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Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson

19 July 2021

Like someone reading Wikipedia on speed.


19 July 2021

The Zettelkasten Method

1 July 2020

Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998) was a social scientist whose wide-ranging and prolific writing is often attributed to his note-taking system named “Zettelkasten.” Luhmann wrote around 60 books and 400 articles upon numerous social phenomena, such as law, education, mass media and love, in the process of creating a comprehensive theory of society. Luhmann’s system was made up of index cards (zettel) which he kept in slip-boxes. Luhmann used alphanumeric strings to connect related notes, allowing him to combine ideas into chains of thought which he could repeatedly return to and expand.

Only in Silence the Word

18 June 2020

“Only in silence the word, only in darkness the light, only in dying life: bright the hawk’s flight on the empty sky.” – Ursula Le Guin (the greatest fictional expositor of Zen in modern times)

Policy Based Evidence

15 June 2020

Policy-based evidence and emotion-based reasons are the unacknowledged ids of our rationalist society. All of us (other than psychopaths!) find it hard to preach one thing and do another. Hence, we are all forced to find ways to have our reason and our instinct coincide. Sincerity is essential to our self image.

Jeff Bezos on Fast, High Quality Decision-Making

18 May 2020

2016 Letter to Shareholders In his 2016 Letter, Bezos distinguishes between decisions which are consequential and irreversible and those that can be reversed. One common pitfall for large organizations – one that hurts speed and inventiveness – is “one-size-fits-all” decision making. Some decisions are consequential and irreversible or nearly irreversible – one-way doors – and these decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly, with great deliberation and consultation. If you walk through and don’t like what you see on the other side, you can’t get back to where you were before.

Excerpts from How To Take Smart Notes

1 April 2020

I looked at Sönke Ahrens’ How To Take Smart Notes because I was interested in the Zettelkasten methodology the book explains (more on Zettelkasten in an upcoming post). The book is a mixture of a summary of Zettelkasten plus misc opinions on the importance of note-taking and tips on motivation / writing (I found the latter less useful!). Overall this is a reasonable introduction, though if you just want an intro to Zettelkasten there are probably shorter ones out there.

Every enterprise requires simple, clear, and unifying objectives

17 March 2020

Every enterprise requires simple, clear, and unifying objectives. Its mission has to be clear enough and big enough to provide a common vision. The goals that embody it have to be clear, public, and often reaffirmed. We hear a great deal of talk these days about the culture of an organization. But what we really mean by this is the commitment throughout an enterprise to some common objectives and common values.

Review of Skim PDF Reader

8 March 2020

I looked at Skim to see if it was a useable and easy PDF reader and note-taker for my laptop. I thought it would be a good app for reading and annotating long texts, or even short texts with lots of annotations in a small space that may get lost amongst each other. The really good thing about Skim is there are two sidebars - one which shows pages of the file, and another that shows every edit, note, highlight, strikethrough, etc.

Notes on Wilber's Trump and a Post-Truth World

2 January 2020

Classic Wilber. Insightful, on the money, analysis – one of the best I have read. I think the integral stages (and AQAL) perspective is very useful. As often with Wilber, I’d love a bit more footnoting – and a bit more proof-editing.1 But these are quibbles as this was obviously hastily put together. Table of contents De Gustibus non Est Disputandum is very Green De Gustibus and Market-ism Trump is existence proof of the bankruptcy of post-modern ideology And therefore marks the end of green extremism 1 : Self-Correction at the Leading-Edge Green Emerged in the 60s and was a Positive Force But it veered into an extreme, dysfunctional form This has been bad for Green as a force for progress Postmodernism led directly to nihilism and narcissim Systemic nihilism and narcissim is a problem esp for a cultural leading edge Down the Rabbit-Hole of Identity Politics 3: The Birth of a Post-Truth Culture The Legitimation Crisis Tech is Green and it gave us search engines that prioritised popularity over truth, goodness, beauty, depth.

So, What Now (or maybe So What): What Am I and Art Earth Tech Up To?

22 November 2019

Preamble So, what now? Or, maybe: so what? A way of living that evokes living. A way of being that evokes Being. A way of working that evokes Presence. It starts to write down “our goal” or “our purpose” and I hesitate. The very thing I’ve seen is the attachment to getting somewhere. Only when you have discovered there is nowhere to get to, nothing to be done - can you “go” anywhere, “do” anything.

My Setup for Getting Things Done

6 November 2019

This post details my personal setup for implementing Getting Things Done. It follows on from my post earlier this year summarizing the Getting Things Done process. Setup Infrastructure This is how I set up all the “infrastructure”. The three main things you need are: A primary capture / inbox tool => Todoist The main processing lists (Next, Projects, Someday Maybe, Tickler etc) => Todoist Preferentially these would be in same location as the inbox for easy movement of tasks A reference / filing system => files + git with some stuff in GDrive I imagine most people would just use their hard disk plus sync to their cloud drive of choice.

From Scarcity of Things to Scarcity of Will

22 October 2019

In the last hundred years we have gone from material scarcity to psychological scarcity. From scarcity of things to scarcity of will. From hunger to obesity. From the theatre-going to binge-watching. From a telegram to the Facebook Feed.

In the Beginning Was the Command Line by Neal Stephenson

9 October 2019

Always thought this was a brilliant non-tech introduction to a bunch of techie subjects plus a nice potted history of some parts of computing. Also , characteristically Stephenson: readable, engaging, witty, making complex subjects novelistically accessible, and, a tad verbose. A techie and slightly inferior version of Richard Powers or Thomas Pynchon (and that’s high praise). I have always especially liked this excerpt explaining the different OSes around 1999 (when the book was written)

Working From Home Works - Bloom et al 2015

5 July 2019

Just came across an interesting paper from Nick Bloom et al (QJE 2014): A rising share of employees now regularly engage in working from home (WFH), but there are concerns this can lead to ‘‘shirking from home.’’ We report the results of a WFH experiment at Ctrip, a 16,000-employee, NASDAQ-listed Chinese travel agency. Call center employees who volunteered to WFH were randomly assigned either to work from home or in the office for nine months.

A Wise Society is an Awakened Society

2 July 2019

The commitment of a wise society is awakening, individually and collectively. What is collective awakening? The next buddha is a sangha – Thich Nhat Hanh Awakening is, by its nature, hard to describe and impossible to define. But it can be alluded to and its presence is unmistakable. Just as awakened beings have certain noticeable characteristics so we can seek to describe the characteristics of an awakened collective, of an awakened society.

US Gov Antitrust Action on Digital Monopolies including Facebook,Google and Amazon

4 June 2019

Promising news of US Gov Antitrust action on digital monopolies such as Facebook, Google etc: But we need more than traditional antitrust (“closing door after horse has bolted). We need an the Open Revolution: For specific analysis and remedies for these digital monopolies see:

Getting Things Done by David Allen

27 May 2019

9/10. Decades of learning distilled in one simple, complete package. I also appreciate the Zen / Landmark-ian aspects. There is one caveat, common to all productivity / personal development techniques, namely: the devil is in the implementation, i.e. the self-discipline and practice to apply the techniques. No matter how great the ideas and processes are you need to put them into practice and that is usually the hardest part – “ideas are cheap, implementation is costly”.

New York Review of Books Article: Low Visibility

25 May 2019

James McAuley’s article “Low Visibility”, published on the 21st March, is nominally a review of Twilight of the Elites: Prosperity, the Periphery, and the Future of France by Christophe Guilluy, translated from the French by Malcolm DeBevoise. However, the article is primarily the author’s own analysis of the gilets jaunes movement, exploring its inception and motivations as well as the nihilism and apoliticism that distinguishes it from other protest movements in France’s history.

Ursula Le Guin: the fears predominate these days

7 May 2019

Actually, I don’t exactly have expectations. I have hopes, and fears. Mostly the fears predominate these days. When my kids were young I could still hope we might not totally screw up the environment for them, but now that we’ve done so, and are more deeply sold out than ever to profiteering industrialism with its future-horizon of a few months, any hope I have that coming generations may have ease and peace in life has become very tenuous, and has to reach far, far forward into the dark.

Making Democracy Work by Robert Putnam - Summary and Notes

2 May 2019

Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy by Robert Putnam, Robert Leonardi and Raffaella Nanetti was published in 1993. It was a landmark work that launched the field of social capital research. It was also the more hard-core academic precursor to Putnam’s even better known Bowling Alone which focused on the decline of community (and social capital) in the US. It was a seminal work in a variety of ways: from its use of statistical methods (as well as traditional descriptive and historical materials) to its overall thesis about the importance of social capital (or what I would call cultural factors).

Notes on Schein's DEC is Dead

22 April 2019

DEC is DEAD, Long Live DEC: The Lasting Legacy of Digital Equipment Corporation is by Edgar Schein, with Peter DeLisi, Paul Kampas and Michael Sonduck. Schein charts the creation of DEC, or Digital Equipment Corporation, which was created in 1957 and rose to become the second largest computer company in America before its decline during the 1990s, which ultimately ended with its acquisition by Compaq (although as clear in the title, DEC has left an enduring cultural legacy).

The Primacy of Collective Being, or Culture Beats Institutions - the Example of Italy

21 April 2019

Italy provides a perfect natural experiment regarding “being” (aka culture) vs structure (aka institutions). We have the same institutions be that at Risorgimento in 1871 or new regionalism in the 1970s, but very different cultures – crudely the “North” and the “South”. And culture absolutely dominated: The new institutions of the unified nation-state, far from homogenizing traditional patterns of politics, were themselves pulled ineluctably into conformity with those contrasting traditions, just as the regional governments after 1970 would be remolded by these same social and cultural contexts: [Putnam p.

False Consciousness and What We Really Want

18 April 2019

Was listening to Thich Nhat Hanh talk on technology yesterday. He tells story of being at Google talking about how to develop technology to be weller and more mindful. He suggests the specific example of having a mindful bell every 15m. A smart young engineer objects that isn’t this telling people what they need? Don’t people themselves know best what they need? Immediately TNH responds: ah, but there are real needs and false needs (TODO: check his phrasing).

Fairness and Freedom by David Hackett Fischer

14 April 2019

Another wonderful book by Fischer that builds on the extraordinary Albion’s Seed. Basic point is that whilst US and NZ are similar in both being “open” societies, created by voluntary settlement of English-speaking and largely British emigrants, they are profoundly different. This difference is related to their culture and, Fischer, contends to a major difference in their core politico-social value: liberty/freedom for the US versus fairness for NZ. This cultural difference shows up in a myriad of ways in their political, social and economic organization and outcomes.

Two Year Olds Playing with Kalashnikovs - Humanity in the Age of AI

8 April 2019

This was originally drafted back in 2017 as the epilogue of my book The Open Revolution. It is natural to assume I am something of a digital enthusiast, even a digital “techno” utopian, confident that digital technology will lead us to nirvana. There’s elements of this. I couldn’t have written this book (the Open Revolution) if I wasn’t excited – even passionate – about the possibilities of this digital information age.

Work Life: Bill Walsh - Part I

4 April 2019

When I give a speech at a corporate event, I often ask those in attendance, “Do you know how to tell if you’re doing the job?” As heads start whispering back and forth, I provide these clues: “If you’re up at 3 A.M. every night talking into a tape recorder and writing notes on scraps of paper, have a knot in your stomach and a rash on your skin, are losing sleep and losing touch with your wife and kids, have no appetite or sense of humor, and feel that everything might turn out wrong, then you’re probably doing the job.

My Agenda

31 March 2019

So my agenda is two fold. First, there is an intellectual enquiry into the nature of indvidual and collective being. How do we come to be the way we are as conscious and collective beings and how can we shape that? (see below) Second, grounded in that first enquiry, there is the creation of a positive agenda setting out what is the good (wise) life(s) and what are the good (wise) society(ies) – and the steps to achieve these.

Work-Life: Stanley Druckenmiller Quits Citing Heavy Personal Costs

30 March 2019

Stanley Druckenmiller was considered one of the greatest investors of all time. In 2010 he quit the investing business after 30 years citing what sounds like burn-out and cumulative stress: Stanley F. Druckenmiller, the hedge fund titan who led George Soros’s famous bet against the British pound, told clients on Wednesday that he was quitting the business and shutting down his investment firm, Duquesne Capital, after 30 years. “I have had to recognize that competing in the markets over such a long time frame imposes heavy personal costs,” he wrote.

Interview for Ryslaine Boumahdi on Open Data and the Information Age

26 February 2019

While at the Sharing City Summit in Barcelona I was interviewed by Ryslaine Boumahdi, a documentary director working on a series of films on the impact and challenges of the digital information age. In the interview I discuss the importance of Open Data, the fact that information alone is not enough to ensure wise decision-making and the potential of Renumeration Rights to increase equality and innovation.

Flow: a Tool for Scaffolding Data Flows

20 March 2018

This post outlines an idea for a tool that I’ve been thinking about for a while. UPDATE: working sketch of the tool here Flow is a scaffolding tool for quickly building data flows. Think of it as the zen of data engineering that can start small and scale big. Flow allows you to build data processing flows quickly using existing tools on your laptop. If you later want to deploy these Flow makes that easy too.

Solving the Internet Monopolies Problem - Facebook, Google et al

24 February 2018

The good news is that an increasing number of people seem to agree that: Facebook, Google etc are monopolies That is a problem Agreeing we have a problem is always a crucial first step. But to go further we need to: Correctly diagnose the disease – in particular, avoid confusing the symptoms with the root cause Identify a cure that actually works On point one, the answer is that he root cause is costless copying (plus platform effects) combined with monopoly rights.

Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux

23 February 2018

8/10. Laloux has done a great service bringing together multiple case studies, and drawing out commonalities in practices, attitudes and behaviours. Potential improvements: Those unfamiliar with Wilber and culture/values stage theory (as I was when I read the book) may find the initial sections on “amber/red/green/teal” a bit hard-going. I’d suggest this be moved toward the end of the book rather than be at the start (instead, you could go straight into case studies).

The Sources of Performance - Innate, Practice or ... (10k Hours, Ericsson etc)

16 December 2017

What’s the source of exceptional ability? Is it innate talent (“natural genius”) or is it lots of hard-work and practice? It’s an old and fascinating question with important implications for education and society. One big entry in the debate is Ericsson et al’s now famous 1993 “10,000”1 hours study. Crudely put, their answer was: it’s the practice, and lots of it (not natural ability so much). Put even more crudely: anyone can reach an expert (or even genius) level of performance with enough and right kind of practice.

Requiem for an Internet Dream

12 December 2017

The dream of the Internet is dying. Killed by its children. We have barely noticed its demise and done even less to save it. It was a dream of openness, of unprecedented technological and social freedom to connect and innovate. Whilst expressed in technology, it was a dream that was political and social in essence: a dream of equality and liberty. The equality of opportunity and standing and the liberty to participate and innovate.

Notes on Tetlock and Gardner's Superforecasting - The Art of Science and Prediction

10 December 2017

Good book. A bit too journalisty for me at points but overall a very good balance of academic and popular. As is often the case, you could probably distill the majority of it down to ten pages (plus appendix on psychology). At the same time, the authors very skillfully walk through complex ideas, skilfully illustrate the ideas with anecdotes and stories and retain the nuance of the underlying subject matter.

Data Matters Conference

3 November 2017

I will be hosted at the ‘Data Matters: work effectively in the new HE landscape’ conference in London, United Kingdom, for a talk on 3 November 2017. This event will bring together data, digital and quality experts and practitioners across higher education sector to discuss the topical issues around data and its use. I will be focusing on on the impact that data can have on our decision-making and how we can create data systems to support the public sector and build the communities and capabilities to use that insight to drive change.

Datahub Roadmap Q4 2017

17 September 2017

Table of contents Marketing Roadmap Developer Roadmap Features More Discussion 3 Sep 2017 - Rufus + Adam Motivation: Roadmap SCQA II - Aug/Sep 2017 Situation: alpha running, no publishers yet, 50 signed up users. Complication: we don’t have any paying users yet (or know whether we will) and we don’t have a clear plan of action. Question: what tasks should we focus on in the next 3-6m to create a sustainable business within the next 6-12m?

Towards an Open Information Age Talk at YES Conference

12 September 2017

I will be hosted by the YES Conference 2017 in Tallinn, Estonia, for a keynote presentation on 12 September 2017. Will the digital revolution give us information democracies or information empires? The answer lies in a political choice, a choice between open or closed. Either making information open and freely accessible to all, or, closing it off and having it owned and controlled by the few. This choice matters everywhere from inequality to freedom.

Open Leaders Workshop Helsinki

10 September 2017

I will lead an Open Leaders Workshop whilst in Helsinki in September. Openness is transforming our societies and economies. Join the Open Leaders program to learn about the key ideas and developments in this rapidly growing space. About the program Where: Lapinlahdenkatu 16, 00101 Helsinki, Finland When: 10 September 2017, 10:30am to 6:30pm Cost: 0-100 euros (you pay what you can) Language: English In the program you will discover openness as one of the most important policy opportunities of the twenty-first century.

Frictionless Data Video

4 September 2017

Our mission is to make it radically easier to make data used and useful – our immediate goal is make it as simple as possible to get the data you want into the tool of your choice. Open Knowledge International Transcript We want insight, wether it is how to stop global warming or just the quickest way to get to work. No, to get insight, we need to use data.

4th Industrial Revolution and Open Information Economy for meeting at WEF

4 September 2017

In September 2017, I went to World Economic Forum (WEF) HQ to talk about the ideas for an “Open World” where all non-personal digital information would be open – and innovators would be recognized and rewarded. (These are the ideas in my upcoming book the Open Revolution). For WEF I focused on the connections between the 4th Industrial Revolution and the an open information economy. Here are the slideas for that meeting.

A Better World

29 August 2017

I want to take a moment of your time right now to talk about ‘how do we build a better world’. How do we build a better world? It is a question people have talked about for thousands of years and I want to make a suggestion, that to really make a utopia, a great world, the best world we could, we need to have two kinds of transformation. Transcript So I want to take a moment of your time right now to talk about ‘how do we build a better world’.

Data Insights to Drive Change Talk in Essex

13 July 2017

I will be hosted by the Public Service Reform Unit and the University of Essex, at their event Innovation Talks - Big Data versus Big Brother on the 13th of July. How do we make the best use of technology and data without losing sight of people? I will be focusing on on the impact that data can have on our decision-making and how we can create data systems to support the public sector and build the communities and capabilities to use that insight to drive change.

Toxic Waste Data from Basel Convention - Data Quality and Preparation Issues for Density Design

9 July 2017

From Toxic waste routes is a joint project between Densitydesign Lab and Guia Baggi, aimed at enhancing transparency on toxic wastes movements across the world. The current tool is a first prototype based on Basel Convention annual reports, and the visualization reflects data features: inconsistencies and missing reports are often the norm, and there is a clear need for a better data transparency on the topic. … The data provided by the Secretariat of the Basel Convention were partial and inconsistently formatted due to lack of rigor by submitting countries.

Building a Sustainable Digital Age Talk in Geneva

11 May 2017

I will be hosted as the opening lecturer at Open Geneva Hackathons on the 11th of May in Geneva, Switzerland. How can we build a sustainable digital information age? And why should we do it? I will demonstrate how democratising information offers solutions to a number of essential issues linked to our digital evolution. What will our role as human beings be with the increasing importance of artificial intelligence? How can we preserve freedom in a world of Googles and Facebooks?

Thoughts on Blockchain in Geneva

11 May 2017

Following my Building a Sustainable Digital Age Talk at the United Nations Library in Geneva, during Q&A, I was asked a question about Blockchain, below is a video (and transcript) of my response. Transcript Question: I have a question I’m sure you’ve given some thought. What do you see as opportunities of Blockchain technology in connection with the ‘open movement’? Rufus Pollock: I’m going to be very straight. In one word: close to zero.

The Digital Revolution Talk at re:publica

9 May 2017

I will be speaking at Republica on the 9th of May in Berlin, Germany. I will be talking about the digital revolution, and its ability to lead to either information democracies or information empires. The choice is a political one, a choice between open and closed. Either making information open and freely accessible to all, or, closing it off and having it owned and controlled by the few. This choice matters everywhere from inequality to freedom.

The Data Difference — Data-Driven Decision-Making and Why It's Important

27 April 2017

This is a version of one of my talks, ‘The Data Difference,’ that I gave for Black Swan, which discusses how the successful use of data depends on human intelligence even while mitigating its flaws. Data-driven algorithms are unaffected by common biases in human reasoning and are far better than people at many tasks. However, enthusiasm for ‘Big Data’ can obscure the fact that the success of data-driven decision-making still relies upon the human intelligence to identify the right data for the right problem at the right time.

Notes on Meehl 1954 Clinical versus Statistical Prediction

28 March 2017

Notes on “Meehl, 1954 Clinical versus Statistical Prediction” [@meehl-1954] Table of contents Meehl 1954 Summary Notes on Papers from Chapter 8 Meehl 1986 Meehl 1954 Summary p.iii (1996 preface) As a result of this book and articles I published shortly thereafter, numerous studies compared the efficacy of subjective clinical judgment with prediction via mechanical or actuarial methods. Accumulating over the years, they have tended overwhelmingly to come out in the same way as the small number of studies available in 1954.

Zuckerberg's Delusions

5 March 2017

Disturbed and awed (in a bad way) by the delusional hubris of Zuckerberg’s recent “manifesto” post on “Building Global Community”. Its starting phrase was enough to put one on the alert: To our community Is this really your community Mark? And is it even a Community in any meaningful sense of the word? It continues in this vein. A woman named Christina was diagnosed with a rare disorder called Epidermolysis Bullosa – and now she’s a member of a group that connects 2,400 people around the world so none of them have to suffer alone.

China Trip 2017

15 February 2017

I will be in China from the 15th February to the 2nd March 2017. On this trip I hope to meet and talk to anyone – from academics and students to policy-makers and entrepreneurs – interested in any of the following: An Open World and an Open Digital Economy and Open Knowledge International Data driven insight – including how to build data platforms and data pipeplines cf my work at Datopian Creating wise societies – see Art / Earth / Tech for more If you are interested in meeting, please get in touch.

The Two Arms of Transformation

10 February 2017

This is excerpted from a recent email I sent a long-time collaborator describing some of my current thinking Having purpose and direction. I shared the two arms of transformation: of the material economy (of production through openness etc) and the “being” economy (through wisdom and true open-mindedness). Transformation of Production / Material Economy On the right-hand side is all our work on open knowledge. I won’t say much more because that is familiar to us both.

Taiwan 2017

3 February 2017

This February I have the privilege to visit Taiwan. I will be there from the 4-13 February. My current public schedule is below. I am always keen to meet people and groups interested in openness, data-driven insight or wise societies so please get in touch to arrange a meeting. Wed 8th Feb 7pm: Open Knowledge Taiwan public event A panel event organized by Open Knowledge Taiwan. More information and register: http://www.

How to "Save" News - A Sustainable Funding Mechanism for Open News

21 January 2017

News organizations are creators of hugely important “information” for our societies. However, today they find themselves struggling in the current “info economy” which is closed, monopoly-inclined and heavily based on ad-based attention selling. In this environment there is a serious problem finding a sustainable funding model that can support news as we need it. So far, most solutions to this problem have involved either hollowing out news by cutting back spending (“news-lite”) or have involved ineffective attempts to grab more of the attention pie (and money) from other players.

Information Coops: Collective Funding of Information Goods from Software to Medicines

11 January 2017

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book on the information age and the importance of an open future for the digital economy. I’m publishing it as part of an upcoming event with Ed Mayo and colleagues about a national strategy for coops in the UK. Information Coops are bottom-up version of state-coordinated funding model. In an information coop individuals voluntarily pool resources to fund information goods such as music, medicines or software and then share access or revenues (access in the case of consumer coops and revenues in the case of producer coops).

Architecting Open Text Projects

12 December 2016

Two parts: How official inquiries works – and a plan for future A review of learnings from past projects and thoughts on building “open text” projects going forward including e.g. open literature Table of contents First piece - Official Inquiries Bigger story FAQs Plan Notes Previous Work Official Inquiries Tech Architecture Sketches Plan First piece - Official Inquiries Document current and planned official inquiries tech architecture

Open Information Age talk at University of Bath Wednesday 14th December

8 December 2016

Next Wednesday 14th Dec I’m giving a lunchtime talk at University of Bath on how we can build an Open Information Age: Eventbrite Themes include how it relates to the future of work, freedom, inequality and innovation. Would love to meet as many people and organizations as possible whilst I am there. If you would like to meet please get in touch via twitter @rufuspollock or

Fake News, Post Truth - is it New(s) and What Can We Do?

26 November 2016

Fake news and post-truth politics are currently receiving a lot of attention. Much of the discussion treat this issue as if it was something new and therefore, for example, seek near-term causes such as the rise of Facebook. But how new is this phenomenon, and what are its real causes? Here are some reflections – which originally appeared as a series of tweets: Is there any systematic evidence that #FalseNews is worse than before or that we are more #PostFact in politics?

Open World Public talk Wed 23 Nov at Copenhagen University

21 November 2016

This week I am in Denmark to talk about the Open Information Age and how it relates to the Future of work, freedom, inequality and innovation. On Wednesday 23rd at 5pm I’ll be talking at a public event at Copenhagen University organized by Open Knowledge Denmark this week! Would love to meet as many people and organizations as possible whilst I am there. If you would like to meet please get in touch via twitter @rufuspollock or http://rufuspollock.


14 November 2016

8/10. Beautiful, reflective, gentle and poignant. For a sci-fi blockbuster it was unusually cerebral: the central character is a linguist in a permanent semi-mourning for the loss of her child. An intriguing essay on time and language, connection and communication.

Brilliant Piece by Packer on Hillary Clinton and the Populist Revolt

13 November 2016

Characteristically brilliant piece in the New Yorker about the election and the state of US politics by George Packer (of the Unwinding). Usual combination of novelistic incident and colour with a sharp eye for the larger changes and their implications: Note: this piece was published on Oct 31st before the election A few years ago, on a rural highway south of Tampa, I saw a metal warehouse with a sign that said “american dream welding + fabrication.

New Piece in Aeon: Tyndale, Gutenberg and an Open Information Age

26 October 2016

My new piece on “Tyndale, Gutenberg and an Open Information Age” is published today in Aeon Magazine: Five hundred years ago William Tyndale opened up the Bible by translating it into English, using Gutenberg’s printing press to share his work. Today, instead of Gutenberg’s press we have the Internet. If we are to take advantage of the incredible potential of the Internet we need to follow Tyndale’s example and make information open: not the Bible this time but all public information from music to medicines, software to statistics.

Google vs Facebook Data Point

17 October 2016

Small, interesting data point in the Google vs Facebook saga: Google is obviously concerned by its competitor’s rapid gains. A spokesman said it was company policy not to make Google executives available for a story that would include interviews with Facebook executives. By contrast, Facebook offered interviews without preconditions with two of its leading advertising managers: Will Platt-Higgins, vice president for global client partnerships, and Patrick Harris, global director of agency development.

Visiting Estonia 21-23 September 2016

14 September 2016

I’m in Estonia next week 21-23 September to talk about Openness and the Information Age. Events include: Keynote to OECD e-Leaders on “Data Driven Government” From Open Data to Open Information Society event on Thursday evening - <> Lecture at Tallin university on an Open Information Society on Wednesday 2-4pm I would love to meet as many people and organizations as possible whilst I am there. If you would like to meet please get in touch via twitter @rufuspollock or http://rufuspollock.

MyData 2016 Conference in Helsinki

2 September 2016

I am in Helsinki this week to keynote at the MyData 2016 conference organized by Open Knowledge Finland and partners. Update Here are my slides MyData is about how we should get to manage our personal data. This is data about us often of a private nature. Data like our health records, or what we bought at the store or where we’ve been (tracked nowadays by our mobile phones). Increasing amounts of this data like this is out there.

Why Open Source Software Matters for Government and Civic Tech - and How to Support It

13 July 2016

Today we’re publishing a new research paper looking at whether free/open source software matters for government and civic tech. Matters in the sense that it should have a deep and strategic role in government IT and policy rather than just being a “nice to have” or something “we use when we can”. As the paper shows the answer is a strong yes: open source software does matter for government and civic tech – and, conversely, government matters for open source.

Reflections on the Blockchain

2 July 2016

I am not a blockchain believer. I am sceptical of the grandiose claims made for the impact of the blockchain: that it will revolutionise our economies, governments and organizations making them flatter, fairer and more democratic. The blockchain hype reflects an increasingly prevalent techno-solutionism – a techno-fadism if you will – where we imagine that some sprinkling of tech pixie-dust will solve some hard and important social problem: coordination vs decentralization, equality vs hierarchy etc.

Interview for Radio Österreich in Vienna on Open Data, Open Source and transparency

28 June 2016

In March, I gave an interview for Radio Österreich in Vienna on Open Data, Open Source and transparency. Audio: [sc_embed_player fileurl="”] Link to the story which I have also inlined below (in German!) Open Data Sparfuchs Rufus Pollock liebt Shakespeare und Papier, erzählt gerne Geschichten, spricht rekordverdächtig schnell. Und er ist als Gründer der NGO Open Knowledge Open-Data-Aktivist der ersten Stunde. Ein Portrait. “Vielleicht war ja die ungerechte Taschengeldverteilung schuld…” Dass eine Schwester mehr Taschengeld bekam, als er, war für Rufus Pollock als Kind die größte Ungerechtigkeit der Welt.

In Dublin to talk at Open Repositories 2016 and more!

9 June 2016

Next week I’m going to be in Dublin to keynote at Open Repositories 2016 on Thursday, talk in Open Knowledge Ireland’s event on Tuesday and speak again at the CoderDojo summit on Saturday. If you’re in Dublin and interested in meeting up please get in touch. This browser does not support PDFs. Please download the PDF to view it: Download PDF. OK Ireland Meetup OR2016 Keynote

Talk at Open Tech Summit in Berlin May 2016

1 June 2016

[embed][/embed] Talk at the Open Tech Summit in Berlin on 5th of May 2016 Backup of video on If you have ever been online, watched a movie or taken a medicine you have been a user of information. Today information in the form of software, databases and innovations is becoming more important than ever before. Information is becoming main thing we make, trade and use. This is a new world being built on “bits”.

Strong words from WHO on Pharma Industry

29 May 2016

From The global pharmaceuticals market is worth US$300 billion a year, a figure expected to rise to US$400 billion within three years. The 10 largest drugs companies control over one-third of this market, several with sales of more than US$10 billion a year and profit margins of about 30%. Six are based in the United States and four in Europe. It is predicted that North and South America, Europe and Japan will continue to account for a full 85% of the global pharmaceuticals market well into the 21st century.

Evening Seminar on Open Information Age at the University of Cambridge Faculty of Law

20 May 2016

I gave an evening seminar on Wednesday 11 May 2016 at the Faculty of Law as a guest of CIPIL (the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law) with the title: “Making an Open Information Age: Law, Politics and Economics”. Audio from the talk This browser does not support PDFs. Please download the PDF to view it: Download PDF. Why does making an open information age matter?

Open Scholarly Publishing

16 May 2016

This post outlines how an open model of scholarly publishing would work and how it would be funded. Our current system for scholarly publishing is highly inefficient and poorly suited to the Internet age. An open model would cure many of the current ills as well as offering greater flexibility and greater potential for innovation. However, exactly how an open model would work, and how it would be funded has not always been clear.

A Bleak Digital Future Dominated by Behemoths

16 April 2016

Looking at shop doorway adorned with yelp, tripadvisor etc. We do not realise how bleak the future will be. How dominated it is by the few existing behemoths. Look at Intel vs AMD.

Ill Fares the Land by Tony Judt

11 April 2016

An exceptional book, articulating and echoing long-held sentiments and provoking new ones. Summary Out of the disasters of 1914-1945 arose key attitudes: Scepticism of unregulated market and willingness to intervene Commitment to social supports and a universalism in their provision Relative equality These then broke down between mid 1970s and early 90s Why did it break down? Excesses of the planners Reduction in trust with immigration, greater uncertainty (?

A Single Government Website is Hard To Do

3 April 2016

Examples of the steps … President [Clinton] directed agencies to take include [in December 1999 memo]: Create One-Stop Access for Existing Government Information. The President directed the Administrator of the General Services Administration, in conjunction with other government entities, to create a portal for government information, based “not by agency, but by the type of service or information that people may be seeking; the data should be identified and organized in a way that makes it easier for the public to find the information it seeks.

