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2004-03-06

Snap! Hey! The time! Oh my god. Damn. Shit shit shit! Why didn’t we set two alarm clocks!? – Poor Claudia is missing the first hour of her course today…

I’m back… It was a lot less stressful than the previous time, and we even had some time to ourselves… Enough time to eat in a Japanese restaurant on Calle de la Reina close to the metro station Gran Vía, enough time to stroll through the two quarters Chueca and Malasaña twice, enough time to stay late into the night in a pub near the Alonso Martínez metro station, and on the day I felt really tired we just went to the Chinese restaurant around the corner. Very nice. The meetings themselves were a success as well. ;)

While I blog this, fetchmail has finished fetching 387 gnu.org mails and 102 emacswiki.org mails…

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2004-03-06 Copyright

We’re waiting on the EU’s decision on March 9 [1]. See also 2004-03-06 Urheberrecht for a German letter.

Top 8 Reasons to Reject the EU IP Rights Enforcement Directive:

  1. The directive’s scope is much too wide: it should be limited to intentional commercial infringements only. Certain types of intellectual property rights such as patents should be excluded in their entirety from the scope of the directive.
  2. The directive lacks balance and proportionality since average consumers face the same treatment as major commercial counterfeiters for minor infringements with no commercial impact.
  3. The proposal provides no definition for “intellectual property rights”, although the directive applies to all types of intellectual property. Since EU Member States define “intellectual property rights” differently, it is unclear which rights actually apply.
  4. The directive permits Hollywood attorneys to hire private police forces to invade the homes of alleged infringers. Known as Anton Piller orders, these measures were previously only available in extremely rare cases in the UK against large commercial infringers. But the directive permits rightsholders to carry out these private raids against citizens throughout the EU for minor infringements that involve no financial motivation or benefit at all.
  5. Mareva injunctions, which permit rightsholders to freeze the bank accounts and other assets of alleged infringers before a court hearing, become EU law under this proposal.
  6. The directive creates a new “Right of Information” that allows rightsholders to obtain personal information on users of Peer-2-Peer (P2P) file-sharing software. Similar broad subpoena powers created under the controversial US Digital Millennium Copyright Act have been abused by the recording industry to obtain personal information on thousands of consumers in the US.
  7. An Internet Service Provider’s (ISP’s) servers and equipment can be seized and destroyed without any hearing for the allegedly infringing activity of their customers.
  8. Directives of this importance must undergo adequate debate and consideration by the entire EU and not be rushed through on a “First Reading.” This proposal should properly be sent into a “Second Reading” where its controversial provisions can be publicly considered.

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2004-03-06 Israel

The ElectronicIntifada writes [1]:

Abeer Zinaty, an Israeli citizen of Palestinian origin was fired from her job at a McDonald’s restaurant in Ramle, central Israel, specifically because she spoke Arabic to a co-worker, according to a report by Jonathan Cook in Al-Ahram Weekly (4-10 March 2004). [2]

Later, they write [3]:

McDonald’s Corporation today confirmed that it has a policy banning its employees from speaking Arabic in its restaurants in Israel, despite the fact that Palestinian citizens of Israel form 20% of its workforce, and Arabic is one of the two official languages of Israel. The Corporation denied, however, that Abeer Zinaty, a former “Excellent Worker 2003 – McDonald’s Israel,” was fired because she spoke Arabic on the job.

If you then try to contact McDonald’s in the United States [4]:

McDonald’s USA Contact Us
This site is temporarily down for maintenance.
Please contact us by calling our National Customer 800 number at 1-800-244-6227.

Later it worked, I chose ⟶ Social Responsibility Efforts [5] ⟶ Employment Practices and got:

Forbidden
Your client is not allowed to access the requested object.

And when you choose the form:

Server Error
This server has encountered an internal error which prevents it from fulfilling your request. The most likely cause is a misconfiguration. Please ask the administrator to look for messages in the server’s error log.

Sometimes it really does feel as if they do it on purpose.

And the investigation continues [6]

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2004-03-06 Urheberrecht

Als EU Doppelbürger (Österreich und Frankreich) werde ich mal den österreichischen Abgeordneten eine Mail von mir schicken.

Als Grundlage für mein Mail verwende ich folgende Quelle: http://www.ffii.org.uk/ip_enforce/andreas2.html

Darauf gekommen bin ich wegen folgendem Text: http://www.ipjustice.org/CODE/

Die Email Adressen einzelner Parlamentarier findet man hier: http://wwwdb.europarl.eu.int/ep5/owa/p_meps2.repartition?ilg=DE

Für Österreich fand ich die folgenden Adressen:

Herr Bösch hboesch@europarl.eu.int, Herr Swoboda herta.straka@spoe.at, Frau Flemming mflemming@europarl.eu.int, Herr Hager ghager@europarl.eu.int, Herr Ilgenfritz wilgenfritz@europarl.eu.int, Herr Karas okaras@europarl.eu.int, Herr Martin hpmartin@europarl.eu.int, Herr Prets cprets@europarl.eu.int, Herr Rack rrack@europarl.eu.int, Herr Rübig pruebig@europarl.eu.int, Frau Scheele kscheele@europarl.eu.int, Frau Schierhuber aschierhuber@europarl.eu.int, Herr Sichrovsky psichrovsky@europarl.eu.int, Frau Stenzel ustenzel@europarl.eu.int.

Wahrscheinlich könnte man die fehlenden Adressen aufgrund der Namenskonvention leicht erraten…

Brief an die einzelnen Parlamentarier

Sehr geehrter Herr/Frau …,

Am 9. März werden Sie, gemeinsam mit weiteren Parlamentsmitgliedern, mit den Beratungen beginnen und schlussendlich einen Entschluss fällen.

Ich bin Österreicher und lebe in der Schweiz. Ich beschäftige mich Nebenberuflich mit dem Urheberrecht im Rahmen eines Vereins hier in der Schweiz. Die vorgeschlagene EU Richtlinie zur Durchsetzung von geistigem Eigentum darf so nicht angenommen werden!

Die Richtlinie ist zu breit gefasst. “Geistiges Eigentum” umfasst verschiedene Gebiete wie Patente, Marken und Urheberrecht, deren einzige Gemeinsamkeit das “geistige” ist – die Gesetzesgrundlagen sind völlig verschieden! Die Richtlinie soll nur das Urheberrecht erfassen. Die Vorstellungen von “geistigem Eigentum” unterscheiden sich zudem noch von Land zu Land, was zu weiterer Rechtsunsicherheit führt.

