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Open Source vs. “Free Culture”: a colloquy

The following exchanges were culled from a recent, interesting series of threads at the Wikipediocracy Forum.


Peter Damian:

Sometimes the way you describe a thing can be a more powerful comment on it, than any actual comment. The tech industry talks about ‘Web 2.0’, which sounds incredible and futuristic and technologically advanced, as well as ‘cool’ and modern. But let’s call it what it really is, namely ‘The Exploitation Economy’.

Similarly, ‘user-generated culture’ should be ‘DIY culture’. And don’t talk about the tech industry, or Google or YouTube, call it ‘The Content Theft Industry’. The Berkman Centre and other academic institutions funded by the Content Theft Industry are really “The Pirate Propaganda Machine” or “Thieves posing as revolutionaries”. Blogs and other media such as Slashdot and the rest, which support thieves and their enablers, should be called “The Anti-Copyright Press” or “Digital parasites”. Their political lobbying machine is “The U.S. Pirate Party”. What should we call Wikipedia? The DIY encyclopedia posing as a Pirate Propaganda Machine? Mixed in with a bit of Exploitation Economy?

…And of course “opensource” is a software concept, whereas ‘free culture’ is about, well, culture. I can see how opensource works for software, because it’s useful to adapt someone else’s code to do stuff that the original code wouldn’t. That’s why RMS got mad when he found that the guy wouldn’t share the Xerox printer code. Or rather, he got mad because the guy had promised not to give the code away. He had ‘betrayed the whole world’.

It’s somewhat different with culture because, while certain ideas and themes are shared between writers, a writer (and probably an artist) feels that the vision of the whole work is something that they created, and should not be stolen. Art and writing is personal in a

…continue reading Open Source vs. “Free Culture”: a colloquy

This week’s news: The Grant Shapps biography and other stories

By Andreas KolbeFirst Announcer, and Equipment

The UK Guardian reported on Saturday that Grant Shapps, a prominent UK Conservative politician, had “secretly altered his Wikipedia biography to edit out references to his performance at school, political gaffes and the identity of donors to his private office”.

There is rather more to this story than the Guardian writer, Daniel Boffey, divulged. Adding some of the missing details will make a useful case study.

Also prominent in the news: Wikipedia’s continuing admin crisis, the image filter debacle, the Tom Luna biography, and Philip Roth’s Open Letter to Wikipedia in The New Yorker. Read more about these stories below.

Grant Shapps: an analysis

The first thing to note about this story is its timing. While Boffey’s article in The Guardian, “Grant Shapps altered school performance entry on Wikipedia”, does not say so, the edits he refers to were in fact made several years ago. (We’ll return to the question why The Guardian only reported on them now below.)

Looking at the article’s editing history, the point mentioned in The Guardian’s headline, about Shapps’ O-levels and school grades, was a comparatively minor one. Shapps removed a short unsourced summary of his (very mediocre) school performance, which he said was wrong (and it probably was).

Here, however, is the most substantial change attributed to Shapps, from 30 May 2008, with the edit summary, “politically slanted comments removed. repeat posting may be taken as abuse of system”. (The linked page shows the old text on the left, and the new text on the right). He was clearly unhappy. In his edit, Shapps took out two unflattering paragraphs and replaced them with new material showing him in a positive light. The passage Shapps added described his publications, especially on the

…continue reading This week’s news: The Grant Shapps biography and other stories