NEF Confusion over Creative Commons Non-Commercial License Being Open

3 April 2016

Clear example of an organisation applying a non-open Creative Commons license but thinking it is open: Illustrates the potential for confusion from the use of general Creative Commons branding (people talk about the brand rather than a given license and imagine that all CC license are “open”). For more see: Creative Commons and the Commons Making a Real Commons: Creative Commons should Drop the Non-Commercial and No-Derivatives Licenses

Only the educated are free - Epicetus

2 April 2016

Only the educated are free – Epictetus. An excellent aphorism for the value of open knowledge.

Talk in Glasgow on an “Open Information Age” March 16 2016

25 March 2016

On 16th March 2016 I gave a CREATe Public Lecture at the University of Glasgow on "Making an Open Information Age". Full details and video of talk are below. [vsw id="D2oNxhn6POA” source="youtube” width="425” height="344” autoplay="no”]  Video on Power, freedom and inequality in an age of bits If you have ever been online, watched a movie or taken a medicine you have been a user of information. Today information in the form of software, databases and innovations is becoming more important than ever before.

La Grande Bellezza

15 March 2016

Score: 9/10 I have now watched Paolo Sorrentino’s extraordinary film three times. It is one of the most striking, beautiful and poignant films I have seen in a very long time and a truly worthy successor to the greatness of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita – which it both references and echoes. It is hard to do justice to the Proustian beauty of this film. Many frames act as artworks in themselves – the moment dawn rises over a deserted roof-top nightclub, the artificial sun of an orange neon Campari sign set in the centre of a lightening sky; the swoop of a flock of birds; three elegant figures at a balustrade in the crepuscular dark.

Intellectual Myths: ARPA Created Internet to Have Communication System to Resist Nuclear Attack

14 February 2016

From John Naughton, a Brief History of the Future, p.85: Years later the myth spread that what drove ARPA to build the world’s first computer network was the desire to provide a communications system that could survive a nuclear attack on the United States. The record suggests otherwise: Bob Taylor simply wanted to make the taxpayer’s dollar go further. Context p.84 of Naughton One of the first things that struck Taylor when he took over as IPTO Director was that his room in the Pentagon contained teletype terminals to each of the three ARPA-supported time- sharing systems - at MIT, SDC at Santa Monica (the machine that had prompted Jack Ruina to recruit Licklider) and the University of California at Berkeley.

What Went Wrong and What We Can Do About It (Vision of Utopias)

7 February 2016

From conversation today with SB Functional materialist age: we want more material things such as food, washing machines, cars because of the impact on our well-being: we do not go hungry, we do not do tedious physical labour. Key point that this demand shows sharply diminishing returns: once you have enough food you do not need that much more. What can you do with more than one car per person etc.

Ogilvy's How to Write Memo

3 February 2016

David Ogilvy’s 1981 memo to staff at Ogilvy & Mather. I have read and re-read this several times over the years and found it useful – though I emphasize that is not the same as thinking it completely correct, for example, there are clear counter-examples to the claim that “People who think well, write well”. Posting here for my own archival and re-findable purposes. The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather.

Keynote at Spirit of Bern 2016

16 January 2016

Today I gave a keynote at the Spirit of Bern conference. This browser does not support PDFs. Please download the PDF to view it: Download PDF. Update Coverage in the Berner Zeitung (German): Coverage in

Excerpts From Performance and Progress

7 January 2016

An Entrepreneur’s Reflections on Progress - Jack Ma We are at the beginning of a new era, in which the most important assets for production will increasingly be data and creativity. So-called capital markets, the products of capitalist social structures, have already been discovered to have many inherent weaknesses, for example, the tension between short-term orientation of capital markets versus long-term vision needed by companies. Many countries are experimenting with tactics to ameliorate these problems, for example, by allowing the listing of company shares with different voting classes in the US.

Right to work but no right to the fruits of it

10 December 2015

You have the right to work, but for the work’s sake only; you have no right to the fruits of your work. From The Bhagavad Gita, quoted in An Eames Anthology

CKAN Technical Roadmap Thoughts Dec 2015

6 December 2015

Thoughts on the future technical evolution of CKAN including: The Hamburger Analogy: data portals have three parts: Presentation layer - visualizations, views, etc Metadata-“bus” / data-bus - a common layer for metadata exchange and data store ETL - metadata and data ingest, processing, etc Current core CKAN should become more and more metadata and data bus layer. Frontend components including visualization, views, showcase etc (including those currently in CKAN) becomes mini separate services that interface with core via the API Data ingest including metadata editors, data importers (datapusher etc) should also become their own microservices that interface wit The core (meta)-data bus provides an essential separation between Data Presentation and Preparation Could improve CKAN as (meta)-data bus by adopting Data Packages and Table Schema (Tabular Data Packages) This browser does not support PDFs.

Data Packages and Frictionless Data - Submission to Knight Foundation Call on 'Making Data Work For Individuals and Communities'

27 September 2015

Datopian’s submission to the Knight Foundation open call for ideas on how to make data work for individuals and communities. The submission describes Datopian’s work on Data Packages and Frictionless Data. Knight Foundation Mission Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. Brief This is an open call for ideas.

Great Video: Data Sharing and Management Snafu in 3 Short Acts

24 September 2015

A funny, clever and simple video intro into what can go wrong when you actually want to reuse someone else’s data in research:

Data Packages Introduction for HDX

22 September 2015

Here are slides from the talk I gave today to HDX about Data Packages and the “Hamburger” architecture: This browser does not support PDFs. Please download the PDF to view it: Download PDF.

Patents and Access to Medicines for HIV - a looming crisis

1 September 2015

Patents and access to medicines from a 2013 report on AIDS by Medicins Sans Frontieres: Because millions of people need to be initiated and sustained on treatment regimens for life, it is as critical as ever to ensure ARVs [anti-retro-virals] are affordable. Competition among generic producers was instrumental in bringing down the price of the first generation of ARVs, and is one of the key reasons treatment could be scaled up to millions of people.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

1 August 2015

I read War and Peace - and subsequently Anna Karenina - many years ago now. It is one of the greatest and most extraordinary I had - and have - ever read. He is the Beethoven of literature. Here I’m excerpting pieces. “And by old habit he asked himself the question: “Well, and what then? What am I going to do?” And he immediately gave himself the answer: “Well, I shall live.

Remembering Caspar Bowden

15 July 2015

Very saddened to see that Caspar Bowden, first director of FIPR, and tireless digital rights campaigner has passed away. Fine obituary from Ross Anderson in EDRi-Gram: Caspar moved to Microsoft in 2002 and worked for them for nine years as their Chief Privacy Adviser for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. What that actually entailed he described in a talk at the The 31st Chaos Communication Congress (31C3) that is linked at the bottom of this article; he was responsible for briefing and coordinating some of the activities of about forty executives, each of which managed the company’s relationships with some particular country.

Excerpts From David Daniell's William Tyndale - A Biography

14 June 2015

The role of the Sola Scriptura: This is something that has not until this point been brought into the debate about the English Reformation. There is nothing in the Mirror of the Gospel doctrines, and of course no hint of the writing of Paul and others in the epistles and in Revelation, all the very bedrock of Christian theology. Only when the whole Bible, as given originally in Greek and Hebrew, was printed in English could it be seen that the Bible preceded the Church and gave it all its authority.

Putting Open at the Heart of the Digital Age

5 June 2015

Introduction I’m Rufus Pollock. In 2004 I founded a non-profit called Open Knowledge The mission we set ourselves was to open up all public interest information – and see it used to create insight that drives change. What sort of public interest information? In short, all of it. From big issues like how our government spends our taxes or how fast climate change is happening to simple, everyday, things like when the next bus is arriving or the exact address of that coffee shop down the street.

Poem - Untitled #23 - Written on a Train

24 May 2015

Written on a train, some years ago The tail-end of dusk, Its softness making beauty of the world The distant horizon pinked up in pastels Beckons to eternity While leftward lies darkness Gathering all to her endless embrace. The trees now shorn to subtlety Are framed against the remnants of the sky Trees, hedges, houses All are soft shadows of themselves And even a car-park sheathed in raucous lights Can not offend.

Black Mirror - Episode 2

24 May 2015

First saw this very late at night about 1.5y ago. Brilliant and dark - much more so than the first one. It has an Ouroboros-ian nature. On his interest in the girl: Existential crisis masquerading as infatuation.

Slow Tech

15 May 2015

A thought from a recent a recent Digital Supper: just as there is “Slow Food” do we need a “Slow Technology” movement - technology at a human pace. A key difference is that this can’t work just from individual action - though that will help - we would need coordinated action if tech were to evolve slower.

Open Knowledge appoints Pavel Richter as new CEO

29 April 2015

I am delighted to announce we have found the newest member of the Open Knowledge team: Pavel Richter joins us as our new CEO! Pavel’s appointment marks a new chapter in the development of Open Knowledge, which, over the last ten years, has grown into one of the leading global organisations working on open data and open knowledge in government, research, and culture. Pavel has a rich and varied background including extensive time both in business and in the non-profit sector.

Open Data Can Speed up Research - Andy Beck of Harvard Medical School

23 April 2015

Dr Andy Beck of Harvard Medical School in Reddit AMA thread: Interesting question. I think there is a lot of value in actually showing the utility of open data, by using it creatively to answer important research questions. There are now huge public databases available and growing everyday (e.g., , ). I think it’s powerful to show a student that using open data they can answer a question in 5 minutes that previously may have taken an entire PhD dissertation to complete.

All of our lock-in fears prove justified - Twitter

19 April 2015

Having acquired Gnip, Twitter is cutting off bulk access (the “firehose”) for everyone else - see e.g. Datasift announce and piece on recode. Twitter have also been gradually shutting off / increasing control of access over the last few years. E.g. RSS shut down, then they changed API terms of use and got increasingly aggressive about that use. It was always likely what the direction of travel would be for these “free” services - after all, somehow they’ve got to make money whilst providing “web-scale” service.

Grey dawn, you welcome not my spirit to the day

14 February 2015

Grey dawn, you welcome not my spirit to the day. Locked deep in winter’s embrace, the depths of January Are moribund of hope, and I can but think on Spring To keep from despair and an endless sojourn in the soft arms of sleep. The day does not begin but seeps in, in sluggish batches from the East. The watery light of a half-begotten sun Has barely strength enough to banish night and makes us only think

Enlightened [TV Series]

8 February 2015

I have nearly finished the first series of Enlightened, a TV Series created by Laura Dern and Mike White. The series is extraordinary - even in a world where TV series have become over the last ten years a leading entertainment and art form. It is not an easy or “fun” series, which probably accounts for its cancellation after just two seasons - I’m sort of amazed it got made in the first place - I imagine Laura Dern had something to do with it.

Wanted - Data Curators to Maintain Key Datasets in High-Quality, Easy-to-Use and Open Form

3 January 2015

Wanted: volunteers to join a team of “Data Curators” maintaining “core” datasets (like GDP or ISO-codes) in high-quality, easy-to-use and open form. What is the project about: Collecting and maintaining important and commonly-used (“core”) datasets in high-quality, standardized and easy-to-use form - in particular, as up-to-date, well-structured Data Packages. The “Core Datasets” effort is part of the broader Frictionless Data initiative. What would you be doing: identifying and locating core (public) datasets, cleaning and standardizing the data and making sure the results are kept up to date and easy to use Who can participate: anyone can contribute.

Thank You to Our Outgoing CEO

18 December 2014

This is a joint blog post by Open Knowledge CEO Laura James and Open Knowledge Founder and President Rufus Pollock. In September we announced that Laura James, our CEO, is moving on from Open Knowledge and we are hiring a new Executive Director. From Rufus: I want to express my deep appreciation for everything that Laura has done. She has made an immense contribution to Open Knowledge over the last 3 years and has been central to all we have achieved.

Amazon Twitch Acquisition - Paying 70x Sales

1 November 2014

Just an aside from reading the recent Amazon 10-Q. In Note 4 on acquisitions they state: On September 25, 2014, we acquired Twitch Interactive, Inc. (“Twitch”) for approximately $842 million in cash, as adjusted for the assumption of options and other items. During the nine months ended September 30, 2014, we acquired certain other companies for an aggregate purchase price of $20 million. Acquisition activity for the nine months ended September 30, 2013 was not material.

Books I Have Read 2013 - 2014

1 October 2014

Autumn 2013 El Narco by Ioan Grillo 6/10 So-so. Rich on colour but not very clear. June 2014 The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars by Joel Brenner 6/10 Some interesting info but rather patchy (esp nearer the present) and with a poor match of detailed anecdote and bigger picture analysis. August 2014 The Worldly Philosophers by Robert Heilbroner 7/10 Excellent for what it is and with a rather intriguing critique of the approach of modern economics at the end.

A Data Revolution that Works for All of Us

24 September 2014

Many of today’s global challenges are not new. Economic inequality, the unfettered power of corporations and markets, the need to cooperate to address global problems and the unsatisfactory levels of accountability in democratic governance – these were as much problems a century ago as they remain today. What has changed, however – and most markedly – is the role that new forms of information and information technology could potentially play in responding to these challenges.

Announcing a Leadership Update at Open Knowledge

18 September 2014

Today I would like to share some important organisational news. After 3 years with Open Knowledge, Laura James, our CEO, has decided to move on to new challenges. As a result of this change we will be seeking to recruit a new senior executive to lead Open Knowledge as it continues to evolve and grow. As many of you know, Laura James joined us to support the organisation as we scaled up, and stepped up to the CEO role in 2013.

A Data API for Data Packages in Seconds Using CKAN and its DataStore

11 September 2014

dpm the command-line ‘data package manager’ now supports pushing (Tabular) Data Packages straight into a CKAN instance (including pushing all the data into the CKAN DataStore): dpm ckan {ckan-instance-url} This allows you, in seconds, to get a fully-featured web data API – including JSON and SQL-based query APIs: View fullsize Once you have a nice web data API like this we can very easily create data-driven applications and visualizations. As a simple demonstration, there’s the CKAN Data Explorer (example with IMF data - see below).

Books Recently Read

3 August 2014

Read recently (i.e. last couple of months) The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes by Janet Malcolm. (Feb 2014). Brilliant, thought-provking and insightful. A fascinating narrative, that raised interesting, complex questions – all delivered in lapidary prose. The Unwinding by George Packer (May 2014). I picked this up by accident in bookstore in DC Union Station. It hit me like a bolt between the eyes. The personal stories read like novels, the vignettes on famous personalities are rapiers that cut open the follies and predilictions of the age, and the overall sweep is poignant, powerful and profound.

Labs newsletter: 5 June, 2014

5 June 2014

Welcome back to the OKFN Labs! Members of the Labs have been building tools, visualizations, and even new data protocols—as well as setting up conferences and events. Read on to learn more. If you’d like to suggest a piece of news for next month’s newsletter, leave a comment on its GitHub issue. commasearch Thomas Levine has been working on an innovative new approach to searching tabular data, commasearch. Unlike a normal search engine, where you submit words and get pages of words back, with commasearch, you submit spreadsheets and get spreadsheets in return.

Steve Wynn on Impact of QE on Businesses and Consumers

17 May 2014

Saw this nugget buried in a recent earnings call of Wynn Resorts Management. This is Steve Wynn responding to a caller question: Well, we finished our financing recently. The last tranche was a $750,000 – $750 million bond. We sold it at 5.09 with no covenants nonrecourse to the parent. And that brought our total financing for Cotai to $3,850,000,000 at an average cost of 3.3%. Or to put it another way, we rented the $3.

Notes on Warren Buffet Berkshire Hathaway Letters

14 May 2014

Table of contents Writing about GEICO Bad and Good Acquisitions Classic fallacy equating business welfare and social welfare Mistakes of the First Twenty-five Years (A Condensed Version) Some non traditional investments Obsession vs focus The connections … 1980 letter Writing about GEICO We have written in past reports about the disappointments that usually result from purchase and operation of “turnaround” businesses.

CSV Conf 2014 - for Data Makers Everywhere

5 May 2014

Announcing CSV,Conf - the conference for data makers everywhere which takes place on 15 July 2014 in Berlin. This one day conference will focus on practical, real-world stories, examples and techniques of how to scrape, wrangle, analyze, and visualize data. Whether your data is big or small, tabular or spatial, graphs or rows this event is for you. Key Info Where: Kalkscheune, Berlin, Germany When: 15 July 2014, all day Web: http://csvconf.

Corporate Giving

19 April 2014

At st austell on overnight sleeper to truro Corporate giving. Surely it implies rents. Never really understood why we are grateful for it since it necessarily implies oligopoly or more.

Info Tech Creates Consumer Anxiety Due to Network Effects

19 April 2014

Joy of a beautiful morning, Cornish countryside in glorious early-day sunshine. The nature of info tech is that it creates greater anxiety as a consumer because, due to network effects and the like, you are constantly forced to make choices that involve substantial sunk costs and / or switching costs. If I buy wrong oranges I can buy different ones tomorrow, but this is not so true of software.

Candy Crush, King Digital Entertainment, Offshoring and Tax

26 March 2014

Sifting through the King Entertainment F-1 filing with the SEC for their IPO (Feb 18 2014) I noticed the following in their risk section: The intended tax benefits of our corporate structure and intercompany arrangements may not be realized, which could result in an increase to our worldwide effective tax rate and cause us to change the way we operate our business. Our corporate structure and intercompany arrangements, including the manner in which we develop and use our intellectual property and the transfer pricing of our intercompany transactions, are intended to provide us worldwide tax efficiencies [ed: for this I read - significantly reduce our tax-rate by moving our profits to low-tax jurisdictions …].

Labs newsletter: 20 March, 2014

20 March 2014

We’re back with a bumper crop of updates in this new edition of the now-monthly Labs newsletter! Textus Viewer refactoring The TEXTUS Viewer is an HTML + JS application for viewing texts in the format of TEXTUS, Labs’s open source platform for collaborating around collections of texts. The viewer has now been stripped down to its bare essentials, becoming a leaner and more streamlined beast that’s easier to integrate into your projects.

The SEC EDGAR Database

4 March 2014

This post looks at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) EDGAR database. EDGAR is a rich source of data containing regulatory filings from publicly-traded US corporations including their annual and quarterly reports: All companies, foreign and domestic, are required to file registration statements, periodic reports, and other forms electronically through EDGAR. Anyone can access and download this information for free. [from the SEC website] This post introduces the basic structure of the database, and how to get access to filings via ftp.

Labs newsletter: 20 February, 2014

20 February 2014

The past few weeks have seen major improvements to the Labs website, another Open Data Maker Night in London, updates to the TimeMapper project, and more. Labs Hangout: today The next Labs online hangout is taking place today in just a few hours—now’s your chance to sign up on the hangout’s Etherpad! Labs hangouts are informal online gatherings held on Google Hangout at which Labs members and friends get together to discuss their work and to set the agenda for Labs activities.

Labs newsletter: 30 January, 2014

30 January 2014

From now on, the Labs newsletter will arrive through a special announce-only mailing list, [email protected], more details on which can be found below. Keep reading for other new developments including the fifth Labs Hangout, the launch of SayIt, and new developments in the vision of “Frictionless Data”. New newsletter format Not everyone who wants to know about Labs activities wants or needs to observe those activities unfolding on the main Labs list.

Labs newsletter: 16 January, 2014

16 January 2014

Welcome back from the holidays! A new year of Labs activities is well underway, with long-discussed improvements to the Labs projects page, many new PyBossa developments, a forthcoming community hangout, and more. Labs projects page Getting the Labs project page organized better has been high on the agenda for some time now. In the past little while, significant progress has been made. New improvements to the project page include: a custom filter menu individual project lightbox attributes for projects Oleg Lavrosky, Daniel Lombraña González, and Andy Lulham have all contributed to this development—and work is still ongoing, with further enhancements to attributes and more work on the UI still to come.

Convert data between formats with Data Converters

17 December 2013

Data Converters is a command line tool and Python library making routine data conversion tasks easier. It helps data wranglers with everyday tasks like moving between tabular data formats—for example, converting an Excel spreadsheet to a CSV or a CSV to a JSON object. The current release of Data Converters can convert between Excel spreadsheets, CSV data, and JSON tables, as well as some geodata formats (with additional requirements). Its smart parser can guess the types of data, correctly recognizing dates, numbers, strings, and so on.

Labs newsletter: 12 December, 2013

12 December 2013

We’re back after taking a break last week with a bumper crop of updates. A few things have changed: Labs activities are now coordinated entirely through GitHub. Meanwhile, there’s been some updates around the Nomenklatura, Annotator, and Data Protocols projects and some new posts on the Labs blog. Migration from Trello to GitHub For some time now, Labs activities requiring coordination have been organized on Trello—but those days are now over.

View a CSV (Comma Separated Values) in Your Browser

5 December 2013

This post introduces one of the handiest features of Data Pipes: fast (pre) viewing of CSV files in your browser (and you can share the result by just copying a URL). The Raw CSV CSV files are frequently used for storing tabular data and are widely supported by spreadsheets and databases. However, you can’t usually look at a CSV file in your browser - usually your browser will automatically download a CSV file.

Labs newsletter: 28 November, 2013

28 November 2013

Another busy week at the Labs! We’ve had lots of discussion around the idea of “bad data”, a blog post about Mark’s aid tracker, new PyBossa developments, and a call for help with a couple of projects. Next week we can look forward to another Open Data Maker Night in London. Bad Data Last Friday, Rufus announced Bad Data, a new educational mini-project that highlights real-world examples of how data shouldn’t be published.

Labs newsletter: 21 November, 2013

21 November 2013

This week, Labs members gathered in an online hangout to discuss what they’ve been up to and what’s next for Labs. This special edition of the newsletter recaps that hangout for those who weren’t there (or who want a reminder). Data Pipes update Last week you heard about Andy Lulham’s improvements to Data Pipes, the online streaming data transformations service. He didn’t stop there, and in this week’s hangout, Andy described some of the new features he has been adding:

Bad Data: real-world examples of how not to do data

19 November 2013

We’ve just started a mini-project called Bad Data. Bad Data provides real-world examples of how not to publish data. It showcases the poorly structured, the mis-formatted, and the just plain ugly. This isn’t about being critical but about educating—providing examples of how not to do something may be one of the best ways of showing how to do it right. It also provides a source of good practice material for budding data wranglers!

Labs newsletter: 14 November, 2013

14 November 2013

Labs was bristling with discussion and creation this week, with major improvements to two projects, interesting conversations around a few others, and an awesome new blog post. Data Pipes: lots of improvements Data Pipes is a Labs project that provides a web API for a set of simple data-transforming operations that can be chained together in the style of Unix pipes. This past week, Andy Lulham has made a huge number of improvements to Data Pipes.

Northern Mariana Islands Retirement Fund Bankruptcy

9 November 2013

Back on April 17 2012 the Northern Mariana Islands Retirement Fund attempted to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 11. There was some pretty interesting reading in their petition for bankruptcy including this section (para 10) which suggests some pretty bad public financial management (emphasis added): “Debtor has had difficulty maintaining healthy funding levels due to […]

Labs newsletter: 7 November, 2013

7 November 2013

There was lots of interesting activity around Labs this week, with two launched projects, a new initiative in the works, and an Open Data Maker Night in London. Webshot: online screenshot service, an online service for taking screenshots of websites, is now live, thanks to Oliver Searle-Barnes and Simon Gaeremynck. Try it out with an API call like this: Read more about the development behind the service here.

Tracking Issues with Data the Simple Way

6 November 2013

Data Issues is a prototype initiative to track “issues” with data using a simple bug tracker—in this case, GitHub Issues. We’ve all come across “issues” with data, whether it’s “data” that turns out to be provided as a PDF, the many ways to badly format tabular data (empty rows, empty columns, inlined metadata …), “ASCII spreadsheets”, or simply erroneous data. Key to starting to improve data quality is a way to report and record these issues.

Introducing TimeMapper - Create Elegant TimeMaps in Seconds

11 October 2013

TimeMapper lets you create elegant and embeddable timemaps quickly and easily from a simple spreadsheet. A timemap is an interactive timeline whose items connect to a geomap. Creating a timemap with TimeMapper is as easy as filling in a spreadsheet template and copying its URL. In this quick walkthrough, we’ll learn how to recreate the timemap of medieval philosophers shown above using TimeMapper. Getting started with TimeMapper To get started, go to the TimeMapper website and sign in using your Twitter account. - Update no. 2

7 October 2013

Herewith is a report on recent improvements to, our project in Open Knowledge Foundation Labs project to provide “a URL (and information) on every “public body” - that’s every government funded agency, department or organization. New data New data contributed over the last couple of months is now validated and live - this includes new data for Switzerland, Greece, Brazil and the US. Huge thank-you to contributors here including Hannes, Charalampos, Augusto and Todd.

Data as Code Deja-Vu

4 October 2013

Someone just pointed me at this post from Ben Balter about Data as Code in which he emphasizes the analogies between data and code (and especially open data and open-source – e.g. “data is where code was 2 decades ago” …). I was delighted to see this post as it makes many points I deeply agree with - and have for some time. In fact, reading it gave me something a sense of (very positive) deja-vu since it made similar points to several posts I and others had written several years ago - suggesting that perhaps we’re now getting close to the critical mass we need to create a real distributed and collaborative open data ecosystem!

Data Pipes - streaming online data transformations

11 September 2013

Data Pipes provides an online service built in NodeJS to do simple data transformations – deleting rows and columns, find and replace, filtering, viewing as HTML – and, furthermore, to connect these transformations together Unix pipes style to make more complex transformations. Because Data Pipes is a web service, data transformation with Data Pipes takes place entirely online and the results and process are completely shareable simply by sharing the URL. - update no. 2

6 August 2013 is the Labs’ repository of high-quality, easy-to-use open data. This update summarizes some of the improvements to that have taken place over the past two months. New tools Several tools which make it easier to use the Data Package standard are now operational. These include a Data Package creator, a Data Package viewer, and there’s progress on a validator for Data Packages. Data Package Creator Turning a CSV into a Data Package means creating a file, datapackage.

Introducing Open Knowledge Foundation Labs

9 July 2013

Today we’re pleased to officially launch Open Knowledge Foundation Labs, a community home for civic hackers, data wranglers and anyone else intrigued and excited by the possibilities of combining technology and open information for good – making government more accountable, culture more accessible and science more efficient. Labs is about “making” – whether that’s apps, insights or tools – using open data, open content and free / open source software. progress

9 July 2013

There have been many new developments with, the Labs project which aims to provide “a URL for every part of government”, since the last update on the Labs blog. The news includes: a new and improved backend; a push for integration with Nomenklatura; discussion of a revamp of the PublicBodies schema; lots of new data waiting to be integrated; and a new idea for how PublicBodies might be useful.

Open Data Maker Night London No 3 - Tuesday 16th July

8 July 2013

The next Open Data Maker Night London will be on Tuesday 16th July 6-9pm (you can drop in any time during the evening). Like the last two it is kindly hosted by the wonderful Centre for Creative Collaboration, 16 Acton Street, London. When: Tuesday 16th July 2013 Where: Centre for Creative Collaboration, 16 Acton Street, London. Signup: on Meetup page (optional but nice to know numbers!) Look forward to seeing folks there!

Open Data Maker Night London No 3 - Tuesday 16th July

8 July 2013

The next Open Data Maker Night London will be on Tuesday 16th July 6-9pm (you can drop in any time during the evening). Like the last two it is kindly hosted by the wonderful Centre for Creative Collaboration, 16 Acton Street, London. When: Tuesday 16th July 2013 Where: Centre for Creative Collaboration, 16 Acton Street, London. Signup: on Meetup page (optional but nice to know numbers!) Look forward to seeing folks there!

Save the Date – OGP Pre-Conference, London Wednesday 30th October

5 July 2013

This Autumn the Open Government Partnership Annual Conference is coming to London and will place on the 31st October and 1st November. As a lead into the main event, OGP is planning a 1-day civil society Pre-Conference event on Wednesday 30th October and we here at the Open Knowledge Foundation will be collaborating with them on it. An informal group discussion on open government data The aim is for this to be informal with lots of open space and a collaboratively organized schedule with activities and discussions like:

Git (and Github) for Data

2 July 2013

The ability to do “version control” for data is a big deal. There are various options but one of the most attractive is to reuse existing tools for doing this with code, like git and mercurial. This post describes a simple “data pattern” for storing and versioning data using those tools which we’ve been using for some time and found to be very effective. Introduction The ability to do revisioning and versioning data – store changes made and share them with others – especially in a distributed way would be a huge benefit to the (open) data community.

Querying ElasticSearch - A Tutorial and Guide

1 July 2013

ElasticSearch is a great open-source search tool that’s built on Lucene (like SOLR) but is natively JSON + RESTful. Its been used quite a bit at the Open Knowledge Foundation over the last few years. Plus, as its easy to setup locally its an attractive option for digging into data on your local machine. While its general interface is pretty natural, I must confess I’ve sometimes struggled to find my way around ElasticSearch’s powerful, but also quite complex, query system and the associated JSON-based “query DSL” (domain specific language).

Basic data cleaning with Data Explorer

28 June 2013

Data Explorer is a client-side web application for data processing and visualization. With Data Explorer, you can import data, transform it with JavaScript code, and visualize it on a graph or a map – all fully within the browser and with your data and code nicely persisted to gists. This tutorial will get you started using Data Explorer by walking you through the cleaning of a messy data set. It introduces some of the basic concepts of the Recline library which provides Data Explorer’s model of data and highlights why it’s nice to be able to use JavaScript to wrangle data. - update no. 1

28 May 2013

This is the first of regular updates on Labs project and summarizes some of the changes and improvements over the last few weeks. 1. Refactor of site layout and focus. We’ve done a refactor of the site to have stronger focus on the data. Front page tagline is now: We’re providing key datasets in high quality, easy-to-use and open form Tools and standards are there in a clear supporting role.

Update on - a URL for every part of Government

1 May 2013

This is an update on - a Labs project whose aim is to provide a “URL for every part of Government”: is a database and website of “Public Bodies” – that is Government-run or controlled organizations (which may or may not have distinct corporate existence). Examples would include government ministries or departments, state-run organizations such as libraries, police and fire departments and more. We run into public bodies all the time in projects like OpenSpending (either as spenders or recipients).

Quick and Dirty Analysis on Large CSVs

11 April 2013

I’m playing around with some large(ish) CSV files as part of a OpenSpending related data investigation to look at UK government spending last year – example question: which companies were the top 10 recipients of government money? (More details can be found in this issue on OpenSpending’s things-to-do repo). The dataset I’m working with is the consolidated spending (over £25k) by all UK goverment departments. Thanks to the efforts of of OpenSpending folks (and specifically Friedrich Lindenberg) this data is already nicely ETL’d from thousands of individual CSV (and xls) files into one big 3.

Cleaning up Greater London Authority Spending (for OpenSpending)

3 April 2013

I’ve been working to get Greater London Authority spending data cleaned up and into OpenSpending. Primary motivation comes from this question: Which companies got paid the most (and for doing what)? (see this issue for more) I wanted to share where I’m up to and some of the experience so far as I think these can inform our wider efforts - and illustrate the challenges just getting and cleaning up data.

Progress on the Data Explorer

18 March 2013

This is an update on progress with the Data Explorer (aka Data Transformer). Progress is best seen from this demo which takes you on a tour of house prices and the difference between real and nominal values. More information on recent developments can be found below. Feedback is very welcome - either here or the issues What is the Data Explorer For those not familiar, the Data Explorer is a HTML+JS app to view, visualize and process data just in the browser (no backend!

Recline JS - Componentization and a Smaller Core

26 February 2013

Over time Recline JS has grown. In particular, since the first public announce of Recline last summer we’ve had several people producing new backends and views (e.g. backends for Couch, a view for d3, a map view based on Ordnance Survey’s tiles etc etc). As I wrote to the labs list recently, continually adding these to core Recline runs the risk of bloat. Instead, we think it’s better to keep the core lean and move more of these “extensions” out of core with a clear listing and curation process - the design of Recline means that new backends and views can extend the core easily and without any complex dependencies.

