of the trade-offs of how much of the past to store, privacy controls, making that data useful, and so on. Food for thought.
Location, Privacy and Opting In not Out
How Latitude and Fire Eagle are actually good models for privacy controls; contrast TPS and other opt-outs (including MPS, which I hadn't even heard of). The ability to lie to at least some people, some of the time, about some data, is important.
Your Energy Identity
The state of the environment is somewhat scary. This was a a supplier of energy monitoring pushing the need for their services, mostly validly I felt, but perhaps slightly off the "open" and "tech" topics.
Sir Bonar Neville-Kingdom GCMG KCVO
Everything that's wrong with government, personified. Nevertheless, I thoroughly recommend hearing him speak if you get the chance. I shall say no more.
No2ID and Open Rights Group: Intercept Modernisation Programme (IMP)
Jim Killock of ORG did a very good presentation of the problems, which are many, and Guy Herbert from No2ID covered more of the details. As the latter said, there are some non-conspiratorial, but no less worrying, explanations for the government's thirst for data, chiefly empire-building. Don't underestimate the willingness of large bureaucracies to spend a lot of money promoting their own objectives without any positive end in view.
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