You will have all seen Zuckerberg’s answer to Mein Kampf, heard about the Trump campaign’s strategic use of FarceBook to discourage their opponents from voting, and glanced at the various “e-democracy” apps funded by the same venture capitalists who brought us FarceBook, PayPal, Uber, and Palentir. You may also be aware that a number of kiwi political parties, including some who should know better (Greens and TOP), are using NationBuilder. I laid out a few of the *many* reasons why this is a bad idea in an open letter to the Greens a couple of months ago.

In the face of this, to focus on preventing the corruption of the voting process is to miss the point. Elite interests don’t need to control or corrupt the voting process, if they can control and corrupt the public discourse that informs whether or not people vote, and what they look for in the candidates and parties they vote for. The problem is that when such powerful discursive manipulation systems an be applied anywhere, from anywhere in the world, “representative democracy” (or more accurately, temporary elected dictatorship) is fundamentally impossible to secure against such attacks.

Digital voting can’t fix this, and neither can keeping elections paper-based. Whatever voting system is used, the only way to reduce the damage caused when they get pwned, is to stop using voting to elect an elite of individuals to form governments and then give them absolute state power, even temporarily. To replace it with a system where the powers of the state are strongly limited, and highly distributed, and where decision-making is participatory, not representative. Deep democracy, whether using digital platforms, public meetings, or a combination of both (which is probably ideal) is now our best possible future.

Now it’s true that these systems too will also be attacked, both directly and by discursive manipulation. For as long as economic power, and ownership of the mainstream news media, is concentrated in a handful of global corporations, democracy will always be under attack. Economic organisations and media too need radical democratization, and cooperative companies and not-for-profit social enterprises are making exciting progress on developing models for doing this. But in the meantime, it’s much harder for the 1% to effectively monitor and manipulate a flood of millions or billions of distributed, ‘citizen government’ decision-making processes, than to monitor and manipulate a trickle of representative government decisions that happen one at a time, per country.

Deep democracy is not a perfect solution, there’s no such thing. But as far as I can see, it’s the only alternative to a corporate-controlled technocracy, where elections and political “news” remain as a circus to distract the people from where the real decisions are being made.

Filed May 29th, 2017 under Uncategorized

Update 2018-04-24: I thought I’d deleted my account on FarceBook in 2010, but I recently discovered its still around, being run as a zombie by some spammer. So, I’ve decided to rethink my strategy around these corporate platforms. Instead of deleting my account, and potentially have someone run a fake one under my name, I’m going to strip them down to a placeholder that tells people I don’t use that platform, and directs them to the user-respecting platforms I actually use in their place.

———————————-

I recently made this valedictory post on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is joining FarceBook, Skype, and Google, on the list of corporate platforms I no longer intend to use.

I’m going to be deleting my LinkedIn account by the end of the year. I probably won’t log in again until it’s time to action that. If I don’t respond to your message here, or accept your invite to connect, it’s not about you. Happy to hear from you some other way. I just need to stop spending my time performing unpaid data entry for corporate platforms like LinkedIn, especially when the data I’ve entering for them is my own.

The truth is, I’ve always felt somewhat ambivalent about LinkedIn. If LinkedIn was transparent about the source code of all the software it runs on, and especially if it was a platform cooperative, owned by its members, or even by its technical and administrative workers, I think it could be a great community resource. But as it currently exists, it’s like FarceBook and the rest of The Stacks. It’s a proprietary platform whose prime directive is not to serve their users, but to privatize and monetize people’s need to socialize, and to manipulate users to make sure they stay keep clicking around the site for longer.

The second reason I’ve looked sideways at LinkedIn is the company they keep. In late 2016 that incorrigible rascal Tim O’Reilly put on ‘Next:Economy‘, a pep rally celebrating the “Sharing Economy“, that rash of trendy new corporate platforms using mobile apps to make huge profits from other people’s peer-to-peer trading. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weinar was on the speaking list with the exploiters running Uber, AirBnB, Lyft, and so on.