Lombard Street: A Description of the Money Market by Walter Bagehot

18 February 2013

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure to read Lombard Street: A Description of the Money Market by Walter Bagehot (1873, my edition a reprint of the 1910 Dutton Edition). Insightful, incisive and straightforwardly written in the kind of limpid but expressive prose that seems to have gone out with the 19th century. It also includes some very useful data points, some of which are included in the excerpts below.

Web Scraping with CSS Selectors in Node using JSDOM or Cheerio

15 January 2013

I’ve traditionally used python for web scraping but I’d been increasingly thinking about using Node given that it is pure JS and therefore could be a more natural fit when getting info out of web pages. In particular, when my first steps when looking to extract information from a website is to open up the Chrome Developer tools (or Firebug in Firefox) and try and extract information by inspecting the page and playing around in the console - the latter is especially attractive if jQuery is available.

Archiving Twitter the Hacky Way

8 January 2013

There are many circumstances where you want to archive a tweets - maybe just from your own account or perhaps for a hashtag for an event or topic. Unfortunately Twitter search queries do not give data more than 7 days old and for a given account you can only get approximately the last 3200 of your tweets and 800 items from your timeline. [Update: People have pointed out that Twitter released a feature to download an archive of your personal tweets at the end of December - this, of course, still doesn’t help with queries or hashtags]

Javascript Timeline Libaries - A Review

4 December 2012

This post is a rough and ready overview of various javascript timeline libraries that arose from research in creating a timeline view for Recline JS. Note this material hung around on my hard disk for a few months so some of it may already be a little bit out of date! October 2013: We have released TimeMapper a new online app for creating Timelines and TimeMaps quickly and easily. Check it out at http://timemapper.

The Great Recession - the Great Depression v2

19 November 2012

In history we see only dimly the contours of the recent past. By contrast, the geography of the distant are clearer: the passage of time has gradually sifted apart the great mass of events into the important and the trivial. Slowly perspective has evolved. Thus, it is hard to be certain of how the future will finally judge the boom and bust of the 2000s and its relationship to the wider boom and bust of the last 30 years.

Recline JS Search Demo

1 November 2012

We’ve recently finished a demo for ReclineJS showing how it can be used to build JS-based (ajax-style) search interfaces in minutes (or even seconds!): Because of Recline’s pluggable backends you get out of the box support for data sources such as SOLR, Google Spreadsheet, ElasticSearch, or plain old JSON or CSV – see examples below for live examples of using different backends. Interested in using this yourself? The (prettified) source JS for the demo is available (plus the raw version) and it shows how simple it is to build an app like this using Recline – plus it has tips on how to customize and extend).

WikipediaJS - accessing Wikipedia article data through Javascript

10 September 2012

WikipediaJS is a simple JS library for accessing information in Wikipedia articles such as dates, places, abstracts etc. The library is the work of Labs member Rufus Pollock. In essence, it is a small wrapper around the data and APIs of the DBPedia project and it is they who have done all the heavy lifting of extracting structured data from Wikipedia - huge credit and thanks to DBPedia folks!

Average Annual Change in US Mean Family Income, 1950-2010

1 September 2012

Average Annual Change in Mean Family Income, 1950-2010, by Quintile and for the Top 5 Percent. Source: Pew Research report “Fewer, Poorer, Gloomier: The Lost Decade of the Middle Class” p. 9.

State Budget Crisis Task Force Report

12 August 2012

The State Budget Crisis Task Force was convened in June 2011 and issued its report in July 2012. The top line quote from the main site states: State finances are not transparent and often include hidden liabilities as well as rapidly growing responsibilities which are difficult to control. While state revenues are gradually recovering from the drastic decline of the Great Recession, they are not growing sufficiently to keep pace with the spending required by Medicaid costs, pensions, and other responsibilities and obligations.

Debt Does Not Equal Revenue Except in California

12 August 2012

Striking quote on inability to understand that debt != revenue: California is also confused about the meaning of the term “revenues”. Asked at a 2008 budget conference whether Schwarzenegger would consider raising revenues to balance the budget, Thomas Sheehy, deputy director of the Department of Finance, replied that the governor’s budget, in fact, already included new revenues: $3.3 billion from the sale of deficit bonds! A corporate executive who reports borrowed dollars as sales is angling for for a bunk in federal prison.

Timeliner - Make Nice Timelines Fast

8 August 2012

As part of the Recline launch I put together quickly some very simple demo apps one of which was called Timeliner: This uses the Recline timeline component (which itself is a relatively thin wrapper around the excellent Verite timeline) plus the Recline Google docs backend to provide an easy way for people to make timelines backed by a Google Docs spreadsheet. As an example of use, I started work on a “spending stories” timeline about the bankruptcy of US cities (esp in California) as a result of the “Great Recession” (source spreadsheet).

The Data Transformer - Cleaning Up Data in the Browser

31 July 2012

This a brief post to announce an alpha prototype version of the Data Transformer, an app to let you clean up data in the browser using javascript: 2m overview video:   What does this app do? You load a CSV file from github (fixed at the moment but soon to be customizable) You write simple javascript to edit this file (uses ReclineJS transform and grid views + CSV backends – here’s the original ReclineJS transform demo) You save this updated file back to github (via oauth login - this utilizes Michael’s great work in Prose!

Problems with RecordMyDesktop and a Command Line Alternative

28 July 2012

I have been trying to create screencasts using RecordMyDesktop on Ubuntu. While the app itself functioned well I had a serious problem with the image quality: switching windows seemed to lead to massive diagonal pixelation of the captured images rendering the screencast useless. I played around for a while with various RecordMyDesktop settings (frame rate, full capture etc) but to no avail. Some searching on the web brought me to this forum post which appeared to describe an exactly similar problem – the screenshot in the original question was almost identical in pixellation effect to what I was seeing.

Shuttleworth Fellowship Application: Using the Open Data Ecosystem

10 July 2012

My application this year is under the title “Using the Open Data Ecosystem” (aka “Generating Value from the Open Data Ecosystem: Using and Applying Open Data”). Describe the world as it is. The last several decades the world has seen an explosion of digital technologies which have the potential to transform the way knowledge is disseminated. This ongoing technological revolution has enabled – and implies – the creation of an open data ecosystem in which information is freely used, extended and built on.

Public Debt, Public Finances and OpenSpending

17 June 2012

Excerpts and commentary on Niall Ferguson’s first Reith Lecture. All emphasis added. In reading this piece I thought constantly of the Open Spending project where we are endeavouring to collect together government (and other public) financial information from around the world and present it in an understandable way. In particular, it made me wonder whether we should try to do more beyond collection and presentation of the data to provide additional (necessarily somewhat speculative computations) such as proper financial balance sheets.

Weekly Update: Rufus Pollock - 14th May 2012

14 May 2012

Availability All week In Manchester for Future Everything Thursday and Friday Last Week In San Francisco for ONEF meeting Previous weeks: travelling in Brazil This Week Future Everything DataHub, CKAN and Recline work including roadmap planning School of Data Various Reports and Proposals

Weekly Update: Rufus Pollock – 2nd April 2012

2 April 2012

Availability All week Last Week Strategy meeting School of Data DataHub, CKAN and Recline Data Explorer Proposals including TA Bridge Open Data Handbook - put up translations, plan next steps This Week DataHub, CKAN and Recline work including roadmap planning Book trip in Apr-May School of Data Open Data Handbook Various Reports and Proposals

Weekly Update: Rufus Pollock - 19th March 2012

19 March 2012

Availability All week except Thursday (in London Tues + Fri) Last Week Monday: CKAN DataStore and Data API v2 live on the DataHub Wed-Fri: EPSI Platform Conference in Rotterdam including a Presentation about CKAN and Prix Ars Electronica Submission with Laura Newman Catching up with the email backlog after a week away Various CKAN and Open Knowledge Foundation related stuff has new theme and new sections Video of my talk at LIFT Conference now up This Week Miscellaneous project related items!

Shuttleworth Fellowship Quarterly Review - Feb 2012

5 March 2012

As part of my Shuttleworth Fellowship I’m preparing quarterly reviews of what I and the Open Knowledge Foundation have been up to. So, herewith are some some highlights from the last 3 months. Highlights Substantial new project support from several funders including support for Science working group and Economics working group Our CKAN Data Management System selected in 2 major new data portal initatives Continuing advance of projects across the board with several projects reaching key milestones (v1.

Weekly Update: Rufus Pollock - 27th February 2012

27 February 2012

Availability All week (in London Tues + Fri) Last Week Talked at LIFT 2012 on Open Data Work on Webstore in CKAN With Laura Newman Open Data Handbook v1.0 Released With Velickha Dimitrova announced Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Support for Open Economics Working Group at the Open Knowledge Foundation Administration with the inimitable Laura James and Naomi Lillie This Week Transparency Board meeting Catching up with the email backlog :-) CKAN strategy meeting + Webstore v2 finished http://DataProtocols.

Talk at LIFT 2012

22 February 2012

This week I’m at LIFT 2012 to give a talk on Open Data – and also to meet with the great bunch of Swisss Open Data folks! Update 2012-02-24: Slides up Open Data: How We Got Here and Where We’re Going Abstract Over the past few years, there has an explosive growth in open data with significant uptake in government, research and elsewhere. Open data has the potential to transform society, government and the economy, from how we travel to work to how we decide to vote.

Weekly Update: Rufus Pollock - 20th February 2012

20 February 2012

Availability All week though in Geneva Wed-Fri for LIFT Conference Last Week Dev8D - talk on CKAN and its use in academia and research (plus Data Repositories panel) Citizen Cyberscience Summit on Friday and Saturday Huge amount done on PyBossa including finishing (the major) authorization and authentication work, updated tutorial, a new home on the web at, a new home on GitHub at and a new ‘Guess My Age’ app that Daniel built as part of the Hackday on Saturday Recline Data Explorer improvements Open Data Handbook finalized for launch this week This Week Talking at LIFT Conference in Geneva plus meeting with Swiss Open Data community Webstore v2 based on ElasticSearch in CKAN Launch Open Data Handbook Finalize Recline Data Explorer for its v0.

Weekly Update: Rufus Pollock - 13th February 2012

13 February 2012

Availability All week (in London Wed-Fri) Last Week Variety of meetings including an OGP one with the TB Lots of CKAN Especially work on Recline Data Explorer. Support for sorting and better notifications. Data wrangling: several datasets in the DataHub Open Exchange Rates Data plus Consolidated API-accessible Exchange Rate Data in the Webstore ISO 4217 Currency Codes - Consolidated ISO 4217 Currency Codes in Webstore With Laura Newman School of Data Announced Administration with the inimitable Laura James and Naomi Lillie Wrote Handbook section on Working Process plus lots of Templates for Budgets, Todo lists etc Annotator and AnnotateIt - now at 70 watchers on github!

Film: The Artist

5 February 2012

8.5/10. A wonderful, moving and surprising piece of film-making. Intriguingingly conceived and beautifully executed.

Speaking on Digging into Open Data at Data Insights Meetup in Cambridge Today

2 February 2012

I’ll be talking at Data Insights Meetup today on the topic of Digging into Open Data. Where: Fountain Inn, Cambridge, UK (OpenStreetMap) When: Feb 2nd 2012, from 7:30pm Slides Links - CKAN, open-source data hub software - the DataHub - S&P dataset I demo-d raw data - Recline Data Explorer Abstract There has been growing interest, especially in government, in ‘open data’.

Weekly Update: Rufus Pollock - 30th January 2012

30 January 2012

2012-01-30 Availability All week (in London Wednesday) Last Week Lots of CKAN Especially work on Recline Data Explorer. This is now fully functional and integrated into the DataHub, see e.g. this gold prices dataset Work on BibServer and Public Domain Works and its Public Domain Calculators Open Economics Hackday – it was great! Working on YourTopia code - clean rewrite in pure js Data wrangling: Economics datasets on the DataHub – up 10 in the last week Post on Dreams of a Unified Text Various administration This Week Some core admin, including getting a standard spreadsheet template for budgeting and (simple) tasks/todos More on OKFN Labs with Tom Rees and others CKAN work and planning More work on YourTopia code with Open Economics team – hope to get it to the point where we can upgrade curr ent YourTopia to new codebase NESTA round-table on innovation on Wednesday Talking at Data Insights meetup in Cambridge on Thursday

Film: Haywire

21 January 2012

7.5 (8.5 for genre). Stylish with an excellent lead performance (its pared down presentation and plot had echoes of the classic Point Blank). Though lacking in any great substance (cf, to say, The American) it consistently held one's attention from the very first shot to the closing credits -- something to be said of very few films of this kind.

Weekly Update 16th January 2012: Rufus Pollock

16 January 2012

Availability All week Last Week Away until Friday when did a lot of email catching up :-) Quite a bit of coding on Recline Data Explorer while away. Check out the demo This Week CKAN - finishing and integrating Recline OKFN Labs BibServer Sprint

ANN: PyWordpress - Python Wordpress Library using the Wordpress XML-RPC API

29 December 2011

Announcing PyWordpress, a Python library for Wordpress that provides a pythonic interface to Wordpress using the Wordpress XML-RPC API: Code on github: Python Package Index: Along with a wrapper for the main functions it also provides various helper methods, for example to create many pages at once. This is somewhat of a belated announce as the first version of this was written almost a year ago!

Weekly Update: Rufus Pollock

5 December 2011

This covers the last 2 weeks as I did not manage an update last week. Availability Mon-Thurs: but in Boston Mon-Tues and travelling back to UK Wednesday Week of 21st November In South Africa all week More meetings and coding with people in South Africa including Cape Town meetup More work on Community Dashboard with Tom Rees Integrated Data Explorer with CKAN Week of 28th November Tues-Friday at: Bridging Transparency and Technology Session on Natural Resources Saturday: Open Data Day and RHOK.

Shuttleworth Fellowship Bi-Annual Review

25 November 2011

As part of my Shuttleworth Fellowship I’m preparing bi-annual reviews of what I – and projects I’m involved in – have been up to. So, herewith are some some highlights from the last 6 months. CKAN and the theDataHub Finalized separation of software and site: CKAN = data hub software, = community data hub site Worked heavily to develop CKAN as a product e.g. much improved website, nascent partner programme and more Major milestone with CKAN v1.

Weekly Update: Rufus Pollock

21 November 2011

Availability All week In South Africa Mon-Thurs (return to UK Friday) Activity All last week in South Africa for Shuttleworth Fellows meetup Post about meetups and hackdays in South Africa Humanities working group meetup Limited coding and contribution to CKAN, specifically on: data package manager Recline Data Explorer (with Max Ogden) - cf this ticket Work on v0.11 release of OpenSpending. In particular updating and improving openspendingjs so that we have a proper bubbletree explorer.

Institute of Chartered Accountants' Annual Lecture

9 November 2011

Tomorrow evening (Thursday) I will be giving the ICAEW’s (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) IT faculty annual lecture. I will be talking on the topic of “Open Data: What, Why, How” – more info below. The event is free, but unfortunately invite only due to limited capacity -(email [email protected] to attend). So, if you don’t have anything planned and would like to find out more about the intersection of accountancy and open data (think OpenSpending) then why not come along!

Weekly Update: Rufus Pollock

31 October 2011

Availability All week (though may be at Moz Festival at end of the week) Activity Back last week from Open Government Data Camp Mini-hackday with Pedro Markun and others on OKFN Community Dashboard OKFN Hiring Planning of OKFN Labs Posts about Shuttleworth Fellowship renewal and plans for next year Limited coding and contribution to CKAN, specifically v0.9 release of datapkg (now renamed to dpm) and work on Recline / Data Explorer.

Shuttleworth Fellowship Renewed: Scaling the Open Ecosystem

28 October 2011

Last year I had the great fortune to be supported, in the role of a Fellow, by the Shuttleworth Foundation in my work to help Bootstrap the Open Data Ecosystem. Not only was it great to have the resource to dedicate myself full-time to this area, but as a Fellow you get the (rare) chance to be part of a small, tight-knit group of really smart, interested and, well, just, incredibly nice set of people who share your interests and are able to offer constructive, critical feedback and support on what you are doing – the other place I know like this is the Open Knowledge Foundation ;-).

Weekly Update: Rufus Pollock

17 October 2011

Availability Very limited due to Open Government Data Camp Activity In San Francisco last week Tuesday - Saturday. Attended Code for America Summit and had a variety of useful meetings including with Wikimedia Foundation folks including Erik Möller and Dario Taraborelli, Dan Whaley of and Max Ogden. Below are some written up notes from excellent chat with Max This Week Open Government Data Camp - come join us in Warsaw for the world’s biggest open government data event!

Tabular Data Formats

9 October 2011

As part of recent work on the DataExplorer I’ve been looking into formats / schemas for tabular data and have just posted this info on the wiki: The list is quite short and if anyone out there has useful links or comments I’d love to know more (as one example, I hear very positive things about R and its data frames but have not yet tracked down a really good overview of interface of how its designed).

Weekly Update: Rufus Pollock

12 September 2011

Availability Monday-Tuesday Tuesday-Friday at PICNIC in Amsterdam - please get in touch if you’re in the area and would like to chat! Activity Lots of work on CKAN to massively improve UX – new release coming this week we hope Lots of other CKAN planning sysadmin work - continuing migration moved Upgraded to latest OSQA and fixed bug with fastcgi (so now running as fastcgi) http://opendatacommons.

Week Ahead: Rufus Pollock

5 September 2011

Availability All week Activity Lots of work on CKAN, working to integrate new theme and ckanjs Lots of work on BibServer - see BibServer repo Meetings e.g. #teamcamp, Science Online sysadmin work - continuing migration Huge improvements to and other wordpress-based sites thanks to migration work with Nils Plan to move this week This Week CKAN coding and planning BibServer coding Transparency Board Meeting Preparing for travel

Week Ahead: Rufus Pollock

22 August 2011

Availability All week Activity Meeting with Friecdrich and other OKFNers in Berlin More work on ckanjs - e.g. edit in place, polishing Lots of work on BibServer - see BibServer repo Open Data Manual Italian translation Lots of sysadmin work This Week ckanjs release Various CKAN stuff BibServer planning and coding with Mark Community Dashboard

Shuttleworth Highlights for July 2011

18 August 2011

As part of my Shuttleworth Fellowship I’m preparing monthly updates on what I’ve been up to. So, herewith are some some highlights from July. Talks, Events and Posts OKCon - wrap-up and aftermath Went to Washington, DC for Open Government Partnership meeting. Detailed write-up in this post: OKF at the Open Government Partnership. Met lots of interesting people. Open Data London meetup organized by Kat Braybrooke Projects CKAN and the Data Hub:

Week Ahead: Rufus Pollock

15 August 2011

Availability Most of the week In Berlin at least until Wednesday and possibly later Activity Lots of improvements to ckanjs including file upload working Improvements to ckanext-storage for integration with ckanjs (warranting a new release (v0.5)) Minor code improvements and major doc improvements to OFS (Also move to new home on github) Good planning meeting with Mark MacGillivray and Jason Kitcat re OpenBiblio work and especially BibServer.

Week Ahead: Rufus Pollock

8 August 2011

Availability Most of the week. Will be travelling to Berlin for Chaos Computer Camp from Wed onwards – if you’re there and interested in having a chat do get in touch. Activity Planning and coding work on OKFN Community Dashboard with napo Lots of work on Open Data Manual with Tim McNamara, in particular to have support for translation – check out the new transifex project: Further work on ckanjs and the DataDeck.

The Tree of Life

29 July 2011

8.5. Beautiful, allusive and moving. As with Malick's other work, sparing use of dialogue, fragmented scenes, and powerful images combine to a whole that is both complete and skeletal, suggesting, like all great work, much that lies above and beyond the limited canvas.

Ancient Greek Epitaph re Non-Existence of Afterlife

24 July 2011

Do not pass by my epitaph wayfarer, But stand, listen, and when you have heard, go on your way. There is no boat in Hades, no ferryman Charon … All of us who have died and gone below Are bones and ashes, nothing else. Ancient Greek epitaph from After Lives: A Guide Heaven, Hell and Purgatory by John Carey quoted in LRB 14 April 2011 p.7.

Source Code

27 May 2011

6/10. One of those films that I would probably rate more highly if the reviews hadn’t been so positive. This isn’t bad, and it does a lot with its premise – in no small part due to excellent central performances – but there isn’t a huge amount there.

Film: The American

14 May 2011

8. A striking, spare film that assembles mystery and emotional involvement from the slightest of narratives.

Travelling: Brasilia, Amsterdam, Budapest then London

10 May 2011

I’m travelling quite a bit over these next few weeks: This week, from Tuesday 10th through Saturday 14th I’m in Brasilia to participate in CONSEGI and talk about open data. I’m then in Amsterdam from Sunday 15th through Tuesday 17th to participate in a workshop on Global Interoperability and Linked Data Workshop organized by Maura Marx and colleagues From Wednesday 18th through Friday 20th I’m in Budapest for an Open Data workshop being co-organized by the Open Knowledge Foundation / LOD2 Finally on Saturday 21st I’m back in London to speak about OpenSpending at OpenTech If you’re at any of these events (or are just located in any of these places) and are interested in open knowledge (data/content/etc) type stuff please get in touch!

Javascript Libraries for Working with Data

8 May 2011

Any pointers to existing js utility libraries for working with data (e.g. convert to/from standard services, parse dates etc)?

Shuttleworth Highlights for April 2011

5 May 2011

As part of my Shuttleworth Fellowship I’m preparing monthly highlights of Fellowship-related activity. Talks, Events and Posts Building the (Open) Data Ecosystem Data Hubs, Data Management Systems and CKAN Talk at UKSG Annual Conference on Open Bibliography Talk at REPUBLICA on Open Data Projects Open Government Data: #opendata: New Film about Open Government Data The Open Data Challenge – a pan-European open data competition CKAN Software and CKAN Sites

Talking at Legal Aspects of Public Sector Information (LAPSI) Conference in Milan

3 May 2011

This week on Thursday and Friday I’ll be in Milan to speak at the 1st LAPSI (Legal Aspects of Public Sector Information) Primer & Public Conference. I’m contributing to a “primer” session on The Perspective of Open Data Communities and then giving a conference talk on Collective Costs and Benefits in Opening PSI for Re-use in a session on PSI Re-use: a Tool for Enhancing Competitive Markets where I’ll be covering work by myself and others on pricing and regulation of PSI (see e.

Talk at RE:PUBLICA 2011

15 April 2011

Yesterday I was at RE:PUBLICA XI to give a talk on Open Government Data in the opening session of the “open” stream. The crammed to over-capacity room was a nice indicator of the growing attention and interest being generated by open data, and especially open governernment data. Slides online here and below.

Creative Commons and the Commons

12 April 2011

Background: I first got involved with Creative Commons (CC) in 2004 soon after its UK chapter started. Along with Damian Tambini, the then UK ‘project lead’ for CC, and the few other members of ‘CC UK’, I spent time working to promote CC and its licenses in the UK (and elsewhere). By mid-2007 I was no longer very actively involved and to most intents and purposes was no longer associated with the organization.

Talk at UKSG 2011 Conference

6 April 2011

Yesterday, I was up in Harrogate at the UKSG (UK Serials Group) annual conference to speak in a keynote session on Open Bibiliograpy and Open Bibliographic Data. I’ve posted the slides online and iframed below. Outline Over the past few years, there has an explosive growth in open data with significant uptake in government, research and elsewhere. Bibliographic records are a key part of our shared cultural heritage. They too should therefore be open, that is made available to the public for access and re-use under an open license which permits use and reuse without restriction (http://opendefinition.

Javascript Templating and Frameworks

3 April 2011

Ongoing and incomplete review of javascript templating systems and frameworks. Templating Unobtrusive (HTML + JSON) weld tags: unobtrusive beta minimal.js tags: unobtrusive ‘Standard’ Templating Browser jquery.tmpl / jqtpl / tags: nodejs jquery browser beta tempo Listings Many of these work with browser Testing nodeunit qunit jasmine sinon.

Where Does My Money Go ...

28 March 2011

Something I saw recently (and took a picture of) that made me think of Where Does My Money Go? and Open Spending …

Shuttleworth Fellowship - Activity in the Last 3 Months

18 March 2011

As part of my Shuttleworth Fellowship I’m preparing quarterly reports on what I’ve been up to. So, herewith are some some highlights from the last 3 months. (Previous update - Sept-Dec) Talks and Events Talk at CCSR in Manchester about Open Data Talk at Cambridge Geek Night Workshop at Dev8D Talk at EPSI Platform Berlin - Open Data: Apps for Everyone? Talk at British Library Talk at Managing Public Sector Information Talk at NCVO Annual Conference Panel session at JISC Annual Conference Projects The Annotator (and AnnotateIt.

Citizens by Simon Schama

12 March 2011

Brilliant, especially strong in the sections dealing with the lead up to revolution and the period around and just after the ‘constitutional’ revolution of 1789.

Speaking at Managing Public Sector Information and NCVO Conference

1 March 2011

Today I’m speaking at two events in London: Managing Public Sector Information - update: slides The NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organizations) Annual Conference

Talking at British Library about Open Shakespeare

22 February 2011

This Thursday I and James Harriman-Smith will be heading over to the British Library to give a talk on Open Shakespeare and possibilities for “Open Literature”. Update: Slides from the Open Shakespeare presentation Outline This talk will introduce – an innovative new approach to Shakespeare’s works, and, eventually, any literary text. The website is, as far as we know, unique in providing both public domain texts and open tools for the analysis of Shakespeare.

hg-git and pushing to git from mercurial

12 February 2011

Documenting my experience pushing mercurial repos to git (and github specifically). Install hg-git Follow Install dulwich >= 0.6. On ubuntu: sudo apt-get install python-dulwich Get the latest version of hg-git: hg clone Add it to your extensions [extensions] git = path/to/hg-git/hggit Push an existing mercurial repo Assuming you’ve got a git repo somewhere, e.g. for me (rgrp) on github: cd my-current-mercurial-repo hg push git+ssh://[email protected]/rgrp/myrepo Really important note: do not change git before the @ sign to your username as you would in mercurial but leave it as ‘git’ (this cost me around 20m of googling with errors like

Talking at Cambridge Geek Night about Digging into Data with CKAN

10 February 2011

I’m talking next week at the 8th Cambridge Geek Night about Digging into Data with CKAN and datapkg. Update: Slides

Datapkg 0.8 Released

9 February 2011

A new release (v0.8) of datapkg, the tool for distributing, discovering and installing data is out! Release: Docs: There’s a quick getting started section below (also see the docs). About the release This release brings substantial improvements to the download functionality of datapkg including support for extending the download system via plugins. The full changelog below has more details and here’s an example of the new download system being used to download material selectively from the COFOG package on CKAN.

Open Shakespeare Annotation Sprint

4 February 2011

Cross-posted from Open Knowledge Foundation blog. Tomorrow we’re holding the first Open Shakespeare Annotation ‘Sprint’. We’ll be getting together online and in-person to collaborate on critically annotating a complete Shakespeare play with all our work being open. All of Shakespeare’s texts are, of course, in the public domain, and therefore already ‘open’. However, most editions of Shakespeare people actually use (and purchase) are ‘critical’ editions, that is texts together with notes and annotations that explain or analyze the text, and, for these critical editions no open version yet exists.

Copyright is a Monopoly! (And isn't like normal property)

31 January 2011

The equation of ‘intellectual property’ (IP) such as copyright with (traditional “real”) property is frequently made, especially by those advocating its extension. However, this equation is fundamentally erroneous and results in very serious misapprehension of the nature and effect of IP. In particular, patents and copyright confer monopolies in a way that ownership of real property does not. How is it different? ‘Real’ property like an apple, a car or an acre of land can only ever be used by one person/entity at one time – in economist’s terminlogy they are ‘rival’ goods.

Speaking at CCSR in Manchester about Open Data

24 January 2011

This Tuesday (25th Jan) I’ll be giving a seminar at Manchester University’s Centre for Census and Survey Research on Open Data. The seminar is 4-5pm and there’ll be an open-data workshop/discussion from 12-4. If you’re interested in working with open data generally or any Open Knowledge Foundation projects specifically, for example [Where Does My Money Go], CKAN, etc, you’re very welcome to come along to any part of it. Seminar Info Title: Open Data: What, Why How!

Introducing YourTopia - Development beyond GDP

12 January 2011

The following is cross-posted from the Open Knowledge Foundation blog post. It reports the results of the code-sprint reported in this previous blog post. Today we’re announcing a simple new app (also submitted to World Bank Apps competition) that allows anyone to say what kind of world, what ‘YourTopia’, they would like to live in: As well as having a very simple function: to tell you what country is closest to your ideal, the app also has a very serious purpose: to help us develop a real empirical basis for the measures of development that are used to guide policy-making.

OpenHDI: Open Human Development Index

7 January 2011

A few members of the Open Knowledge Foundation’s nascent open economics working group are having a code-sprint this Friday and Saturday to work on an app for the world bank competition currently called ‘Open HDI’ (Human Development Index): [Update] we’ve renamed to YourTopia - stub website (it’s what we’ll make today and tomorrow!) - planning pad - source code and data The idea is to look at ‘development beyond GDP’ by collecting weightings on particular aspects of ‘development’ (health, education, gdp, inequality) from users and using that to build our own human development index.

PyWordpress - Python Library for Wordpress

5 January 2011

Announcing pywordpress, a python interface to Wordpress using the Wordpress XML-RPC API. Download: Source code: Usage Command line Check out the commands:: -h You will need to create a config with the details (url, login) of the wordpress instance you want to work with:: cp config.ini.tmpl config.ini # now edit away ... vim config.ini Python library Read the code documentation:: >>> from pywordpress import Wordpress >>> help(Wordpress)

The Public Domain in 2011

3 January 2011

According to (which I helped build) there were 661 people whose works entered the public domain in 2011: Of course, I should immediately state that this is a fairly crude calculation based on a simple life+70 model and therefore not applicable to e.g. the US with its 1923 cut-off (for those interested in the details of computing public domain status there’s you can find lots more here:

Is Google the next Microsoft? Monopoly, Competition, Regulation and Antitrust in Online Search

15 December 2010

My paper Is Google the next Microsoft? Competition, Welfare and Regulation in Online Search has been published in the December issue of the Review of Network Economics. Local copy of the paper - extended version Slides from talk at Royal Economic Society Conference last year With recent antitrust and competition authority interest in Google’s monopoly – such as the announcement on Nov 30th of an official probe of Google by the European competition authorities1 – the paper’s publication could not come at a more appropriate time - and the first version of this paper was put out in 2008 so it has also proved reasonably prescient!

Eurostat Hackday, 16th December 2010

14 December 2010

As announced on the Open Knowledge Foundation’s blog at the start of December, this Thursday (the 16th) is an all day ‘hackday’ on Eurostat data; We’re currently organising a ‘hackday’ on the Eurostat data, which will take place on Wednesday 16th December 2010: If you’d like to get involved, please get in touch on the euopendata mailing list, or drop us a line on eurostat at okfn dot org.

Slouching Towards Bethelehem by Joan Didion

6 December 2010

Read some time ago Joan Didion’s extraordinary set of essays Slouching Towards Bethlemem1, a book filled with the sense of dislocation and anomie that seems so essential to the experience, at least in literature, of America itself. The most penetrating of the set was that which lends its title to the book2 and I marked one particular section out of that essay, and out of the book as a whole:

Talks this Week: Open Data at ESTC in Vienna and TOP-IX Annual Conference in Turin

2 December 2010

This Thursday I’m in Vienna to participate in the Linked Open Data workshop at ESTC 2010 talking about open data on the semantic web (putting the ‘open’ in linked open data!). Update: slides from talk at ESTC. Then on Friday (3rd Dec) I’m at the TOP-IX Open Data conference in Torino, Italy to speak on Public Sector Information and Open Data (on the 2nd fellow OKFNer Friedrich Lindenberg will be coordinating a CKAN hack day in Turin as part of the run-up to the main event).

Progress in the last 3 months

1 December 2010

As part of my Shuttleworth Fellowship I’m preparing quarterly reports on what I’ve been up to. So, herewith are some some highlights from the last 3 months. Talks and Events Open Government Data Camp 18-19 Nov 2010 - Organized by myself and colleagues at the Open Knowledge Foundation. Over 300 participants from over 30 countries. More at My introductory talk at OGD Camp UK Government made a major announcement of renewed commitment to open data at a press conference co-hosted by OKF which coincided with the camp (UK PM video) Talks at Picnic 2010 (Amsterdam), dataconomy (London), Gov2.

