6.25.2007

Quote of the Week: June 24 (updated)

From Paul Graham's essay, Writing, Briefly:
I think it's far more important to write well than most people realize. Writing doesn't just communicate ideas; it generates them. If you're bad at writing and don't like to do it, you'll miss out on most of the ideas writing would have generated.
Edit, 6-27-07: I often wonder about what traits or habits of mind are connected to being a good writer, and (for example) whether I should try to vote for political candidates who write their own books and speeches. Realistically, though, the benefits Graham identifies of being able to write largely come from the actual act of writing-- one can't benefit from writing if they don't sit down and do it. So I'd encourage everyone to try to budget time to actually sit down and write, whether they think they're particularly good at it or not.

6.18.2007

Quote of the Week: June 17

Lawrence Lessig, speaking about the scorched-earth inefficiencies of modern copyright in Free Culture:
The list could go on, but the obvious point is this: Physical property and the intangible property we call copyright are different. Jefferson pointed to one difference. But the really crucial difference that I’ve been trying to get people to see is that physical property systems have a host of techniques to assure that the property system is efficient. Copyright does not. Copyright is the least efficient property system constructed by government — which is saying a lot. And rather than continue sophomoric debates about who is “stealing” what, it’s about time that policymakers — and industry leaders — took responsibility for the inefficiency that copyright is.
I've been a fan of Lessig for quite some time, and I've usually agreed with him in principle, but some recent issues with image rights on Citizendium has really driven home this point. There's an incredible amount of intellectual wealth rotting away, lonely and desolate because its copyright status can't be confirmed or its owner can't be found, or because the copyright system is just too thorny for people and organizations to navigate. Really great, cool things aren't happening not because of any economic reason but solely because our copyright system sucks.

One of the most recent copyright issues to come up on Citizendium is of museums and stock image companies trying to re-copyright old public domain images in various ways--some argue that they own the copyright on their 'artfully' scanned images of public domain works; others try to lock down reuse via contracts; still others embed their own copyrighted watermarks in their scans of public domain works. Any readers have pointers on what the current legal precedents on these issues are?

6.11.2007

Quote of the Week: June 10

From the NYT:

The world’s cleverest designers, said Dr. Polak, a former psychiatrist who now runs an organization helping poor farmers become entrepreneurs, cater to the globe’s richest 10 percent, creating items like wine labels, couture and Maseratis.

And iPods. Today's WWDC was pretty amazing: if someone like Steve Jobs (and, realistically, a core support team) donated 10% of their time to charitable design causes, the world would become a better place for many people in fairly short order. In general, I think creativity is often lacking in non-profit enterprises: too often charitable foundations see their mission as more-or-less one of wealth (re)distribution, and framed like that, there's not much room for innovation, nor much reason to aggressively recruit top minds.

This is one reason I'm so excited to see Google.org coming online: it's a "for-profit" charity, i.e., its fundamental mission is charitable but it has a freer hand as it can enter into for-profit ventures. They need not make money, but if they do, the money goes back into other charitable ventures. Google also took the step of giving it 1% of Google assets across the board- which includes $1 billion and 1% of Google engineers.

Interesting times.

6.09.2007

A Treat

I'm almost done with a series of posts-- they're on the abstract side, but they were fun to write and should be a treat to read. Expect something big 'soonish'.

6.04.2007

Quote of the Week: June 3

Watching the political debate last night brought this quote to mind. It's not meant to be snarky. But I do think it's true.
If you cannot be the master of your language, you must be its slave. If you cannot examine your thoughts, you have no choice but to think them, however silly they may be.
Richard Mitchell, Less Than Words Can Say