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Talking at CRSL (GUGLER), Vieja Usina, Paraná

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 11/10/2013 - 20:19
Talking at CRSL (GUGLER), Vieja Usina, Paraná

Presenting my talk via videoconference at Conferencia Regional de Software Libre, set up by GUGLER, in Paraná, Argentina, November 7, 2013

Questions from the audience at CRSL (GUGLER), Vieja Usina, Paraná

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 11/10/2013 - 20:17
Questions from the audience at CRSL (GUGLER), Vieja Usina, Paraná

The audience during my (network-provided) talk in Paraná, Argentina; November 7 2013

Piracy and culture circulation: #encirc13

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 10/01/2013 - 15:15

This week's lesson on the «Arte y cultura en circulación: crear y compartir en tiempos digitales» course talks about piracy and the circulation of culture, a topic that over time has been debated over and over. And a topic, yes, that can always lead to interesting discussions.

This time, we are requested to choose one among ten ideas among the media groups' discourse on what piracy is and means for the "cultural industry". There are tons of material written already on several of those ten lines (i.e. piracy disincentivates creativity, or two that can be seen as two faces of the same argument, If a consumer can have free access to cultural products, he will stop spending his money on them and Every time a consumer has access to an illegal copy, the industry loses a sale), and some are quite obvious (i.e. Piracy makes job positions be lost... Just look at the amount of people the unauthorized distribution industry feeds! Or possibly, Piracy is a prosper industry that gives money to people distributing illegal products — Of course, that is true. The problem is, what causes said products to be illegal to begin with? Should they be so?). Some other ideas talk about harsher penalties and ways to punish illegal copying in order to drive actors out of that sector (and into the... void?)

So, I chose item #4: Cultural products have a high cost because their production is complex (and a tag could be made, linking complex with expensive). I think this item can lead to a long discussion as to what does this complexity and cost mean.

Some cultural products do require quite a bit of investment, yes. Others don't. How do content producers make the jump to produce expensive works?

If I am a new programmer/artist/writer/screenplayer/whatever, most likely, my products will be not very complex or expensive. I will start small. And if I excel at my work, somebody will look at me and, in some way, become my patron, my sponsor. Being a sponsor might mean that, based on the results of my good work, I could get hired as a software developer at a large company, or an editorial company would buy the patrimonial rights of my book/music (be it for a fixed fee or for a percentage of sales), or whatever. But the leap is not made quantically — A newcomer to the cultural scene will at first, most likely, have a hard time selling his products.

At first, it takes convincing just getting people to take a shot at looking at your work («Hey, please take a look at my program and tell me what you think about it!», «Would you be interested in listening to my latest song?» — And those two are by far ahead of the first attempts where the interactions would more likely be «Turn off that $#^#!^ computer, it's well past bedtime» or «stop murdering that guitar, I'm having a headache»). Maybe the toughest part is to get people to agree to read/hear your work. And there, you start into a continuum — Selling your CDs while performing on the street, then getting to play to a bar, then getting somebody to want to produce (maybe even "discover"!) you. Publish some short stories in your school magazine, then in a "From our audience" section in a larger magazine, then a collective book, your self-published book, yet-unwritten books by contract... The same story over and over again, in each different field.

Ok, yes, but... This logic succession still leaves space for the Important Producers with the Mighty Big Pockets for the most wanted/largest productions, right? And were unauthorized distribution (piracy) to be the norm (as it currently is, dare I say), wouldn't they stop producing an important portion of cultural works?

I'd be tempted to say so. However, a different actor comes into play. When Mighty Big Pockets comes into play, they no longer worry only about getting money from each cultural creation, but from all derived uses of it. And the cultural creation industry (when seen as an industry) goes very much hand in hand with the advertising, marketing industries — They end up blending with each other.