CKAN v1.2 Released together with Datapkg v0.7

30 November 2010

This is a cross-post of the release announcement originally put up on the OKFN Blog. We’re delighted to announce CKAN v1.2, a new major release of the CKAN software. This is the largest iteration so far with 146 tickets closed and includes some really significant improvements most importantly a new extension/plugin system, SOLR search integration, caching and INSPIRE support (more details below). The extension work is especially significant as it now means you can extend CKAN without having to delve into any core code.

Datapkg 0.7 Released

29 November 2010

A major new release (v0.7) of datapkg is out! Release: Docs: There’s a quick getting started section below (also see the docs). About the release This release brings major new functionality to datapkg especially in regard to its integration with CKAN. datapkg now supports uploading as well as downloading and can now be easily extended via plugins. See the full changelog below for more details. Get started fast # 1.

Open Government Data Goes Global - OGDCamp Keynote

24 November 2010

This is the keynote I gave as the opening to Open Government Data Camp 2010. Accompanying slides. Keynote Hello and Welcome! I’m Rufus Pollock from the Open Knowledge Foundation. We’re delighted to have such great a group of people here and many thanks to all of you that have come, especially if you’ve travelled a long way. And thanks of course to all of our sponsors who have kindly supported the travel expenses of those who could not otherwise afford to get here

Open Government Data Camp 2010

16 November 2010

This Thursday and Friday marks the start of the Open Government Data Camp an Open Knowledge Foundation event I’ve been helping to organize. It’s the first of it’s kind, and what we hope will be an annual event. People are already arriving from across the world to attend including representatives from the UN, White House and European Commission. Read more about the event »

Open-Source Annotation Toolkit for Inline, Online Web Annotation

11 November 2010

I’ve been working on web-annotation – inline, online annotation of web texts – for several years. My original motivation was to support annotation of texts in so we can collaboratively build up critical notes but since then I’ve seen this need again and again – in drafting new open data licenses, with scholars working on medieval canon law, when taking my own notes on academic papers. Open Shakespeare's Hamlet in annotate mode

Data is a Platform not a Commodity

2 November 2010

A phrase I’ve been using in talks recently: Data is a platform not a commodity: you build on it rather than sell it. And that’s why it should be open.

The Social Network

1 November 2010

6.5. Fincher does a great job to weave the variegated strands into a film that is engaging throughout. However, as with his previous Zodiac, one wondered what the point was - a problem made worse here by the lack of a single character who can elicit our sympathy.

Speaking at 2010 Online News Association Conference

28 October 2010

This Friday and Saturday I’m in Washington DC at the 2010 Online News Association Conference where I’ll be speaking about Where Does My Money Go? in the Saturday session on Making Killer Apps with Public Data. I’ll then be travelling up to Boston for a few days to meet with some open data folks there – if you’re in that area and interested in open data or related matters please get in touch.

Where Does My Money Go? Spending Explorer using Protovis and jQuery

27 October 2010

Over the last couple of months I’ve been playing around with Protovis in my spare time to create an interactive pure javascript Government Spending Explorer for Where Does My Money Go? (datastore api): Explorer: Source: Warning: won’t work in IE (atm due to lack of svg support) and works best (i.e. fastest) in Chrome! I’d be interested in any feedback and any suggestions for experience with protovis or any other javascript libraries (I’ve also used flot and thejit a bit).

Elektrischer Reporter Video on Open Data

26 October 2010

The “Elektrischer Reporter” team in cooperation with the second channel of German television (ZDF) have just released a great video about Open Data. I’m interviewed in it along with Daniel Dietrich (OKFN Germany and Open Data Network), Christian Kreutz, and Richard Allan.

Speaking Today at media140 Dataconomy Event

21 October 2010

This evening I’ll be at media140 dataconomy event in London to give a talk on open data. Update: slides from dataconomy talk are now up.

Datapkg v0.7 Beta Released

14 October 2010

I’ve just put out a beta of a major new version of datapkg (see changelog below): Release: Docs: There’s a quick getting started section below (also see docs). About the release This is a substantial release with a lot of new features. As this is a client app which will run on a variety of platforms its been released as a beta first so there’s a chance to catch any of the cross-platform compatibility bugs that inevitably show up.

Papers on the Size and Value of EU Public Domain

11 October 2010

I’ve just posted two new papers on the size of and ‘value’ the EU Public Domain. These papers are based on the research done as part of the Public Domain in Europe (EUPD) Research Project (which has now been submitted). Summary Slides Covering Size and Value of the Public Domain - Talk at COMMUNIA in Feb 2010 The Size of the EU Public Domain This paper reports results from a large recent study of the public domain in the European Union.

Government 2.0 Camp Berlin

1 October 2010

Tomorrow I’ll be in Berlin at the Government 2.0 Camp running a workshop on Open Government Data and will then be staying on to participate in a book sprint to create an Open Data Manual.

Speaking at PICNIC 10 in Amsterdam

21 September 2010

This week I’m going to be in Amsterdam at PICNIC ‘10 speaking about open data – what it is, why it’s good and how we can go about growing the open data ecosystem. If you’re in Amsterdam – at PICNIC or otherwise – and interested in open data do get in touch. Update: slides have now been posted - enjoy!

Shuttleworth Fellowship: Bootstrapping the Open Data Ecosystem

21 September 2010

This month, I’m starting a year long Shuttleworth Foundation Fellowship. Thanks to Shuttleworth Foundation’s support I’ll be able to dedicate myself full-time to open knowledge and the Open Knowledge Foundation. I’ll be working to promote open knowledge and open data around the world – open knowledge being any kind of content or data from sonnets to statistics, genes to geodata, that can be freely used, reused and redistributed. Specifically I’ll be:

Versioning / Revisioning for Data, Databases and Domain Models: Copy-on-Write and Diffs

10 September 2010

There are several ways to implement revisioning (versioning) of domain model and Databases and data generally): Copy on write - so one has a ‘full’ copy of the model/DB at each version. Diffs: store diffs between versions (plus, usually, a full version of the model at a given point in time e.g. store HEAD) In both cases one will usually want an explicit Revision/Changeset object to which :

Proposal in Brazil to Legalize Non-Commercial File-Sharing and Monetize P2P

2 September 2010

Pedro Paranaguá points me to a proposal for monetizing P2P file-sharing in Brazil. The proposal has been submitted as part of Brazil’s open public consultation to review its copyright law. As he summarizes it for non-Portugese speakers like myself (though Google translate did not do a bad job!): Basically, non-commercial file sharing will be authorized – should the proposal be accepted and passed into law. Each broadband user will pay a R$3 (or US$1.

Film: Inception

30 July 2010

5/10. Beautiful but completely empty, without significant emotional or intellectual substance and very little of the crucial ingredient for any thriller: suspense. The conception was neat, and executed with much visual flair but the key elements of plot and characterisation that would have served to involve the viewer more deeply seemed to have got lost in the visual pyrotechnics and the addition of yet another dream layer to the already convoluted plot.

Set Trackpad Sensitivity for Thinkpad on Ubuntu

11 July 2010

On a Lenovo Thinkpad the trackpad is the red button that acts as a mouse. To set the sensistivity and speed of your trackpad on for ubuntu/debian linux do (as root): echo -n 180 > /sys/devices/platform/i8042/serio1/speed echo -n 250 > /sys/devices/platform/i8042/serio1/sensitivity To have these applied every time you user the computer (probably what you want!) just add those two lines to /etc/rc.local before the final exit 0 so results looks like:

Public Sector Transparency Board

28 June 2010

As announced on Friday on the UK Government’s, I am one of the members of the UK Government’s newly formed Public Sector Transparency Board. From the announcement: The Public Sector Transparency Board, which was established by the Prime Minister, met yesterday for the first time. The Board will drive forward the Government’s transparency agenda, making it a core part of all government business and ensuring that all Whitehall departments meet the new tight deadlines set for releasing key public datasets.

Why this nothingness where once a city

24 June 2010

Why once this nothingness where once a city Who will answer? Only the wind.

The Size of the Public Domain (Without Term Extensions)

26 May 2010

We’ve looked at the size of the public domain extensively in earlier posts. The basic take away from the analysis was the finding that, based on library catalogue data, for books in the UK, approximately 15-20% of work was in the public domain – with public domain work being pretty old (70 years plus, due to the life+70 nature of copyright). An interesting question to ask then is: how large would the public domain be if copyright had not been extended from its original length of 14 years with (possible) 14 year renewal (14+14) set out in Statute of Anne back in 1710?

Lenovo X61s Battery Life

30 April 2010

I have a 2y old Lenovo X61s running ubuntu jaunty. Ever since I acquired I’ve been rather unimpressed by battery life-time which seems to be max 1.25-1.5h (2h if I’ve just got it on but not doing anything). This lifetime is achieved when: Switching off wifi, bluetooth, usb etc Switching laptop mode on Turning down backlight to around 30% or below Plus anything else powertop suggests I should note I’m usually doing some kind of actual work though nothing too intense (if I start running lots of tests that use the DB, or using a browser battery life falls).

UK Government Plans to Open Up Data

23 March 2010

Yesterday, in a speech on “Building Britain’s Digital Future”, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced wide-ranging plans to open up UK government data. In addition to a general promise to extend the existing commitments to “make public data public” the PM announced: The opening up of a large and important set of transport data (the NaPTAN dataset) A commitment to open up a significant amount of Ordnance Survey data from the 1st April (though details of which datasets not yet specified) By the Autumn an online e-“domesday” book giving “an inventory of all non-personal datasets held by departments and arms-length bodies A new “institute” for web science headed by Tim Berners-Lee and Nigel Shadbolt and with an initial £30m in funding This speech is a significant indication of a further commitment to the “making public data public” policy announced in the Autumn.

Talk at Forum Virium's Open Up the City Event in Helsinki

9 March 2010

This Thursday (11th March) I’m speaking at the Forum Virium’s Open Up the City event in Helsinki. This year their focus is on “open data, design, interfaces and innovation” and I’m speaking under the title “Open Data: What, Why, How?".

Policy Recommendations in the Area of Innovation, Creativity and IP

8 March 2010

I was recently asked to put together a short document outlining my main policy recommendations in the area of “innovation, creativity and IP”. Below is what I prepared. General IP Policy Recommendation: IP policy, and more generally innovation policy, should aim at the improvement of the overall welfare of UK society and citizens and not just at promoting innovation and creativity Innovation is, of course, a major factor in the improvement of societal welfare – but not the only factor, access to the fruits of that innovation is also important.

Automated Identification Works from Manifestations

16 February 2010

I’ve talked [quite a bit] about the importance of identifying the works underlying a given book entry in a catalogue (which would be an item or manifestation in FRBR lingo). Our effort was based on trying to find cases of two manifestations/item which we thought shared a common work. The results were as follows: TODO This compares reasonably well with OCLC’s prior work in this regard (Hickey, Thomas. FRBR algorithms & tools online.

Howto Install 4store

8 February 2010

My experiences (with the assistance of Will Waites) of installing 4store On Ubuntu Jaunty. No packaged versions of code (there is one in fact from Yves Raimond from mid 2009 but now out of date …), so need to get from github. Recommend using will waites fork which adds useful features like: multiple connections triple deletion Note I had to make various fixes to get this to compile on my ubuntu machine.

Prospect Magazine Article: Mashing the State

2 February 2010

The lead article of Prospect Magazine’s February issue is a piece by by James Crabtree and Tom Chatfield entitled “Mashing the State”. It’s an in-depth look at the recent launch of and its place in the wider context of government policy in relation to information – as well as information’s relation to governance (that “mashing” of the state …). Where Does My Money Go gets a mention as does the “Cambridge” paper on pricing models at trading funds.

Talking at Cambridge University Library on Openness and Libraries

25 January 2010

This Wednesday (27th of January) at 1pm I’m giving one of Cambridge University Library’s regular lunch-time talks on Openness and Libraries. Attendance is free and anyone can come along! Update (28th Jan): talk is done and slides are now up. Blurb Over the past few years, open licensing ( has facilitated the explosive growth of a ‘knowledge commons’. To give a few prominent examples: Open Access journals, Open Educational Resources and Open Data in scientific research have all been enabled by licenses which permit material to be freely re-used and re-distributed.

Argentina Extends Copyright Term in Recordings

14 January 2010

Apparently, on the 11th of December 2009, Argentina extended copyright term in recordings from 50 to 70 years (see e.g. here, here and here). Instead of the real reasons for extension – propping up the profits of a handful of multinational record labels and their shareholders (at the expense of everyone else) – the usual disingenuous justifications were once again being trotted out by music industry representatives. First up was (all quotes from the billboard article):

Using Deliverance as Middleware (with Proxying)

21 December 2009

Deliverance is a great library that lets you easily re-theme external websites on the fly. Designed as WSGI middleware, it can be easily combined with some proxying to integrate a bunch of websites together You can use deliverance plus proxying out-of-the-box using the deliverance-proxy command. However, I was interested in using Deliverance as middleware from code. This turned out to be none too trivial to do – all the examples on the internet seemed to focus on using deliverance-proxy or using it in an ini file.

Historical Banking Crises and the Rules of the Game

7 December 2009

Attended an interesting talk today: “Historical Banking Crises and the Rules of the Game” by Professor Charles Calomiris, Columbia Business School. Sporadic notes below. See also this Weaving History thread on Financial Crises. Notes One crisis with 20 different explanations. Need to sort these out a little. If banks are uninsured then in a recession banks cut their supply of loans Banks are facing losses, need to bulk up their balance sheet and can do it either by raising equity or cutting supply of loans.

The Elusive Disappearance of Community

3 December 2009

From Laslett ‘Phillipe Ariès and “La Famille”’ p.83 (quoted in Eisenstein, p.131): The actual reality, the tangible quality of community life in earlier towns or villages … is puzzling … and only too susceptible to sentimentalisation. People seem to want to believe that there was a time when every one belonged to an active, supportive local society, providing a palpable framework for everyday life. But we find that the phenomenon itself and its passing – if that is what, in fact happened– perpetually elude our grasp.

The Mac Premium

30 November 2009 Similar Dell Inspiron is $300 cheaper

Size of the Public Domain III

26 November 2009

Here we are going to apply the results on Public Domain “proportions” derived in our previous post and thereby obtain best estimates of the UK public domain. The logic is simple, and similar to that in our first post in the series: we will take the Public Domain proportions from Table 3 of our last post and combine with our (conservative) estimates for output based on library catalogues. Here are the results:

Bright Star

15 November 2009

8/10. Beautiful and moving.

Public Domain Calculators Workshop

6 November 2009

I’m one of the co-organizers of a workshop on Public Domain Calculators workshop taking place next week, on the 10th and 11th of November, at Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge. Hosted by the Open Knowledge Foundation in association with the [Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law at the University of Cambridge] 3, it’s a meeting of European experts on copyright and the digital public domain taking place as part of the Communia project.

Author "Significance" From Catalogue Data

5 November 2009

Continues the series of post related to analyzing catalogue data, here are some stats on author “significance” as measured by the number of book entries (‘items’) for that author in the Cambridge University Library catalogue from 1400-1960 (there being 1m+ such entries). I’ve termed this measure “significance” (with intentional quotes) as it co-mingles a variety of factors: Prolificness – how many distinct works an author produced (since usually each work will get an item) Popularity – this influences how many times the same work gets reissued as a new ‘item’ and the library decision to keep the item Merit – as for popularity The following table shows the top 50 authors by “significance”.

How Long Should Copyright Last? Talk at Oxford IP Seminar

5 November 2009

Last week I was in Oxford to give a talk at the IP Seminar on “How Long Should Copyright Last?". I have now posted the slides from the talk online. In addition to covering the basic outline of the optimal term calculation, I was also able to give some results from the recent research on the public domain (see slide 58 onwards).

Open Notebook Social Science

22 October 2009

The other day I posted up some work-in-progress on the subject of patterns of knowledge production. That material is still in a fairly preliminary state. However, my decision to release it it in this form was a conscious decision and part of an ongoing attempt on my part to practice a more open “release early, release often” approach to research. In doing this I’m drawing direct inspiration from the open source and open notebook (science) communities and seeking to engage in what might be termed open notebook social science!

The Mac Premium and the Apple Tax

18 October 2009

Why do people pay such a premium for Apple Mac’s (aka the Apple Tax). I calculate it as roughly a $300 premium on a $600 machine.

Exploring Patterns of Knowledge Production

15 October 2009

I’m posting up some work-in-progress entitled Exploring Patterns of Knowledge Production (link to full pdf) that follows up to my earlier post of a year and a bit ago. Below I’ve excerpted the introduction plus list of motivational questions. Comments (and critique) very welcome! Exploring Patterns of Knowledge Production Paper ‘Alpha’ (pdf) Introduction In what follows the term ‘knowledge’ is here used broadly to signify all forms of information production including those involved in technological innovation, cultural creativity and academic advance.

The Knowledge Commons is Different

13 October 2009

I was looking again recently at “Understanding the Knowledge Commons” which I had perused previously. While reading the introductory chapter by Hess and Ostrom I came across: People started to notice behaviors and conditions on the web-congestion, free riding, conflict, overuse, and “pollution” – that had long been identified with other types of commons. They began to notice that this new conduit of distributing information was neither a private nor strictly a public resource.

Reverse Proxying to

2 October 2009

I wanted to do a reverse proxy to in order to integrate an existing blog into an existing site. This turned out to be a little trickier than I’d thought due to’s usage of gzip deflation of their output. Figured this out thanks to sound advice here and here: ... <Proxy *> Allow from </Proxy> ProxyPass / ProxyPassReverse / ProxyHTMLURLMap / <Location /> SetOutputFilter proxy-html # get rid of Content-Encoding at wordpress end # To use this you'll need to do (on debian) a2enmod headers RequestHeader unset Accept-Encoding # Alternative method: inflate then deflate again .

Talk at ATRIP Conference: How Long Should Copyright Last?

22 September 2009

Last week I was at the ATRIP Conference to give an invited talk on “How Long Should Copyright Last?", based on my paper: Forever Minus a Day? Calculating the Optimal Term of Copyright. Slide are here but you can also seem them inline below. You can also find the text of the accompanying introduction below (I plan to write up the full exposition as a short essay – but that is to come).

District 9

17 September 2009

7/10 (9/10 for genre). Very cleverly done, with a real emotional engagement in the protagonists predicament. This lives up to its reputation as being (well) above average.

Qualcomm and Patent Submarining

14 August 2009

Just came across this, now year-old, story of Qualcomm’s submarining efforts (and subsequent cover-up) in relation to the JVT (joint video team) standardization effort for H.264/MPEG-4 AVC codec. Qualcomm participated in the JVT (joint video team) standardization effort for H.264/MPEG-4 AVC (a video codec) which was concluded in 2003. However, they (intentionally) did not declare relevant patents (though obliged to do so) and subsequently sued Broadcom for infringement of these patents in 2005.

SQLAlchemy Migrate with Pylons

27 July 2009

Instructions on using sqlalchemy migrate with Pylons, especially to convert an existing pylons project to use sqlalchemy migrate This is based off several excellent sources including this guide and these threads. One important point to note is that you are likely to end up with two versions of your model tables: one in yourapp/model and one in yourapp/migration/versions/*.py with the former representing your tables at HEAD and the second containing upgrade/downgrade scripts whose final result is HEAD.

Research Fellowship on Economics of PSI

24 July 2009

There’s an interesting 6 month fellowship at OPSI for work on economics of public sector information being funded by ESRC and National Archives. Deadline for applications is 6th August: Valuing information: an economic analysis of public sector information and its re-use Length of Fellowship: Six months Proposed start date: Autumn 2009 Applications to be submitted as soon as possible (and by 6 August) Location of Fellowship: The National Archives’ sites (Central London and Kew)

The Dissemination of Scholarly Information: Journals, Open-Access and Distributed Filtering

20 July 2009

Current methods of disseminating scholarly information focus on the use of journals who retain exclusive rights in the material they publish. Recently there has been increasing dissatisfaction with this model, with suggestions for alternative approaches such as “Open Access”. Together with a colleague (Omar Al-Ubaydli) I’ve been working to explore the reasons for the development of the traditional journal model, why it is no longer efficient and how it could be improved upon.

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

16 July 2009

2/10. Terrible. The film is a disaster on every level: a tedious, uninvolving and occassionally laughable plot is married to an unhappy mixture of the non-existent and the cliched characterisation, and then rounded off with dialogue of the utmost banality. Even the presence of a stellar cast (how were they persuaded to get involved?) cannot redeem it, and it is with a genuine sense of relief that one greets the lights going up.

Size of the Public Domain II

16 July 2009

This follows up my previous post. Here we are going to calculation public domain numbers based directly on authorial birth/death date information rather than on guesstimated weightings. We’re going to focus on the Cambridge University Library (CUL) data we used previously. Pub. DateTotalNo AuthorAny DateDeath Date 1870-1880505646634 (13%)23016 (45%)21876 (43%) 1880-1890668578225 (12%)31135 (46%)28570 (42%) 1890-1900668838733 (13%)32169 (48%)28971 (43%) 1900-1910703608594 (12%)35401 (50%)29922 (42%) 1910-1920604897722 (12%)31336 (51%)24608 (40%) 1920-1930786709023 (11%)44219 (56%)32658 (41%) 1930-19409057611004 (12%)46849 (51%)29372 (32%) 1940-1950726927638 (10%)36495 (50%)22155 (30%) Table 1: PD Relevant Information Availability

Visualizing the Public Domain

8 July 2009

Continuing in our series of posts on the size of the public domain, here we present some of our previous results graphically. The following three graphs show the number of items per year and the estimated proportion of these which are public domain based on the catalogue data from three sources: Cambridge University Library (CUL), the British Library (BL), and the Slovakian National Library. In each graph the black bars indicate the total number of items each year and the red the number which are estimated to be public domain.

Sunshine Cleaning

2 July 2009

6.5. Simple, humanly-scaled and nicely executed with very good performances from the two leads.

Algorithm Speed and the Challenge of Large Datasets

22 June 2009

In doing research for the EU Public Domain project (as here and here) we are often handling large datasets, for example one national library’s list of pre-1960 books stretched to over 4 million items. In such a situation, an algorithm’s speed (and space) can really matter. To illustrate, consider our ‘loading’ algorithm – i.e. the algorithm to load MARC records into the DB, which had the following steps: Do a simple load: i.

Flexible Dates in Python (including BC)

18 June 2009

I’ve had occasion recently to frequently work with “dates” that come in a lot of shapes and sizes including: Dates in distant past and future including BC/BCE dates Dates in a wild variety of formats: Jan 1890, January 1890, 1st Dec 1890, Spring 1890 etc Dates of varying precision: e.g. 1890, 1890-01 (i.e. Jan 1890), 1890-01-02 Imprecise dates: c1890, 1890?, fl 1890 etc Unfortunately existing support for these in python is fairly weak.

Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo

15 June 2009

7.5/10. Spare, stark and beautifully written but hampered by a plot (and characters) that seem but weakly thought out.

The Size of the Public Domain

12 June 2009

This post continues the work begun in this earlier post on “Estimating Information Production and the Size of the Public Domain”. Update: 2009-07-17 there is now a follow-up post. Having already obtained estimates of the number of items (publications) produced each year based on library catalogue data our next step is to convert this into an estimate of the “size” of the public domain. (NB: as already discussed, “size” could mean several different things.

Estimating Information Production and the Size of the Public Domain

9 June 2009

Here we’re going to look at using library catalogue data as a source for estimating information production (over time) and the size of the public domain. Library Catalogues Cultural institutions, primarily libraries, have long compiled records of the material they hold in the form of catalogues. Furthermore, most countries have had one or more libraries (usually the national library) whose task included an archival component and, hence, whose collections should be relatively comprehensive, at least as regards published material.

Talk by Frederick Scherer: Deregulatory Roots of the Current Financial Crisis

2 June 2009

Last Thursday I attended a talk by Frederick Scherer at the [Judge] entitled: “Deregulatory Roots of the Current Financial Crisis”. Below are some sketchy notes. Notes Macro story: Huge current account deficit for last 10-15 years Expansionary Fed policy has permitted this to happen while interest rates are low Median real income has not risen since the mid-1970s Cheap money mean personal savings have dropped consistently: 1970s ~ 7%, 2000s ~ 1% Basically overconsumption Micro story:

Filesharing Costs: Dubious Figures Making the Rounds Again

29 May 2009

The BBC ran a story yesterday headlined “Seven million ‘use illegal files’". Its bolded first paragraph stated: Around seven million people in the UK are involved in illegal downloads, costing the economy tens of billions of pounds, government advisers say. [emphasis added] 7 million people involved in unauthorised file-sharing is possible, but costs of tens of billions of pounds? It’s not unusual to see such figures bandied around by the rightsholders derived from wild guesstimates of download figures and ludicrously unsound assumptions such as equating every download with a lost sale.

Visualizing Technology Flows Over Time (I)

22 May 2009

In my original post on Visualizing Technology Flows from Patent Data I just presented static information – flows for a single year. As I said there: The next step is to watch how these flows, and the relationships implied by them, have evolved over time. We can do this by plotting the same graph say, every 3 years, from 1975 up until the present. At the time I had already coded up, and computed, snapshots for each year.

Discounting and Self-Control

19 May 2009

I’m posting up an essay on “Discounting and Self-Control” (pdf). The essay, which I haven’t really touched for over a year, is still in its early stages but having lacked the time to do much on it over the last year, and going on the motto of “release early, release often”, I’m posting it up as a form of alpha version. … then must you speak Of one that loved not wisely, but too well;

Empirical Assessment of Impact of DRM on Exceptions and Limitations by Patricia Akester

7 May 2009

Patricia Akester, a colleague of mine in the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law has just published the results of her recent research in the form of a 208 page report entitled Technological accommodation of conflicts between freedom of expression and DRM: the first empirical assessment. There has been a lot of debate as to whether DRM/TPM can be used to go ‘beyond copyright’ and restrict legitimate uses of copyrighted material but little empirical work.

Talk at RES Annual Conference on "Is Google the Next Microsoft? Competition, Welfare and Regulation in Internet Search"

27 April 2009

Last Tuesday I was at the RES Annual Conference to present my paper “Is Google the Next Microsoft? Competition, Welfare and Regulation in Internet Search”. I’ve uploaded my slides from the talk here and below is a recently prepared overview. The full paper can be online on the SSRN site at: Overview Beginning from nothing twelve years ago, today online search is a multi-billion dollar business and search engine providers such as Google and Yahoo!

European Parliament Votes on Term Extension: The Result

24 April 2009

Yesterday, the European Parliament voted on the term extension proposal. Unfortunately though opposition was substantial it was not enough to prevent the modified (70-year) extension passing: Amendment in favour of the rejection: 222 IN FAVOUR, 370 AGAINST, 10 ABSTENTION Key amendment to ensure benefits only to performers: rejected (no roll-call vote so numbers unknown) All other good amendments (no ex-post, lifetime of performer only): rejected (~150 in favour 400 against) Final vote: 317 in favour 178 against 37 abstention

Results of the Trading Funds Review

23 April 2009

The Government announced last summer a further review of how trading funds supply PSI. The results of this review had been expected with the budget. However, instead of the results of a review, trading funds were included in the report of the Operational Efficiency Programme in the section on “Asset management and sales” in the “final report”. Box 3A p.41 summarized the trading fund assessment exercise: The first phase of the Trading Fund Assessment considered how a number of Government businesses could open up the information they create or hold as a result of carrying out their core public duties.

European Parliament Votes on Copyright Term Extension Tomorrow

22 April 2009

Tomorrow, the European Parliament will vote on the issue of copyright term extension for sound recordings, known in Parliamentese as “the Crowley Report (A6-0070/2009) on the Term of protection of copyright and related rights” (Mr Brian Crowley is the rapporteur for this report and a strong supporter of the extension). Extending term would be a tragic mistake and a blatant example of special-interest lobbying winning out of the interests of society as a whole.

Quartered Safe Out Here

14 April 2009


The Damned United

2 April 2009

6.5/10 (8/10 for “genre”). Small but (almost) perfectly formed. It’s hard to imagine many people outside the UK getting excited by this recounting of the ins and outs of Brian Clough’s early career as a football manager, but this production was elegantly put together with very effective use of (what look to have been) limited resources. Particularly noteworthy were Sheen’s performance and the quality of scene and shot composition (especially striking were several flat-on side-shots, for example that of the quay at the end of Clough and Taylor’s falling out argument on their Spanish holiday).

Talk on Copyright Enforcement at JURI Working Group on Authors' Rights

2 April 2009

On March 18th I was in Brussels to give a talk as one of two “invited experts” (the other being from the Motion Picture Association) to a session on the topic of “Copyright Enforcement” held by the Working Group on Authors’ Rights of the European Parliament’s JURI Committee. Below is the slightly tidied up text of the talk I gave. Talk Text Good afternoon and thank-you for inviting me here today.

Flame & Citron (Flammen & Citronen)

24 March 2009

6.5/10. Very competently done tale of heroes and villains in the world of WWII Danish resistance with strong central performances.

Open Letter re. Proposed Copyright Term Extension for Sound Recordings

24 March 2009

Yesterday (Monday) The Times published an open letter signed by many of the leading UK academics concerned with the issue of copyright term extension. The letter, of which I was a signatory, is focused on the change in the UK government’s position (from one of opposition to a term extension to, it appears, one of allowing an extension “perhaps to 70 years”). However, it is noteworthy that this is only one in a long line of well-nigh universal opposition among scholars to this proposal to extend copyright term.

Il Divo

23 March 2009

6/10. Flawlessly acted and stylistically impressive but too impressionistic for my tastes – this was a film of vignettes lacking anything with sufficient continuity of direction to be termed a plot. As a result, unlike my experience of Sorrentino’s previous “Consequences of Love”, I was left rather cold. That said I’m still very much looking forward to his next film …

2009 Open Knowledge Conference (OKCon) This Saturday

23 March 2009

The Open Knowledge Foundation’s 2009 Open Knowledge Conference (OKCon), which I help organize, will take place next Saturday 28th March - less than a week away. Full details including programme can be found either in this blog post or on the OKCon home page. As usual this will be a fun and informal day so if you’re free this Saturday and interested in “Open” stuff come along to UCL and take part.

The Watchmen

18 March 2009

8/10. I had been unimpressed by the comic book which I had read only recently. However, the film, in part thanks to its excisions and several major changes to the plot (esp. to the nature of Veit’s outrage), and despite its occasional moment of overblown and unnecessary balletic violence was a real triumph.

Computing Copyright (or Public Domain) Status of Cultural Works

12 March 2009

Background I’m working on a EU funded project to look at the size and value of the Public Domain. This involves getting large datasets about cultural material and trying to answer questions like: How many of these items are in the public domain? What’s the difference in price and availability of public domain versus non public domain items? I’ve also been involved for several years in Public Domain Works, a project to create a database of works which were in the public domain (especially recordings).

The Class (Entre Les Murs)

4 March 2009

5/10. Very so-so. Starts with some promise but one’s attention is wandering heavily even before the half-way point and the rather contrived climax centred on a pupil’s expulsion does little to bring it back. Having seen it I am baffled by the acclaim this film has received, it even won the Palme D’Or – perhaps it something to do with the film’s “worthy” subject matter.

Economics of Open Access Literature Review

23 February 2009

Bergstrom & Bergstrom 2004 PNAS Huge commercial markup Per page Per citation Difference widened particularly in 80s/90s Commercial publishers use bundling to increase profits Decreases variation in WTP Non-profit publishers use bundling To subsidise societal public goods McCabe 2002 AER Diff-diff analysis of journal prices post merger activity 1990s Results 10% price increase 1. Controlling for quality McCabe & Snyder 2005 AER Model of journal pricing Which journals go open source?

Of Mice and Academics: Examining the Effect of Openness on Innovation

23 February 2009

Just came across an interesting working paper put out last Autumn that is relevant to the openness and innovation debate. Entitled: Of Mice and Academics: Examining the Effect of Openness on Innovation and authored by Fiona Murray, Philippe Aghion, Mathias Dewatripont, Julian Kolev and Scott Stern, it is an attempt to bring some empirical evidence to bear in an area that so far has seen little. It uses a natural experiment in the late 1990s when there was a significant reduction in patent restrictions (increase in openness) related to use of genetically engineered mice.

