Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Water cooler politics

I can change the 5-gallon (40 pound) bottles on the water cooler at work, all by myself. What I apparently cannot do is change them with help. That is, if anybody male spots me trying to change one, it is promptly taken from me and the task completed without me, no matter how far along I was.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Not such a new idea

Ideas are not the sort of resource that is scarce. Most great ideas are built "upon the shoulders of giants," as variations on a theme. We repeat each other and add a few things.

Lately, we've started writing open licenses for things like software and content. It's partly a reaction to the efforts by organizations like the MPAA,the RIAA, and the corporate software producers to clamp down on who "owns" information. The idea has been well discussed by Lawrence Lessig and plenty of others, so I shan't explore it in depth here. Suffice it to say that an open license is simply the use of copyright to protect the piece not from being copied, but from being restricted. Under most open licenses, derivative works must explicitly remain freely licensed.

What I'd like to do here is point out that it's not at all a new idea. There is a book of Spanish poetry called the Libro de Buen Amor (Book of Good Love), written in about 1330. It includes this passage, several centuries before its time:
Qualquier omen, que lo oya, si bien trovar sopiere,
puede más y añadir et emendar si quisiere,
ande de mano en mano a quienquier quel’ pidiere,
como pella a las dueñas tómelo quien podiere.
Pues es de buen amor, emprestadlo de grado,
non desmintades su nombre, nin dedes refertado,
non le dedes por dineros vendido nin alquilado,
ca non ha grado, nin graçias, nin buen amor complado.

Whatever man that hears it, if well he knows [how to write] poetry
may here add more, and amend if he wants,
walk hand in hand [collaborate] with whomever he wants,
like a ball thrown to the ladies, take it who may.
Since it's of good love, loan it with good grace,
Don't deny its name or hesitate to give it,
Do not give it for money, sold nor rented,
For it has no gusto nor grace, nor [is] good love purchased.

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