So, the biggest best sellers will most likely have a hit from illegal copiers. Books are still a great business, but hey — An even better business is (usually) movie making. And when you make a movie out of a great story, you will surely link some advertising into it (or at the very least, push advertising/product pushing campaigns to go after it). And there, illegal distribution actually helps the money circle to grow stronger. In the early 1990s, the link between dinosaurs and carbonated drinks was a top seller (because Pepsi™ was a Jurassic Park® sponsor). Although I have always loathed the madness around the World Cups (and basically anything that involves football of any kind), I can perfectly remember several of the theme songs for most of the world cups played during my lifetime.

So, in short... No. Illegal distribution does marginally little harm to the money income to the cultural business, at any level. And where it does get some direct harm, it increases the money flux given the auxiliary channels.

This week it was an easy one: On picking free licensing schemes #encirc13

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 09/22/2013 - 22:07

The third lesson of the «Arte y cultura en circulación: crear y compartir en tiempos digitales» course was quite easy, at least for me, as it's one of the topics I've been involved with for a long time: Authors' rights and ways to exercise them.

This lesson starts by talking about the paradoxes created in the reality beneath copyright mostly due to the zero-cost-for-perfect-copy reality we live in today, and then goes on to introduce the most widely spread licensing schemes for cultural works nowadays: The Creative Commons licensing schemes.

What I felt very interesting is that the lesson tackles the most common issues raised by authors choosing CC licensing: The Non-Commercial and Non-Derivatives restrictions. While authors are usually not very hard to convince about the virtues (and their personal benefit) in CC licensing, it's usually hard for authors to accept and relinquish the "locks" on non-derivability and non-commercial-use.

Now, as to the homework: This time, I have to admit it was a no-brainer to me. The homework was to take part of a "Licenciatón": Publish some work under a open or free license (a work of any kind; it can be text, photo, video, etc.; it can be a new or a pre-existing work) and argue as to why did you choose said license.

Even the act of writing this blog post means I'm releasing some work. The bottom of my blog reads, «All the material found at this site is freely available, and you can use it as you wish, except when the document mentions explicitly different conditions.» Yes, this is not a widely known, preexisting licensing scheme, and more or less goes along the lines of CC0 — There are some good things I have posted in this blog, some things I am proud about. This post goes more towards the average quality: Not adding anything of great value to the world, just reiterating/reposting what is already said. But I know this blog is syndicated over several different places, and its content might be copied over to other places. I don't need to know or be notified about it. I just care for people to be able to reach back if they want to do it.

But, of course, if I'm asked to do a homework, I prefer not to have it so self-referential. What else to license?

We are over halfway across the Wiki Loves Monuments contest for 2013. This year I am clearly not as active on it as I was last year, but yesterday I uploaded about 60 photos from our recent trips, from historical monuments in some towns/cities within ~150Km of Mexico City: Puebla, Tlaxcala, Cacaxtla, Toluca, Santiago Tianguistenco. I intend to upload more. Those photos are licensed CC-BY-SA. Why? Mainly, because it is the defaul for the contest. One of the lessons learned working on Debian is that the less the license I choose deviates from what the upstream authors of a larger project prefer, the more useful my work will be. And being Wikimedia a host of many related projects, I prefer to completely abide by their recommendations unless there is a real, strong reason not to do so.

Also, I know that at least most the photos I am uploading are not of contest quality (although some are quite nice, but we don't take that long to take a shot, and our camera is probably too basic to get a quality shot, if not by mere chance). I am using the WLM contest as an excuse to categorize and upload my pictures — Of course, I'm not including personal photos, but... If I found a building, place or landscape interesting enough to take a photo of, why not make said photo available for whoever needs it, in a canonical, easy to reach media repository (as Wikimedia Commons) is)?

And finally, I think it's time to start getting more open and forward-going with a project that I have been giving a lot of work during the past year, a project that has been even eating quite a bit of my Debian time: My upcoming book. While this book is not yet freely licensed (it is freely distributed online, but does not yet have an explicit license, and I mention it on my teaching/project page. Why? Because it still has some figures and data which are not mine, and which I have to re-elaborate to be able to legally license it.