Changing the Numbers: UK Directory Enquiries Deregulation and the Failure of Choice

10 February 2009

A couple of weeks ago I was back at City University’s Centre for Competition and Regulatory Policy for their winter workshop to present a new paper. Entitled Changing the Numbers: UK Directory Enquiries Deregulation and the Failure of Choice it looked at what happened when the UK deregulated its directory enquiries market in the early 2000s. From the abstract: In 2003, the UK `liberalised’ its telephone directory enquiries service with the aim of introducing competition so as to improve quality and lower costs.

Revolutionary Road

6 February 2009

6.5/10. Builds to a powerful climax from a rather ropey start – continually improving largely thanks to an excellent performance by Winslet. It would have been even better but for a script that occasionally slews into bathos (perhaps the fault of the original book which is rather old) and a very weak performance by DiCaprio. (As time goes by, it becomes increasingly apparent that he, like Tom Cruise, is not an actor.

New Open Access Journals from the Econometric Society

6 February 2009

As a member of the Econometric Society I received yesterday the following announce: The Council and the Fellowship of the Econometric Society have both voted in favor of a plan for the Society to publish two open-access journals: Quantitative Economics (QE) and Theoretical Economics (TE). All voting Council members were in favor of the proposal. Among the active Fellows, 277 (66.4% of the total) cast their ballots, with 240 votes (86.

A History in Bits of Bits in History

24 January 2009

I’ve started work on a book on the “Information Age”. Still at a very early stage and largely outlines but I do have a first draft of the introduction which is available below. I also have a tentative title of This Information Age - A History in Bits of Bits in History. Introduction We live in an information age and we live in a digital age – and these twin aspects of our present existence are mutually intertwined.

Recent Work on Open Economics

23 January 2009

Over the Christmas break I had a chance to make some substantial improvements/additions to our Open Economics including: Improved javascript graphing. Extend Millenium Development Goals package and added web interface. First efforts at ‘Where Does My Money Go’ Aim: Dig up govt finance info and visualize the results (online) More details on each of these can be found below. Also we’d be delighted to here from anyone interested in getting involved in this, especially with the last item, so if interested do get in touch.

Dutch Study on Filesharing

23 January 2009

A new Dutch study on the effects of filesharing has just come out. Unfortunately it is all in dutch! However, courtesy of online translation, it appears the basic message is that filesharing has a net positive impact on welfare (though they term this the ‘economic’ impact): File sharing has net positive economic impact The net economic effects of file sharing on the Dutch welfare in the short and long term are positive.

The Wrestler

19 January 2009

7/10. Still fairly unrelenting in his doom and gloom (cf. Requiem for a Dream) Aronofsky returns with a star turn by Mickey Rourke as an aging wrestler. More engaging than previous Aronofsky outings – in part because we were given some grounds for hope (even if they were later taken away) – this was definitely worth the watch.

Slumdog Millionaire

13 January 2009

7/10. The first section of film was excellent. This was the part covering our hero’s life story up to the present via the (nice) conceit of explaining to the police of how he knows ‘all the answers’. Unfortunately, the second part, which takes place in the present was much less good. Not only was the gangster aspect of it cliched and rushed but the love story – supposedly central to the film – had little time to develop and remained unconvincing.

Imagemagick convert notes

12 January 2009

Helping myself remember how to do common things using imagemagick’s (excellent but many-optioned) convert utility. convert -scale 10% {in} {out} # convert to black and white convert -type Grayscale {in} {out} convert -monochrome {in} {out} # invert colours convert -negate in out convert -rotate {in} {out} # make the given colour (e.g. here white) transparent convert -transparent white {in} {out} # make transparent white convert -fill white -opaque none {in} {out} Make square (for thumbnailing) convert -background transparent -gravity center -extent 145x145 file1 file2

Waltz With Bashir

25 December 2008

7/10. Unusual and powerful and moving.

Theories of Contextual Judgement in Relation to Well-Being and Other Outcomes

10 December 2008

I’ve just posted online a new paper on “Theories of Contextual Judgement in Relation to Well-Being and Other Outcomes”. This is a more a review-type effort and summarizes my thoughts (and reading of the existing literature) from the last year or so in relation to “relative” utility, status races and general contextual judgement/utility. Abstract: The paper presents an overview of existing theories on contextual judgement/utility situating them within a general framework.


8 December 2008

5/10. Disappointing. Another competent outing from Eastwood but rather let down by Jolie’s performance which never convinced or compelled.

Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy Can Help With Depression

2 December 2008

A new paper has just come out in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Vol 76(6), Dec 2008, 966-978 entitled: Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy to prevent relapse in recurrent depression. According to the abstract (hope to say more once I can actually get access to the pdf): … This study asked if, among patients with recurrent depression who are treated with antidepressant medication (ADM), MBCT is comparable to treatment with maintenance ADM (m-ADM) in (a) depressive relapse prevention, (b) key secondary outcomes, and (c) cost effectiveness.

Visualizing Technology Flows from Patent Data

24 November 2008

One of the things I’ve been playing around with over the last few months is the NBER Patent dataset. This provides a listing of all US patents from 1963-1999 together with a full set of citations for patents in the period 1975-1999. As it is an open dataset you’re able to get it and use it without seeking special permission, filling in forms or paying any money (so an especially big thank-you though to Hall, Jaffe and Trajtenberg who created it).

Suite Francaise

22 November 2008

7/10. Good but not more than that. It has the promise of developing into something more, something epic, but obviously, was cut short before that promise could be realized – or shown to be misplaced.

Ordnance Survey and Google: Why All the Fuss?

20 November 2008

Lots of people have been up in arms about a letter sent out by Ordnance Survey about the “Use of Google Maps for display and promotion purposes”. With titles like “Are the Show Us A Better Way winners safe from Ordnance Survey?” (Guardian), “Home Secretary’s crime maps not allowed say Ordnance Survey” ( or “The mapping mess - Google v OS” ( these seemed to indicate some particularly unreasonable behaviour by OS.


19 November 2008

7.5/10. Beautifully shot and soundtracked as well as being elegantly constructed this film presents an unusual, and often troubling, combination of beauty and brutality, artwork and agitprop.

Firefox versus IE: Browser Market Shares over Time

11 November 2008

It would be interesting to chart over time the progress of open-source, standards compliant, Mozilla-type web browsers (e.g. Firefox) versus Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. As is often the case in other areas, it is not easy to get good (open) data over a reasonable time period. The graph below shows browser market share as measured by the browser usage of visitors to the W3Schools website (data source on Open Economics plus the code to extract original data into this usable form).

Quantum of Solace

10 November 2008

5/10. Mediocre Bond especially when compared to its predecessor (on which it heavily depends). Its makers seemed to think that they could make up for the total absence of coherent plotting by providing a set piece action scene or a killing every five minutes. Sadly action and violence, without a narrative to frame them, ultimately become both gratuitous and, worse, monotonous.

Buddhist Economics

3 November 2008

The human problem of ‘scarce resources and unlimited wants’ is oft-posited as a primary motivation for studying economics. As this phrase makes clear, ‘wants’ (‘preferences’ to use the more usual terminology) are a central part of what we study as economists. Thus the existence, and stability, of those ‘wants / preferences’ merit serious consideration.1 Few of us have difficulty accepting the fundamental nature of our desire for food and shelter. However, many of us might have greater difficulties assigning the same fundamentality to the desire for a particular brand of designer perfume or a digital music player.

Workshop on Finding and Re-using Public Information, Saturday 1st November

30 October 2008

The Open Knowledge Foundation (which I’m involved in) is co-organizing with MySociety and OPSI, a Workshop on Finding and Re-using Public (Sector) Information. The event takes place this Saturday (1st of November) at the London Knowledge Lab near Holborn in London. Full details in this OKFN blog post and you can sign up the wiki page:

Quiet Chaos

27 October 2008

6.5/10. Intriguing, sweet (but not saccharine) piece featuring Nanni Moretti as a man who loses his wife in a freak accident and then spend the next couple of terms hanging out in the park outside his daughter’s school (ostensibly for her benefit but primarily for this own it would seem).

Film/Movie Production Over Time

17 October 2008

As part of my research work on knowledge production, particularly how it relates to the intellectual property regime I’ve recently been looking at film/movie production over time. Thanks to the semi-openness of we have a fairly comprehensive database of statistics available. Combining this with the excellent IMDbPY scripts and my own home-brewed code and I was able to start extracting some basic information on movie production over time. Points to note about the dataset:

I've Loved You So Long

13 October 2008

6.5/10. A compelling story of redemption driven by simple but solid story and excellent acting (esp. from Scott Thomas). The twist in the tail though was a great mistake.

ESRC Well-Being Research Workshop at the LSE

13 October 2008

Last Friday I attended an ESRC Research Workshop on Well-Being held at the LSE. According to the blurb: The time is ripe for a major expansion of well-being research in Britain – in conjunction with leading overseas colleagues. Among public policy-makers, there is an increasing desire to promote well-being and a need for evidence on what works to promote it. And among social scientists there is a new capacity to throw light on well-being: its causes and its effects.

European Policy for Intellectual Property (EPIP) Conference 2008

6 October 2008

Last Friday and Saturday I was at the 2008 European Policy for Intellectual Property (EPIP) conference, held this year in Bern. I presented my paper on the optimal term of copyright and discussed a paper of Luca Spinesi’s on ‘Imperfect IPR enforcement, inequality, and growth’. Below can be found ‘impressionistic’ notes from some of the other sessions I had a chance to attend. Jim Bessen: How can and how should economics inform patent policy?

The Financial Crisis: Thoughts

27 September 2008

Suddenly all talk is of financial and ‘economic’ crisis. Being an economist I am repeatedly being asked for my views on this recent turn of events. I’m not an expert in this area so I’m rather hesitant to give an opinion: my instinctive response is to point out that if I really knew what was going to happen next a) I’d be (or about to be) a very rich man b) I probably wouldn’t be telling them.

"Is Google the next Microsoft?" Paper Updated

25 September 2008

I’ve just put out an updated version of my paper on Search Engines entitled: “Is Google the next Microsoft? Competition, Welfare and Regulation in Internet Search”, the original version of which went up in June. The revised version is available either from SSRN: or from here: Abstract Internet search (or perhaps more accurately `web-search’) has grown exponentially over the last decade at an even more rapid rate than the Internet itself.


22 September 2008

7/10. Katyn, Andrzej Wajda’s latest film, takes as its subject the massacre by the USSR of several thousand Polish officer POWs in April 1940. While the film ends with a very graphic rendition of the killings, for almost all of its two hours the focus is on the fate of those left behind, with most of the attention centred on three women – the wife of a general, the wife of a major and the sister of a pilot/engineer.

Open Economics: History via Wheat Prices

15 September 2008

One of the active Open Knowledge Foundation projects is Open Economics. A substantial part of that effort ends up being data acquisition and ‘cleaning’: getting hold of economic data, parsing it into (computer) usable form and adding it to the Store. (Wouldn’t it be nice if that data was already nicely packaged up or at least in a decent raw form …). Once this job is done, the data is there in a nice clean state for others to use – plus we can draw some nice graphs (as we will see below).

Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx

13 September 2008

7/10. Extensive in its imagination but losing some of its power by this very fact as the stories start to blur and something of its early intensity is lost as we head into the closing sections. Overall a very dark (and probably correct) vision of the immigrant experience in the US: all prejudice, death and broken families – at least as I can remember, there was not one happy relationship or family recorded in these 380 odd pages.

How Nature Works by Per Bak

11 September 2008

Interesting, disarmingly honest, but not, ultimately, entirely convincing that ‘self-organized criticality’ is the key to “How Nature Works”.

Heartbeat Detector

8 September 2008

4/10. Started well but faded badly. Its equation of redundancy programmes in multinationals with the “Final Solution” was simultaneously facile and pretentious.

Data Storage and Transfer Costs: Some Back of the Envelope Estimates

2 September 2008

For large data centres a big industry player estimated costs of £22 / GB / Month = £250k / TB / Year. Majority of this was hardware and energy costs (not costs of human sysadmins). This seems quite a lot. However, Amazon S3 quote for Europe (cheaper for US): Storage $0.18 per GB-Month of storage used Data Transfer $0.100 per GB - all data transfer in $0.170 per GB - first 10 TB / month data transfer out $0.

The Wackness

1 September 2008

7/10. Funny, ‘blasphemous’ and affecting. This coming-of-age story is nicely done and has some very sharp moments. The hero grows on us throughout the film largely thanks to his (for want of a better term) simple decency. (This runs deep. Even his dope dealing has a heavy air of decent all-American/Puritan capitalism about it: he’s doing to help his mum and dad and saving every penny. Plus unlike Olivia who just hangs around all summer, he’s working – and working hard).

Money Has Grown in Importance to US Freshmen Since the 60s

29 August 2008

June 2008, JEL, p. 426, in review of Robert Frank’s Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class by Frank Levy: … By that time [mid 1980s] many of the trends noted by Frank were already underway. Since the late 1960s, the American Council of Education has been measuring the attitudes of college freshmen. Between 1968 and 1972, about 40 percent of freshman felt that “being very well off financially” was important or very important.

Man On Wire

20 August 2008

5/10. OK but unconvinced that this was an event of such fascination/significant as to be worthy of a cinematic documentary. By the end was more interested in the personal relationships (and why they broke down) than the tight-rope walk itself. Unfortunately, these other areas remain relatively unexplored (perhaps rather reasonably people didn’t want to go into this kind of personal info …).

The Dark Knight

2 August 2008

7/10 (8/10 for genre). A sound successor to the first installment and well above average for its genre. Ledger’s performance as the Joker is indeed spellbinding. However, to my mind, the film was not as amazing as some of the reviews had made out. In particular, it made the classic error of many modern action blockbusters in delivering a smash-bang action sequence with such monotonous every-10-minute regularity that it undermined their impact while simultaneously starving plot and characters of the room to develop.

The Dissemination of Scholarly Information: A Question of (In-)Sufficient Instruments

16 July 2008

Sören Auer posted today to the okfn-discuss lists about plans for Open Participatory Research. Reading this I was particularly struck by his mention of ‘open peer review’ as this seemed directly related to some recent ideas of my own. Specifically I’ve been working on an economics paper with an academic colleague on the subject of dissemination of scholarly information. This is still at an early stage but the basic ideas in it are quite simple – as set out in the current introduction which can be found below.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

15 July 2008

6.5/10. Very competently done adventure fantasy that entertains effectively for its 2 and a quarter hours.

CCRP Summer Workshop 2008

11 July 2008

City University’s Centre for Competition and Regulatory Policy summer workshop took place today and yesterday and I was there to present The Control of Porting in Platform Markets. As well as presenting I had the chance to take some ‘impressionistic’ notes on some of talks which are included below. Thursday Session 1: Telecoms and Postal Services PAUL SMITH - CEPA: Defining the universal postal service CARLO REGGIANI – UNIVERSITY OF YORK: Network neutrality and non-discriminatory issues: An economic analysis 2 recent papers (2007): Economides and Yal + Yermelo and Katz 2 sided-model n-firms providing platform (telecoms) network externalities both sides Questions: do telcos set prices on both side What is form of the competition net neutrality is always bad so why used Session 2: Competition issues RUFUS POLLOCK - CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY: The control of porting in two-sided markets DAVID GILL – UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON (with John Thanassoulis): The impact of bargaining on markets with price takers: Too many bargainers spoil the broth What happens if some consumers bargain a discount from list prices

Female Agents

10 July 2008

6/10. Not badly done WWII action thriller. There was the occasional sudden lurch (or even gaping hole) in the plot and the high level of (graphically rendered) torture/death of leading characters mean this wasn’t your classic mythologized feel-good war movie.

The Sciences of the Artificial by Herbert Simon (3rd Edition)

10 July 2008

A classic and deservedly so.

John Maynard Keynes: Fighting for Britain, 1937-1946 by Robert Skidelsky

8 July 2008

7/10. Having now finished the final volume of Skidelsky’s trilogy it is clear that the first volume was the best. This is not necessarily a reflection on Skidelsky’s efforts but on the nature of the subject matter – the first section of Keynes’ life, with its natural intertwining of life, friends and work, is the most suited to the biographical form. Here instead, by the nature of Keynes own activities he is forced to confine attention almost entirely to the work, and to work that was almost entirely of a bureaucratic or diplomatic nature.

Talking at OpenTech on Saturday

3 July 2008

I’ll be giving a talk at Open Tech 2008 on Saturday (5th July) about some of the work I do at the Open Knowledge Foundation. The talk is entitled “Opening Data” and its rough subject is indicated by the blurb: We all want more open data to analyse and mashup be it for urban planning or to better understand 12th Century Canon Law. But how do we go about reaching data ‘Nirvana’?

Cous Cous

2 July 2008

7.5/10. A powerful film, though be warned: this is no feel-good piece and by the end of the two and a half hours you are unlikely to be leaving with a spring in your step.

FLOSS 2008 Workshop on Free/Open Source Software

30 June 2008

Last week I attended FLOSS 2008, the second international workshop/network meeting on FLOSS (Free/Libre/Open Source software) in Rennes, France. I was presenting my paper Innovation and Imitation with and without Intellectual Property Rights (and would have offered discussant comments but the author of the paper I was scheduled to discuss had to pull out at the last minute). In addition to this I got to hear a variety of interesting talks.

New Trading Funds Review Announced

28 June 2008

When our report on PSI provision at trading funds was published alongside the budget in March, the Government promised further investigation. They have now commissioned another review this time done by the Shareholder Executive/HMT (full ToR on Shareholder Executive website: The review, announced as part of Budget 2008, will be conducted by the Shareholder Executive and will consider the benefits to the wider UK economy from any potential changes to the trading funds’ business model.

Trading Fund Review Announced

25 June 2008

Following up on their commitments in the 2008 Budget (see previous post dealing on publication of ‘Cambridge Study’ today BERR and HMT announced a review of Trading Funds. It will be run by the Shareholder Executive with input from HMT and OPSI. The main task of this review, according to the announcement, is to: … examine the impact on the trading funds’ business models of any changes to the current pricing, accessing and licensing regimes with the aim of:

Workshop on Well-Being VI

24 June 2008

Yesterday I attended the sixth and final of the series of “Workshops on Well-being” taking place at the LSE (I missed the fifth workshop as I was away and so the last one I attended was the fourth workshop back in April). This time the presentations were given by David Clark of KCL and Martin Knapp of LSE and KCL. Below are some heavily impressionistic notes. Presentation by David Clark (KCL): Developing Effective Psychological Treatments for Common Mental Health Problems Anxiety disorders ~ 1/2 of mental health problems overly pessimistic view on outcomes etc can become obsessional (+ fear that thoughts are self-realizing) If beliefs are inconsistent why do they persist panic attacks (~ 30% have them once/v.

markdown2latex (mkdn2latex) Script for Converting Markdown to Latex: v1.2 Released

23 June 2008

A new version (v1.2) of my python script for converting markdown to latex is now done. markdown2latex (renamed from mkdn2latex) has been extensively refactored to become a proper python-markdown extension. This means it can be used seemlessly alongside plain markdown conversion, as well as independently whether as a module or, in its classic form, from the command line. In addition for ease of installation it has also been turned into a proper python package and registered on pypi so you can just do:

Subversion Hacks

20 June 2008

Automatically Adding or Removing Files Especially useful when, for example, versioning /etc/: Files to remove: svn stat -q | grep '^!' svn stat -q | grep '^!' | sed -e 's/^!\s*//' | xargs | svn rm Files to add: svn stat | grep '^?' svn stat -q | grep '^?' | sed -e 's/^?\s*//' | xargs | svn rm find . -name '*dpkg-old*' -exec rm -i {} \;

To Lose a Battle: France 1940 by Alistair Horne

15 June 2008

7/10. Well written and fascinating, particularly in its clear demonstration of the way the French just ‘gave up’ (both generally in the inter-war period and in 1940 itself). I would have preferred more analytical clarity regarding exactly when things went wrong and why – at some moments Horne seems to be suggesting that a sufficiently active response by the French in the first few days (between the 12th and the 14th of May) might have made a decisive difference in reversing the tide, at others that the Germans superiority in weapons, tactics and men (quality, not necessarily quantity) meant that France was doomed from the start.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

5 June 2008

4/10. Abysmal and travesty of previous outings. The plotting was so casual as to be insulting, compared to previous outings the set-pieces were very weak, and the reintroduction of Marion (by the most creaky of plot devices) only served to emphasize how far from the original this had fallen (and how dependent on derivative recycling this was). I doubted that Lucas’s (responsible for the story) reputation could fall much further after the debacle of the Star Wars prequels but I was wrong.

New Paper: "Is Google the next Microsoft? Competition, Welfare and Regulation in Internet Search"

2 June 2008

One the major things I’ve been working on since last summer (other than the work on Trading Funds) is a paper on search engines such as those provided by firms like Google, Yahoo! etc. The first complete version of this is now ready for public consumption. Entitled Is Google the next Microsoft? Competition, Welfare and Regulation in Internet Search I’ve posted it online at: Abstract Internet search (or perhaps more accurately ‘web-search’) has grown exponentially over the last decade at an even more rapid rate than the Internet itself.

Stackelberg Added to Atlas of Economics Models

29 May 2008

I’ve added a reasonably detailed treatment of Stackelberg Competition to the Atlas (of Economic Models).

Public Domain in Europe (EUPD) Research Project

26 May 2008

I’m part of a team, led by Rightscom, which has won a bid to do a major analysis of the scope and nature of the public domain in Europe for the European Commission. As it says in the announcement: We will assemble quantitative and qualitative data and produce a methodology for measuring the public domain which can be used and refined for future studies both within Europe and further a field.


25 May 2008

6.5/10. Engaging first-feature from Lebanese director and actress Nadine Lebaki.

The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder

20 May 2008

5.5/10. Disappointing though perhaps because of the high expectations engendered by the book’s reputation. To my mind, the book has not dated well and the general insights regarding working practices set out in the afterword seem debatable (the Machine referred to in the title is not the computer but the organizationthat built it).

When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management by Roger Lowenstein

20 May 2008

6/10. Interesting though, as usual with these things, the book is long on personality, anecdote and rumour, and a bit too short on factual details of what exactly happened (roughly LTCM made ever more leveraged bets on ever less liquid and well understood products and got mashed up when a crisis came along and everyone ran for the door). Interesting side points that are alleged (but not confirmed) include Goldman Sachs using their position as potential buyer/rescuer to gain privileged access to LTCM’s position and then front-running them (i.

2008 International Industrial Organization Conference (IIOC)

20 May 2008

After attending the IIOC conference last year I was back this weekend at the 2008 IIOC event which took place at Marymount University in Virginia. I presented the latest version of two of my papers: The Control of Porting in Two-Sided Markets and Forever Minus a Day? Theory and Empirics of Optimal Copyright Term. I also provided discussant comments on Christopher Ellis’s and Wesley Wilson’s paper entitled Cartels, Price-Fixing, and Corporate Leniency Policy:What Doesn’t Kill Us Makes Us Stronger.

Some Notes on Converting From Subversion to Mercurial (hg)

17 May 2008

Distributed versioning systems (VCMs) have now matured to the point that I’ve been planning to switch from subversion for quite a while – at least for own personal repositories where there are no coordination issues. Having chosen mercurial (hg) as my DVCM of choice the next step was to actually convert. While there is quite a bit of documentation on this topic available online I didn’t always find these had the necessary info.

Speaking at Stanford Social Science and Technology Seminar on Optimal Copyright Term

14 May 2008

Today I’ll be presenting my paper Forever Minus a Day? Theory and Empirics of Optimal Copyright Term at Stanford in the Social Science and Technology Seminar Series (also here). This new paper is a heavily revised version of the copyright-term specific portions of my original ‘Forever Minus a Day’ paper (see post from last summer). The rest of the original paper can now be found in Optimal Copyright over Time: Technological Change and the Stock of Works which was published in the December issue of the Review of Economic Research on Copyright Issues (RERCI).

What's Wrong with Modern Macroeconomics

6 May 2008

This January I met Alan Kirman at the Robinson Workshop on Rationality and Emotions. Over lunch we had a brief discussion about the difficulties of modern macroeconomics. I was therefore intrigued to see a new paper of his (co-authored with Peter Howitt, David Colander, Axel Leijonhufvud and Perry Mehrling) entitled Beyond DSGE Models: Towards an Empirically-Based Macroeconomics which was presented in January at the AEA conference (and looks like it will be appearing in the AER ‘Papers and Proceedings’).

Death in Hamburg: Society and Politics in the Cholera Years, 1830-1910 by Richard Evans

1 May 2008

6/10. Death in Hamburg: Society and Politics in the Cholera Years, 1830-1910 by Richard Evans This book promises much but ultimately rather disappoints, largely because of its tendency to lose focus, sprawling into this of that side-avenue. Partly this must be due to a lack of clarity as to what the book is about – an impression strongly reinforced by the book’s afterword which does much to illuminate the intentions and the author.

Notes on Theories of Contextual Judgement

30 April 2008

Over the last couple of months for the purpose of my research on happiness/subjective-well-being I’ve been putting together some notes on theories of contextual judgement. The first part of these is now in a form suitable for public consumption and I’ve posted them at:

My Brother Was an Only Child

23 April 2008

7/10. A good story and an excellent performance in the leading role combine to make this recent Italian drama a very watchable piece.

Happy Go Lucky

22 April 2008

5.5/10. Not uninteresting and really quite funny in places. However, while certainly better than some of Leigh’s other recent outings, it was rather intermittent and never became more than a mildly diverting ramble around Poppy’s life.

Workshop on Well-Being IV

22 April 2008

Following on from the third workshop a month ago, yesterday saw the third in the series of “Workshops on Well-being” take place at the LSE. This time the presentations were given by Mat White of Plymouth University and Andrew Steptoe of UCL. Below are some (very) impressionistic notes. Presentation by Mat White (+ Paul Dolan): Accounting for the richness of our daily activities Social psychologist: started out on risk perception, trust etc.

In Bruges

21 April 2008

6.5/10. Interesting and unusual, though slightly conventionalized in its last 15 minutes. At last we have Ralph Fiennes playing an appropriately nasty character – I can never understand why he ends up in so many ‘romantic’ roles for his froideur and general demeanour make him entirely unsuited.

Teaching to the Test: Some (Old) Evidence from Kenya

21 April 2008

Several years ago I read Michael Kremer’s article entitled “Randomized Evaluations of Educational Programs in Developing Countries: Some Lessons” in the 2003 AER Papers and Proceedings issue (jstor link). This brief article reviewed some of the recent results of evaluating the effects of various different programs on educational outcomes in the developing world. What particularly caught my eye was this paragraph summarizing a teacher incentive program in Kenya: Some parent-run school committees in the area provide gifts to teachers whose students perform well.

The Economics of Knowledge: A Review of the Theoretical Literature

14 April 2008

Last year I collated and distilled the notes and summaries accumulated over the PhD into a proper paper which could act as the literature review in my dissertation. While I submitted the PhD last August I’ve only just got around to posting this up and it can now be found at: From the abstract: A selective review of the existing theoretical literature related to the economics of knowledge with particular attention to intellectual property, especially in the form of patents.

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

12 April 2008

8/10. It’s hard to write good feel-good novels and this is one of them – beautifully done.

Lars and the Real Girl

10 April 2008

7/10. Very skilfully put together and acted. Affecting.

Cannibalism and the Common Law by A Simpson

9 April 2008

7/10. Cannibalism and the Common Law: The Story of the Tragic Last Voyage of the Mignonette and the Strange Legal Proceedings to Which It Gave Rise by A Simpson, University of Chicago Press, 1984. More history than legal analysis. Interesting throughout but meandering slightly towards the end. One quote I wish to memorialize, which though rather apart from the main thrust of my book, made me wonder once again about the general tension between ‘definiteness’ (assertiveness/simplicity) and ‘correctness’, especially in the arena of public policy and democratic politics.

Slides Now Up from Talk at "Musicians, Fans and Online Copyright" Event

26 March 2008

I’ve now posted my slides from the Musicans, Fans and Online Copyright event which took place last Wednesday at LSE. They can be found on this site:

Some Notes on 'Complexity' and Self-Ordered Criticality

23 March 2008

I’ve just posted some early stage notes on models related to ‘Complex Systems’ with a particular eye towards those dealing with self-ordered criticality.

Speaking Today at "Musicians, fans and online copyright" Event at LSE

19 March 2008

For anyone with an interest in copyright issues, particularly in the online environment, there is an excellent event on today at the LSE organized by Ian Brown of the OII and at which I’ll be speaking (briefly) on the subject of “How can we maximise copyright’s return to society?” More details below. Musicians, fans and online copyright Wednesday 19 March 2008 14:00 - 17:00 John Kennedy, CEO of IFPI Paul Sanders, Director of Strategy at Playlouder Becky Hogge, Open Rights Group Adrian Brazier, DBERR Lilian Edwards, Southampton University Rufus Pollock, Cambridge University Michelle Childs, Knowledge Ecology International Wendy Grossman, musician / freelance journalist Location: Old Theatre, London School of Economics, Houghton Street, London, WC2A 2AE, United Kingdom.

Exploring Patterns of Knowledge Production

18 March 2008

A definition: the term ‘knowledge’ is here used broadly to signify all forms of information production including those involved in technological innovation, cultural creativity and academic advance. Largely as a result of better ICT we now have available some very substantial datasets regarding both the extent and structure of knowledge production across different jurisdictions and different disciplines. Of particular interest here is this is second aspect: the structure of knowledge production; as it has long been accepted that innovation and creativity are cumulative processes, in which new ideas build upon old.

Workshop on Well-Being III

17 March 2008

Following on from the second workshop a month ago, today saw the third in the series of “Workshops on Well-being” take place at the LSE. This time the presentation was given by Andrew Clark of PSE. Below are some (very) impressionistic notes. Presentation by Andrew Clark on Job Satisfaction: What do we Know and What Next? Job satisfaction (JS) and individual well-being (LS) well-being/LS function LS = f(Job satisfaction, health satisfaction, leisure etc) data in BHPS (waves 6-15 though 11 missing) health/ income / house / spouse / job / social life / amout leisure / use leisure (scale 1-7) all highly significant social life is top, followed by health, use of leisure, income and job satisfaction is last robust to demographic controls But do individual personality types make any difference (fixed effects) Panel results all effects go down (there are ‘happy types’) except JS (which doubles) though still the smallest Is this ranking unique to Britain?

The 2008 Open Knowledge Conference (OKCon): Tomorrow at LSE in London

14 March 2008

The second (or third depending on how you are counting) Open Knowledge Conference (OKCon) which is organized by the Open Knowledge Foundation and which I help coordinate is on tomorrow at LSE in London. There are a lot of good sessions and so if you are interested in open knowledge and have Saturday free why not come along.

"Models of Public Sector Information Provision via Trading Funds" Report Published Today

12 March 2008

Update: my slides from a presentation at the European Commission in May 2008 are now online The research report entitled Models of Public Sector Information Provision via Trading Funds was published today to coincide with its mention in the budget (para 3.49). This report was commissioned by HMT and BERR and jointly written by myself, Professor Newbery and Professor Bently (all at Cambridge University). The formal announcement and details of the context in which the report was commissioned can be found here on BERR’s website.

How Open is Google?

8 March 2008

Recently I randomly came across this (fairly old) post from an environmentalist who was getting excited about Google’s sketchup. As I wrote in a comment on their blog: I applaud your support for “an economic model that works by sharing rather than hiding” as well as your appreciation for the “power of open source” but would point out that sketchup itself is most definitely not open source (nor are pretty much any of the rest of Google’s online toolkit).

Is Game Theory of Any Value for the Historical Analysis of Institutions?

4 March 2008

I was much much struck by generally pessimistic tone of Gregory Clark’s lengthy review in the JEL’s September issue of Avner Greif’s Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy. These comments have wider implications for the application of economic tools (especially game theory) to the analysis of historical outcomes, particularly in relation to institutions, and I have therefore thought it worth excerpting from the review here (at some length).

