Wed, 19 Oct 2005

Plane Reading

Finished The Great Influenza. The author’s writing style is terribly repetitive and hyperbolic, which irritated me pretty quickly, but the material is gripping- the devastating arc of the flu of 1918 (killed substantially more people in a couple months than AIDS has in 25 years, in a world with 1/3rd the population), enmeshed (sort of poorly) with the birth and growth of the American medical research complex. A good read, unless you’re already terrified by our overdueness for another flu epidemic, in which case you’ll lose sleep.

Started on a paper on optimal licensing terms, but then accidentally deleted it mid-read. ARrrrrgh. Apparently evince was perfectly happy to ‘save a copy’ of 0 bytes. The paper had been interesting to that point- it posited and analyzed a model for licensing that was unique (to my knowledge) and which implied the existence of potential types of licenses which we haven’t explored yet. The model basically states (in clarified language) that a platform licensing model has two interesting variables. The first is percentage of the platform X that is free/open. We typically see 0% and 100% as the values for X here, but the game companies have experimented with some other values and are generating some interesting results. The second variable is the amount of time which platform contributors can keep modifications and addons proprietary. Again, the length of time is typically ~0 (GPL) or infinite (BSD, typical proprietary licensing) but apparently the modeling in the part of the paper I didn’t get to suggests that a non-zero, non-infinite value might do a good job of providing incentives for innovation while still increasing investment in the platform over the longrun. To make it concrete, they appear to be positing that if gnome’s source was licensed as ‘GPL, but you can distribute modifications without redistributing the source for a year, but after that year is up you have to redistribute the source as with traditional GPL’ then (for example) Novell and Red Hat might have more incentive to invest than they currently do, since currently, all public development they do runs a decent chance of being shipped first by a distro whose stated goal is not to develop software but only to integrate the development others do.

Started The Right Nation, which is so far excellent.

Finished a rough draft of my trademark paper once I deleted the licensing paper. I’ll try to post it Monday, once I’ve had two more flights to read and review it on, and maybe circulate to a few friends for comments.