Knockoffs

Knockoffs:

The knockoffs can be alluring.  They can look virtually the same, especially in a catalog or on a web site.  A customer of mine called awhile back and said “I have two of your hammers, and they are both broken.”  I immediately said that he should send them to me so that I could repair them and do a quality-control analysis.  When I got them I was relieved to see that they were not made by me.  It turns out that he had purchased Chinese-made versions of my tools from a store that was part of a national chain (you know the one), and, according to my customer, he was told that they were made by Glen-Drake even though my name was not on them.  The similarities were convincing.  The Chinese versions even had the numbers I assigned engraved on the heads.  Maybe the imitators think that those numbers are some kind of a standard for hammers.  Or could it be that they think the numbers might help convince people that the hammers are in fact made by Glen-Drake?

An imitator of one of my tools even used my tool for the front photo on their packaging.  Now that’s just rude.  But here’s the real problem.  Imitators don’t need to be creative.  They don’t need to identify a problem.  They don’t need to design a solution to a problem.  They don’t need to build and test prototypes.  They don’t need to determine and assemble the best materials to deliver a product that will stand the test of time.  All they need to do is send something overseas to be copied, and that’s a callous and insidious form of theft.

If someone walks into my office and steals my wallet, the police will be all over them.  But if they make cheap knockoffs of the tools I make, then I have to hire a lawyer to make them stop, which is about all I can expect.  Then someone else will do it, and I have to go through the whole process again.   Cottage toolmakers can’t afford to pursue the knockoff makers, even if that’s the way we want to spend our lives, and it’s not.  Do the thieves know this?  You bet they do.  Criminal audacity is astounding.

[Some people consider me a “jack of all trades” (as a pejorative) others consider me a “polymath” (might be kindly over reaching). But either way, I am or have been involved in lots of different crafts and fields. And in each one it occurs to me I hear the cry of “cost”. Small stores hear it. Individual makers hear it. I am drawn to beautiful tools that function well and are a delight to behold and so I hear this all the time. No doubt, the cost of fine tools, especially locally made non-production stuff limits the sheer number of tools I can own (field doesn’t matter… guitars, amps, woodworking tools, electronics, bicycles, camping, hiking, photography, and the list goes on and on). But I accept that in that the tools I do own are joyfully made, used, and earn their right to the resources I devote to them.

If we care about the things we do, how we do them, and where they are done… who grows our food, butchers our meat, designs and builds our furniture, cars, houses, tools, etc. than in order to get everything lined up the way we wish, we’re going to most likely have to pay more. I’ve struggled with that choice in the past, but never complained about it. (You’re x is too expensive. Sell it to me for less…) But I don’t struggle with it anymore. I accept that I will have fewer things, but they will be joy inducing or I will not partake. And those things will, by the nature of my choosing, require less care, less fussiness, and be superlative in every way.

Knockoffs are unacceptable. I’ve seen the effect on businesses in which I’ve worked… where the knocking off product is so easy that it is not even railed against by the industry… it’s expected and accepted, if hated. To which I say save up… by the original. Work around it for a while. It’ll only improve your skills. Support the ideas and the folks that originate them. Buy things that are made close to where you live, even as you enjoy the benefits of being a part of a global community. Buy only things that bring you great joy when you see them, use them, and care for them.]

This is why people make stuff…

Whether it’s music or software or chopsticks or whatever… I think the faces of the people in this video says it all. There is a deep connection between creation and human beings. Even when we don’t practice making things for years and years it is never lost. It’s as much a part of who we are as humans as anything I’ve ever come across.

I find it impossible not to enjoy this. I hope you see what I see when you watch it.

And if you care to, read about John Economaki’s experience.

Open source license usage on GitHub.com

Open source license usage on GitHub.com:

Open source simply isn’t open source without a proper license. Unless you’ve explicitly told others that they can modify and reuse your work, you’ve only showed others your code; you haven’t shared it. Here at GitHub, we’re big fans of open source, so we set out to better understand how our users approached licensing their code by looking at license usage across public, non-forked repositories, in hopes of encouraging more users to share their work with others.