The Evolution of Status and its Implications for Happiness and Well-being

3 March 2008

Originally status would have developed from some kind of of stimulus-response setup: Beating Competitor | V Higher Status | V Better Access to 'Resources' (e.g. Food and Partners) | V Higher Survival Rate / More Progeny etc | V Development of Reward System(s) for these outcomes (Food etc) | | (short-circuiting | as with e.g. sex) | V Development of Reward Systems for Success in Competition (Higher Status) So status now has two components:

Optimal size of nations and organizations

2 March 2008

This is a topic I’ve thought about quite a bit before12 but on this particular occasion it arose from a discussion yesterday with Jim McCue about the size of Cambridge colleges and the growth of the EU. Having (many smaller) different competing organizations rather than (fewer/one bigger) organization is: Bad because lack of standardization means fewer economies of scale and scope and higher transaction costs (e.g. for trade) and greater free-rider issues across jurisdictions/organizations.

Some Notes on Experimental Games in Economics

29 February 2008

Just posted some early stage notes on experimental games in economics.

Be Kind Rewind

25 February 2008

5/10. After the excellence of Gondry’s last outing (The Science of Sleep) this was a real disappointment.

Workshop on Well-Being II

25 February 2008

Following the first workshop a month ago, today I attended the second of a series of “Workshops on Well-being” at the LSE. Below are some (very) impressionistic notes. Presentation by Paul Dolan and Robert Metcalfe: Valuing non-market Goods: Preference based and experience based methods How do Value non-market goods? Preferences revealed (observed market behaviour) stated (contingent hypothetical market) Experiences: subjective well-being Traditionally (implicitly) assume all of these are equivalent urban renewal in swansea (from 2001) 2 areas: hafod and landore hafod has had renewal (500/950 homes) landore (675) has not compare the two (omitting those who have not yet had renewal and in-movers) Improvements: front boundary walls street lighting etc landore: house cost 95k, income 16k hafod Estimate revealed preferences using land-registry data and dummy for renewal.

Cocaine Nights by J G Ballard

23 February 2008

5/10. A detective story with pretensions to saying something profound about the late twentieth century leisure society. Unfortunately, despite the occasional epigrammatic aside, there is little here to raise this novel much beyond the average in any genre.

"Optimal Copyright over Time: Technological Change and the Stock of Works" Published

14 February 2008

A refactoring of the first theoretical part of my optimal copyright paper has now been published in the December issue of the Review of Economic Research on Copyright Issues (RERCI) under the title: Optimal Copyright over Time: Technological Change and the Stock of Works. A preprint can be found at:

External Monitors with Ubuntu and Intel GMA X3100 integrated graphics

13 February 2008

I recently took delivery of a Novatech X40r system (Novatech are one of the few suppliers who allow me to get a machine without Windows). The most recent version of Ubuntu (Gutsy) installed without any issues – though I couldn’t quite seem to get the display resolution to match the screen resolution. Next step was to plug in my external monitor: nothing happened. This post quickly details how I got this fixed.

Inauguration as a Fellow at Emmanuel College, Cambridge

10 February 2008

Today is the day of my official inauguration as a Fellow at Emmanuel College, Cambridge (note I was appointed and took up the position last September). This is not something I ever thought would happen and am both privileged and a bit shocked – now I can walk on the grass! Here I am dressed up in a suit for the occasion.

Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for Normandy 1944 by Max Hastings

9 February 2008

7.5/10. Finished a few weeks ago this is another (rather earlier) example of Hastings’ skill in writing penetrating and engaging military history, as well as his willingness to be critical of existing ‘sacred cows’. Among other things Hastings: Argues that the famous Mulberrys were probably a waste of time and resources. Shows how the Air Force extreme unhelpfulness (largely driven by their own ambitions and obsession with civilian bombing) was a serious handicap to the whole campaign.

Speaking at Oxford Geek Night on Open Knowledge and Componentization

5 February 2008

Tomorrow I’ll be speaking with Nate Olson at the latest Oxford Geek Night on the subject of Open Knowledge and Componentization. Here’s the blurb: Componentization on a large scale (such as in the Debian ‘apt’ packaging system) has allowed large software projects to be amazingly productive through their use of a decentralised, collaborative, incremental development process. Componentization works so well because it allows us to ‘divide and conquer’ the organizational and conceptual problems of highly complex systems.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

4 February 2008

6/10. This latest outing from Sidney Lumet is an unusual combination of family melodrama and crime-gone-wrong Greek tragedy. Unfortunately, though ticking all the boxes (acting, script etc) it left one rather cold, largely due to the absence of any character who merited the audience’s sympathy. After all, for tragedy to work must care about the character whom it befalls – even if their downfall is principally the result of their own actions or their own failings.

Speaking at Warwick Industrial Organisation Seminar

31 January 2008

Courtesy or a kind invitation from Richard Cave, tomorrow I’ll be heading over to Warwick University to present in their IO Seminar. The talk will be focused on my main ‘IP papers’: Cumulative Innovation, Sampling and the Hold-Up Problem and Imitation and Innovation with and without IP, but if there’s time I might also get the chance to discuss another paper of mine on the Control of Porting in Two-Sided Markets.

No Country for Old Men

22 January 2008

6.5/10. The latest Coen brothers outing is well-made and as dark as one would expect a film derived from a Cormac McCarthy novel to be. However this darkness presents difficulties: in a film in which the only main surviving characters are a sheriff losing hope in humanity and a psychopath1 who are we left to care for? A psychopath whose resemblance to Death in his fundamental amorality is so striking that it must surely be intentional.

Workshop on Well-Being I

22 January 2008

Yesterday I attended the first of a series of “Workshops on Well-being” at the LSE organized by Paul Dolan, Richard Layard and Andrew Oswald. Below can be found some (very) impressionistic notes. Talk by Andrew Oswald: Does Higher Job-Status Make a Person Healthier? A Longitudinal Test of the Whitehall Hypothesis Basic (well-known) facts: Strong inverted u-shape in depression/anxiety over life-cycle peaking in mid-40s to mid-50s Need to move away from GDP to well-being in the next century More collaboration across discipline Across countries wealth correlated with happiness Within country across time (i.

4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile)

21 January 2008

7.5/10. A worthy (Rumanian) winner of the Palme D’or at Cannes. This film records with washed out hues and hand-held cinema verite style camerawork the travails of two students on the day that one of them is to obtain an illegal abortion in 1987 Rumania. Compelling throughout, with powerful central performances, this isn’t exactly an easy film to watch at the best of times – quite apart from the subject matter the behaviour of most of the ‘peripheral’ characters, from desk clerks to the abortionist, varies from the unhelpful to the downright unpleasant.

Getting Better All the Time? Research Output in Economics 1970-2005

21 January 2008

While at the EEA/ESEM summer conference, confronted by the multitude of papers and provoked by the comments of Janos Kornai and Assar Lindbeck, I wondered how things had changed over the last half-century. How many more papers (and economists) were there compared to 20/30/50 years ago, and how had the nature and the quality of research change (at least partially as a result as a change in this quantity)? The first question, while the less interesting, had the advantage of lending itself to ready quantitative analysis, so it was to this I first applied myself.

Paranoid Park

15 January 2008

6.5/10. Gus Van Sant’s latest outing into the disaffected and disconnected world of modern American teendom is not as engaging as it might be but has much of interest, particularly when read in the wider perspective of his other recent work especially films such as Elephant. Similar, in many ways, to the work of contemporary US novelists such as David Foster Wallace, Van Sant is attempting to convey something about the fundamental disconnection and alienation of modern (US) society – which is most sharply manifested among its youth.

Comments on An Economic Model of Friendship: Homophily, Minorities and Segregation by Currarini, Jackson and Pin (2007)

15 January 2008

2008-06: There is now a pdf version of these comments available. This may be a better way to read this as some people have reported difficulties with viewing the maths in the page (requires mathml support – via firefox + mathml fonts or IE). Back last October I was a participant in a “Networks” reading group that worked through “An Economic Model of Friendship: Homophily, Minorities and Segregation” by Currarini, Jackson and Pin (2007).

Charlie Wilson's War

14 January 2008

6.5/10. Well-written and slickly put together with some nice comic set pieces. Nevertheless the film never managed to really get beyond this (did it even intend to?) to the larger, and more important, themes; be these the emptiness of Charlie Wilson’s hedonistic personal life (and the mirror it holds up to the US in the 80), the way in which politics get done (lobbying, horse-trading of votes, off-the-record committees), or the causes and (unintended) consequences of the United States’ involvement in Afghanistan (which despite the film’s pretension to more serious engagement is still so over-simplified as to border on caricature).

Path-Dependent vs. Ergodic Systems

11 January 2008

Consider a metal arm fixed by a pin. If it is hung vertically then the arm, no matter where it starts, will always end up in the same position. However, if you the arm is set on a perfectly flat horizontal surface then it will stay forever in its initial position. The first case is ergodic: we converge independent of the starting point to some particular configuration; while the second is ‘path-dependent’ (or dependent on initial conditions): where you end up depends crucially on where you start.

Workshop on Rationality and Emotions: Notes from Day 2

10 January 2008

Herewith are further (partial, impressionistic) notes from the second day of the two-day workshop (programme) on Rationality and Emotions organized by Miriam Teschl at Robinson College here in Cambridge. S-Shaped Probability Weighting and Hyperbolic Preference Reversal - An Intimate Relationship by Herbert Walther Walther has published these results as a 2003 paper in Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organization. Overview Empirical regularities: hyperbolic discounting sign effect: loss discounted less than gains preference reversal: magnitude effect: preference for losses before gains s-shaped prob weighting (Gonzales and Wu 1999, Fehr-Duda, 2006 et al.

Workshop on Rationality and Emotions: Notes from Day 1

9 January 2008

Today I attended the first day of a two-day workshop (programme) on Rationality and Emotions organized by Miriam Teschl at Robinson College here at Cambridge. The mix of economics, psychology and neuroscience has so far been fascinating and below I include some general ‘impressionistic’ notes from some of the sessions so far. Stress and Euphoria on a Trading Floor by John Coates Overview Better title might have been ‘Fear and Greed’.

Nemesis by Max Hastings

3 January 2008

7/10 (genre: 8/10). Nemesis covers a similar period (the last year or so of the Second World War) to Hastings previous Armageddon but focuses on the Pacific theatre rather than the European one. Though not quite as good as the outstanding Armageddon – in particular Hastings clearly did not have as good access to primary Chinese and Japanese sources – this was still very good: full of the excellent narrative exposition and sharp strategic judgments expressed in pithy phrases and lapidary sentences that are Hastings’ trademark.

Atlas of Economic Models Launched (in alpha)

27 December 2007

Over Christmas I’ve had some spare time. This has permitted me to get the Atlas of Economics Models off the ground. This is a project I’ve been thinking about for some years, first motivated really by the experience of trying to discover what variations had been done on the basic Hotelling-line model of ‘spatial’ product differentiation and competition (previous allusion earlier in the Autumn here). So what is the Atlas supposed to be?

The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

12 December 2007

7/10. Beautifully shot, intelligently scripted and well-acted this was a revisionist western where shootings, including that of James himself, were in the back and outlaws aren’t romantic heroes but incompetent psychopaths living out dull existences while the law, betrayal or poverty slowly catches up with them.

Teen Pregnancy and the Effects of 'Welfare' Benefits

12 December 2007

From, Sexuality: A Biopsychosocial Approach by Chess Denman, p. 54: Politicians and the press have created an image of a tidal wave of teen parenthood, caused by young women’s unregulated sexual behaviour and poor women sponging off the state, even though this is unwarranted. In America, for example, teen motherhood cannot be said to have grown as a consequence of welfare because the value of welfare has reduced (Schwartz and Rutter 1998).

Rescue Dawn

10 December 2007

5.5/10. The latest outing from Werner Herzog features Christian Bale in the based-on-true-life story of a German-born US pilot who escapes from a hellish NV/VietCong prisoner of war camp after being shot-down and captured over Laos during the early stages of the Vietnam War. While better than Herzog’s last fiction outing (the abysmal Invincible) this is still is a long way from Herzog’s brilliant and haunting best as found in the likes of Aguirre, Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo.

The Golden Compass

8 December 2007

6/10. While not actually bad, given the quality of the original books, this was a rather disappointing effort.

Machiavelli on the Values of Foresight and Prompt Action in Statecraft as in Medicine

1 December 2007

[After describing how the Romans behaved towards other powers both large and small] Because the Romans did in these instances what all prudent princes ought to do – taking care to concern themselves not only with present troubles, but also future ones. For these they prepared with every effort, because, when distant, it is easy to forestall them; but when left until near they are impossible to prevent. It happens then as it does to physicians in the treatment of of consumption, which in the commencement is easy to cure and difficult to understand; but when it has neither been discovered in time nor treated upon a proper principle, becomes easy to understand and difficult to cure.

The Darjeeling Express

28 November 2007

6.5/10. Another of Anderson’s whimsical outings with many of his regular cast in tow (Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Anjelica Huston, and even Bill Murray there for a cameo). This was far better than Anderson’s previous effort (The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou), which despite having what seemed like the right ingredients completely failed to cohere into anything interesting or funny, but doesn’t quite reach the brilliant heights attained in The Royal Tenenbaums.

American Gangster

24 November 2007

7.5/10 (8.5 for genre). Beautifully put together and constantly engrossing in large part due to the excellent central performances (Crowe is always great). Deserves to rank up there with the best of its genre (e.g. the Godfather).

Herland by Charlotte Gilman

20 November 2007

5/10. A passable Utopian polemic. Certainly reasonably interesting for its ideas (undoubtedly more exciting at the time of publication than today) but is rather let down on the literary side of things by the flatness of its characterisation and its unexciting prose.

The Open Rights Group Celebrates Two Years

19 November 2007

The Open Rights Group, which I helped found, celebrated its second birthday today. Long may it prosper, promoting and protecting digital rights in a digital age.

The Wage Curve: A Power Law Relationship of Wages to Unemployment

15 November 2007

From Blanchflower and Oswald 2006: Instead, using samples of individual workers, [Blanchflower and Oswald 1995 and 1996] documents the existence of a logarithmic curve – what physicists would call a power law – linking the level of the wage to the unemployment rate in the local area. Their book’s conclusion is that, in sixteen nations, including the United States, the data are well described by a wage curve with an unemployment elasticity of approximately –0.

Tacitus on Horoscopes, Fate and Happiness

13 November 2007

Tacitus Annals, Book VI, XXII: [Tacitus has just related how Tiberius consulted astrologers at his villa and had those whose competence or honesty was doubtful thrown off the cliffs into the sea below. He had then related how one astrologer, Thrasyllus, had avoided this fate by correctly foretelling it.] For myself, when I listen to this and similar narratives, my judgement wavers. Is the revolution of human things governed by fate and changeless necessity, or by accident?

Ray Corrigan's New Book: Digital Decision Making

9 November 2007

After meeting Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine on Sunday, yesterday I had the chance to meet Ray Corrigan (and his blog). This was all thanks to the efforts of John Naughton, who had organized an event to celebrate the launch of Ray’s new book: Digital Decision Making. Here’s the information about it from the springer site: Since the general public began to use the Internet in the mid 1990s, there has been a vast amount of investment by governments and commerce in digital communications technologies.

New Study: "The Impact of Music Downloads and P2P File-Sharing on the Purchase of Music: A Study for Industry Canada"

7 November 2007

A new study is out on the relationship of unauthorised downloading and music purchases. The work was carried out by two economists, Birgitte Andersen and Marion Frenz, of Birkbeck College (University of London) for Industry Canada. Entitled The Impact of Music Downloads and P2P File-Sharing on the Purchase of Music: A Study for Industry Canada its description states: Industry Canada undertook a music file sharing study during 2006-07 to measure the extent to which music downloads over peer-to-peer file sharing networks, for which the sound recording industry receives no remuneration, affect music purchasing activity in Canada.


5 November 2007

4/10. An extended music video for an unimpressive set of songs – the addition of the love/friendship story between our singer hero and the Czech immigrant cleaner girl did little to leaven the basic ingredients with anything more substantial. Compared to Small Engine Repair, another recent Irish indie also in possession of a singer/songwriter central character, this was poor fare indeed.

Eastern Promises

29 October 2007

6.5/10. Much like Cronenberg (and Mortensen’s) previous outing A History of Violence this started well but really fell away in the conclusion (particularly here the twist in the tail was a real mistake in my opinion).

The Joyless Market Economy

28 October 2007

From Robert E. Lane’s essay, The Joyless Market Economy p. 484: Durkheim asks: “Even from a purely utilitarian point of view, what is the use of increasing abundance, if it does not succeed in calming the desires of the greatest number, but, on the contrary, only serves to increase their impatience. [emphasis added] It is forgotten that economic functions are not their own justification. … Society has no raison d’etre if it does not bring men a little peace, peace in their hearts and peace in their mutual relations”1 Deprived of its original utilitarian raison d’etre, does the market society now reflect something like Kroeber’s exhaustion of a cultural configuration in which the old, material civilization has exhausted the possibilities of that particular pattern?

And When Did You Last See Your Father

22 October 2007

4.5/10. Dull. One imagines this worked far better as a book.

Voices of the Old Sea by Norman Lewis

20 October 2007

8/10. Voices of the Old Sea by Norman Lewis [Carrol and Graf 2006, first published 1984] Sharply observed, and well-written – like all of Norman Lewis’ wonderful writing. The Fishermen’s Prose Poetry From pp. 7-8: Ayer los chubascos me agarraron pero hoy … [a murmur of ‘Sigue, sigue’] Yesterday the storms clawed at me, but today La suerte me corrio Luck ran at my side Al amanacer visite la marea

Scherer Paper on "The Political Economy of Patent Policy Reform in the United States"

18 October 2007

I’ve just noticed this interesting paper posted on Bessen’s Research on Innovation website at the end of September. Entitled, The Political Economy of Patent Policy Reform in the United States, its authored by F.M. Scherer, one the elder statesman of innovation and IP research. As the abstract puts it: explores a paradox: the extensive tilt toward strengthened patent laws in the United States and the world economy during the 1980s and 1990s, even as economic research was revealing that patents played a relatively unimportant incentive role in most large companies’ research and development investment decisions.


17 October 2007

4.5/10. Dull and disappointing largely as a result of the basic story. Curtis’ impulsive decision to get married is just so obviously foolish (even more so the decision to have a child) and his endless soul-searching about it later just elicits a strong feeling of a) get over it b) I told you so. His final decision to commit suicide seemed both random (ok, so he’s got worries but they aren’t overwhelming) and unnecessary.

Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth Century World by J.R. McNeill

17 October 2007

8/10. Well-written, very interesting, often provocative (verging at points on the polemical) and with lots of fascinating detail this is definitely worth the read. Complexity, Productivity and Vulnerability From the conclusion of “The Biosphere: Eat and Be Eaten” p.227 (all emphasis added both here and in all other extracts): The general transformation of farming after 1940, of which mechanization and the Green Revolution were parts, both shaped the twentieth century and reflected its dominant trends.

Die Falscher (The Counterfeiters)

16 October 2007

7/10. A powerful, intense film. The focus on the counterfeiting operation (and the thriller-like aspect of this storyline) by moving the camps largely ‘off-stage’ acts to intensify the impact and appreciation of their horrors. Rather than simple choices and obvious moralizing we are confronted with ambiguity and complexity, above all in the form of the central character Sally Sorowitsch. The result is one of the best ‘fictional’ films to be made about the holocaust, vastly superior to the crude cliches and trivial sententiousness of the likes of Schindler’s list.

svk Sync Bug "Bad URL passed to RA layer: Malformed URL for repository"

13 October 2007

I record briefly my experience resolving this issue in case it helps others. As background I note that I use svk to allow local commit and replay for some of the subversion repos I use and over the last week I’d started encountering problems when trying to svk sync on one of these receiving the following error message: Bad URL passed to RA layer: Malformed URL for repository The solution to this is the following patch provided by Peter Werner to the svk-devel list a few days ago:

Economics Bibliography Up Online

9 October 2007

A bit of playing around with the excellent bibtex2html and my bibtex economics bibliography is now up online in html format: It has a fairly good coverage of published material in the areas of IP and innovation, though by no means complete, particularly on the working papers front as I don’t tend to enter these unless I’m specifically citing them in a paper.

Demand Theory: A Primer

5 October 2007

I’ve put a basic primer on demand theory up online in the economics section. I wrote this several years ago and haven’t had much chance to update it and there are still several sections marked with TODOs but it does provide a rapid and concise overview of some of the main results. Originally I hoped it (and its companions) might expand into a rudimentary open textbook but at present I see them more as a basis for a putative atlas of economics models – an alternative and perhaps grander project about which I plan to post at some later point.

Transaction Costs of Copyright Clearance

28 September 2007

“The indirect costs in higher education (through delays and difficulties in clearing rights) are very hard to estimate. [SCONUL has] attempted an estimate of the static costs in higher education and have arrived at a minimum figure of the order of 30 M/year.” [emphasis added] Source: SCONUL (Society of College, National and University Libraries) submission to Gowers review quoted at para 51 of the British Academy report on Copyright and research in the humanities and social sciences.

2 Days in Paris

22 September 2007

7 (8 for genre) out of 10. Sharp, witty, and frequently very very funny this “romantic” comedy also managed be both poignant and insightful about the nature of relationships without ever becoming cloying. Overall a really brilliant example of its genre.

The Stars My Destination

22 September 2007

6/10 (8/10 for genre). Good SF thriller, which transports a Count of Monte Cristo like tale of a man avenging his wrongs into a world of ‘jaunting’ (the ability to transport oneself from one place another by thought).

Small Engine Repair

22 September 2007

7.5/8 out of 10. A debut feature from director Niall Heery this is a wonderful ‘small’ film about the dysfunctional lives and friendship of three middle-aged men in rural Ireland. Tightly plotted, well acted and beautifully put together this film punches far above its weight.

Talk at Law 2.0?: Openness, Web 2.0 and the Ethic of Sharing

18 September 2007

Back in March Lillian Edwards was kind enough to ask me to come and give a talk about ‘open knowledge’ at a Law and Web 2.0 conference she was planning for the Autumn. As a result, yesterday I found myself at Herbert Smith’s London offices for the SCL’s “Law 2.0? : New Speech, New Property, New Identity” conference presenting on Openness, Web 2.0 and the Ethic of Sharing. The full text of my talk can be found below, with companion slides here.

CCIA 'Study' on the Benefits of Fair Use

14 September 2007

The Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), a lobbying group for technology companies, has put out a report entitled Fair Use in the U.S. Economy. The report generates larges numbers: The research indicates that the industries benefiting from fair use and other limitations and exceptions make a large and growing contribution to the U.S. economy. The fair use economy in 2006 accounted for $4.5 trillion in revenues and $2.2 billion [sic: should be trillion] in value added, roughly 16.

Adam Bede by George Eliot

10 September 2007

8.5. Another brilliant novel though not quite reaching the perfection of Middlemarch. Its only defects to my mind, were a tendency to over-idealize rural life and becoming a little sententious when putting together the `happy ending’ post Hetty’s transportation.

Angus Deaton's Paper on Happiness

7 September 2007

Last week someone pointed me a paper of Angus Deaton’s (released in July) entitled Income, aging, health and wellbeing around the world: Evidence from the Gallup World Poll. As the title indicates, it uses a cross-country dataset from Gallup to look at well-being and its relation to income, age and health (I note that sadly the Gallup data looks to be proprietary – unlike the data from the World Values Survey which has been the prime data source for previous research on cross-country happiness research).

The Walker

5 September 2007

7/10. A well-above average work largely thanks to the excellent dialogue and acting (the central performance from Harrelson is particularly good). Unfortunately the film fails to fully deliver on its noirish thriller potential – fading out just the excitement starts to build and leaving the political corruption side of things sadly underexplored. With a larger budget and more work on the final third this could well have been something outstanding, comparable with the likes of Chinatown.

EEA/ESEM 2007: Notes I

30 August 2007

These are a first set of impressionistic notes taken from various sessions yesterday. Wednesday AM: Janos Kornai: Life and Works No real notes from this `session’ but some comments from the Q&D caught my attention: Janos Kornai: Let me paint a dark picture: today we have become a machine for manufacturing economists. All papers are very uniform, with a very uniform style on subjects that are all in acceptable areas that are already established.

At the EEA/ESEM 2007 conference in Budapest

29 August 2007

This week I’m in Budapest for the EEA/ESEM annual congress. I’ll be presenting Cumulative Innovation, Sampling and the Hold-Up Problem in the ESEM stream on Friday afternoon in the 1500-1700 slot. I’ll gradually post further notes as I write them over the week.

Counting Words in a Latex File

24 August 2007

Much of this was inspired by this blog post. Having tested on my own set of files I would suggest that these methods could be ranked in order of accuracy as: untex + wc wc pdf file wc $ wc -w file.tex This is very simple but is pretty inaccurate since wc has no awareness of tex commands or mathematics (which results in overcounting) and does not expand things like bibliographies (which results in undercounting).

The Hoax

22 August 2007

6.5/10. Excellent performances and a interesting tale well told but the central character was just so dislikable and the wrap-up was something of a let-down.

The Farthest Shore by Ursula LeGuin

15 August 2007

8/10. Reread this classic. Sparse prose and elegant treatment of an ancient theme, viz the corrupting nature of power and the fear of death, combine to make a wonderful book far above the average of this genre.

A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam by Neil Sheehan

13 August 2007

8.5/10. A fascinating, brilliantly written book which despite its biographical nature is one of the best histories of the Vietnam War I have read.

Running OpenOffice from the Command Line on Mac OSX

12 August 2007

This is a simple hack to enable you to start OpenOffice and, more importantly, open documents with it from the command line. I’ve got the standard X port of OpenOffice 2.0 installed, so if you have something different you may need to change the path to soffice given below (to find soffice on your machine try from the command line $ locate soffice): First let’s make the script that starts openoffice available in a convenient way e.

Tales of Earthsea

8 August 2007

4.5/10. Very mediocre, especially considering the quality of the original books by Ursula Le Guin and the standard of previous Studio Ghibli productions.

Paypal Transaction Costs for Micro Donations

6 August 2007

Quite a lot of open source and open knoweldge projects use micro donations – sums of $5 or less. It is interesting to note that if you, as a donor, give $1 via PayPal (one of the most popular payment systems) paypal charge 35 cents. That means at the $1 level transaction costs (excluding any monopoly/oligopoly effects) works out at over 35%.

Chocky by John Wyndham

1 August 2007

6.5/10. Slight but pleasant diversion for an hour or two.

Psmith in the City by P.G. Wodehouse

31 July 2007

6.5. Not the best of Wodehouse but still full of his special charm and with a few wonderful moments (most notably Psmith’s appearance at Bickersmythe’s stump speech).

At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years 1965-1968

27 July 2007

8/10. I have just finished the final volume of Taylor Branch’s monumental trilogy America in the King Years. A fitting end to an incredible effort – though to my mind the first volume remains the best. This work covers the more difficult years faced by King following the major successes of the Civil Rights movement culminating in the Selma March and the passage of the1965 Voting Rights Act (which occurs at the start of this volume).

Private Fears in Public Places (Coeurs)

25 July 2007

2/10. A travesty of the film-makers art, dull where it should be emotionally compelling, boring where it should have been funny. One imagines that Ayckbourn’s original play wasn’t half bad but Resnais’s reversioning is an abject lesson in how not to direct. No doubt some the blame lies with the script. However everything from awkward, uninspired, laboured camerawork, a mise-en-scene both dull and, at times, painful (the bar’s colour scheme could not have been more unpleasant to the eye), and general poor storytelling (due both to bad editing and a failure to coax any chemistry from the talented cast) helped to reduce this far below whatever potential it originally had.

Society for Economic Research on Copyright Issues (SERCI) Annual Congress 2007

19 July 2007

Last week I was at the 2007 Society for Economic Research on Copyright Issues (SERCI) Annual Congress (also acronymed under the label SERCIAC). The event was a nice size with a good mix of people, well organized (a big thank-you here to Christian Handke) and with many interesting presentations (some of which I was able to take notes on – see below). I also had the chance to present my paper on optimal copyright and get some useful feedback.

Forever Minus a Day? Some Theory and Empirics of Optimal Copyright

9 July 2007

Update 2008-05: this paper has now split into two parts: Optimal Copyright Over Time: Technological Change and the Stock of Worsk (published in RERCI, Dec 2007) Forever Minus a Day? Theory and Empirics of Optimal Copyright Term (wherein can be found an updated optimal copyright term estimate) Original Post How long should copyright be? Should we increase or decrease the strength of copyright during periods of rapid technological innovation?

Under the Mud

6 July 2007

6.5/10. Seen at the Cambridge Film Festival this ‘deep’ indie feature was made on a shoe-string and written collaboratively with young Liverpublians from a youth centre in Garsett. The film struggles a little at the start, not helped by sound problems and hard to understand accents (one section of the film is briefly subtitled to aid the viewer). But from there it builds well with some excellent moments of humour and an endearing surrealism (most evident in a nocturnal joyride initiated by car-made youngster).

Inspiration, Interpretation or Infringement? Interdisciplinary Approaches to Creativity and Copyright

4 July 2007

Today I’ve been at an interesting ‘mini-conference’ organized by Cambridge University’s Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law, entitled: Inspiration, Interpretation or Infringement? Interdisciplinary Approaches to Creativity and Copyright. The morning session discussed ‘The Nature of the Pirate and the Meanings of Piracy’ while the afternoon was dedicated to ‘The Infringing Act’. The debate is gradually changing but I’m wary that without more attention to the theoretical, and especially, empirical fundamentals these sorts of discussions will grow repetitive.

The Golden Door

3 July 2007

7.5/10. Interesting, enigmatic and beautifully shot.

Transaction Costs in the Provision of US Health Care

28 June 2007

“In 2003 Medicare spent less than 2 percent of its resources on administration, while private insurance companies spent more than 13 percent.” Source: Paul Krugman and Robin Wells, The Health Care Crisis and What to Do About It, New York Review of Books, Volume 53, Number 5, March 23, 2006. This implies that a massive 11% of private insurance companies expenditure goes on pure transaction costs (monitoring, enforcement, litigation etc etc).

Tell No One

22 June 2007

8/10. A well above average thriller slightly let down by its ending (as is frequently the way with these things).

Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman

19 June 2007

Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman. 10/10. A very, very great novel, a work of genius, more than comparable to War and Peace or any other of the epics. Only a Russian novel, one feels, could both have such a title and live up to it – what it is about Russian culture that enables it bring forth such rich fruit, so epic in scope, so detailed in description and characterisation and contending with such vast themes of freedom and oppression, life and meaning, love and loss.

iCommons Day 1: Friday Keynote with Lessig and Zittrain

15 June 2007

I’m now at iCommons conference in Dubrovnik and the first keynote (a joint presentation by Jonathan Zittrain and Lawrence Lessig) has just finished. Herewith is an (extremely) condensed summary of the session with editorial comments. Jonathan Zittrain Zittrain delivers his usual, brilliant, witty, sparkling talk. I worry a little that the brilliance papers over some of the cracks in the anecdotes (see ed comments below). The argument seems to go like this:

ZEW Summer Workshop 2007 on The Economics of Information and Communication Technologies

14 June 2007

This week I’ve been at the ZEW summer workshop on The Economics of Information and Communication Technologies: A European and International Perspective in Mannheim. I presented my paper on the The Control of Porting in Two-Sided Markets (slides here) and commented on The Impact of Information Diffusion on Bidding Behaviour and Seller Profit in Name-Your-Own-Price Markets by Oliver Hinz and Martin Spann.

Ten Canoes

7 June 2007

7/10. Interesting and nicely done.

A Review of Plotting Libraries for Python

5 June 2007

An (ongoing) summary of my experience with some of the utilities available for plotting from a python perspective. Last updated: 2008-03-06 Ploticus (+) Fast, powerful, mature, well-documented (-) Not python based C-based rather than python-based but fast and powerful. There is a (fairly crude) set of python bindings available here: Alternatively one can just call the ploticus command from a python script. Matplotlib (+) Fairly powerful, mature, well-documented, nice pure python API (-) A little slow; requires a backend to be installed (so installation on a server is a problem) Could support object-orientation better PyChart http://home.