Im Artikel 2.1 soll aufgeführt werden, dass nur die Verletzung der Urheberrechte mit kommerziellem Hintergrund Gegenstand der Richtlinie sind, denn nur in diesem Fall kann von einer “Harmonisierung” bestehender Gesetze gesprochen werden. (Und diese ist ja schliesslich das Ziel der Richtlinie.)

Die Richtlinie ist unverhältnismässig und einseitig, denn normale Bürger werden genau gleich wie grosse, kommerzielle Raubkopierer behandelt, selbst wenn es sich nur um kleine Vergehen ohne kommerziellen Hintergrund handelt. Selbst wenn zu unrecht beschuldigten Bürgern anschliessend eine Entschädigung zugesprochen wird, ist klar, dass kein Bürger ein Interesse an derartigen Hausdurchsuchungen, Verfahren und Klagen hat, solange es sich nicht gegen grosse kommerzielle Organisationen richtet.

Der Artikel 8 gehört vollumfänglich gestrichen. Dieser Artikel erlaubt Hausdurchsuchungen auf blossen Verdacht hin, und dies selbst für kleinste Vergehen ohne jegliches Gewinnstreben. Dies gilt sogar, wenn noch zu gar keinem Vergehen gekommen ist, sondern wenn blosser Tatverdacht besteht! Das ist unverhältnismässig.

Generell gilt es, statt von den entsprechenden Instanzen (competent judicial authorities) von Richtern und Gerichten (judge or court of law) zu sprechen, damit nicht jeder Polizeihauptmann derartige Hausdurchsuchungen anordnen kann.

Der Artikel 10 gehört vollumfänglich gestrichen. Die Artikel erlaubt das Einfrieren von Bankguthaben auf blossen Tatverdacht hin. Die Einschränkung der “kommerziellen Grössenordnung” (commercial scale) ist zuwenig klar: Wer tausende von unerlaubten Kopien geschützter Werke besitzt, hat natürlich sehr viele Ansprüche verletzt; in diesem Fall aber gleich Bankguthaben einzufrierern ist unverhältnismässig.

Generell gilt es, von “kommerzieller Grössenordnung und kommerziellem Hintergrund” (commercial scale and commercial purposes) zu sprechen, damit Bürger durch das reine Kopieren von geschützen Werken nicht automatisch auf die gleiche Stufe wie das organisierte Verbrechen gestellt werden.

Der Artikel 9.2 gehört gefährdet in der jetzigen Form den Datenschutz: Rechtsinhaber können auf blossen Verdacht hin geschützte Daten sammeln und auswerten. Von Zweckbestimmung keine Rede. Von den Daten zu unrecht beschuldigter Bürger ist auch keine Rede. Das ist unzumutbar.

Eine Richtlinie von solcher Tragweite sollte keinesfalls in kürze und nach einer ersten Lesung verabschiedet werden!

Falls Sie weitere Informationen zum Thema wünschen, werde ich Ihnen gerne behilflich sein.

Mit freundlichem Gruss, Alexander Schröder


http://www.openlaw.ch – Openlaw - Plattform für Recht und freie Software

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2004-03-07 Books

I read Japan Before Perry while I was in Madrid… Very nice! ISBN 0-520-04134-8. I added it to my list of Zen books, because it puts ZenBuddhism in an interesting historical context…

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2004-03-08 Books

I bought a three comics each of Calvin and Hobbes [1], Buckles [2], and Sherman’s Lagoon [3]. All three appear in a local cheapo newspaper [4]. I can keep chuckling and laughing for hours while reading Calvin and Hobbes. Buckles is ok, I smile a lot.

Sherman’s Lagoon just arrived today. Gotta go. ;)

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2004-03-08 Conferences

I’m considering to go to Web Based Communities 2004 [1] in Lisbon from March 24 to March 26. Anybody else going?

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2004-03-08 Iraq

From Democracy Now! [1] via Social Design Notes [2]:

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control recently declared that American publishers cannot edit works authored in nations under trade embargoes which include Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya and Cuba.

Not my intuitive interpretation of freedom of speech. Oh well… This is older news from 2004-02-24, actually….

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2004-03-08 Software

I installed SpamStat for my girlfriend [1]. It went pretty painless, but I was still astonished at the amount of stuff you actually have to do. Maybe the documentation could be improved. :/

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2004-03-09 Social Games

Found an interesting game via a referrer link on my OddMuse site: Mafia! [1]

People sit at the table. One of them is the game master. The other are townfolks. The game master prepares a set of cards, one for each player. The card tells the player whether he’s part of the Mafia or not. The game starts at night. Everybody closes their eyes (head down on the table, maybe), and then the Mafia members look up and decide to kill one of the innocent. During the day, everybody argues and shouts and finally all of the players decide to lynch amongst them. During the day, nobody knows who is part of the Mafia and who is not! Then night falls again, everybody goes to sleep, and the Mafia picks another victim… Sinister!!

Awesome idea for lots of players.

Reminds me of the 1000 Blank White Cards games I mentioned on the GameReviews page.

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Comments on 2004-03-09 Social Games

Today forcer mentioned “Mafia”, and “Werewolf” on the EmacsChannel

16:16 forcer
Hm. There’s a wonderful game about lynching. Lemme check the name.
16:17 forcer
It’s called “Werewolf”, can be played by about a dozen players, and is about finding the two “werewolves” among them. It can be used as a wonderful study of lynch mobs.
16:18 kensanata
oh, i think i played this once.
16:19 kensanata
good fun! :)
16:19 forcer
Yeah :-)
16:19 forcer
There’s a variation (I think somewhat older) named Mafia, where you’re not hunting werewolves but Mafia dons.

AlexSchroeder 2006-03-09 15:22 UTC

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2004-03-10 Love

Twelve years with my loved-one. Bliss! 😊

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Comments on 2004-03-10 Love

Congratulations from your father

-- Helmut Schroeder 2004-03-10 02:02 UTC


You and Claudia sure are blessed. :) Congratulations and may your relationship forever endure the test of time.

-- NoufalIbrahim 2004-03-10 06:37 UTC


Congratulations!

