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Welcome to my personal website!

The notion of a dedicated personal website is still quite new, with norms and conventions for what belongs here still evolving. In deciding what aspects of our lives to present publicly, a complication we encounter is the extreme heterogeneity of our relationships, past and present—from our oldest lifetime friends, privy to every indiscretion, to our professional relationships, where we maintain at least the illusion of respectability. And the persona we present in one context is not suitable for another—our conduct with our jackass poker buddies, for example, is not at all suitable for dear Aunt Matilda. And vice versa, for sure.

In our personal lives we adapt, we use discretion; we tailor our words and behaviour to the various environments we inhabit. But on a website there is no discretion, there is no per-context tailoring, and whatever we present is fully exposed to everyone. Thus material presented in the professional context may appear to friends and family as quite pretentious, while the material we might share with friends and family is out of place in a professional context. And not only that, once it's here it's here for good—the Internet is forever, with no erasing.

But in any case, here is my attempt to negotiate these perils. On the professional side, below is a description of my recent work history, and elsewhere I provide a brief Professional Biography, a Resume, and List of Publications. On the personal side I provide the beginnings of an informal Life Biography, a couple of travelogues, a photo gallery, the beginnings of a genealogy, and a few other items.

All this is under construction and comments are welcome; if you have comments please let me know.

Recent Work—Background Context

I have spent the past few years working on a series of Internet industry initiatives with potentially far-reaching consequences for society.

Though this is not part of popular cultural awareness, there is currently a titanic battle taking place between two competing ideologies: the proprietary software model (exemplified by Windows), and the free software model (exemplified by GNU/Linux). This is a to-the-death battle, from which there can eventually emerge only a single winner.

The software battle is part of a broader ideological contest, about ownership models for non-material constructs in general (software, but also including literature, music, images, movies, etc.) in the digital era. Current ownership models are rooted in the historical conventions and institutions of material products and materially-based services. In the case of abstract constructs such as software, these conventions appear in the form of the existing Intellectual Property (IP) regime, where proprietary ownership is asserted by means of patents, copyright and trade secrecy.

But the inherent nature of software and other non-material constructs is fundamentally at odds with these historical conventions of physical property ownership. Such constructs have the inherent potential for unlimited replicability and dissemination, and in the age of the Internet this potential is now fully realized.

As a result the existing IP conventions are coming under increasing stress, as the internal forces of replicability clash with the externally constraining IP framework. The IP regime is also coming under formal intellectual attack, as the dysfunctionality and true costs of this regime become increasingly apparent.

This is a complex debate, being pulled in different directions by competing interest groups, and a substantive discussion is out of place here. But my position is clear: the current IP conventions are the wrong model for ownership in the non-material domain. The IP ownership regime does not serve the ideal intended purpose of societal regulations, i.e. to balance rights equitably among conflicting constituencies. On the contrary, it has the effect of enriching a minority of powerful vested interests, to the very great detriment of society at large. The detrimental effects include the obstruction of engineering creativity, a distortion of the competitive business environment, and denial of the benefits thereof to the public.

Of acute concern in this regard is the Internet. The Internet has become a key medium, not just for day-to-day communications and productivity, but also for the free expression of information and ideas. It is a critical public resource, with profound consequences for the welfare of society.

Yet today, the Internet services industry is almost entirely owned and controlled by proprietary commercial interests. Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, and virtually every other Internet service—these are all for-profit corporations, with no obligation towards the public welfare.

This represents a grave hazard to the broader interests of society. In addition to the blocking of engineering creativity and business competition already mentioned, proprietary ownership of the Internet severely endangers a number of critical civil liberties including personal privacy, freedom of information, and freedom of speech.

Recent Work—Body of Work

Over the past several years I have worked and written extensively on these issues—both the IP debate in general, and the critical issue of proprietary Internet ownership in particular.

I am the co-founder and a director of the Free Protocols Foundation (FPF), an organization dedicated to the promotion and support of free protocols, software, and services. I am co-author of the Free Protocols Foundation Policies & Procedures, the principal defining document for the FPF, and the definition of a set of formal procedures whereby protocol developers can establish and maintain patent-free protocols. I am also the author or co-author of numerous FPF articles and position papers, including most notably the influential industry papers The WAP Trap and Operation WhiteBerry.

I am also the intellectual co-originator and visionary behind the concept of Libre Services, a radically new, non-proprietary model for delivery of Internet services.

Libre Services are an extension of the principles of free software into the Internet services domain: they are Internet services that can be freely copied and reused by anyone. Any company or organization can reproduce and host any Libre Service, either for its own use, or for commercial or non-commercial delivery to others. The Libre Services model exists in relation to the proprietary Internet services model of AOL, MSN, Yahoo, and Google, in an analogous way to how GNU/Linux exists in relation to Microsoft Windows.

This is a radical departure from the existing proprietary services model, with societal benefits that are equally radical and far-reaching. Under the Libre model there are no IP barriers standing in the way of engineering development or business competition. Furthermore, the Libre model guarantees a set of critical civil liberties that are not guaranteed under the proprietary model—indeed, that are routinely violated under that model.

A complete description of the Libre initiative is provided in a comprehensive set of documents, all authored or co-authored by myself, collectively called Neda's By* family of Libre Services: An Instance Example for Non-Material Capitalism. In particular, this set includes the following three key documents, describing the three major critical elements of this initiative:

The Libre Services model has enormous implications: it can redefine the entire global Internet services industry, for the enduring benefit of society. Not unlike the Free Software movement of 25 years ago, we are establishing the Libre Services movement today. And just as there is a titanic battle underway between the free and proprietary software ideologies, in due course there will be an equally titanic battle between the Libre and proprietary services ideologies. But in time, the Libre model can supplant the proprietary model entirely.

Created by sa-20071
Last modified 2010-01-23 05:26 PM

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