30 May 2007

6.5. Zodiac by David Fincher. Never quite sure what it was to become – a study of obsession, a meditation on the what can and cannot be known, a serial-killer murder mystery. Ultimately it succeeded as none of these but it did at least provide far more thoughtful Hollywood far than usual. (To compare Summer of Sam and that Korean ‘based-on-real-life’ rape case – whose name I forgot – both addressed similarish subject matter in a more compelling way).

Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

22 May 2007

Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. Read in 2000, summer vacation. Notes [71] Tricon Global Restaurants (corp) owner Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC. Committee for Employment Opportunities: Lobby group for chain restaurants. Chief lobbyist is Bill Signer. Lobbied, for example, to continue tax credits and subsidies given by US govt for training of workers. [73] Between 1968 and 1990 the real value of the US minimum wage fell by 40%.

Giving Away the Printer Charging for the Printer Cartridges

7 May 2007

Printers and their ink cartridges are good examples of of complementary goods. The market is particularly interesting because until recently the printer seller was the only provider of cartridges for that printer. Over the last decade it has become possible for people to get ink cartridges from others in the form of ‘refills’, that is refilled cartridges (it is hard to make the cartridges independently but not hard to refill them.

2007 Clare Hall Ashby Lecture: Richard Layard on Happiness and Values

2 May 2007

Today I attended the the Clare Hall Ashby Lecture which was given by Richard Layard on the subject of Happiness and Values. Notes Four main explanatory variables for level of happiness: Perceived trustworthiness of individuals Perceived trustworthiness of governments … [one i missed] Divorce rate “Tsunnami of individualism washing across the Atlantic and hitting Britain first.” Thesis: Individualism is the problem because the statement “You should do the best you can” becomes “You should do better than others” (otherwise you cannot be doing your best).

The Lives of Others (Das Leben Der Anden)

29 April 2007

8.5/10. It is the wonderful plot and its two central characters (Georg, the writer, and the Wiesel, the Stasi Agent) which are the key to this brilliant film.

Trust Us We're Experts

25 April 2007

Trust Us We’re Experts (subtitled: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles with Your Future), by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber. I haven’t yet read all of this but a couple of interesting items that caught my eye. The Independence Institute Many years ago when I first got interested in the Microsoft Antitrust case I remember running across a book entitled Winners, Losers and Microsoft authored by Liebowitz and Margolis and published by the Independence Institute.

The Santaroga Barrier

18 April 2007

7.5/10 The Santaroga Barrier by Frank Herbert. Read during my trip to the IIOC. What makes this good (or rather what raises it above the pot-boiler) is precisely those elements that are not science fiction, in particular the examination of different forms of awareness and their affect on our interpretation of the effects of modernity.

2007 International Industrial Organization Conference (IIOC)

15 April 2007

This weekend I’ve been at the International Industrial Organisation Conference (IIOC) in Savannah, Georgia. I presented the latest version of Cumulative Innovation, Sampling and the Hold-Up Problem and provided discussant comments on Richard Gilbert and Michael Katz’s paper on the Efficient Division of Profit for Complex Technologies. In addition I include below some very partial notes on some of the sessions I attended. Merchant or Two-Sided Platform (Andreu Hagiu) Interesting paper on what distinguishes a ‘Merchant’ from a ‘Two-Sided Platform’ – a merchant being distinguished by it taking possession (and then reselling) the goods while a platform remains just that (it just charges an access fee or royalty).

Hayek on IP

6 April 2007

Friedrich Hayek, p35, The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism, 1988: Just to illustrate how great out ignorance of the optimum forms of delimitation of various rights remains - despite our confidence in the indispensability of the general institution of several property - a few remarks about one particuilar form of property may be made. [… discussion of various immaterial property rights invented recently having to do with e.g. literary productions and technological inventions]

Dump Python Interactive Session to a File

6 April 2007

import readline readline.write_history_file('')


5 April 2007

5/10. Nice visuals and a promising start but the too many ill-thought-through plot twists seriously undermine the interest of this latest Danny Boyle outing into the realms of scifi.

The Red and the White 'Terror' in the Spanish Civil War

26 March 2007

Quotations taken from Antony Beevor, The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 [Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 2006]. The Red Terror Op cit. p. 87: In all, the victims of the red terror in the Republican zone during the civil war rose to some 38,000 people, of whom almost half were killed in Madrid (8,815) and in Catalonia (8,352) during the summer of 1936. On the republican side there was strong mixture of feelings when the worst of the rearguard slaughter was over.

Jane Eyre

25 March 2007

9/10. Though the plot (particularly in its ‘and we lived happily ever after’ conclusion) is a little too ‘romantic’ for my tastes this is a brilliant novel with an amazing prose style: supple, rich and perfectly suited to the nature of the work.

Merging Subversion Repositories Together

23 March 2007

Have repository {start-repo} and want to merge into {old-repo} at {some-dir-name} # if you just wanted trunk replace with this # svndump {start-repo} | svndumpfilter include trunk svnadmin dump {start-repo} > my-dump # copy file to main server and change to web-user svnadmin load --parent-dir {some-dir-name} {old-repo} < my-dump

Versioned Domain Models

22 March 2007

I’ve been thinking about how to have a versioned domain model similar to the way we have versioned filesystems (e.g. subversion) for over two years. Over the last few months whatever bits of free time I’ve had have gone into developing a prototype built on top of sqlobject and I’ve now got a rough and ready (but fully functional) library: A demo of how it is used is best shown by the tests:

The Illusionist

16 March 2007

5.5/10. The short story origins showed through here with the plot proving too slender for a feature length film. Strong performances, particularly from Giamatti, helped but were not enough to making this into anything other than a pleasant piece of inconsequentiality.

mkdn2latex v1.1: An (improved) Python Script to Convert Markdown to LaTex

13 March 2007

I’ve updated mkdn2latex the python script which converts markdown to latex (see also the original release announcement). Changes include: Support for markdown code blocks and html pre/code blocks generally using latex verbatim Verified compatibility with markdown 1.6 A few minor bugfixes

Inland Empire

12 March 2007

4/10. Bad Lynch, a few good moments at the start but once she goes through the rabbit hole about an hour in it starts going really downhill and I actually left at around two and a quarter hour mark (something I haven’t done in a long time).

The Science of Sleep

25 February 2007

8.5/10. Hilarious, touching and fascinating. A brilliant film with a stunning central performance by Bernal.

The Ballad of a Soldier

22 February 2007

7.5. Classic Russian ‘Great Patriotic War’ movie in which after incredible bravery our hero is given 1 week leave to go and see his mother but is held up along the way by all kinds of diversions. Its vision of war is obviously completely inauthentic and the pristine perfection of its hero starts to create something of a credibility gap but the brilliant series of situation and character vignettes along the way more than make up for this.

The Robustness Principle

22 February 2007

2.10. Robustness Principle TCP implementations will follow a general principle of robustness: be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others. Source: rfc793: specification for TCP date: 1981 editor: Jon Postel url:

Tim Hubbard at Cambridge University Pugwash Society

21 February 2007

Yesterday I went along to hear Tim Hubbard speak at the Cambridge University Pugwash Society on New economic models for biomedical R&D to address the worldwide problem of access to medicines. Tim’s an excellent presenter and this talk did a great job of explaining a complex issue to an unfamiliar audience (I remember my own talk over a year ago there on similar topics ago. Tim mainly focused on explaining the benefits of something like the Medical Innovation Convention – a global treaty for medical R&D that was developed by Tim and Jamie Love and is now part of the wider access to knowledge (a2k) agenda.

The Queen

19 February 2007

6/10. Well done but of rather limited interest (had made-for-tv written all over it).

Oberholzer and Strumpf Study Published in JPE

19 February 2007

As is the way with Academic Journals nearly 3 years after the original version (and two after the revised one) the Oberholzer and Strumpf study (see my summary of the p2p literature for details) is now out in the JPE.

Problems with selfupdate when updating a very old macports

13 February 2007

Just like this guy when trying to do $ port selfupdate I’d get errors like: Selfupdate failed: couldn't open ".../var/db/dports/sources/rsync.rsync.opendarwin.org_dpupdate1/base/dp_version": no such file or directory The problem is that my macports version is very old and after an rsync dp_version is now in base/config rather than just base. Furthermore because the rsync happens before you check dp_config putting in a symlink or just copying the file over won’t work as it gets deleted again before it is checked.

Easy Riders and Raging Bulls: How the Sex N' Drugs and Rock N' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood by Peter Biskind

10 February 2007

8.5/10. An interesting and provocative ‘decline-of-hollywood’ thesis. In addition, the endless supply of corruscating anecdote makes this book more than worth the price of admission. Rather than try and cull samples from the panopoly of possibilities here is a single item which caught my eye because of its insight into the behaviour of decision-makers under extreme uncertainty: As producer Michael Phillips puts it, “In the 70s the U.S. domestic market accounted for 85 percent of the business.

The Last King of Scotland

30 January 2007

5.5/10. One’s sympathy for the central character’s plight has worn very thin long before the closing reel.

IDEI Toulouse Conference on the Economics of the Software and Internet Industries 2007: II Search

23 January 2007

Below is a summary of, and a proposal inspired by, the search roundtable which closed out the Toulouse conference. The remarks are first and following them you can find my impressionistic notes of the each of the speakers’ presentations. Open Search: A Proposal for Regulating Search the Open Way Introduction In many parts of the world today we already have a situation in which a single search engine has a dominant market share (that is over 70%).

IDEI Toulouse Conference on the Economics of the Software and Internet Industries 2007: I General Notes

22 January 2007

For those interested, there is a second, related, post about the conference’s roundtable on internet search. Friday Plenary 1 Two empirical papers. Both reasonable but neither fascinating. Second about network effects in the adoption of electronic medical record (EMR) technology using state-varying privacy laws as a form of instrument. Privacy laws do inhibit adoption of EMR systems because of inhibition of network effects (you aren’t going to be able to transfer).

Thinking about Annotation

17 January 2007

Annotation means the adding of comments/notes/etc to an underlying resource. For the present I’ll focus on the situation where the underlying resource is textual (as opposed to being an image, or a piece of film or some data). Various things to consider when implementing an annotation/comment system: Addressing and atomisation: Are annotations specific to particular parts of the resource. If so how do we store this address (relatedly: how is the resource ‘atomised’ and how to we address these atoms, or range of atoms).

Piracy and Demands for Films: Analysis of Piracy Behavior in French Universities

17 January 2007

Elvira Madigan

16 January 2007

7/10. A very sixties film. The camerawork was interesting, even brilliant, in its mobility (the scene where the two lovers chase butterflies) and the colours obtained (the wine spilled upon the picnic cloth). However the story, particularly its dramatic denouement, gave me serious difficulties. Why can’t one (or both) of them just get a job? Are we supposed to think ‘how sad, this is what a harsh world does to pure love’?

Irrationality, Uncertainty and Dollar Bills Unclaimed on the Sidewalk: Pollution Abatement and Energy Efficiency

9 January 2007

Many economic models assume that firms or other economic actors behave rationally, in particular, that they utilise all potential profitable opportunities available to them. This assumption is often pithily expressed as ‘there are no dollar bills left unclaimed on the sidewalk’. One of the most troubling episodes in contemporary economic history for this view is that brought about by the combination of the oil shock and rising environmental concerns which led in the 1970s to a dramatic increase in pollution regulation in most industrialised economies.

Adding Mathematics to Markdown

8 January 2007

Following my release of the markdown to latex script I’ve had a few enquiries from people asking about integrating mathematics with markdown generally (e.g. for web output as well as for output to latex). I’d already been using mathematics in markdown and then processing to html before I wrote the mkdn2latex script and in a world where one didn’t need to produce nice pdfs for conferences and journals it would be my preferred format.

Casino Royale

21 December 2006

7.5/10 (for genre). Far above average Bond, with a semi-decent plot, reasonable dialogue, strong performances, and, for once, a love interest that is not purely perfunctory.

Web-Based Annotation

19 December 2006

We intend to add annotation/commentarysupport to the open shakespeare web demo either in this release or next. As a first step I’ve been looking to see what (open-source) web-based annotation systems are already out there. Below is a list of what I’ve been able to find so far (if you know of more please post a comment). After examining several of these in some detail the one we’re going to try our properly is marginalia (if you’re interested our current efforts to do this including writing a python wsgi annotation service backend can be found here in the subversion repository).

John Maynard Keynes: The Economist as Saviour 1920-1937 by Robert Skidelsky

5 December 2006

This is the second volume of Skidelsky’s trilogy and takes Keynes from his resignation from the Treasury up until the publication of the General Theory (1936) and its immediate reception by the public and other economists. Though still excellent I found this a less satisfactory book that its predecessor. This was for several reasons the most important of which was the necessity of dwelling far more on the economic theory than in the previous volume.

mkdn2latex: A Python Script to Convert Markdown to LaTex

30 November 2006

UPDATE (2008-06): a new version is available (v1.2): Over the last year I’ve written quite a few papers using markdown plus asciimathml. While this is great for web publication (and editing) and gives me lots of styling freedom via css it doesn’t produce output that’s as nice as that produced by latex especially in paginated form (also latex mathematics support is also currently better than that of obtained from asciimathml or latexmathml).

Transaction Costs and the Future of the Firm

30 November 2006

See Attempts to grasp what the internet will mean for the future shape of business, now the dotcom bubble has inflated and subsequently burst, have led to an explosion of interest in the ideas of the 93-year-old economist Ronald Coase. Coase won the economics Nobel in 1991, but he did the work for which he is chiefly known as long ago as the 1930s, and this is the work which has acquired a new audience with the rise of e-commerce.

Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees

27 November 2006

7/10. Interesting, its prime feature is an exuberant richness of language that for the whole delights – though perhaps this over-ripeness becomes a little tiring as the tales wends to its close.

The Value of the Public Domain

27 November 2006

Back in July the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) published, as part of the their series on IP and the Public Sphere, my paper entitled The Value of the Public Domain. This essay was’t intended to be original research but rather to provide an overview of the social and commercial benefits to be derived from open (public-domain) approaches to knowledge production. Since publication, the paper has managed to travel fairly widely (helped I hope by its open licence) including a recent appearance on Lessig’s blog so its appropriate that I’ve now, finally, got around to adding it to the listing on my economics papers page.

Pan's Labyrinth

24 November 2006

7/10. Dark and harsh this film was strongest when at its most horror-ific whether in the sections of fantasy or reality. Well above average but no masterpiece and let down by a plot that never really surprised and several holes.

The Prestige

20 November 2006

5.5/10. Too much of a cheap trick with the twist in the tail not worth the wait.

A Pythonic API to Subversion Repositories

15 November 2006

Whenever I’ve had a few spare minutes over the last couple of months I’ve been hacking away on svnrepo, a pythonic API to local subversion repositories and it is now robust enough to warrant a 0.1 release. svnrepo is (and was intended to be) very small, just a single module, that wrapped the python subversion bindings for repository access to make them simpler to use and more object-oriented. At present the module requires subversion >= 1.

Time and Chance Happen to Them All

10 November 2006

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. Ecclesiastes 9:11 (KJV)

Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-1965

6 November 2006

Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-1965, by Taylor Branch, the second volume of the trilogy (finished last week).

Red Road

2 November 2006

6.5/10. An interesting debut, gritty and uncompromising but lacking the brilliance of the same film-makers oscar-winning short, Wasps.

Linguistic Nativism

2 November 2006

Wrongness of Chomsky’s (and Pinker’s) arguments for Linguistic nativism. See: Interesting example of how popular science can be very misleading. Pinker (and Chomsky) write very well (and have big impressive sounding titles) yet are purveying a viewpoint that is controversial (or worse: already discredited) in proper scientific circles.

John Maynard Keynes: Hopes Betrayed 1883-1920 by Robert Skidelsky

30 October 2006

This is Skidelsky’s first volume (1983) in his monumental trilogy charting the life and times of the economist-statesman John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946). It is an excellent work, not overlong, willing to state judgements but always judicious in doing so, full of surrounding detail but never wandering far from its central theme and, perhaps most importantly, with a fine suppleness of prose that becomes, on occasion, almost aphoristic. While I, personally, would have liked greater detail on, and discussion of, the economics this is, after all, a biography for the general reader so this can hardly be a criticism.

The History Boys

26 October 2006

6/10. I can well imagine that this made a wonderful stage play and while there is nothing particularly lacking in this big screen incarnation there is also nothing particularly special.

Supply Responses to Digital Distribution: Recorded Music and Live Performances

16 October 2006

A while back someone pointed me at an interesting paper by Julie Mortimer and Alan Sorenson entitled, Supply Responses to Digital Distribution: Recorded Music and Live Performances, which they presented at the 2006 AEA conference. I’ve only had a chance to glance through this but it appears to have some interesting data – and some interesting conclusions – for those interested in of the impact of unauthorized filesharing on artists, consumers and society as a whole.

csv2ascii: display csv as ascii tables

13 October 2006

Having looked around for a while without success for something that would spit out csv files as ascii tables I decided to hack something together. The result is a small python script It is currently fairly crude, for example it just truncates cell text which is too long, but I hope I’ll have some more time to improve it soon. Example Suppose you had the following in a file called example.

Little Miss Sunshine

6 October 2006

8.5/10. A wonderful film, moving, funny and involving. Finely observed performances, particularly from Kinnear and Collette (especially), do full justice to a beautifully crafted plot and script. While the feel-good ending is never in doubt, we are spared any descent into saccharinaity – something which often mars Hollywood forays into similar territory – and when the credits finally do roll they arrive neither too soon nor too late.

Accessing open access repositories using the python oaipmh package

6 October 2006

The Open Access Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAIPMH) is growing rapidly as the standard web protocol for making metadata, primarily bibliographic information, available online for programmatic access and I’ve long meant to write something that would allow be to pull information down from remote repositories into my local bibliographic database automatically (it would save an awful lot of typing). I’ve mentioned the oaipmh package provided by before however the documentation they provide has got rather out of date and though I’ve made a few attempts I’ve never quite been able to get it to work.

Some Essays from my Schooldays

5 October 2006

About a week ago I finally got around to converting from .doc to html some of my more substantial essays from my schooldays. They’re up at and you can find more or less substantial pieces on the Vietnam War, the decline of the Liberal Party in Great Britain in the early 20th century, the school as institution, Italy in the late 19th century and Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.

Why the music industry may gain from free downloading: The role of sampling

4 October 2006

Title: Why the music industry may gain from free downloading: The role of sampling DOI: Authors: Martin Peitz and Patrick Waelbroeck Journal: International Journal of Industrial Organization, Volume 24, Issue 5 , September 2006, Pages 907-913 Abstract: Downloading digital products for free may harm creators and intermediaries because consumers may no longer buy the version for sale. However, as we show in this paper, this negative effect may be overcompensated by a positive effect due to sampling: consumers are willing to pay more because the match between product characteristics and buyers’ tastes is improved.

Extracts from the Report of the 1876-1878 Royal Commission on Copyright

4 October 2006

1876-1878 Commision on Copyright. Metadata: My copy came from Cambridge University Library. Main Report General Remarks: Contains summary in appendix of the law up to that point in a form of a digest NO discussion of principles at all and very little hard evidence Their comments on existing law (vii, para 7-9): The first observation which a study of the existing law suggests is that its form, as distinguished from its substance, seems to us bad.

WSGI Middleware

28 September 2006

WSGI Middleware In a previous tutorial we just wrote a basic ‘Hello World’ application in WSGI. At the end of you might, rightly, have been wondering what’s the point of WSGI – after all you could have written that ‘Hello World’ app using plain CGI (or anything else for that matter). In this tutorial we are going to start answering that question by taking a look at WSGI middleware and write a simple piece of middleware ourselves.

Three Times

27 September 2006

6/10. This was my first experience of work by the legendary Taiwanese director Huo Hsiao-Hsien. Very art-house. After a promising start with some brilliant visual imagery such as the running shadow of the bicycle by the third episode the langorous pace and cryptic approach to characterisation and plot had started to irk. Best described as like being immersed immensely slowly in very cold water: at first exhilirating and hypnotic but eventually painful, tedious and interminable.

Unicode to ascii mappings for standard characters from wordprocessed documents

25 September 2006

Anyone who has converted some old wordprocessed documents to plain ascii text will know that wordprocessors love to insert their only special versions for a few of the standard characters such as ' and " (- also comes up pretty frequently). I personally came across while using odt2txt plus openoffice to convert some old .rtf and .doc files to plain text. By default odt2txt writes the files as utf-8 which is fine except there is really no reason these shouldn’t be full on ascii (plus the standard vim distribution on mac osx doesn’t support unicode!

(Yet) Another Empirical Analysis of File Sharing

24 September 2006

Just came across another paper evaluating the effect of filesharing published earlier this year. Authored by Norbert J. Michel (now of Nicholls State University) and is entitled The Impact of Digital File Sharing on the Music Industry: An Empirical Analysis (Berkley Press’ Topics in Economic Analysis & Policy: Vol. 6: No. 1, Article 18) is available at: under a ‘quasi-open-acess’ policy (which so far has at least had the effect of preventing me accessing it).

Find and Replace Across Multiple Files

22 September 2006

Archiving for my own benefit the results of yet another 5 minute look for how to do find and replace across multiple files from the command line: Use sed: sed -i 's/foo/foo_bar/g' *.html use the old perl hack: perl -w -pi~ -e 's/foo/bar/' [files] Notes: -p: loop, -i edit files in place (backup with extension if supplied), -w enable warnings Install rpl

The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II: Volume I by Fernand Braudel

20 September 2006

9.5/10. One of the greatest works of history I have ever read. The command of primary sources is astounding and allows for any given point to be both grounded in ‘hard’ data and fascinating anecdote – a rare (and heady) combination indeed. This truly is a portrait of an entire world on a canvas that stretches from France to Turkey. While Braudel ‘Annales’ orientation means that there is perhaps a heavier load of statistics and the like than is usual for a historian – something I personally like and putting him someone between History, Geography and Economics – this never prevents the frequent rendering a lapidary judgement or illuminating aside.

A Scanner Darkly

8 September 2006

7.5/10. I’m pulled two ways on this one. The film doesn’t come together into a coherent work instead veering widly from minority report style thriller to perfectly played comic sketches and back to meditations on the nature of addiction and normalcy. While these individual sections are often brilliant, without any framing plot (or a plot so tentative and fragmentary as to appear absent), the whole ends up being slightly less than the sum of its parts.

'Hello World' with WSGI

31 August 2006

I’ve been seeing a lot of talk about WSGI (Web Server Gateway Interface) and its benefits over the last six months or so and I’ve been meaning to take a look – not least because of the potential to use wsgi middleware to make a nice front-controller for KForge. First Stop A quick google takes me to: I’m looking to just write the proverbial ‘hello world’ app at this stage.

Harsh Times

21 August 2006

6.5/10. Though I was left with the sense that this movie never really knew where it was heading the dialogue is crackling and the performances live up to their billing – Bale and Rodriguez work perfectly together and Bale is truly electrifying.


15 August 2006

3/10. I have not been so bored in a film for a very, very long time. Gilliam’s statement that the film allowed him to rediscover the ‘child within’ (given in a special speaking-direct-to-the-camera prologue) should have been warning enough but two hours later we are left in no doubt just how dull extended exposure to childish whimsy can be. Interesting moments pop up every so often (usually when we are given brief respite from Jeliza-Rose and her endless, tedious conversations with little doll’s heads) but they are few and far between.

Superman Returns

14 August 2006

4/10. Very poor. Abysmal plot, uninteresting dialogue and acting so wooden one can only imagine it is intentional.

The Radetzky March

12 August 2006

The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth (1932), trans. Michael Hofmann [Granta 2003]. 8.5/10. A wonderful and profound elegy for the passing of a world (in the form of the Austro-Hungarian empire). A finely balanced delicacy of description is present throughout (for which much praise must go to Hofmann as well as Roth) which lends the story that combination of immediacy and distance present in an old, but perfectly preserved, photograph.

Miami Vice

4 August 2006

7/10 (for genre). Michael Mann’s latest outing is pure Hollywood but done with enough energy and skill to lift above the genre average.

The Story of Irene and Vernon Castle

28 July 2006

5/10. VHS. Starts out as a standard Astaire/Rogers outing but descends around the half-way mark into ill-thought out war propraganda.

Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-1963

27 July 2006

I have just finished reading Taylor Branch’s Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63, the first volume of a trilogy. It is a fascinating book and fittingly for such a sprawling multi-faceted panorama the two most important themes were tangential ones. The first is the degree to which the perception of events, at least as presented in the press or comprehended by those at a distance, is removed from the actual reality.

What Financial Trading Systems Tell Us About Markets

16 July 2006

From Hans Stoll, Electronic Trading in Stock Markets, JEP, Winter 2006, 20:1. Miscellaneous 1. Moving towards fully electronic market. NYSE has just merged with Archipelago and NYSE with Instinet. 2. Economies of scale and their affect on firm size and organization: “Technology has changed the nature of the specialist in other ways, too. In 1975, 381 individual specialists owned seats and operated 67 specialist firms organized primarily in partnerships. Today, the number of individuals acting as specialists remains about the same, but they are organized into only seven specialist firms, structured as corporations.


15 July 2006

5.5. Futuristic thriller noir set in 2054 Paris. Visually striking for being done entirely in chiroscuro animation using an innovative rendering to produce a result reminiscent of recent features such as Sin City. Unfortunately the plot and dialogue don’t live up to the visuals which are without doubt stunning. [Aside: the producer claims that if the film were to have been shot ‘for real’ it have cost around $220 million instead of the $18 million.

Stephenson's: In the beginning was the command line

14 July 2006

Despite its free availability i can’t find one version formatted in a way I actually like. Anyway here’s a link to one of the least bad (it’s plain vanilla html and supposedly a copy of the page Stephenson first posted on his website): Published in 1999 and though now a little dated this is still a great essay. It’s full of Stephenson’s wit and detailed down-to-earth explanations. My favourite part is the brilliant and hilarious ‘os as car’ metaphor:

wdiff: compare two files word by word

14 July 2006

debian/ubuntu: apt-get install wdiff macosx: fink install wdiff From apt-cache show: wdiff’ is a front-end to GNU diff. It compares two files, finding which words have been deleted or added to the first in order to create the second. It has many output formats and interacts well with terminals and pagers (notably with less'). wdiff’ is particularly useful when two texts differ only by a few words and paragraphs have been refilled.

Vim and the Clipboard

8 July 2006

I am a heavy vim user and want to be able to copy and paste from the system clipboard so that, for example, I can edit my posts in vim and then paste them from firefox in here. I should also mention that I prefer to use terminal not gui versions of vim which influences the solutions recommended below. Mac OSX Use pbcopy and pbpaste. These are two very useful Mac OSX terminal commands that give access to the system clipboard.

Filesharing in Denmark

6 July 2006

Lessig reports on some work done by Claus Pedersen on filesharing in Denmark. Unfortunately the full paper is in danish but a summary has been translated by Marie Elisabeth Pade and is available at

Cumulative Innovation, Sampling and the Hold-up Problem: Paper Presented at DRUID 2006

3 July 2006

Back on June 19th I presented Cumulative Innovation, Sampling and the Hold-up Problem (pdf) (xml src version) at the 2006 DRUID conference on Knowledge, Innovation and Competitiveness. If you want to get a sense of paper without reading the whole thing there is a set of summary slides.

Renaming Files in Bulk

26 June 2006

Just some random ideas on how to do this culled from elsewhere Rename *.foo to *.bar: ls -d *.foo | sed -e 's/.*/mv & &/' | sh

View from the Bench: Patents, licensing and upstream biomedical innovation

25 June 2006

Another interesting paper I saw presented (by Marc Cohen) was a joint paper of Cohen, Walsh and Cho entitled View from the Bench: Patents, licensing and upstream biomedical innovation. Summary: Patents aren’t having much impact in terms of holdup on R&D activity (at least where you don’t need access to the physical material) Primarily because patents are ignored by those doing R&D Other factors such as commercial interests seemed to be as, if not more, important than patents Full Paper

Does Formal Intellectual Property Impact The Market For Scientific Collaboration? Evidence From Patent-Paper Pairs

25 June 2006

Caught an interesting presentation at DRUID by Scott Stern of an interesting paper he’s been working on with Fiona Murray entitled: Does Formal Intellectual Property Impact The Market For Scientific Collaboration? Evicence From Patent-Paper Pairs. Take-away: 1 in 9 research projects considered is not taken forward because of patent issues (remember this doesn’t mean a reduction in the number of research projects but just that there is substitution) Full Paper

Thank You for Smoking

21 June 2006

6.5. Drives through its 91 minutes with enough momentum and occassional satiric wit to keep one occupied.


20 June 2006

7.5/10. Lifted by the excellent performances of Vrinks (Auteuil) and Klein (Depardieu) whose rivalry forms the dark heart of this above average French flic flick.

3G Cellular Standards and Patents (and Transaction Costs)

12 June 2006

A few months ago I came across a fascinating short paper authored by David Goodman (Polytechnic University, Brooklyn, NY) and Robert Myers (Fairfield Resource International) entitled 3G Cellular Standars and Patents (IEEE WirelessCom 2005, June 13, 2005). The authors had participated in a project which had analyzed the 7,796 patents deemed ‘essential’_[1] to the 483 technical specifications promulgated under one or other of the two competing 3G cellular standards: CDMA2000 under the auspices of 3GPP2 and WCDMA under 3GPP.

The Squid and the Whale

8 June 2006

7/10. Film about a divorce and its affect on a family of four in 1980s Brooklyn: two author parents and two sons. Nicely done, amusing, occasionally touching, and even a little weird in sections, this is interesting film well above the run of the mill.

An Alternative Form of Copyright 'Enforcement'

5 June 2006

Pankaj Mishra, in a review of Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found repeats the following anecdote from that book (NYRB, 2004-11-18, p.18): In another scene, Chopra, the film director Mehta has worked with, stands before a row of cable operators arrested for screening illegally his new film and orders a pliant police officer to break their legs.


28 May 2006

7.5/10. Very good first feature based on the conceit of rendering the traditional noir with all its trapping of a dead girl, dirty deals and a double-crossing femme fatale in the environment of a modern American high school replete with jocks, the ‘upper crust’ and jaded loners who eat alone. As the plot zig-zags vertiginously this way and that the film occassionaly risks veering into parody but it ultimately manages to keep on course.

Technology and History

28 May 2006

Found in a review by Gary Will’s of Taylor Branch’s At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-1968 in the NYRB (2006-04-06, p. 20): It is amazing how Branch can marshal so much material along so many tracks, moving it ahead stage by stage in coordination with King's actions. The I saw Branch in a three-hour television interview with C-SPAN and learned part of his secret. He showed the interviewer his computer with its expertly programmed chronological record of all the information he had acquired from so many sources -- over 17,000 items arranged year by year, day by day.

The Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World

1 May 2006

It took 12 years to produce (1988-2000) and cost 4.5 million dollars (according to its editor Richard Talbert). It has a whole page dedicated to listing donors and supporters of the project. It recruited seventy-three compilers, with ten regional editors with ninety-five reviewers and twenty-two cartographers. It is 148 pp. long and with companion gazetteer comes in at $350.00 (if you take the gazetteer on paper – 1,383 pp. – it comes down to $150.

Inside Man

14 April 2006

8/10 (for its category). An intelligent heist movie with a twist, the film is lifted by good performances - Denzel Washington rolls out the usual charm, excellent cinematography and the occasional shot of Spike Lee’s biting wit. A more mainstream foray than usual for Lee, he delivers a well above average example of the genre.

Python Script to Batch Convert Flac to Ogg

12 April 2006

#!/usr/bin/env python # Convert a whole directory tree of flac files to oggs # Just a wrapper on a couple of system commands # Could be made more 'pythonic' by replacing find with os.walk # Public Domain: copy, redistribute, reuse freely and without restriction import os import shutil import commands # base directory for flac files srcPath = '/var/share/music' # destination directory for ogg files destPath = '/var/share/ogg' cmds = [ "

Remains of the Day

11 April 2006

7/10. A classic Merchant-Ivory production, intelligent, very well acted and beautifully shot. However while the tragedy of Stephens, whose dedication to the role of the perfect butler has led him to extinguish all emotion, and even, it appears, the ability to apprehend the events around him, is a moving one, its very basis – in the inability to of Stephens to feel and act – removed me from it and thereby greatly reduced its power.