-- AadityaSood 2004-03-12 20:59 UTC


Congrats... you two make awesome pair.

-- Vaishalee 2004-03-14 18:57 UTC


Thank you all! :)

-- AlexSchroeder 2004-03-14 21:22 UTC

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2004-03-10 Money

Ever since I started to use JohnWiegley’s command-line double-accounting ledger [1], I’ve tried to keep an account of every single expense. I’m trying to find out how much money I’m spending on what.

  1. At the end of the month I get my account history from the bank. I double-check with the info in my ledger and add the missing entries. Ledger has a command that prints the running total for one account; that makes double-checking very easy.
  2. One of the accounts I have is the cash in my purse. I count the money in my purse and compare it with the balance of my cash account. I add a manual correction entry for the money that went missing.
  3. Something I’m not yet doing: Compare the accounts I have for my online bookshop and my online CD-shop with the information they have on their website about my past purchases.

Yesterday I spent about two hours doing the above. Yuck!

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2004-03-11 Japan

TelePolis [1] writes about Japanese prisons and capital punishment in Japan. Terrible. They city an AmnestyInternational report [2]; reading it is gruesome. Ugh!

According to Ahmed, when he was first detained in the LPF, there were five Chinese detainees who were deported shortly afterwards. He claims that detainees were punished if they complained about conditions.(29) As the rooms were windowless and the door was locked, Ahmed often felt sick when fellow-detainees smoked cigarettes. He did not see the sun or the sky during his entire period of detention in the LPF. There was no consideration of his religious sensitivities as Ahmed, a Muslim, was served meals with pork. He reports that he was on occasion threatened, pushed and shoved by Immigration officers and security staff in the LPF. He was declined permission to shave in the LPF, and had to use the one shirt and pair of trousers that he had brought with him from Pakistan. He was transferred from the LPF to the East Japan Immigration Centre in Ushiku and finally released in December 1997. Shortly after his release in January 1999, he was diagnosed as suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). For more than two years after his release, he suffered from lack of sleep, nightmares and acute headaches for which he has had to take medication. He continues to live in Japan after being granted special permission to stay.

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2004-03-11 Madrid

To all who might be worrying about me, because I told them that I would be spending some time in Madrid from time to time: I am safe and sound in Switzerland; I was not in Madrid when the bombs went up. One of the stations hit was one I visited only a few days ago… 😟

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Comments on 2004-03-11 Madrid

good to hear that you are well and have not been in Madrid at that time

your father

– Helmut Schroeder 2004-03-12 02:10 UTC

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2004-03-12 Games

I’ve started playing Beyond Good and Evil for the Playstation 2. At the moment I am enjoying the aspect of photographing animals and things instead of shooting them. I like that idea.

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2004-03-12 India

Maybe I should visit southern India [1] some time… I know three people from the EmacsChannel there. And it would be a destination both me and Claudia would enjoy visiting.

I shall bring a Gnus mug along for AadityaSood;)

I’m expecting to have the summer months off: No work in June, July, and August! Claudia says mid-July to mid-August would be perfect, because the studio where she has rented her room will be doing a special summer session. harscha123 says it is the rainy season…

I think I should get a book as soon as possible.

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Comments on 2004-03-12 India

Would be wonderful to see you here. Do consider it seriously :)

-- NoufalIbrahim 2004-03-12 18:55 UTC


Yesh, do so. And I might get Claudia some authentic Chamba earrings, I guess she'll like that :)

-- AadityaSood 2004-03-12 20:33 UTC

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2004-03-12 Women

March 8 passed me by… I’m usually not really confronted with sexism as part of my daily life, so it doesn’t worry me that much. When talking to Claudia, however, I often feel like I’m the more “feminist” in our relationship; thinking about the various subtle ways she is being restricted compared to me is scary. >{

Today I read the Debian Weekly News [1] and found this item:

Does Debian scare away Women? Amaya Rodrigo Sastre [2] asked the project leader candidates about their ideas to encourage more women to be involved and what the benefits would be. Helen Faulkner [3] explained that women face subtle problems and that on average, women are likely to be not so confident that their skills will allow them to survive in an environment like debian, compared to their male counterparts. The following discussion seems to have very well [4] proven this.

How sad that it doesn’t even work in FreeSoftware projects. :(

And to think that I chuckled at pages such as WomenAndMenAndWiki on CommunityWiki, thinking that there was not really anything I could do… I must search for ways to better integrate women in my online experience. ;)

Claudia is doing pretty well with her website [5] and some of her friends have expressed their liking of such a simple and friendly website. I’m happy to see that 1. Claudia shares my views on WebDesign, and 2. other people share our views on web design, eventhough they did not at first. One of Claudia’s friends, for example, got her own website done by a graphical artist. [6]

For another case story on female hackers, see Raven Alder’s rant about a mail to Starla Pureheart. [7]

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Comments on 2004-03-12 Women

I remember reading in a Neal Stephenson novel ("Snow Crash"? or was it Crichton's "Prey"?) where Juniata (a female hacker) meets with sexism from male hackers "who thought they were too intelligent to be sexists, while they were".

The same feeling I get from browsing the debian thread. Sad :(

-- AadityaSood 2004-03-12 21:04 UTC

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2004-03-13 CSS

I’ve been working more on the @media print section in my Wheat theme [1]. Getting this right so that the screen rendering and the print rendering look both ok is harder than I thought if you think of the print section as “some changes to the screen section”. It got much easier when I moved all the old color and font-size stuff into its own @media screen.

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2004-03-13 Games

Played some more Beyond Good and Evil on my PS2.

Thought angry thoughts because I cannot beat the Metroid Prime monster with the four mirrors on the Gamecube.

Didn’t practice any Arabic. :/

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2004-03-13 Urheberrecht

Tja, die Auseinandersetzung ging verloren… :'( [1] Leider habe ich verschlafen, meine letzte Mail zum Thema [2] rechtzeitig abzuschicken. Ärgerlich.