But anyway — I am writing a book on the subject of Operating Systems, and am basing my teaching on it. The first semester was basically hell for me, as I was working almost full time on it, and needed to allocate some time as well to the rest of my formal work. This second semester has been quite smoother. And there is a very important (to me) initiative to which I (or should I now start saying, we) submitted this work: The LATIn Project: An initiative to collaboratively create quality, freely redistributable text books for the university level, natively in Spanish, for their use in Latin American countries.

I was not able to propose this book due to some formalities — Projects have to be proposed by professors in participant universities, and UNAM is not one of them. However, I offered this work to people in the Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Argentina, and they managed to push the project forward. Together with people from Universidad Autónoma de Aguascalientes (México) and Universidad del Cauca (Colombia), the project was approved by LATIn.

And this LATIn project can also be seen as a why do you agree to license your work this way? candidate: I have already written most of what I'd be happy to call a full book. Of course, I do expect my colleagues to chime in with more content, and I expect us to produce a true collaborative project. But as I am not part of the member universities, they will get paid for their contribution — And not me. What do I have to gain from this?

More than anything else, the circulation of my work. I'm sure that, were I to publish from UNAM, I would have a good projection. I was (am!) thinking of looking for opportunities to present the book to teachers on the subject, as well as to computing engineering/science students, but the most attractive part (for me) for LATIn is that part of the prize will be that the book will be used to base work on for teaching at least during 2014 in the three said universities — And of course, my/our work will only start then, as we will have to further circulate the work.

Anyway... I expected this post to be small. But as you can see, I am happy with important work perspectives :-)

My favorite (or rather, one among my favorite) non-original work — Leo Masliah #encirc13

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 09/16/2013 - 14:52

It seems I'm catching up with the pace of this course I'm following and that is compelling me to go back to posting on my blog, «Arte y cultura en circulación: crear y compartir en tiempos digitales».

This week's lesson is (again, in Spanish) «Las fronteras del remix» (the boundaries of remixes). An interesting text, open to everybody (regardless of whether you are signed up for the course or, I hope, whether time has passed since the course took place).

And this week's homework is to find "our favorite" non-original work (I picked one among my favorite works — And, yes, this is partly because I am part of the "club" of deniers of true originality: We cannot create anything without being part of a surrounding culture, without a common heritage and language with which we speak to our audience) and to find something about it, anything considered important or significative as to its antecedents. What do I like about this work, what grabs my attention. Do I consider it to be a true new creative work? Why?

I am taking as an example Leo Masliah, an Uruguayan writer and musician (writer and interpreter). I have followed and enjoyed Masliah's work since 1996, and although by far I'm most familiar with his musical works, I have two books (a novel and a series of short stories). Among his facets, I most enjoy the acid, nihilistic/dadaistic streaks. I chose three of his songs to talk about — I am linking to anonline resource where possible, but uploading the three songs to this blog to make his work better known, so that people understand what I talk about, and with my best intentions. Of course, if there is any request to remove the material, I will do it right away. I hope this can be seen as fair/academic use, although this blog is somewhat widely read.

