Monday, December 17, 2007

Creatively Common

creative commons license logoIf you look closely at any of my presentations, you'll see the Creative Commons logo at the end. I'm using the "Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike" license, which means that you can use this presentation for whatever purposes you like as long as:
  • you say that it came from me originally
  • you don't make money directly from the work
  • you have at least as liberal license on your derived works (meaning that you have to share what you create as well)
For those not familiar with the Creative Commons, it's an alternative to copyright which gives consumers options. The problem with copyright law is that it is very restrictive, based on old models of interaction. It is in fact based on what Lawrence Lessig refers to as a "read-only" view of works. This makes sense before the technology we have today. Copyright prevents anyone from taking a book and going to the neighborhood Kinkos, making copies of it, and selling it as their own. And, it prevents anyone from taking a copyrighted presentation and saying that they created it. The problem with copyright is that it is binary: a work is either copyrighted or not (although I'm sure that intellectual property lawyers can haggle endlessly on the nuances of this). That means that I cannot allow people to base their derived work directly on mine through copyright.

Creative Commons is an attempt to create what Lessig calls a "read-write" culture, allowing specific rights for derived works. We live in much more of a mash-up kind of world. Musicians frequently use samples and other pieces of other music to create something genuinely new, not just a low-fidelity copy. The place where this is playing out in a fascinating way is in Japan, around manga (see the article entitled Japan, Ink in the November issue of Wired magazine). In Japan, there are well established serial manga stories (graphic novels) with original characters. But there is a huge market for derived works, where new (generally amateur) artists take the characters from a well known series and create new stories, frequently in directions that the original author wouldn't go (these are called dojinshi - non professional, self published manga). Imagine creating a Star Wars variant where Jar Jar Binks and C3PO ended up in a gay relationship. It is doubtful that you could sell many copies of this before a platoon of IP lawyers from LucusFilms were crawling up, well, you get the picture. Yet that's exactly what's happening with manga in Japan.

But, Japan's copyright law is about as strict as ours. Here's the interesting part: the publishers tacitly agree to allow this to continue. Why would they do this? The market for manga is huge and fickle. The dojinshi show them which series are waxing or waning in popularity. And, it provides a breeding ground for new authors. The very best of the dojinshi authors can become the next generation of legitimate manga authors. Because there is no structure in place in Japan, the publishers allow millions of dollars of dojinshi sales, with the looming threat of a lawsuit if they ever become too aggressive. The publishers are doing the smart thing: allowing a "read-write" culture which provides them lots of benefits: real-time market research based on actual sales, new authors, and a vibrant culture around their works.

Clearly, with the abilities created by digital media, copyright is going to have to change. I'm doing my part by allowing anyone to use my stuff with fewer encumbrances than copyright because I think this points to a new attitude about all kinds of intellectual property. For an eloquent presentation about this (and an incredible presentation for it's own right), check out this captured keynote by Lawrence Lessig.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The 2G Experience

Is Groovy the future of Java? It may well be. The worst thing about Groovy these days is it's name. Want to terrify your boss? Go up to him and tell him you want to switch all your development to something called "Groovy". And don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. I'm lobbying the Groovy community to make a subtle name change, and it only applies when you are standing near some manager/adult. When they are around, always refer to Groovy as "The Enterprise Business Execution Language" (or even better, ebXl). That just sounds like something that a manager would go for (especially with that sexy capital "X" in the name -- what manager could resist?)

You too can have your chance to lobby the Groovy world at the upcoming 2G Experience, the first major North American Groovy/Grails conference. All the big names are going to be there, including folks from over the ocean. I'm going to be there as well, talking about Design Patterns in Groovy, Groovyizing Your Day Job (or how to start using it without frightening your boss), and a JRuby/Groovy Comparison, which should raise some hackles on both sides of the aisle. If you care at all about Groovy, this is the place to be in February.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

ThoughtWorks DSL Podcast

ThoughtWorks is starting an interesting experiment: because there are so many passionate people here, it spills over to the outside world a lot. The only problem is that it mostly just spills onto the people who are standing near ThoughtWorkers when they start talking passionately about subjects that only software geeks get passionate about. To control the spillover, ThoughtWorks has started a series of podcasts, combining subjects and those who love to talk about them. First out of the gate: myself, Martin Fowler, Rebecca Parsons (the ThoughtWorks CTO), and Jay Fields, in a 2-part podcast about Domain Specific Languages. Part 1 is now live.