Also eine neue Mail an Herr Bösch hboesch@europarl.eu.int, Herr Swoboda herta.straka@spoe.at, Frau Flemming mflemming@europarl.eu.int, Herr Hager ghager@europarl.eu.int, Herr Ilgenfritz wilgenfritz@europarl.eu.int, Herr Karas okaras@europarl.eu.int, Herr Martin hpmartin@europarl.eu.int, Herr Prets cprets@europarl.eu.int, Herr Rack rrack@europarl.eu.int, Herr Rübig pruebig@europarl.eu.int, Frau Scheele kscheele@europarl.eu.int, Frau Schierhuber aschierhuber@europarl.eu.int, Herr Sichrovsky psichrovsky@europarl.eu.int, und Frau Stenzel ustenzel@europarl.eu.int. Diese Mail habe ich nun aber schon abgeschickt. :)

Brief an die einzelnen Parlamentarier

Sehr geehrter Herr X oder sehr geehrte Frau Y,

Ich bin Österreicher und lebe in der Schweiz. Ich beschäftige mich Nebenberuflich mit dem Urheberrecht im Rahmen eines Vereins hier in der Schweiz.

Die Annahme der Richtlinie in der EU ist finde ich besorgniserregend.

Haben Sie Antworten auf die folgenden Fragen, welche von verschiedenen Organisationen auf dem Internet direkt oder indirekt aufgeworfen werden?

  1. Anscheinend wird kein Unterschiede mehr gemacht zwischen Privatpersonen, die eine nicht-lizenzierte Kopie eines urheberrechtlich geschützten Werkes anfertigen, und kriminellen Organisationen, die das im grossen Stil und in kommerzieller Grössenordnung betreiben. Wenn in den USA zwölf-jährige Kinder zu Zahlungen in der Höhe von tausende von Dollars verurteilt werden, hat man in Europa ja nur fassungslos den Kopf geschüttelt. Wird das nun auch bei uns möglich werden?
  2. Anscheinend gibt es eine Passage, welche Hausdurchsuchungen durch private Sicherheitsfirmen ohne ordentliches Gerichtsverfahren erlauben würden. Es handelt sich um sogenannte “Anton Pillar orders”. Haben Sie auch davon gehört? Wird das tatsächlich möglich sein?
  3. Anscheinend gibt es eine Passage, welche die Sperre von Vermögenswerte ohne ordentliches Gerichtsverfahren erlauben würden. Es handelt sich um sogenannte “Mareva injunctions”. Haben Sie auch davon gehört? Wird das tatsächlich möglich sein?

Was gedenken Sie nun in dieser Hinsicht zu tun?

Mit freundlichem Gruss,

Alexander Schröder

Openlaw - Plattform für Recht und freie Software

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2004-03-15

Spring is in the air! Birds singing in the trees at dusk and dawn – I love it.

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2004-03-15 Conferences

I’m going to Web Based Communities 2004! [1]

I’ll be in Lisbon from late evening Tuesday March 23 to early afternoon Saturday March 27.

If you want to meet up with me, let me know.

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Comments on 2004-03-15 Conferences

Congratulations, Alex! Have you been to Lisbon before? It's fabulous -- I lived there for a few months in 2003.

-- EvanProdromou 2004-03-16 07:51 UTC


Yes, I have lived for 5½ years near Lisbon and went to the German school there... My mom still lives there. :)

-- AlexSchroeder 2004-03-16 09:39 UTC

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2004-03-18 Iraq

SalamPax mentions an interesting survey PDF on a post to his blog. [1]

  1. Overall, how would you say things are going in your life these days – very good, quite good, quite bad, or very bad?
  2. Compared to a year ago, I mean before the war in Spring 2003, are things overall in your life much better now, somewhat better, about the same, somewhat worse or much worse?
  3. What is your expectation for how things overall in your life will be in a year from now? Will they be much better, somewhat better, about the same, somewhat worse or much worse?
  4. What is the single biggest problem you are facing in your life these days?

. . . and so on, 29 questions in total.

Interesting things: People’s lives have generally improved (we hoped it), security is bad (we knew it), they believe that most important tasks should be handled by the Iraqi government (I agree), many think the US should not leave until the new government is in place (I agree), measures to help are “creating job opportunities for the unemployed, training and hiring more Iraqi local police, transferring all political authority to an Iraqi government” (yay!). When it comes to the occupation forces themselves, reactions are often split equally.

In general I’m happy about the rather positive reactions!

On the other hand, Riverbend writes in her blog [2] about the new constitution:

The words look good on paper- as words often do. Some parts of it sound hauntingly like our last constitution. The discussions about the Transitional Law all focus on the legitimacy of this document. Basically, an occupying power brought in a group of exiles, declared Iraq ‘liberated’, declared the constitution we’ve been using since the monarchy annulled and set up a group of puppets as a Governing Council. Can these laws be considered legitimate?
Furthermore, just how sincere are these puppets about this new Transitional Law? For example, there’s a lovely clause that reads, “No one may be unlawfully arrested or detained, and no one may be detained by reason of political or religious beliefs.” Will the American troops discontinue the raids and arbitrary detentions (which are still quite common) come June 30? Or is the Transitional Law binding only to Iraqis?

Anyway, it feels good to read some Iraqi blogs again.

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2004-03-18 USA

TelePolis writes again (in German) about the bad image the US has in the rest of the world: Ansehen der Bush-Regierung weiter gesunken. [1] This is based on a report (in English) by the PEW Research Center: A Year After Iraq War: Mistrust of America in Europe Ever Higher, Muslim Anger Persists. [2]

Only 13% of the people asked in the US believe that the USA overreacted to the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York. In all other countries investigated except for Russia and Great Britain, the majority think the USA overracted. And the report goes on…

The report has a few interesting snippets at the very end, too:

• The survey finds, however, that Christians get much lower ratings in predominantly Muslim countries than do Muslims in mostly Christian countries. […]
• But one of the largest gaps between Americans and Europeans concerns the question of whether people who move to the U.S. have a better life. Americans overwhelmingly believe this to be the case – 88% say people who move to the U.S. from other countries have a better life. By contrast, just 14% of Germans, 24% of French and 41% of British think that people who have moved to the U.S. from their countries have a better life.

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2004-03-19 Books

While searching for the exact name of the Ministry of Information in George Orwell’s 1984, I found a very cool lecture on the web talking about utapias and dystopias. [1]

The author believes that the books is not a prophesy but an observation of the current trends at the time, and that seems plausible enough (since 1984 was written during and after World War II). He also mentions Orwell’s reaction to socialism – he was a socialist where it meant human decency, but he was strongly opposed to the actual proponents of socialism he met.

