Consul Democracy Foundation

The west is in a state of crisis due to the capture of the mechanisms of democracy by special interests. It’s time for change, and that change may well involve a shift from consultative or representative democracy to participatory democracy of some form. To support participatory democracy it’s essential to have enabling software that’s accessible to all citizens and transparent in its operation. I find it hard to imagine achieving that without open source.

Fortunately there is an excellent open source, free software project to support participatory democracy – the Consul Project. It provides tools for every function that a local participatory democracy initiative might need, including collaboratively devising legislation. The project is widely used around the world and is currently hosted by Madrid City Council.

Last week in Amsterdam, a broad range of democracy and rights organisations from around the world formed the Consul Democracy Foundation to act as the new home for the Consul Project. I was honoured to participate in founding the organisation as a representative of OSI. Consul is “the most complete citizen participation tool for an open, transparent and democratic government” and is open source, free software under the AGPL.

Screenshot 2019-03-26 at 14.50.49

 

Software As Cultural Artefact

You may recall I attended a meeting in Paris last November where we worked on a statement about the cultural value of software. I am delighted to say it has now published both a call for action by UNESCO and a report explaining in more depth.

This is the first work of public policy of which I’m aware that explicitly recognises “that the source code of software used for the implementation of laws and regulations defines the experience of the law by citizens.” That important statement forms the anchor for much change in global legislation relating to digital rights, and as a UNESCO Call it will be considered by each and every future UNESCO policy and consequently by national policy of UNESCO members. Notably, it calls on all to “enable effective independent auditing of software source code used to make decisions that may affect fundamental rights of human beings and where possible ensure it is made available under an open source license.”

Software embodies the procedures by which the citizen engages with the state, through which the citizen and the market interact and in which citizens engage each other and enjoy cultural and leisure pursuits. Our ability to see society in action and guarantee the democracy that sustains it is increasingly dependent on our ability to review the software by which it is enabled at every level. When we have no right of review – let alone a right to directly participate in maintaining the software –  we have lack the most import of the checks and balances of a 21st century democracy.

The Paris Call identifies software as a primary cultural artefact, requiring public access, demanding preservation and deserving cultivation. It sets a benchmark for the treatment of software as modern treasure. Now its the turn of the framers of wider policy to take that into account.

Oracle Finally Killed Sun

With the Solaris team gutted, it looks like the Sun skeleton has finally been picked clean.

IMG_2076

The news from the ex-Sun community jungle drums is that the January rumours were true and Oracle laid off the core talent of the Solaris and SPARC teams on Friday (perhaps hoping to get the news lost in the Labor Day weekend). With 90% gone according to Bryan Cantrill that surely has to mean either a skeleton-staffed maintenance-only future for the product range, especially with Solaris 12 cancelled, or an attempt to force Solaris workloads onto Oracle’s SPARC Cloud offering. A classic Oracle “silent EOL”, no matter what they claim as they satisfy their contractual commitments to Fujitsu and others.  Continue reading

Meshed Again in 2016

While in 2015 Simon spent most of his time working at Wipro, 2016 sees his return to full time leadership of Meshed Insights with renewed energy and several new projects. Follow on Google+ for regular updates.

As an example, we’ve been retained by Mozilla to compile a report describing the entities that could host the Thunderbird Project, and have two other (currently non-public) clients ready to go. We would welcome further engagements for 2016 and would be thrilled if demand allowed us to hire more staff.

In addition to those client engagements we have ideas relating to the thinking we’ve been doing around Community Interest Companies and open source communities, and hope to have news about that after FOSDEM.

If you have activities that would benefit from our unique understanding of the way the meshed society is replacing the hierarchical world of the industrial society, get in touch now or schedule a consultation instantly.

Microsoft and Red Hat Make Peace

That’s in the cloud at least. The deal that’s just been announced is certainly more comprehensive than the join marketing and hosting deals that usually show up.

  • .NET will soon be shipping in RHEL and included in OpenShift
  • support staff will be co-located so hybrid cloud customers have a single point of contact
  • there’s some kind of patent standstill between Red Hat and Microsoft

But claims “Microsoft Loves Linux” are premature; this is just the Azure team throwing big money at credibility, not a decision by the whole company to end hostilities. To do that they would need to join OIN.

Full story on InfoWorld.

India Illustrates The Risks Of Censorship Laws

Next time you see your government proposing internet censorship laws of any kind, remember this incident where the Indian government crippled their own software industry so they could be seen to be doing something about terrorism. Their department of telecommunications has blocked 32 web sites — including archive.org and Github — as if to illustrate why it’s bad to allow anyone the power to block web sites arbitrarily (ETI claims it’s 60+). They’ve blocked entire slices of multi-purpose web infrastructure because one of their functionaries found something about ISIS somewhere on it, according to TechCrunch.

Perhaps it is happening because a person tasked with being seen to be doing something about terrorism found a broad and badly-drafted regulation with no checks, balances or oversight that she could use to satisfy her instructions at no personal cost. As a result, vast numbers of Internet uses that are neutral or positive to Indian culture and society are being inhibited in pursuit of a tiny number of cases that are negative. Certainly the sources ETI cites have no clue the damage they’re causing.

Laws and regulations don’t just get used for their intended purpose; they get used by anyone that is permitted to do so for any purpose that is not proscribed. So broad rules permitting censorship for open-ended durations and purposes can and will be used to silence opposition, score points and prove some functionary is tough on terrorism or paedophiles. Who cares if businesses, research and culture are harmed? Think of the children!