[snip -ed]

Share your code

If you haven’t already, we encourage you to add a LICENSE file to your project. To make things a bit easier, if you begin to create a file named LICENSE via the web interface, we’ll even provide you with a list of common license templates to choose from.

This is just the start. Look forward to a more in depth analysis over the coming weeks as to how license usage affects project success, as we delve deeper into the numbers. Of course, in the mean time, we encourage you to explore license usage on GitHub using the Licenses API.

Happy open source licensing!

[One of the many parts of software development that I truly enjoy is making easy things easier. It’s not hard to include a license in a project, but time is always at a premium and discipline is as well. When something requires even a little bit of both the chances that a large community will consistently perform those actions diminishes. Of course, even better, is when someone does it for you. Sadly, the vast majority of the code I’ve written will never see the light of day. But that’s the way it goes. We (at work) open source what we can, when we can.]

David Carr’s sad story

Nytimes hq

Scripting News:

The end of David Carr’s current column in the NY Times is, I think, meant to outrage us. Reporters are being asked to deliver papers. I’m trying to think of what the analog would be in programming. We have to do a lot of menial tasks. Without a pulpit like Carr’s on which to tell our tale of woe. But I agree. Having a professional reporter deliver papers is ridiculous.

[snip -ed]

Summary: You have to let more of the world in. Or eventually the world will invent what you have with a different name. That’s always been the option. The Times should have fully made the transition to the web by now. The biggest part of that transition is allowing more voices to speak directly through your platform.

[I think what Dave has is still true (he’s said this before many times, he’s just not being heard (yet?). But I also think that David Carr missed something that he wrote about at the top of the column.

When the Forces of Media Disruption Hit Home – NYTimes.com:

I read on Friday that the price of taxi medallions in New York City had fallen about 17 percent, a drop created by competition from ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. The impact is remarkable because neither company possesses big capital assets, or a huge number of employees. Instead, they put a new user interface over cars and drivers already on the road. In the same way, Airbnb has remade the rental markets, not by buying properties, but simply by surfacing available units on the web to people in need.

What he ignored is that there is a new interface for journalists too. It’s called blogging. And while the Times could potentially lose exclusive access to those people, no one else has to. And in fact, the Times doesn’t have to either if they do what Dave suggests. The Times no longer needs to have “big capital assets, or a huge number of employees” or at least as much or as many. They could take advantage of the new interface for journalism to rebuild their business.

I don’t mean to belittle the pain the people involved in these changes have to go through. Many probably liked the way things were, and worked hard to do their part and make it the success it was. But nothing lasts forever, and the old model is going away.]

→ President Obama’s statement pushing for net neutrality

→ President Obama’s statement pushing for net neutrality:

And isn’t it sad that a U.S. president can have such a strong opinion on a regulatory decision that’s such obvious common sense, so obviously beneficial to consumers (and the lack of which is so obviously harmful), so well-supported by the citizens, and falling on the shoulders of someone he appointed, yet it still has such a low chance of actually getting done?

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[More than sad, it’s everything that’s wrong with government in the US today.]

The Internet With A Human Face

The Internet With A Human Face:

Public and private surveillance are in a curious symbiosis with each other.

A few weeks ago, the sociologist Janet Vertesi gave a talk about her efforts to keep Facebook from learning she was pregnant. Pregnant women have to buy all kinds of things for the baby, so they are ten times more valuable to Facebook’s advertisers.

At one point, Vertesi’s husband bought a number of Amazon gift cards with cash, and the large purchase triggered a police warning. This fits a pattern where privacy-seeking behavior has become grounds for suspicion. Try to avoid the corporate tracking system, and you catch the attention of the police instead.

As a wise man once said, if you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

But there are also dangerous scenarios that don’t involve government at all, and that we don’t talk enough about.

I’ll use Facebook as my example. To make the argument stronger, let’s assume that everyone currently at Facebook is committed to user privacy and doing their utmost to protect the data they’ve collected.

What happens if Facebook goes out of business, like so many of the social networks that came before it? Or if Facebook gets acquired by a credit agency? How about if it gets acquired by Rupert Murdoch, or taken private by a hedge fund?

What happens to all that data?

[Great piece. Beautifully expresses so many of my worries about the current trend in technology.]