Living in the days of neoliberalism and evil globalisation, it is hard for me to share the sentiments expressed in the closing paragraph. How could a welfare state be such a bad idea?

It is clear that Orwell’s mind and his dystopia were products not necessarily of his imagination but more importantly of his own experience. For how else should it be? As England emerged from World War Two and as the Labour Party came to power, the State began to intervene more forcibly into the lives of the citizen. And so, following World War Two, England began to build that vast government-subsidized entity known as the Welfare State. No one was immune from paying the costs of that Welfare State. Individualism and collectivism were joined together as the “middle road.” Orwell had seen what this union had accomplished in Italy, Germany, Spain and the Soviet Union. Could England be far behind? – Steven Kreis [2]

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2004-03-22

I will be offline from the evening of Tuesday 2004-03-23 until the evening of Saturday 2004-03-27. Ironically, I will be at the Web Based Communities 2004 conference [1]. Since I don't have a laptop, I will be taking notes offline... ;)

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2004-03-22 India

Claudia is afraid of 10m of rain in one month… The travelguide also recommends November… I got to talk to her again. I loved the rainy season in Bangkok at the time.

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Comments on 2004-03-22 India

You'll probably get a little drenched but not seeing an Indian Rainfall is missing out on an integral part of the country. IMHO anyway. :)

http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/mp/2003/06/23/stories/2003062300280200.htm

-- NoufalIbrahim 2004-03-23 05:49 UTC


You haven't lived until you see a tropical storm.

-- AlokSingh 2004-03-23 14:19 UTC

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2004-03-22 Iraq

TelePolis quotes Bush:

There have been disagreements in this matter, among old and valued friends. Those differences belong to the past. All of us can now agree that the fall of the Iraqi dictator has removed a source of violence, aggression, and instability in the Middle East. It’s a good thing that the demands of the United Nations were enforced, not ignored with impunity. It is a good thing that years of illicit weapons development by the dictator have come to the end. It is a good thing that the Iraqi people are now receiving aid, instead of suffering under sanctions. And it is a good thing that the men and women across the Middle East, looking to Iraq, are getting a glimpse of what life in a free country can be like.
US-Präsident Bush am 19.3.2004 [1]

Uh… who ignored the United Nations? Who imposed the sanctions? And do you really think that people in the Middle East are looking to Iraq with any kind of longing? Who helped Iraq in its weapons program? Who spreads violence, aggression, and instability in the Middle East?

Yes, a powerful United Nations unfettered by veto-wielding superpowers would be interesting. Yes, no more sanctions is a good thing. It’s a good think the weapons production stopped. No thanks to the US, Germany, France, Switzerland, and all the other former Saddam Hussein friends. [2]

And Switzerland, too… Switzerland was one of the first countries to declare the second war in Iraq “over” – even before Bush said that the hostilities had ended – because there was a major arms-deal at stake, and Switzerland is not supposed to sell arms to warring countries…

As for receiving aid – I sure hope that the US is not stealing Iraqi oil to pay for the aid they’re giving back to Iraq… Or are they?

Don’t get me wrong: I think that pulling out immediately would be a bad decision. It would give people the worst of both worlds: First bombs and flaming death, and then poverty and crime. What needs to stop is lying and spinning. What needs to happen is some honest work in the field. Do something for their safety. Just look at the recent poll I read to see what the priorities should be. [3]

The self-righteousness is revolting.

Well, there seems to be good news, too… The order 137 that was to introduce the Sharia was limited. Existing civil rights cannot be taken away from you for religious reasons. [4]

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2004-03-22 Israel

The sadness continues. [1]

One founding member of the Hamas killed without a decent trial. Three suspected criminals killed without a decent trial. Five innocent bystanders killed. Hello? Fair trial? In dubio pro reo? Human Rights? Anybody? Geneva Conventions? Ring a bell?

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2004-03-22 Kosovo

Nation Building, Peace Keeping, Sucess Stories!?

TelePolis talks about the situation in the Kosovo area [1] where crime goes unpunished and the UN fails to achieve the peace keeping goals that motivated the NATO bombings…

We really got some hard thinking to do. I really appreciate getting involved, I do want to oust dictators and murderers from power, I do want to make the world a better place. But we give people the worst of both worlds: First bombs and flaming death, and then poverty and crime.

They also have an English article [2] by John Horvath on the failure of nation-building by “military intervention.”

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2004-03-23 India

A 100% job in Switzerland is 40-45h per week, with 20 days of paid holidays. Some companies give 25 days for the very young and the old, some companies (eg. mine) give 30 days for people higher up in the pecking order.

Overtime is compensated with free time or money, unless you have a very high ranking job. The company I work for believes that my job is such a high ranking job, but I disagree; there have been some court cases where this claim was overthrown. “High ranking” according to Swiss law are lawyers, medical doctors, department heads, etc. That’s not me. ;) Usually you get paid 125% or 150% if you work overtime because your boss orders you. These days that rarely happens (as you’re “flexible” to do it when you want). So effectively you always get compensated 100%.

I asked alephnull from India on the EmacsChannel: The contract says 45h, with compensation, but usually people work for 60h per week without compensation. 22 days of paid holidays, but people rarely take more than 15 days.

The company I work for is exceptionally flexible: I can come at whatever time of the day I want (usually around 11:30) and leave whenever I want.

I have a 60% job, Fridays off, and extra days off in chunks.

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The actual jobs and content are somewhat the same IMHO. It's usually the attitude of the people that is different. My company HQ (at San Jose) is so different from here and that was primarily because of the people. They *want* to keep the per week hours to 40 and enjoy the rest of their lives. Perhaps it's because of the large number of bachelors in my office here. I don't know.

-- NoufalIbrahim 2004-03-24 05:06 UTC

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2004-03-24 Conferences

First day of conferences… There was an interesting paper by Michael Mackert, the founder of http://wotmania.com/, a website about the Wheel of Time series (terribly long series that never seems to get anywhere…). The title of the paper was Internet Habit and Addiction in the Context of a Community Website. He devised a survey to try and find addicted users and habitual users in his community and found about 100 of each, plus several hundred that were neither addicted nor habitual users. Very interesting!