La recuperación del unicornio
This song was in the first Masliah cassette I came across, Although musically it is an original work, the lyrics are a clear, almost line-by-line reply to the ever-repeated Unicornio song, by Silvio Rodríguez. This song (which I'm sure that every Spanish speaker reading this lines knows, like it or not — It defines for me a good deal of Rodríguez hyper-sweetness and clicheness) has been analyzed over and over looking for a meaning. Silvio recorded this song in 1981, and by 1987 Masliah published this answer, mocking each of the lines.
So, this song can be seen as an original creation, as it contains no literal copy neither of the music nor of the lyrics of the original, but it cannot be understood without being familiar with Silvio's lost unicornio. It would just be an almost-dadaistic rant. But every person that has tasted Silvio Rodríguez cloying song will surely laugh with this one.
No necesitamos otro héroe – Balderrama
I find this to be a very unique piece. It bonds together Argentinian folklore and USA pop.
Masliah sings the famous Argentinian song Zamba de Balderrama, (Castilla / Leguizamón), a song lamenting that the very popular bar and artist stage Balderrama, in Salta (North-Western corner of Argentina), seemed to be on the brink of closing. Of course, when Martín, Constanza, Regina and me went to Balderrama in July 2010, the danger of closing this place had long been averted. And basically every Argentinian knows this song by heart.
The interesting part is that Masliah sings this song (as he presents it as the closing piece for one of his concerts) being short on time, and decides to present two acts together: Zamba de Balderrama and We don't need another hero, by Tina Turner, from the Mad Max soundtrack. So, of course, even if it's obvious that Masliah had to stretch bits to make them fit together, he achieved a very funny, interesting and unique blend of two completely unrelated works. He derives from one as well as from the other, but creates something unique and new.
Donna Lee
I was thinking what to write for this assignment , and had already chosen the two other songs. Yesterday, we were visiting our friends Octavio and Claudia, in Guanajuato, and I heard for the first time the original(?) version of Donna Lee, by Miles Davis (although often credited to Charlie Parker). That led me to remember Masliah's interpretation, in his Clásicos album. This album is basically made up with similar excercises: Taking an instrumental piece, with Masliah singing over it. Some of the lyrics follow the story (i.e. the children stories), others just talk nonsense to illustrate a point (i.e. "La voz del medio", "the middle voice") follows the non-protagonist score trying not to grab much attention to the lyrics but to highlight the often ignored melody)... Donna Lee is just a fun excercise on following the melody asking what was in the head of the author that led him to invent such a strange, hard music.

Masliah is a great music performer, although often it seems he tries to hide it (i.e. by abusing the dissonances, ex-profeso singing off-key, etc), and a very funny and crazy author. Most of his works have a deep satirical tone, and it's common to find either simple winks or complete "borrowings" in a clear remix fashion, but nobody will doubt on the originality of his works.

What is to be an author? How much code does grant you authorship? #encirc13

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 09/12/2013 - 17:39

I signed up to take part of an online, massive course — «Arte y cultura en circulación: crear y compartir en tiempos digitales» (The circulation of arts and culture: Creating and sharing in digital times). As the activities of us the attendees are to be published by each on their personal blog/space, I will be publishing them here. I hope they are interesting to some of my other regular readers.

I am late in joining, and I should already be posting the second activity. Anyway, this text goes towards the first week's lesson: Qué es un autor: la (de)construcción histórica del concepto de autoría (What is an author? Historic (de)construction of the concept of authorship). Our homework is to find an example of a current discussion where the notion of authorship is discussed, and share it this way.

And I'm somewhat in a hurry right now, so this will be hasty. But I didn't want to delay my (late) submission anymore!

In the Debian Ruby mailing list, Hleb Valoshka asks basically how deep should copyright recognition be. Because, yes, while copyright attribution is simple (simpler, at least) in literary / artistic works, computer programs (and even more those developed following the Free Software distributed fashion) are harder to properly attribute.

Is a two-line patch to a tens-of-thousands-of-lines project enough to warrant mention in the copyright file? Most of us would agree it is not. Few would contend this were the amount of changes to make up, say, even 1% of that scale of project.

In the coding projects where I am the main author (which, yes, are usually very small — I cannot recognize myself as a good programmer, and the size of my successful works proves me), I try to take care to mention explicitly each of the contributors, even if their contribution is quite small. But were I to lead a larger development work, with enough following to generate on the order of one submitted patch a day, would it make sense for me to follow up with such detail the authorship information?

And as a minor side note: How much does the law require me? A very small patch can fix important functionality issues (think security or performance). If somebody sends a very small patch fixing an intellectually hard to grasp problem... I am sure it should be properly acknowledged!

Anyway, I have to flee now. I am just dropping some ideas on the table. Of course, if anybody is willing to discuss them further, I'm interested in any debate that springs off it!

(Meanwhile... I expect to spam you with this topic a couple of times. But it should not bug you much, as it's one of my usual blog topics!)

After Debian's 20th birthday, everybody's life gets back to normality...

