Shall We DEACTivate?

The Digital Economy Act is now a reality and is likely to remain so whoever wins the election (despite the fact the LibDems have pledged to repeal it) so rather than just moan about it on Twitter and join another Facebook group I thought it might be good to try and do something a bit more practical.

So inspired by the plans of Ben O’Steen and the site I have been thinking that it would be good to run a one-day event that is a mix of talks and workshops based on the topics on the ‘How can I avoid my ISP or others spying on my Internet traffic?‘ section of – like it says this information is not provided to facilitate people engaging in copyright infringement but to give people the tools to protect their online communications.

If possible I’d also really like to get someone from the Open Rights Group or the Pirate Party to come along and speak a bit about the more political/legal angles of the Act but I don’t really know anyone involved in those groups based in the area – if anyone does know of anyone please get in touch.

My former colleague and Chair of Bristol Wireless Pete Ferne has pitched the idea on the BW and related mailing lists and there seems to be some support and the few people I’ve mentioned the idea to seem to find it interesting so I’m trying to gauge interest a bit more widely before pushing ahead.

The most likely venue would be Hamilton House in Stokes Croft – which should hopefully also be central enough to encourage some of the Bathcampers to attend as well. I guess we’d run it on a Saturday as well as there is probably too much to cover for an evening session.

So the question is do people think it is a good idea? If so please let me know in the comments or via Twitter and I’ll get it sorted.

Oh and I have purchased ‘cos I do love a ‘clever’ domain 🙂

Tagxedo Wordcloud of Debill

Having a play with the new wordcloud generator that the Wordle creator Jonathan Feinberg calls;

not so much an alternative as the next generation of Wordle, and a “leap forward” in both the layout algorithms and the design of the tweaking interface.

It is alot of fun and offers an awful lot of customisation options. I just gave it the link to the new Digital Economy Act and choose the top 100 words after skipping so of the templated heading etc (the ability to skip words is interesting), then just played around with the themes and layouts a bit to get something that I was happy with (i.e. a theme that could scorch the retinas!)

The Coming of the X-Net

So the Digital Economy Bill was passed last night. Despite a well organised and well supported online campaign the majority of MPs simply did not engage in the debate and passed the bill with very little understanding of the potential damage it is going to do to the ‘real’ digital economy (not the backwards looking version of it the recording industry and government seem so keen to protect.)

Cory Doctorow has campaigned tirelessly against this ‘Bill’ and I’m guessing he is questioning the wisdom of being UK based at the moment. I mention Cory because the reaction of my corner of Twitter (i.e. neither the celebrity stalkers nor the spammers) reacted to the news in a way that made me think of an aspect of my favourite book of his.

Little Brother is supposed to be ‘young adult’ fiction as I understand it but it wasn’t marketed that way in any bookshop I have seen it in (that is just a bit of self justification!). It is a story based in a very near future San Francisco that is increasingly suffering from a government that has taken surveillance culture to an extreme – especially around the internet (sound familiar?). The hero of the book leads the creation (or uptake? been a while since I read the book) of X-Net, a secure, encrypted network that allows people to communicate without anyone being able to intercept or observe their activity.

I have no idea if this is even possible at this scale but it makes a good story – what I do know is possible (and maybe even probable) is the rise in use of encryption software and proxy servers and god knows what other geekery that is bound to spin out of the hackdays and barcamps that will take place in the coming months.

Seems to me that things could quite possibly get a great deal worse for those trying to protect the interests of ‘old’ media as they seem to have mobilised a whole (very clever) section of the UK against them – many of whom probably barely bothered with file-sharing but will take a direct interest in it now.

Disastrous Digital Economy Bill

If I’m honest I’m a bit useless when it comes to politics and causes. There are some things that I am passionate about but they exist in a different little box in my head than it is appropriate to share on this blog. That said the disastrous Digital Economy Bill is currently being pushed through Parliament and this is something that strikes me as beyond stupid and possibly something that will completely kneecap the digital industry in the UK. I’m not sure how on one hand we can have a Government supportive of open data and open source (ish) and then on the other hand try and implement such a short-sighted, stupid law that seems to have no point other than to prop up ailing industries whose business model is increasingly a thing of the past.

I used the rather clever 38 Degrees site to write to my MP to encourage him to do all he can to at least stall the bill. I’m sure anyone reading this will have done this already but if not then I encourage you to do so.

Cory Doctorow has been pretty consistently breaking the interesting news on this topic over on Boing Boing and seems to have mobilized the Twitter troops but a pretty one-sided BBC Panorama probably didn’t help the cause with the man/woman on the street who aren’t aware of the bigger picture.

One of the particularly idiotic side-effects of this bill is that it could prevent cafes etc from offering free wi-fi to customers as the penalties for misuse of their networks would be so serious. This would be a nightmare both for those businesses and a whole generation of nomadic web workers.

To end on something a little less depressing here is a video produced as a part of the campaign to stop this bill from Don’t Disconnect Us – the last 30 seconds or so are particularly amusing.