But then, lots of cool people I know are on LinkedIn. People I do want to connect with. In fact, now that that I look more carefully, there were heaps of cool people on that speaking list too, like MJ Kaplan from Loomio, ‘Life Inc.’ and ‘Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus’ author Doug Rushkoff. People who understand that the real Next Economy will be a post-corporate one or it will be a post-human one.

Then I saw the news. LinkedIn, like Skype and so many other small to medium technology companies before them, are going to get swallowed by Microsoft. If there’s one platform corporation I really don’t want to be doing unpaid data entry for, it’s a company who spent years and probably millions of dollars telling lies about GNU-Linux to protect their monopoly on desktop operating systems. As Job puts it in a hugely popular fantasy book, “This far you may come and no farther’.

So, I’m out of here. See you out there in one of the many free and open networked savannahs outside the boundaries of corporate-owned walled gardens. Enoho rā LinkedIn. Haere rā koutou katoa e hoa mā.

Filed May 6th, 2017 under open social networks, open source

Over the last month, I’ve been involved in an impassioned debate on the Trisquel forums about the GOLD (Gaming on Linux Distribution) proposal to create a 100% libre GNU-Linux distribution for gamers. As well as more than 15 years as a software freedom activist, I bring to the table a lifetime of experience with artistic communities, and more than 10 years as a CreativeCommons (CC) activist here in Aotearoa (NZ). The perspective I’m coming from is that although you can’t have computer games without code, games are not fundamentally a form of software but a form of multimedia artwork. They are more like films than computer programs.

That experience has shown me that the concerns that motivate artists of various kinds to use ARR (ALL Rights Reserved) or nonfree CC licenses are different (if overlapping in places) from the set than motivate developers to keep their code proprietary. Artists are concerned about ‘moral rights’, something that has no bearing on the software copyright/ copyleft discussion. They often falsely believe that ARR copyright always protects their moral rights (it does in some jurisdictions but not others), and that free culture licenses do not (no CC license extinguishes moral rights where they exist). Artists are concerned about derivative works that undermine or disrespect their creation, as a completely separate concern from any economic aspects of derivatives.

These and other differences mean that the strategies that do and don’t work for getting software liberated, don’t always for getting artwork liberated, and vice versa. Incremental transition strategy in software tends to get stuck at the “open core” stage, which satisfies nobody. Whether they align with “free software”, “open source”, or the middle ground “FOSS”/”FLOSS” philosophies, free code advocates don’t want to volunteer their time to hack on the core of some company’s otherwise proprietary software, so the company doesn’t get the benefits it could expect to get if it liberated its whole codebase.

With artwork, every incremental step liberates useful rights. Moving from ARR to the most restrictive CC license liberates the right to gratis, verbatim redistribution, which is all that’s required to make P2P file-sharing legal. Going from CC-NC-ND to NC or ND, but not both, liberates the right either to remix or to resell. So on with the step from NC or ND to a free culture license (CC-BY or CC-BY-SA). With artwork, a copyright holder is more likely to tip their toes into non-ARR licensing if they don’t have to liberate all the reserved rights at once. Although some experiment with CC and return to ARR (for reasons nobody seems to have deeply investigated), usually once they’ve become more confident with understanding and using CC licenses, they tend to move to licenses that reserve fewer rights.

This is why, returning to games, I think there is potential benefit in dealing with the free code and free culture parts of the equation separately, with the former being the highest priority. We can’t sell games with free code and nonfree art, but that’s not our motive for GOLD, so why does that matter right now? There may be a small numbers of games in the ‘free code but NC’ category now, and there may always be, but I think it functions as an important stepping stone.

Imagine indie game makers are looking at getting their games into a libre game system set up to make it easy for supporters to buy/ donate to game makers, buy BumbleBundle style packages etc, and all they have to do to get onto the first step of that ladder is to liberate their code, regardless of the status of their artwork (minimum condition is allowing non-commercial distribution). My theory, based on my experience with how artists think and work, is that they are more likely to go for this than to go from ARR to 100% libre in one step (although I agree that would be great). Hopefully, we’ll get a chance to test this theory.

Filed May 4th, 2017 under free culture, free software, open source
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