How do you know you’re addicted? Read the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition – at least that’s what he did. In short, three of the following seven criteria must apply (edited for brevity):

  1. High tolerance
  2. Withdrawal
  3. Doing it longer than intended
  4. Failed attempts to quit
  5. Spend a lot of time with it
  6. Important other stuff is given up or reduced
  7. Continued use despite problems

He then used a few questions from the Internet Addiction Tendency Scale (Song et al., 2002) to find addicted users. He also created a few new questions for a Custom Habit Scale to find habitual users amongst the non-addicted ones. He also used Short Imaginal Processes Inventory based on studies done on TV addiction to investigate positive constructive daydreaming, guilt and fear of failure daydreaming, and poor attentional control.

The main result is that addicted users turn to the Internet in order to distract themselves away from excess negative thoughts and unstructured time.

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2004-03-25 Conferences

Os meus recados de Lisboa! Yes it is true, I am currently in Lisbon… :) How strange to be here on “business.” This is Web Based Communities 2004.

Thursday morning had no sessions. How weird! I wasn’t too sure so I arrived about 3h before the opening session, registered, and started reading in the proceedings. As far as I can tell, nobody wrote about wikis. There is some research by Spanish bloggers on linking and powerlaw issues ussing the hispanic blogging community blogalia.com by fernand0 and atalaya.

The first keynote speaker, Johannes Cronje, talked about teaching – he doesn’t use wikis (WikiSchool?) but I got interested nonetheless, because of his interesting classification of teaching [1]:

Instruction (boring, fast)Integration (goal driven, but providing the necessary tools to do the job)
Immersion (free form, playful)Construction (free form, goal driven, may be frustrating)

That was interesting. I think at the time I was teaching in Instruction mode because I felt there was little time to let the students do independent exploring. I promise to do better next time. ;)

I also sent him a mail asking about the use of wikis and mentioning SoftSecurity because he had talked about vandalism and trust on the website he uses for his students.

Other ideas in visualization: The two spanish bloggers mentioned above were putting blogs in a Cohonen map, essentially a 2D projection of the n-dimensional feature vectors of “how often does this blog link to every other blog”. I wonder if we could do the same to wiki pages, thereby creating a 2D map of all the pages and how they relate to each other. A true sitemap!

Another interesting visualization was done by Mohammed Rehman, where he showed how they were trying to visualize summaries of a bulletin board with threads of conversation (building on work by JudithDonath): What threads are active, who participated, etc. It doesn’t scale, yet (less than 50 people) but they’re going to try expanding in autumn. I wonder if we can visualize RecentChanges to help newcomers get a “feel” for the site. Who is active (trust) and who is not? What topics are “hot” (editing) and what is not? What is popular (reading) and what is not? Clearly this is also stuff that goes against the WikiNow… I wonder what it all means.

See my comments on MeatBall:WikiCircles. – SunirShah

He also had another interesting idea: Leverage the browsing history of visitors by highlighting in each users browsing history how many other people have visited the same page recently. This essentially tries to leverage the lurker’s knowledge of the site (since they read what is hot and popular) without us having to determine it…

Later I met Lilia Efimova and we strolled through town; later we met the two Spanish bloggers and some other people (14 in all) and ate dinner at the Tasca du Manel. I should link to the people I talked to in length, but I didn’t get business cards from them all! If you talked to me that day and didn’t give me your card, please mail me. :)

                                              [2004-03-25T23:10+0100]
 <koyote> well, yeah.
 <anaran> .seen kensanata
 <birny> I've never seen kensanata before.;→ Have fun in Lisbon – AdrianAichner

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2004-03-26 Conferences

Read an interesting paper by Ken Newman on “non-linear narratives.” (Using a non-linear narrative framework in an online community, Proceedings of the IADIS International Conference Web Based Communities 2004, p. 83-90) He used it to solve a health-care problem: Engaging hospitalized kids in a web-based community arround a teddybear that travels the world. In order to be interactive, the story he tells about the teddybear must be able to be integrate different viewpoints (his account, the account of the people he met, the role-playing of community members, and spin-off stories). What are the important issues?

  1. Character breakdown, a strategy used by TV series screenwriter collectives: The characters are described as a set of statements, which can be efficiently reused by other authors, eg. value system, quirks, approach to life.
  2. Multiple points of view, allowing stories to be retold from a different perspective by “fans” and people the teddybear met on the trip.
  3. Macro-narrative, underlying all “episodes” are some key features, points to be made that are not directly related to the character, nor to the narrators. These reflect the major issues and features of the narrative, the stuff you would see in a trailer: The trailer rarely has plot, characterization, or view-points: It’s just a mess of the major themes that will appear in the movie, eg. the One ring, the dark riders, a mountain, walking trees, hobbits, and a huge battle.

This might explain why most collaborative story-telling efforts that try to connect one scene to the next seem to have failed in online communities. In that sense, playing on a MUSH with other people is far closer to what Ken talked about:

  1. You are encouraged to write up your own character breakdown because experienced role-players knows that it will help you react faster and act more consistently if you have such a breakdown at your hands.
  2. The various people interacting automatically provides various view-points. The objective “truth” in this kind of system is not really relevant, compared to what people say, since what people say defines nearly all of their MUSH environment.
  3. The macro-narrative is provided by the MUSH theme, and the existing environment (room descriptions, legends, gaming culture tradition).

Two other speakers, Christopher Andrew Priebe and Philip Laird had written a community web application to help them bind their university and its students closer together. It seemed like a typical application, with pictures, hobbies, friends, messages [1] and a graphical chat! It looked like a Southpark drawing of their campus, where you had your little Southpark character in a kind of gold-cart, and you could drive arround, from building to building, and chat with people. Nobody was online when it was demonstrated, so I don’t know how well it works in practice: Does it scale to 50 people in the same room? In a MUSH, more than five or six people talking in the same room is a mess; you need to be able to talk with your friends in a separate room. IRC, on the other hand, showed very well how you can have more than a hundred people in the same room, as long as there are not too many people talking at the same time. But IRC clients have lots of specialized features to help you deal with short-term InformationOverload.

Coming from Europe, all this “bonding” of students and universities looks like fundraising ploys. I liked their idea of “Universities as Lifelong Learning Communities” – but their community seems rather closed: Can you move your profile when you join another community at another university? Aren’t you raising your students to remain dependent upon their university counselors, coaches, and peers. Of course, connections, networking, and friends are good. But if the application is not open in some sense, then you’re actually having a lock-in situation.

