Very rough draft of a syllabus for a student run class on free culture

Alright folks, this is wayyy ambitious, but I’m going to try to put together a student-run class for next semester. I’m working on a syllabus to shop around to professors who may be interested in helping me out, and I want to get your opinions on this early (and informal) draft. Please comment! Would you be interested in taking this class? How can it be improved? Remember, there are 13 weeks in the semester, should I try to have 13 lesson plans? UPDATE: There are actually 14 weeks, but it’s good to leave flex time, so 13 plans is fine for now.

=The Free Culture Movement: A Historical, Legal, Political, and Technical Perspective=
(Ok, the title needs work… suggestions?)

Each class will begin with a short lecture by myself (perhaps supplemented or replaced by a guest speaker at times?), and will end with a more participatory group presentation.

Check out the 13 lesson plans…

My photo? Kate’s photo?

Yesterday’s photo of the day in the Daily Gazette (which I take pictures for) was actually taken by Kate Goertzen using my camera, because I was afraid to go out into the hallway during a game of ASSassins, for fear of someone eliminating me by grabbing my butt.

The question is, who owns the copyright to that picture? The camera operator or the camera owner? My understanding is that the law in this country is that if you ask someone to take a picture of you and your family using your camera, you own the copyright, but I could be wrong. Does that picture in fact belong to me or Kate? Either way, Kate deserves some credit for venturing into the hallway where I feared to tread… thanks Kate!


Flickr Photo
I’ve just pulled down a copy of Flock, a new web browser based on Firefox that is supposed to make it easier to interact with the web, and I am testing it out now. In its efforts to provide access to “Web 2.0 applications”, it integrates blogging, Flickr photos, bookmarks, etc. I’ve been trying to capture some of this functionality in Firefox, with the Deepest Sender extension for Livejournal and by putting a bookmarklet in my “bookmark toolbar”, but Flock makes it all pretty and easy to use.

For instance, if I want to talk about how beautiful Philadelphia is, I can just open the Flickr “topbar” and drag one of my pictures from Philly into this Livejournal blog post. There are a few things that could be done to improve usability… for instance, if I want text to wrap around my picture, I have to right click the picture after I drag it into the blogging window, and change that option. Same thing if I want padding for the picture. There should be a way to change the default settings for pictures that you drag into a blog post. But that said, if this blog post goes through properly, I will be officially converted to Flock, even though this beta version freezes up completely when I try to edit my “Favorites” (i.e. my bookmarks) through Flock. Hopefully this will be fixed in the next version.

Mad props to my internet buddy/acquaintance Andy, who is fortunate enough to have a job at Flock. Excellent work, man!

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UPDATE: Well, Flock’s Livejournal support has room for improvement… when I made this post, it popped up an error message, but it seems to have posted anyway. I had to edit this post in Xjournal a bit to make it pretty, Flock left a lot of space at the top of the post for some reason. Also, clearly the “tags” supported by Flock are Technorati tags, not Livejournal tags, but that does lead to the question why Livejournal doesn’t integrate their tags with some 3rd-party tagging service… Finally, Flock doesn’t seem to let you post friends-only entries yet, which means that I can’t switch to Flock for my LJ client yet. Ah well. That’s beta software!

LSAC requires Windows

The Law School Admission Council requires you to install the Omniform(R) plugin to fill in forms on their website, to apply to law schools. Unfortunately, this seems to require Active X, which requires Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer isn’t updated for Mac anymore, and I wouldn’t install that buggy piece of crap anyway. Please, someone tell me that I don’t have to use IE to apply to law school…

UPDATE: After installing the Omniform plugin on my dad’s Windows computer, it became clear that Omniform has a plugin for Netscape/Firefox, so the problem was not Internet Explorer / Active X. The problem is that Omniform only works on Windows. *Bashes head against the wall* I don’t have a Windows computer at school, so I guess I’m going to have to pray that I have sufficient permissions to install Omniform on the Windows computers in the lounge. LSAC, Omniform, and Microsoft are all now all on my “naughty” list, they’re getting coal in their stockings for Christmas.

War News Radio, Nelson’s absent-mindedness

As I may have mentioned before, I am now enrolled in a class at Swarthmore College called “Intro to Radio Broadcasting”: its main feature is that we get to work on War News Radio, a student-produced podcast about the war in Iraq.

We are lucky enough to have a distinguished journalist with a long career in public radio running the show. His name, however, is NOT Bill Moyers, despite what I may have thought… his name is in fact Marty Goldensohn. This explains why he didn’t seem to respond to me the last few times I tried to talk to him: I was calling him “Bill.” Marty seemed flattered when I informed him of my error. My apologies to anyone else whom I may have confused!

Incidentally, I am attempting to do a story on private security firms operating in Iraq, such as perhaps Blackwater USA, which people got upset about when they arrived in New Orleans, or the Custer Battles security firm covered last year on WNR. Marty warned me that I may have difficulty finding anyone from a private security firm who wants to talk to me, but hopefully I’ll be able to get their side of the story. If you have any leads for me on this subject, please let me know! Alternately, if you have ideas for less difficult stories, suggest those too 😛

UPDATE: Incidentally, if you want to manually subscribe to the War News Radio podcast in iTunes, go to Advanced -> Subscribe to Podcast, and then paste in this URL:

Our podcast doesn’t seem to be in the iTunes podcast directory at the moment, despite our attempts to submit it, so this will have to do for now… hope you enjoy it! I’ve suggested that we break up the podcast into smaller chunks, and update more often, but if you have any other suggestions to make the podcast rock more, let me know.

Mathematicians get free culture

I’m not sure why I downloaded this PDF, but I am looking at Antongiulio Fornasiero’s thesis about “Integration on Surreal Numbers” (the first Google hit for “surreal numbers thesis intellectual property”). I have little to no interest in the topic, but when I skimmed through it in an attempt to find out what it was doing on my desktop, the “Notice” caught my eye:

The notions of intellectual property and originality are self-contradictory. Ideas
cannot be the private property of anybody; nihil sub sole novi was already in the
Bible.(1) Nobody cares about who first uttered a theorem, only whether it is true or
You can freely distribute, copy, quote, edit or modify the present work, either
as a whole, or in part, without any further obligation on you.

(1)The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.
Ecclesiastes I, 9–11.

(2) Unfortunately, this work, being a (almost) verbatim copy of a Ph.D. thesis, does not follow the principles stated here. . .

You tell ’em, Antongiulio!

UPDATE: Mystery solved, I found the link in my inbox… I have friends who are math geeks 😉