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 08/18/2013 - 21:37

As I slowly read my good friends wishing each other a good trip, telling they got home safely, and the IRC channels form thick drops of a bitter-sweet etheral substance, I cannot help feeling DebConf13 is over — For me as well, from the distance. Many friends gave me warm greetings, and without being there, gave me that beautiful feeling of real community that Debian has given me for ten years already, since I met in real-life many of its developers at DebConf3 in Oslo. And –yes, I have stated this far too many times– I have attended every DebConf since (and worked organizing most of them). This year, over 300 people were gathered in Switzerland to enjoy the always most intense weeks of the year.

This year, I was unable to attend due to calendar clashes. Even so, without the stress that organizers have, and thanks to the great work of the always-loved Video Team, I think I was able to be present at more sessions than at in any of the last few years. Oh, and for the readers of this blog who were not there — Do you want to follow what was presented? You can download already the videos for all of the recorded presentations (that were, due to the planned coverage and the manageable size of the Video Team, about ⅔ of the total scheduled sessions). And, as always, I was able to follow many very interesting talks and take part of a couple interesting meetings/BoF sessions. I still have a bit of catchup, partly due to the timezone difference (I was only at one of the sessions during the Swiss morning, at 02:30 local time, the pkg-ruby-extras team BoF).

Anyway... Not being there, I surely was an avid consumer of the photos posted in the DebConf13 gallery, and will surely follow it for some more time as some of you upload your pending material. It was clear from the beginning that, no matter what your definition of consensus is, the chosen venue was beautiful. A beautiful place between the lake and the mountains where our sportiest guys had a very good share of morning runs, cycling sessions, competition sports of different types, outright plain fun for attendees of all sizes and all species...

But, hey, wait! During a chat in the course of DebConf, a friend told me a bit worried that all this beauty and fun might make our dear and very important sponsors they are paying for a geek vacation, is it so? No, not at all. Not by a long stretch. And just looking at those same galleries makes it clear and obvious. After all, it's widely known that Debian is the operating system for the gurus. Simple: It's impossible to have all those geeks without getting amazing work done, in ways that even seem clichés (this last photo had Joey Hess explaining dpkg format version 3.0 (git) ideas, sketched after waking up at 3AM on the first sketching surface available to him). After all, Debian people are famous for their inclination to use any excuse to open their computers and hack away. We can find Debianers hacking in small spaces and also hacking out in the fields. But this time, people were able to hack indoors while enjoying the nature and hack outdoors under a tree. And, yes, one of the things that makes organizing DebConf worth it is, after ≈eleven months having low-bandwidth meetings over IRC, having the opportunity to plan for the next days face to face, in a relaxed but work-full environment.

Anyway, here at home I didn't sit idly just longing over them. How could I? We are just celebrating the Debian Project's 20th anniversary!

http://gwolf.org/content/jonathan-host-and-organizer-rancho-electr-nico">Jonathan, a Debian enthusiast, student at my university, and collaborator for several free software-related collectives in Mexico City, invited me to the celebration at Rancho Electrónico (which I recently mentioned in this same blog). While I was unable to stay for the whole celebration, we had a very good time; I talked about some ways on how to contribute to Debian. Although I didn't have much of a presentation prepared for it, I feel it was successful and interesting for the attendees — I just hope to start seeing some of them get into any of the ways for helping Debian soon. I also stayed as a listener and ocassional commenter for a talk on the Debian Project's history and goals, and to a presentation on a nifty electronic music programming tool called Supercollider (of course, available in Debian).

Now, "regular" life should continue. For some value of "regular".

At Rancho Electrónico

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 08/18/2013 - 20:35
At Rancho Electrónico

Paying attention to another presentation at Rancho Electrónico's Debian 20th anniversary celebration

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Jonathan, host and organizer at Rancho Electrónico

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 08/18/2013 - 20:32
Jonathan, host and organizer at Rancho Electrónico

Jonathan came up with a large chunk of the organization for Debian's 20th anniversary celebration at Rancho Electrónico. Thanks!

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Starting my talk for Debian's 20th birthday at Rancho Electrónico

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 08/18/2013 - 20:26
Starting my talk for Debian's 20th birthday at Rancho Electrónico

Starting a very improvised talk at Debian 20th anniversary party at Rancho Electrónico

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