What kind of openness are we talking about, then? Just the kind of openness we’re expecting from free software service hosts (and not always getting): When we’re moving our project from SourceForge to Savannah, we want to move not only the source, we want to move bugreports, histories, newsgroups, developer profiles, project memberships, etc. Yes, there is no perfect solution, and no, that’s not the end of it. We need to do more research in this area: Data mobility, openness in terms of data exchange (connectivity) and legal framework (CopyrightTrap)…

Also heard a talk by Alastair Weakley (who also has pictures about the trip). Instead of writing it up here, however, I will write it up on CommunityWiki:VisualGrouping.


At the end of the conference, the message was passed around again – today at 19:30 at the Praça da Figueira, for food and Salsa. First we went to the Casa do Alentejo, which looked fantastic (and expensive). They had something big going on however, and wouldn’t take 17 hungry tourists… We ate nearby, in a typical tourist joint for €20. We had great fun…

Late at night a small group of us went to hear some Fado (traditional melancholy music from Lisbon and Coimbra) in the Clube do Fado in the Alfama (the old moorish part of town, right below the Sé). Andreas Bischoff, Fabrizio Rozzi, Francesca Menegon, Vaggelis Igglesis, and me… (gotta find the links and post some pics!)

Vaggelis, me, and Francesca in the restaurant Andreas, Fabrizio, me, and Vaggelis in the Club do Fado Andreas when we started to talk about his age

Andreas also has more pics. [2]

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"Quando a tristeza me invade, Canto o fado
Se me atormenta a saudade, Canto o fado
Haja ciúme á vontade, Canto o fado
Por uma esperança perdida
Não passe na vida
Por um mau bocado
Se acaso a sorte o esqueceu
É fazer como eu
Deixe andar cante o fado…"

– Vaggelis 2004-03-30 15:20 UTC

Very nice! ;)

"When sadness takes me over, I sing the Fado
When longing torments me, I sing the Fado
Whether there be jealousy or desire, I sing the Fado
For hope lost
Don't let life pass you by
because of a little hardship
Should luck have forgotten you
Do like I do
Let it go, and sing the Fado…"

I found more Fado texts on a blog called Fado. [1] I wonder who this Ana is that keeps posting them. Lovely read! Now I just need to translate them all. :)

– Alex


In the first pic I seem not so bad thanks alex, you are a wonderfull photographer!

I know this is not a mail box but I tried to send you an e-amil to the address in your business card and it didn't work so… How are you? I'm fine, now I'm taking some relax at my parents home and at the beginning of May I'm going to leave to Paris, to visit one of my friends which is living there… I feel lucky in this period! What about you? Did you receive the invitation for the conference in Las Vegas from the prof. Kommers? Unfortunately I cannot accept, first of all because I have any new findings from my research so I am not able to write another paper and also because my department does not have money to pay my partecipation. It's a pity… can you image what great time in Las Vegas??? I'm still missing the fado night, thanks for the link to the Fado blog…

– Francesca 2004-04-08 20:31 UTC


Nice to know you're still around, Vaggelis. ;)

AlexSchroeder 2004-11-01 16:42 UTC

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2004-03-27

Back! 658 new mails from my gnu.org mail account (mostly mailing lists).

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2004-03-27 Conferences

What do I think of Web Based Communities 2004… Hm… I just read about WTF:

  • An open space gathering and conference of various grassroots projects, people, and organisations interested in creating a better world.
  • An assembly of gifts and needs: tell everyone what your projects are all about, what they have to offer, and what they need. Together we have everything. Let’s self-organise and share.
  • Action and not just talk. Too many social forums and gatherings result with little or no outcome. Come and propose and gain support for actions during May Day, ESF, G8 etc.
  • About working together, despite our diverse goals. No more either or!

And the way they organize it:

opens up with brunch served to early arrivals; then an open circle with everyone introducing each other; a general presentation about esp; then, people introduce/propose sessions; and the sessions are organised in the available spaces there’ll be an open session, followed by a closed session, followed by open, and then closed, before a small tea break after tea, there’ll be a similar open, closed, open, closed sessions and, then, dinner will be served whilst people are sitting down to eat their dinners, there will be a closing circlee
simultaneously, the “wtf magazine” will be printed, and a production line (put the sheets of paper in order, slice it, fold it, bind it, etc.) of volunteers will produce it, and distribute this should take us to about 7pm, at which point, preparations can start for the party meanwhile films can be shown, where people can chill out and chat and, then about 10pm, the party can start with some live music, and djs perhaps some fires outside, some theatrical performances, etc.
and, at dawn, people can go home! =)

Very cool!

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2004-03-28 Conferences

Gotta write down some of the networking stuff I did at the conference tomorrow.

Lilia also commented on the conference… [1]

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2004-03-28 Wiki

Been improving the Oddmuse:Calendar_Extension by adding a collect action. Now you can use it to dynamically collect all the pages whose name match a certain pattern – ideal since I categorize my entries by appending a category to the pagename… ;)

Example:

I also added the possibility to add an entire year worth of calendar. See Calendar for an example.

I also wrote a new rule to be able to link images to URLs. See “piclink” in the config file [1].

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2004-03-29 Spass

“Spass an der Arbeit” – aus eigener Erfahrung kann ich bestätigen, dass die Arbeit an freier Software mehr Spass macht als die Arbeit im Geschäft. Doch warum? Könnte man im Geschäft die Arbeit nicht so strukturieren, dass sie auch Spass macht? Würde die Arbeit im Geschäft auch noch Spass machen, wenn es sich um Freie Software handelt, welche wir gegen Geld als Dienstleistung für Kunden entwickeln würden? Ich fürchte der Spass wäre dann auch weg. Der Spass entsteht vermutlich, weil ich alles selber entscheiden kann, weil ich die Software wie einen Diamanten perfekt polieren kann, weil ich nicht nur zufriedene Kunden sondern dankbare “Kunden” habe. Das heisst, Freie Software ermöglicht den Spass, bewirkt ihn aber nicht. Ich muss noch etwas darüber nachdenken… Ich diskutiere solche Fragen auf alle Fälle in letzter Zeit öfters mit Freunden.

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Hmm, bei mir ist es ähnlich, besonders weil ich jederzeit selber entscheiden kann ob ich noch Lust habe weiterzumachen oder lieber alles so lasse wie es ist. Ich bin fürchte ich ein bischen ein Freund von quick&dirty Lösungen (die Wahrheit ist ich bin faul ;-) ), wenn alles perfekt sein soll können die letzten Schritte 90% der Arbeit ausmachen. Aber wenn dann jemand ein Feature nachfragt bin ich sofort motiviert, irgendwie mag ich es wenn ich jemandem mit meiner Arbeit helfen kann. Ich habe selber immer von opensource software (und usenet tipps) profitiert und hatte lange schon den Plan einmal zu den contributors zu gehören. Lohn genug (und irgendwie befriedigender als das Gehalt für meine normale Arbeit) ist wirklich der Dank von einzelnen usern. Es ist einfach ein prima Gefühl jemandem irgenwo auf der Welt geholfen zu haben.

Ein anderer Punkt ist die Sache selber, leider kann auch ich nicht immer bei der Arbeit entscheiden welche tools ich benutze ober auf welchem Gebiet ich arbeite (obwohl es in der "freien Wirtschaft" sicherlich noch ganz anders aussieht), bei freien Projekten kann ich das machen was mich gerade interessiert, ich lerne wirklich das mas ich gerade wissen will, das motiviert mich ungemein.

Keine Ahnung ob jemand so einen Job hat wo er so arbeiten kann. Wenn es solche Jobs gibt wäre ich SEHR ineressiert ;-) (ulkiger Weise steht irgendwo in Lilias blog etwas von "den Job einfach so umzudefinieren, dass er den eigenen Zielen entspricht", ich habe aber keine Ahnung wie man das hinbekommt ;-) )

-- Andreas (Web Based Communities 2004) 2004-03-30 12:03 UTC

Ja, die Dankbarkeit scheint mir ein wichtiger Faktor zu sein. Im Geschäftsleben wird ja auch oft noch auf dem Preis oder dem Leistungsumfang herumgeritten: Das gehört doch dazu, na klar, und bis am nächsten Montag muss die Sache laufen, und überhaupt, diese Reports... Das treibt mir auf alle Fälle die Freude aus...

So, und wo steckt er nun, dein Blog? :) -- Alex


Kommt noch, erst mal ein wiki mit den den Fotos http://prt-i33.fernuni-hagen.de:8888/WBC2004-photos/ Hab das swiki schon ein Jahr laufen bei uns, aber ich probier auf jedenfall oddmuse aus!!!

-- Andreas (WBC2004) 2004-03-30 16:24 UTC


Hm... Ich vermute unser Firmen-Firewall sperrt port 8888... Ich muss mal von daheim aus versuchen.

-- AlexSchroeder 2004-03-30 16:29 UTC

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2004-03-30 India

After some fooling around with Indian friends on the EmacsChannel, I decided to look through all the galleries on http://www.my-kerala.com/p/m/stars/:)

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...hope you are not rethinking your trip to India :). Kerala is a nice place except the 'stars' there.

-- MD 2004-04-06 14:25 UTC


Hey, I didn't say anything against the pictures! I noticed on #emacs that there was some hidden undercurrents a casual European movie watcher might not understand... I'm still planning to come, the question is only: When? Claudia is still not convinced that July-August is an ideal time to go...

-- AlexSchroeder 2004-04-06 21:06 UTC


Consider a little after August (Sep - October). It would be after the heavy rains and you'll probably see just light showers. Won't be too cold or too hot either. I can't exactly say when this will be though considering how unpredictable the times are. October seems like a fair bet though :)

-- NoufalIbrahim 2004-04-18 07:07 UTC


I talked it over with Claudia again. I think we will not be going to India this year. :( Her time-window is mid-July to mid-August, and my time-window is June-August; a new phase of our project starts in Italy September 2004, so I don't think there will be much time in October. On the other hand, perhaps I can free two or three weeks to go on my own a bit later, maybe November or December, who knows.

-- AlexSchroeder 2004-04-22 12:26 UTC


Darn. I was looking forward to meeting you. I'll send you the book soon though. Maybe I ought to consider doing my masters in Zurich :)

-- NoufalIbrahim 2004-04-23 06:09 UTC


Hmmmm, it'd be nice to see you in India, and finally meet alex-at-gnu-dot-org in person :)

-- AadityaSood 2004-04-23 20:33 UTC


You make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside! 8-)

-- AlexSchroeder 2004-04-23 22:26 UTC

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2004-03-31 Books

forcer suggests The Future of Money: Creating new wealth, work and a wiser world by Bernard Lietaer on the EmacsChannel

“one of his major points is that the way the money system of a given society works always affects how the people in that society believe and act. an interest-bearing money system for example invariably causes competition, which is bad for communities” – forcer

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2004-03-31 Usability

Usability problems abound – not only on the web but everywhere. Jakob Nielsen has a good piece about navigation aids in cars and remote controls. [1]

I can personally identify with remote control issues. I like to listen to music when I go to bed. Most of the time I’m using the remote control, it’s essentially dark in my room. And there not many positions I am willing to memorize on my remote control. The sleep button is one of them. But sometimes I also want to find stop, next or previous! But guess what? I need to find the light switch first. One simple solution would be to put the five most important buttons on a row by itself, a row that you can find in total darkness. Those I might be able to memorize.

And if they’d be willing to hire me, I’m sure I could spend a few more minutes on this in order to help them improve usability by another 2000%. :)

The same goes for personal experience in mobile phones. I asked arround. All my friends recommended I buy Nokia because they are the “easiest to use.” And I did. And I never looked back. In fact I once tried to send a text message using a Motorola mobile phone and gave up after a few minutes. Hell!

UI design is becoming a big problem apparently. I read an article here [2] that talks about how it might be a good idea to get web people to create UIs since they work on this kind of thing a lot. I’ve recently been working on a web based tool and the number of problems that crop up is amazing. – NoufalIbrahim

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2004-03-31 Wikis

More work on fixing the behaviour of Oddmuse:Permanent_Anchors.

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Define external redirect: CopyrightTrap JudithDonath VisualGrouping CommunityWiki WikiSchool EmacsChannel WikiNow SpamStat forcer SoftSecurity WomenAndMenAndWiki AdrianAichner