The Social Value of Project Gutenberg's Etexts

10 April 2006

From the header file of a standard Project Gutenberg etext (in this case that of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam (tr. Edward Fitzgerald): We produce about two million dollars for each hour we work. The fifty hours is one conservative estimate for how long it we take to get any etext selected, entered, proofread, edited, copyright searched and analyzed, the copyright letters written, etc. This projected audience is one hundred million readers.

Mirror Mask

8 April 2006

5.5/10. While boasting a phenomenal visual imagination clearly bearing the signature of the film’s Director Dave McKean the film as a whole was distinctly lacking in oomph. The plot always remains a little too fanciful and the lack of coherent development with constant jarring jolts with many scenes simply petering out to be hurriedly replaced via yet another coincidence (flimsily justified by an it’s all a dream backstory) give one the sense this is a film (and story) that exists to serve its visual ideas rather than the other way round.

The Proposition

30 March 2006

6/10. Interesting piece, full of brutality and beautiful landscapes. Never quite sure it found its groove instead swaying this way and that culminating in an ending that jumped sideways at the last minute (rather predictably it must be said). Guy Pearce was impressive and striking as Charlie Burns while Ray Winstone delivered a commanding performance in the central role albeit one that was hampered in the closing stages by a lack of material.

Transaction costs: the case of DRM

27 March 2006

Someone mentioned to me the other day that Microsoft had spent a $1 billion on implementing DRM. This is a huge sum and should be counted as pure transaction costs (and just shows how dumb, compared to the alternatives, the whole idea of DRM is).

Diversification, cross subsidy and the transfer fallacy

24 March 2006

You often hear the following argument for retrospective term extensions put forward_[1]: ‘Retrospective term extensions will allows us to make more money on old artists we can then use to fund new talent’ This is a fallacy though all the more dangerous for being superficially plausible (for reasons we detail below). It is a fallacy for a simple reason: A retrospective term extension increases the return to past projects but makes no difference to the expected payoff of new projects.

Politically, IP is where the Environmental movement was 30 years ago

24 March 2006

This speech was delivered in my capacity as Director of FFII-UK in the “IP and the Knowledge Commons - Political Parties” panel of the TACD conference on The Politics and Ideology of Intellectual Property, which took place in Brussels on the 20-21 March 2006. Politically, IP is where the Environmental movement was 30 years ago I always prefer discussion and questions so I’m going to keep my formal presentation very short.

The Social Value of Access to the OED

17 March 2006

I was pointed at this post about making a first edition of the OED freely available online. This is a wonderful idea but here I just wanted to talk about what the value of doing this would be. In his email Kragen Sitaker guesstimates a social value of $293 billion for the project_[1]. While clearly done with his tongue firmly in his cheek I think such calculations are important enough to be worth debating and in this case think this amount is much too high for several reasons.

Fixing Wordpress When You Change the Site URL

8 March 2006

Very annoyingly if you update the WP site url (or move your blog without updating site url) your install will be b0rked and you will have to go mess around with the db. What you need to do (tested on WP 2.0) is: update wp_options set option_value = '[wordpress -address]' where option_name = 'siteurl'; update wp_options set option_value = '[site -address]' where option_name = 'home';

Success Reveals Virtue

1 March 2006

If men have not enough it is from want of provident care, and foresight, and industry and frugality. No man in this land suffers from poverty unless it be more than his fault - unless it be his sin Henry Ward Beecher The belief that success reveals virtue (and the converse) is a prominent intellectual myth, strongly associated with Protestant thinking and, consequentially, with nascent capitalism. It continues to exert a strong hold today, particularly in America [1].

13 (Tzameti)

2 February 2006

7.5/10 (2006-02-02). Very impressive debut feature from Gela Babluani shot in a grainy black and white and with an atmospheric score. The film grips from the word go and after the plot’s secret is revealed the tension is built up with consumate skill. My only gripe is the ending where it seems the Babluani couldn’t work out which way to go and ends up dissipating the film’s energy in an implausible and sudden denouement.

The Cranes are Flying

31 January 2006

8.5/10 (2006-01-31). Great Russian tearjerker about a young man (Boris) and woman (Veronica) seperated during the great patriotic war (WWII). Two amazing collage sequences one as Boris dies and visions of the birch trees above him mix with those of his hoped for wedding the second as Veronica rushes to the railway bridge to commit suicide.

Golden Balls (Cojones del Oro)

26 January 2006

6/10 (2006-01-26). Interesting – as most Bigas Luna’s movies are – and held together by a strong central performance by Javier Badem but the movie never delivers on its satiric promise and the ending seems more of a let-down than a punchline.

Cock and Bull Story

24 January 2006

6.5/10 (2006-01-24) Slight but quite amusing. Would have been nice if it had been longer.

New Essay on Defaults for IP Policy

23 January 2006

I’ve just put up a revised version of an essay on IP policy I’ve had sitting around on the hard drive for a while. Its main argument is that an evidence-based approach for IP doesn’t have much bite unless it is accompanied by an explicit statement of the defaults (i.e. what your priors are before considering the evidence).

Brokeback Mountain

15 January 2006

8.5/10 (2006-01-15) Poignant, powerful and beautifully shot.


13 January 2006

Middlemarch by George Eliot (Mary Evans): 8.5/10. I read this back in the Autumn and greatly enjoyed it. Very victorian and deeply interested in the analysis of motive and feeling -- event is most definitely secondary. Ultimately also a heart-warming book which satisfies Miss Prism's aphorism to a tee: 'The good end happily, the bad unhappily, that is what fiction means'. However this is no criticism: the plotting is so gently done and accompanied by such delicacy and detail in delineation of character and thought that there is no danger of it fundamentally altering the merits of the book.

King Kong

12 January 2006

8/10 (2006-01-10?). Some scenes were overdone but overall an impressive and moving film.

Aside on Data Sharing in JEL paper

11 January 2006

Here’s another call from data sharing which appears, almost as an aside, in the summary of Morck, Wolfenzon, and Yeung Corporate Governance, Journal of Economic Literature vol. 43, no. 3 (p. 713) Assembling either cross country and historical data for formal econometric analysis can be labor intensive. One way of mitigating this problem is for researchers to share their data. Some plausibly important variables also measure concepts more commonly associated with anthropology, sociology, political science, or other social sciences than with economics and finance.

Swing Time

21 December 2005

6/10. (2005-12-21) (VHS). I’m not a big Rogers/Astaire fan but their movies are always pleasant. This one sports the usual forgettable plot and mediocre songs but does have one extraordinary dance sequence by Astaire done up in blackface.

Where the Truth Lies

19 December 2005

6/10. (2005-12-19). Not half bad but too much unnecessary sex and a weak central female character mar this art-house flashback-fest.

BSA Study on Software Piracy

14 December 2005

The BSA (Business Software Alliance) has released a study (prepared by IDC) along with a heavy PR blitz claiming all kinds of absolutely astronomical benefits from reducing software piracy. There are immediate reasons to be suspicious. While the study is touted as an ‘economic’ analysis of the benefits of combatting piracy no self-respecting economist I know of would come out with an ‘estimate’ in the way the BSA does because we just don’t have the data to do that.

Mrs Henderson Presents

12 December 2005

3/10. Dire. Seen in desperation.

A Few Wealthy Families Control a Large Fraction of Many Economies

9 December 2005

Data and information taken from 666 ff. of Morck, Wolfenzon, and Yeung Corporate Governance, Journal of Economic Literature vol. 43, no. 3 (which, itself, summarizes a multitude of other papers). Here are the value of corporate assets controlled by the ten largest families as percentage of total market capitalization (in brackets is the amount controlled by the single top family): Austria: 19% Belgium: 30% Finland: 22% France: 29% Germany: 21% Ireland: 14% Italy: 20% (10% – the Agnellis) Norway: 23% Portugal: 34% Spain: 11% Sweden: 13% (50% – the Wallenberg family, who through a complex and large control pyramid are estimated to have effective control of roughly half the market capitalization of the Swedish stock exchange – [ed: this estimate which is presently seperately seems to contradict 13% figure]) Switzerland: 29% (18%) UK: 4% (1.


8 December 2005

6/10. (2005-12-08). Interesting but slightly unfocused account of the last weeks in the life of Rolling Stones founder, Brian Jones’. The inclusion of extensive flashbacks lend the picture a more biopic feel.

Noi Albinoi (Noi the Albino)

2 December 2005

7/10. (2005-10) Touching troubled adolescent/rites of passage movie set in Iceland that is far above average and has plenty of understated wit.

Head On

2 December 2005

7.5/10. (2004-?). Beginning with the central character attempting suicide by driving at full speed into a wall this film continues to assault and grip the audience in equal measure. Centred on the story of the marriage of convenience between two Germans from immigrant turkish families the film is a powerful tale of love, redemption and desolation.

Measuring Output

1 December 2005

Economists have always known that traditional measures of output such as GDP have major lacunae - primarily in failing to account for activities and value not contracted through the market such as leisure, domestic work and ecosystem services_[1]. Unfortunately simply measuring GDP is difficult enough (proper national accounts in most countries only date from the early-mid twentieth century) and while there have been plenty ofproposals for improvements many of them pose such substantial data challenges that they remain unrealized.


25 November 2005

This is definitely up there for the greatest myth of all time award. Strong overtones of intellectual quackery and really begs the question of why did so many fall for this? Readings: Richard Webster: Why Freud was Wrong Geoffrey Masson: Assault on Truth, Against Therapy Richard McNally: Remembering Trauma

Summary of P2P Literature

21 November 2005

I’ve put up a summary of the literature on the impact of P2P on music sales that has emerged over the years. You can read the full text here but these are the basic conclusions: An explosion in research (mainly dependent on access to proprietary data) as a result of public interest in these issues means that we are now in a position to provide answers with some degree of certainty.

Open Knowledge Drives out Closed

17 November 2005

Open knowledge drives out closed (in the long run). (After Gresham’s Bad money drives out good though with opposite sense). I tentatively dub this Pollock’s law :). Open knowledge here is taken as given by the open knowledge definition and, in its essentials, means freely accessible, reusable and redistributable. Closed by contrast means knowledge for which access and reuse are restricted in some manner, for example by charging for access, or by prohibiting reuse.

Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

11 November 2005

8.5/10. (2005-11-26) (DVD). Whilst overly generous to the central character this Powell and Pressburger masterpiece is certainly a compelling vision of a man’s journey into memory and the unpredictable nature of the passage.

The Past Was Better

7 November 2005

The belief that the present is a particular nadir in human affairs be it culturally, politically or ethically is a frequent one throughout history. However its very recurrence indicates its falsity, something I couldn't imagine better put than this quote from Sir Thomas Browne's Pseudodoxia Epidemica (1646; 6th ed., 1672) Chapter xi (cited Middlemarch p. 442) illustrates: It is the humour of many heads to extol the days of their forefathers, and declaim against the wickeness of times present.

The Invention of Symbols

3 November 2005

We believe that we invent symbols. The truth is that they invent us. Gene. M. Wolfe, The Book of the New Sun.

The Costs of DRM

16 October 2005

I was looking through The Political Economy of Intellectual Property Treaties. 2004. Suzanne Scotchmer. Journal of Law, Economics and Organizations 20:415-437. curtesy of the PDF available on her web page when I came to the following section which I wished to copy and paste into my notes: The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (2002) reports that in 2000, only 56% of R&D spending in the European Union was by industry.

Instructions to a Trident Submarine Commander in Case of Nuclear Attack

12 October 2005

He is supposed to determine whether Britain is still functioning on the basis of whether or not the Today programme is still broadcasting. If it isn't he has to retrieve from his safe the PM's letter instructing him to: 1. Put himself under the command of the USA, if it is still there. 2. Make his way to Austrailia, if it is still there. 3. Get on with it and take out Moscow.

On Deciding What To Cook for Supper

12 October 2005

Stare into the fridge in a zen-like manner and contemplate what you might possibly tolerate.

Migrating Drupal to Wordpress

10 October 2005

Here are some scripts along with instructions for migrating a drupal site to wordpress. README.txt These instructions are ‘implemented’ in code as a small python script called which you can find below. Dump your drupal database. To find out how to do this refer to the manual for your db (for mysql from the command line you use mysqldump and for postgres it is pg_dump) Load the drupal dump into your wordpress db:

Coase on Being Misunderstood

5 October 2005

The world of zero transaction costs has often been described as a Coasian world. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the world of modern economic theory, one which I was hoping to persuade economists to leave. Ronald Coase, The Firm, The Market and The Law (Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1988), p. 174. This is a point I often make to people, especially those doing Law and Economics who seem fixated on his 1960 JLE paper and the 'Coase Theorem' (assignment of property rights does not matter as bargaining will ensure the efficient outcome).

Parkinson's Laws and Painting the Bikeshed

24 September 2005

Law Number 1 ‘WORK EXPANDS SO AS TO FILL THE TIME AVAILABLE FOR ITS COMPLETION’ General recognition of this fact is shown in the proverbial phrase ‘It is the busiest man who has time to spare.’ Thus, an elderly lady of leisure can spend the entire day in writing and dispatching a postcard to her niece at Bognor Regis. An hour will be spent finding the postcard, another in hunting for spectacles, half an hour in a search for the address, an hour and a quarter in composition, and twenty minutes in deciding whether or not to take an umbrella when going to the pillar box in the next street.

For the Unfallen (1958)

20 September 2005

By blood we live, the hot, the cold, To ravage and redeem the world: There is no bloodless myth will hold. From Genesis the first poem in Geoffrey Hill's first book of poetry: For the Unfallen (1958).

Student Movements Were Critical to Ending US Participation in the Vietnam War

15 August 2005

E.g. The student movements of Europe and America .... were critical in bringing the war in Vietnam to an end .... , Perry Anderson writing in the London Review of Books, left column, p. 7, 2002-10-03.

The uses of poetry: Rebellion and the Praise of Murderers

9 July 2005

I was struck by this comment of Charles Simic in a review of Pablo Neruda’s poems [NYR Sept 25 2003 p.43]: Rebellion may be one of poetry’s traditions, but so is eulogizing the goodwill and godlike wisdom of some murderer. The context for this comment was Simic’s discussion of Neruda’s devout Communism which resulted in the penning of lines such as: In three rooms of the old Kremlin lives a man named Joseph Stalin His bedroom light is turned off late.

Guns and the American Psyche

6 June 2005

The gun lobby, oh my peaceful friends, you may hate, but first you had better understand that it is a religion, only secondarily connected to the bill of Rights. The thick-headed, sometimes even close to tearful, gaze you get when chatting with one of its partisans emanates from the view that they're holding a piece of God. There is no persuading them otherwise, even by a genius, because a life without guns implies the end of the known world to them.

FFII Statement at WIPO IIM 13th April 2005

13 April 2005

I authored the following in my capacity as Director of FFII-UK as the FFII statement at WIPO IIM on the Development Agenda. Submission of the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure, WIPO IIM 11th to 13th April 2005 First, at the outset Mr Chairman we would like to congratulate you, as well as the distinguished Vice-Chair, on your election. We would also like to thank the WIPO secretariat and its member states for this opportunity to present our views to you today.

Contact Management Software

12 April 2005

Feature Importance Comments Centralized remote repository 3 Can work offline (with syncing when back online) 3 xml (rdf?) storage format 3 make our own (can't use vcal/ical unfortunately) export to html and .... 2 trivial (use some xsl) integration with a calendar app ... 1 difficult and in that case we might as well try building on sunbird min info to store 3 date entered, date due (if any), subject, details (allow html etc - specify markup type?

A Proposed Law of Group Behaviour

8 April 2005

A while ago I was at a conference with a bunch of people and we were standing around in the lobby of the hotel waiting to set off for supper. From arrival of the first of us to actual departure took about half an hour. First a couple of those who were supposed to be coming hadn't turned up so a posse went off to search for them. Next no-one had yet agreed where to go so a whole discussion ensued as to what kind of food was wanted, what was the price range and who had the local knowledge suited to making quality/price recommendations.

On the Codification of Information and the Value of Databanks

8 April 2005

Uncodified knowledge cannot be transferred except by f2f interaction (apprenticeship etc) But knowledge codification is very time and space consuming (and much still remains implicit) As the amount of codified knowledge grows it becomes harder to find what you want Hypothesis: Value of Information in Databank = Value of Information if it could be Accessed Perfectly x Ease of Finding Any Particular Item Plausible to assume Ease of Finding Information = h(Amount) where h' less than 0 Let Amount = n In standard Computer Science if we could sort items in some manner (by which we could also search).

Ursula LeGuin: The Dispossessed (1974)

23 March 2005

A masterwork that talks deeply to us of our own world through the prism of one imagined. In contrast to the empty characters and superficial gimmicks of so much sci-fi, the worlds of Urras and Annarres are rich in philosophical and political detail. Furthermore, in Shevek we have a rounded and fully imagined character, and one through whom we can satisfactorily explore the otherness of her creation. Note: all quotes are from [Gollancz 2002] but original was published in 1974.

Second Life as Metaverse

23 March 2005

Second Life is a massively-multiplayer world developed by Linden Labs. Unlike many other MMGs there is no particular aim, rather the intent is to live in the world and add to it. Thus importantly it is the game’s participants that create and develop the universe they inhabit (its creators explicitly invoke the Metaverse of Neal Stephenson’s Snowcrash as a model). MMG (massively multiplayer games) solve the central problem that current computer technology faces in creating interesting games: namely no decent AI.

Limitations of the Human Mind: Insights from Lucasfilm's Habitat

19 March 2005

Extracts from The Lessons from Lucasfilm's Habitat, Chip Morningstar and F. Randall Farmer. A fascinating work which, unusually for computer scientists, is full of lapidary phrases and well-written prose. The Problems of Central Planning (or, the dangers of being a pointy-headed engineer with his control variables) There were two sorts of implementation challenges that Habitat posed. The first was the problem of creating a working piece of technology -- developing the animation engine, the object-oriented virtual memory, the message-passing pseudo operating system, and squeezing them all into the ludicrous Commodore 64 (the backend system also posed interesting technical problems, but its constraints were not as vicious).

Extracts from The Leopard by Lampedusa

4 March 2005

The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, translated by Archibald Colquhoun, [Harvill 1996]. An extraordinary work, short, but all the closer to perfection for that. The withering of nobility, the decline of the House of Salina despite its bitter compromise with a new age, the ache of nostalgia and dissatisfaction of the Prince all intertwine, and together with the endless details of place and person, of phrase and mood combine to entirely captivate us as we move spellbound through this world conjured from the regrets and tumults of a half-forgotten past.

The Nature of Information

14 February 2005

Coining an aphorism: We are moving towards a world in which all information is software and all software is information

Winesburg Ohio (Sherwood Anderson)

10 February 2005

The eighteen years he has lived seem but a moment, a breathing space in the long march of humanity. Already he hears death calling. With all his heart he wants to come close to some other human, touch someone with his hands, be touched by the hand of another. If he prefers that other to be a woman, that is because he believes that a woman will be gentle, that she will understand.

The Taxonomy of the Chinese Encyclopedia

8 February 2005

At the start of Foucault's book The Order of Things the classification system of a Chinese encyclopedia is presented. It commences a) belonging to the Emperor, b) embalmed, c) tame, d) sucking pigs, e) sirens, f) fabulous, g) stray dogs, h) included in the present classification, i) frenzied, j) innumerable, k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, l) et cetera, m) having just broken the water pitcher, n) that from a long way off look like flies.

Narrative Construction, Software and the Pearl Necklace Metaphor

8 February 2005

Plan We process information linearly. This is a fundamental fact. (Aside: example of polyphonic music and the Glenn Gould radio program). Symbol processing in home sapiens is serial and cannot manage either parallel or non-linear presentation. Particularly textual symbol processing. This is not only related to the methods by which humans obtain sensory input but derives from the very structure or high level information processing in the brain.

Principal Agent Problem: Related Essays

8 February 2005

See summary analysis of the literature on corruption: Considering Corruption as well as the Political Honesty paper.

Walter Lippman Goes to Town on the 1916 Republican Convention

2 February 2005

... a witches' dance of idiocy and adult hypocrisy. DuPont, for instance, and his wonderful grandfather, and grand old state of Ohio, and the golden state of Iowa, and the flag, red, white, and blue, all its stripes, all its stars, and the flag a thousand times over, and Americanism till your ears ached, and the slaves and the tariff, and Abraham Lincoln, mauled and dragged about and his name taken in vain, and his spirit degraded, prostituted to every insincerity and used as window-dressing for every cheap politican.

Fixed Costs and Other Economies of Scale

23 January 2005

Fixed costs and other economies of scale result in the non-convexity of the production function. To what extent does this affect the traditional welfare theorems? Suppose we convexify the production set P to a set P’. Then traditional welfare theorems go through. Suppose that the (a) resulting equilibrium is in a section of P’ that was locally convex as part of P. Then this equilibrium clearly would exist even in the original situation with P.

Efficient Size and Firm Concentration

14 January 2005

Much of Chandler's argument is premised, for example, on his casual assertions about the minimum efficient scale of operations for firms in particular industries. But in a detailed review of the literature and concepts surrounding these issues, Scherer and Ross (1990) argue that many ambiguities surround the idea of minimum efficient scale; they summarize considerable empirical evidence that efficiency in an industry is similar over a wide range for firm sizes, and tentatively conclude that actual concentration in U.

Knowledge, Information and Data

13 January 2005

Introduction I propose the following hierarchy: data -- information -- knowledge. Where items in one category are refined and filtered in the process of going to the next. Short Quotes Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is the best. Source: Frank Zappa, Album: Joe's Garage, Track: Packard Goose

Formalization in Economics

13 January 2005

This essay has been on appreciative theorizing. It is my conviction that it is important to get appreciative theory reasonably well worked out, before one gets in the business of building formal theory. Otherwise there are few restraints preventing formal modelling from going amuck, and little that pulls the enterprise towards being about real phenomena. On the other hand, given the existence of a reasonable well worked out appreciative theory, formal theorizing can be a very helpful part of the intellectual enterprise.

Growth and Innovation: Some Ideas

13 January 2005

Unsatisfactory Nature of Traditional Growth Modelling There is a large intellectual discrepancy between most of the formal growth models economists have devised, and descriptions of growth that take the form of economic history. Contemporary formal growth theories treat economic growth as almost all 'quantitative'. They aim to explain why various magnitudes, like per capita income, the real wage rate, and capital intensity, rise over time. Other magnitudes like the savings rate, or the share of labor in national income, or the rate of return on capital, tend to stay constant in these models, either because they are assumed to be constants, or because of various mechanisms built into the models.

Roman Economy

12 January 2005

Current Status: To Investigate Biblio * The collapse of complex societies

Philosophy's Permanently Open Horizons

6 January 2005

Philosophy lives with a permanently open horizon, leaving unsettled many basic questions regarding morality and mortality. Most people, and all societies, need settled answers to those questions. Mark Lilla, NYRB 2004-10-21, p.59, col. 4.

Dopamine Activity in Monkeys

5 January 2005

Interesting discussion with a friend of mine that led on to subject of addiction. He brought up recent research on dopamine activity in monkeys by Schulz. This was continuing a long line of work which had originally demonstrated a learning effect in the dopamine system as follows. Take a monkey and give it a reward. You see dopamine get released as a form of reward (dopamine is a neurotransmitter that appears to both act as reward and increase plasticity of synapses and neurons).

Opiate: Definition from the Devil's Dictionary

1 January 2005

OPIATE, n. An unlocked door in the prison of Identity. It leads into the jail yard. From THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY (1911). Read online at


28 December 2004

.... One of the tasks of transaction cost economics is to asssess purported bureaucratic failures in comparative institutional terms. The basic argument is this: it is easy to show that a praticular hierarchical structure is beset with costs, but that is neither here nor there if all feasible forms of organization are best with the same or equivalent costs. Efforts to ascertain bureaucratic costs that survive comparative instiutional scrutiny are reported elsewhere (Willimson, 1975, chapter 7; 1985 chapter 6), but theser are very provisonal and preliminary.

Herd Behaviour in Downsizing

28 December 2004

Thus the initial interest in 'downsizing' of firms has been accompanied by rhetorical flourishes such as the quest to be 'lean and mean' and to accomplish the process of 'right-sizing'. Vonk's empirical analysis (1992) of thirty-one large American corporations indicates that their reductions in workforce do not appear to be tailored to any calculations of the marginal costs of labor in production or to targeting particularly expensive parts of the labor process; instead, the cuts seem to be carried out in similar ways across large numbers of firms in quite different circumstances, suggesting a process of imitation or institutional isomorphism (Dimaggio and Powell, 1983) in which firms adopt practices that become standard in their reference group so as not to appear backward or out-of-touch (see Meyer and Rowan, 1977).

Open Archives Initiative (OAI) - Software

28 December 2004

Python API to Protocol for Metadata Harvesting The oaipmh Python module enables high-level access to an OAI-PMH metadata repository. Arbitrary repositories can be accessed and harvested using an easy to use Python-based API. It has built-in support for the default Dublin Core metadata set (oai_dc). It can also be easily extended with support for other metadata sets using a simple declarative system based on industry-standard xpath expressions. The oaipmh module can be integrated with any Python application.

Eskimo Words for Snow

28 December 2004

TODO: cite Bryson as example of its ubiquity and Dennett for refutation (or just google ….?).

Qwerty and Technological Lock-In

28 December 2004

TODO: write up original David article (1985 AER I think) and then reference the Liebowitz and Margolis article from JLE (1992?). This is quick becoming, at least in general econ/tech, discussions one of the most widely found myths out there. Some examples (irregularly updated): Fooled by Randomness (p. 175-176)

The American Dream

28 December 2004

What is the myth? The myth quite simply is that the there was an American Dream that could be realised or was more likely to be realized than in other countries (especially the 'old' home countries of Northern Europe). Formally this could be rendered as: The USA allowed for (significantly) greater social mobility than in other countries (particularly those in Western Europe from which many of the early immigrants came).

Margaret Thatcher: There's No Such Thing as Society

28 December 2004

Margaret Thatcher's quote There is no such thing as society has seen wide circulation. Often used to condemn Thatcher and the Conservative Government under her as uncaring and promoting atomistic individualism that left many behind and damaged the solidarity of British society. However it is worth considering the quote in full before a rush to judgement. It reads: I think we've been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it's the government's job to cope with it.

Old Wise Man and Japanese Drunk on Subway

26 December 2004

See Goleman Emotional Intelligence pp. 124-125 (also footnote 15 p. 321) where the source is given as Terry Dobson who studied aikido in Japna in the 1950s. Story is retold in Ram Dass and Paul Gorman How Can I Help? (NY Knopf 1985)

Chaos and Biology

26 December 2004

LRB: 2001-11-01 p.29 - review of Stuart Kaufmann, Investigations. Very interesting review (and book ….) “Drawing on the mathematics of chaos theory, Kauffman points out that organisms which are close to chaos will have cycles of a length close to the square root of the number of genes they contain; those that behave chaotically will have cycles of a length close to the square root of the number of possible states of gene expression.

Fitt's Law (Pyschomotor Behaviour)

26 December 2004

2.4 Efficiency and Fitts’ Law “The efficiency of locating and operating screen objects near each other - in this case the navigation menu and scrollbar - as observed by researchers at the NCI and theorized by Nielsen (1999), can be explained by Fitts’ Law, a robust model of human psychomotor behavior developed by psychologist Paul M. Fitts. Essentially, movement time is affected by the distance moved and the precision demanded by the size of the target to which one is moving.

Available Economic Data from Tim Besley

26 December 2004

Halving Global Poverty Data (weird format) from


26 December 2004

Quantity changes quality Engels (source as yet untraced)

History of Hacking

26 December 2004

Money Cases 1988 First National Bank of Chicago is the victim of $70-million computer heist. [1] 1994, summer. Russian crackers siphon $10 million from Citibank and transfer the money to bank accounts around the world. Vladimir Levin, the 30-year-old ringleader, uses his work laptop after hours to transfer the funds to accounts in Finland and Israel. Levin stands trial in the United States and is sentenced to three years in prison.

Taxonomy Software

26 December 2004

Is there a standard data format for taxonomies/classification systems. Should include a specification of text encoding (like LDIF but for taxonomies). If there is I would guess there will be open source implementations (and if not won't be that hard to write one's own). Requirements: Type of taxonmy: Enumerations (flat) Tree (single parent) Lattice (multiple parent) Identifiers. Support for at least 10 million possible elements in taxonomy.

Talk at Westminster Media Forum 2004-12-09

10 December 2004

This is the text of a brief presentation I gave as a member of the panel on Intellectual Property and the Public Space at the Westminster Media Forum 2004-12-09. I was presenting in my capacity as Director of Friends of the Creative Domain Text First a quick word about who we are. Friends of the Creative Domain is an open community set up to promote the intellectual and artistic commons in our culture.

Macaulay on Copyright Extensions

6 December 2004

Here is Lord Macaulay (unsuccessfully) opposing an extension of copyright term from 28 to 60 years in the 1840s: It is good that authors should be remunerated, and the least exceptionable way of remunerating them is by a monopoly. Yet monopoly is evil. For the sake of the good we must submit to the evil: but the evil ought not to last a day longer than is necessary for the purpose of securing the good

The ESP Experiments of Soal

28 November 2004

The tests carried by the English mathematician Dr Soal are often cited as powerful evidence for the existence of ESP phenomena. However there is strong evidence that Soal engaged in fraud in order to obtain his results and thus such claims should be viewed with caution. Soal originally became interested in psychical research when he conducted a lengthy series of ESP tests, hoping to provide independent corroboration of Rhine's work.

Conference: Trust and Triviality: where is the Internet Going

13 November 2004

Conference at UCL entitled, Trust and Triviality: Where is the Internet Going Date: 2004-11-12 General Medium doesn’t matter (i trust the other person i am speaking to I don’t worry about the telephone). RP: what about e-voting. Trade-off between safety and access to information. First it must be acknowledge that there is a trade-off. This trade-off can be improved but will always remain. Example of schools. Quality, truth, trust and elitism.

The impact on social welfare of introducing patents for pharamaceuticals in India

9 November 2004

There is something of a growing belief, I think, among academic economists that patents are a particularly costly way of promoting innovation. Shubham Chaudhuri, assistant professor of economics at Columbia University in New York source A recent paper by Chaudhuri, Goldberg and Jia entitled Estimating the Effects of Global Patent Protection in Pharmaceuticals: A Case Study of Quinolones in India (2003-12-24) provides some very interesting evidence about the social welfare impact of the extension of patents to pharmaceuticals in India -- a change which will take place as a result of the TRIPS agreement.


16 October 2004

8.5/10. One of the all-time greats of scifi. I’ve now read 2-3 times over the years a fact that is itself testament to its quality (very little scifi justifies a reread let alone a rereread). I include here the wonderful Litany Against Fear (p. 19 of Dune) The Bene Gesserit Littainy Against Fear I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear.

Information Technology's Inbuilt (Progressive) Politics

12 June 2004

This was a comment posted in response to one of Chris Lightfoot’s (ever interesting) posts: [Chris wrote] … Technologies may or may not have inbuilt politics. The printing press can be used for printing books, or printing identity cards; `trusted computing’ can be used to enforce digital rights management or to secure peer-to-peer networks. If these technologies do have political values, how can we tell ahead of time what they are?

Notes on Information Feudalism

26 May 2004

About Review of John Braithwaite, Peter Drahos, Information Feudalism, Earthscan 2002. Read spring 2004. Notes and Comments Didn't think much of this book. Style was too polemical and wasn't enough evidence to substantiate their claims. Much of the argument proceeded via an ad hominem approach: corporations like IPR corporations are nasty and selfish so IPR are bad (nasty and selfish) this neglects a central point of capitalism: selfishness can work [note 1 below].

Toshiba Laptop Screen Problem

27 March 2004

For months I have been getting grief from a toshiba laptop problem wherein the screen fades to invisibility after some random period of time (anything from 5s to several hours). Finally, thanks to the wonders of search engines, I’ve discovered the cause of the problem (and the solution):

Coding Standards

19 October 2003

Coding Standards for Java After some google trawling here are some suggestions (other than standard sun guidelines): nice basic set another set Writing javadoc comments: