The Digital Divide in D Major

What constitutes private property? Is it a piece of land that no one has access to? Do you post a sign up that keeps people at bay? Or is it intangible as well…perhaps private intellectual property; some algorithm written on one line in a multi-million code line piece of software. Many have ideas on what constitutes a privacy and private property. For instance, social security numbers or credit card numbers are always considered private…they’re not given out to people or organizations without the consent of the holder of said numbers/cards. However, don’t be so sure that your information is safe.

As companies increase their business with technology, their information collection engine revs up and begins to go into overdrive. What sites do our visitors go to? What product would they be more likely to buy? What have been their last 10 purchases and would they like to see a product similar to it? This information collected is only on the outskirts of the real information such as SSN or Credit Card numbers but just the same it is information about you and about your habits.

Imagine this alternative look at information collection for a second. You get up one morning and open up your blinds…it’s a beautiful day. You slap on some clothes and begin to get ready for whatever it is you might do that day. You lay out a backpack and begin to get your things together…perhaps an ipod goes in with some ear buds…a pair of comfortable shoes in case you decide to go walking…a water bottle in case you get thirsty. Whatever you might need for a day out at a shopping mall or just plain out. Now picture a guy standing at your window where you drew your blinds snapping pictures of what you’re putting into your bag and writing down notes.

That would freak me out right away…but that is exactly what is happening to us online. We’re being studied and recorded every digital step we take. To me, this is definitely wrong…but to others, it is just normal. Odd how things can become normal after only a few years. Just the same, would you want someone standing over your every move in a certain area…recording everything you looked at, everything you touched or walked by…everything you might have expressed interest in? Probably not. This is the outskirts of the third digital divide.

The first digital divide was purely social-economic. It happened when countries that could afford the new fangled technology of the internet were spurring their economies with online purchases and online business. Countries that couldn’t afford to jump the bandwagon ended up eating its dust. This new digital divide though is political. This could be the third digital divideit could be the fifth…it just depends on who you talk to.

Continue reading “The Digital Divide in D Major”

Disagreements + Groklaw = Deletion?

Open source software. When one builds their site upon open source and with supportive intentions toward open source, they are declaring that this site will have its innards laid bare and have an open policy toward all walks of life, all opinions for good or bad. For instance, if anyone wants any content from this website, they are able to take it at their leisure provided they give credit where credit is due. These aren’t at all a very hard concepts to grasp and use. Or are they?

In our last article on Groklaw.net, we went over one person’s experience as a groklaw user and content provider of that site. Of the points discussed, no one could argue that Mr. Petrofsky was unreasonable at any time, nor could one argue that he was at all unprofessional in his requests and his behavior. By examining the evidence presented in that article, one can infer that he was indeed deceived. Today, we’ll look into more possible examples of deception and censorship from the site where “open source principles are applied.” We’ll be chatting with an ex-moderator from Groklaw named Brenda Banks aka br3n who was removed as a moderator after expressing her opinion about certain matters at groklaw. After having her moderator status stripped from her, she then asked to be removed from the userlist based on her own moral compass. Read on for more on br3n.

Q: Please give the readers some background on yourself (any you feel is necessary)

br3n: I am a grandmother of 5 grandchildren, married 35+ years, nontechie type.

Q: Where did you get your start with technology?

br3n: I bought a computer in 98 with win 95 on it and it had the win 98 upgrade. I had a commodore 64 and commodore 128 many years ago, but never did anything other than print a few things like cards and banners. I started with linux in november 2001.

Q: Do you use GPL software? If so, what do you use?

br3n: Yes. I use mandrake 10.2

Q: What does the GPL mean to you?

br3n: it means that I can try to fix and control my own software to suit myself. I am not allowing any information out without my knowledge.

Q: What was your specific role at groklaw and how did you get your start there?


br3n: I was moderator. I gave PJ news links and helped with quote data base. I was so frightened when I first learned about the SCO vs IBM suit. I did constant news searches on SCO and found mettler’s site by a link from on slashdot. Mettler had a link to groklaw. I lurked for a while because I didnt feel I had anything to contribute to her [Pamela Jones from Groklaw aka PJ]. In fact then very few people posted at all. That was in either late May or early June. Then I got my nerve up to write her an email about one of her articles and we started corresponding. I would email news links to her with short summaries from the article that were the most important.

Q: What was the ultimate goal you hoped to achieve by being a contributor at groklaw?

br3n: I dont think I ever set out to do anything. I found something I could handle such as sending her the links for news articles and it helped her with her time since she was working. I also helped with the quote data base.

Q: How would you classify your time spent at groklaw? Fun? Informative? Horrible? Please explain.

br3n: I had a lot of fun but most from reading others comments.sometimes I feel sad that I was so blind to be willing to trust someone like that. I was horribly disappointed in the treatment dealt from PJ at groklaw for things that happened off site.

Q: When (if at all) did you notice things starting to go awry at groklaw?

br3n: My first alarms/questions arose when the announcement came out that PJ was working at OSRM, then came the 283 patent infringement possibilities announced around the same time. Then when jgabriel [another Groklaw user] had his account deleted there was no way to ignore things anymore. This was when I tested PJ by email asking about his deletion and posting mild criticism of her on yahoo [The Yahoo SCO finance boards]. She never answered the email about him and she then removed moderation powers from me without correspondance. I felt that was the answer I would have to accept and that she would keep ignoring what she doesnt want to answer. Deleting his [jgabriel’s] account and making all his posts anon, was just the most terrible/disrespectful thing I thought I had ever heard of.

Continue reading “Disagreements + Groklaw = Deletion?”

Groklaw and Censorship?

I think I may be on to something here.  I’ve come across an increasingly controversial example similar to what I’ve been posting about in this category.  I’ve posted about censorship in Linux forums and open source supportive websites, systematic categorization of Linux, as well as infiltrating open source and Linux with political and social views.  I’m an avid open source enthusiast…but I’m beginning to become ashamed of being associated with the groups I posted about.  I recently read a webpage that chronicles the traded messages of a person that posted comments on Groklaw.net and who believes that they were censored from public view.

Some of you may be familiar with Groklaw…and some of you might not.  For those of you that aren’t, Groklaw is a site started up to chronicle SCO vs. TheWorld but it has morphed into a little bit more by adding MS into the mix along with some other companies.  The site has some great information for those seeking it and it is powered by Geeklog which makes the format nice on the eyes, easy to navigate, and open source powered.

While Groklaw isn’t a direct open source project…according to the Second article on their Mission Statement, open source principles are applied.  This makes a powerful ally to FOSS, Linux, and the OSI. Or does it?  Is Groklaw actually speaking out the corners of its proverbial mouth?  At least this one user thinks so.

Al Petrofsky is the owner/operator of scofacts.org which is a site dedicated to the systematic documentation of all information on the SCO case.  I had a chance to trade a few emails with Mr. Petrofsky in order to get his take on why he feels his comments at Groklaw were censored from public view.  He believes that the main argument that Groklaw had against his comments was over copyright issues of recordings (audio/visual) that he posted.  He also argues that these copyright issues were bogus because he provides written authorization and release notices for each of his sources.  As Mr. Petrofsky found, his posts were made viewable to only himself and erased from public view as opposed to outright deletion.  It also seems that Mr. Petrofsky wasn’t the only one that reported this phenomenon either.  Al attempted to contact both Pamela Jones and Mathfox, two POC’s for groklaw.  He did receive responses that you can view in his email traffic with PJ at Groklaw, which he vouches for; “The six emails on that page were really sent or received by me, and the eight groklaw pages were really retrieved from groklaw. (I think the fact that I’m publishing that page at a website registered to me already constitutes a representation, no less official than this one, that the evidence there is not manufactured.)”

Mr. Petrofsky isn’t irritated about the fact that a site admin or owner had a problem with his post.  What gets his proverbial goat is that he discovered Groklaw was making comments (of which their comments page states, “Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments”) posted by users visible only to the users themselves.  Everyone else at the site isn’t able to see the posts.

Is this a case of deception versus rejection?  Would an outright rejection or deletion of the comment be a better way to go?  It seems that this would be a valid avenue to go even if you were unsure about the content of the comment.  If you delete the comment in question, then inform the submitting party that their comment was deleted for X reason, the person could provide validity, reasons, license, and sources for their comment(s).

Would a ‘self-moderated comment’ style of submission OR outright deletion of the comments in question be a better avenue instead of deception?  It is my opinion that it would. Mr. Petrofsky shares this opinion, “I have no problem with a newspaper editor or blog writer accepting submissions from letter writers or web visitors and choosing to publish some and discard others”…”However, groklaw has attempted to prevent that last part [rejecting submissions/content] from happening by deceiving the one person who would normally notice a stupid post-rejection decision and might tell other people about it. I find that outrageous, especially from a site that states its goal is “devotion to the truth.”

Besides Al Petrofsky, there are at least 2 other verified groklaw members who have experienced the same “post is invisible to all but me” phenomenon (note: Geeklog also has a setting for this in its latest version) I have also contacted a group of about 5 others that have first hand knowledge and experience with both Mr. Petrofsky’s situation as well as others in which these cases apply.  The question that begs to be asked is, what is going on at Groklaw?  Wouldn’t outright deletion be a better avenue to go?  While I have not officially contacted Pamela Jones from Groklaw, rest assured that it will be done within the next few days. (Editors note: Still no word back from PJ as of 8 Feb 05).

Interestingly enough, if you go over to Groklaw’s search page and enter al_petrofsky (Mr. Petrofsky’s username) and you won’t find him. I believe that Mr. Petrofsky’s account has been deleted but I have not officially confirmed this information.  A quick look to his userID at groklaw (1098 ) redirects us back to the front page so it seems as though the account has been deleted. Both uid 1099 and 1097 are valid…but 1098 is gone.  Whether this was Mr. Petrofsky’s doing or from Groklaw action has yet to be seen.

To show what Mr. Petrofsky “perceived as” deception and misdirection, look at the following saved threads from Groklaw (saved threads that had comments viewable only to Mr. Petrofsky…taken from groklaw immediately when he noticed his posts weren’t visible) mirrored at scofacts.org:

It is apparent that something happened with Mr. Petrofsky’s posts.  There are far too many plagiarized comments visible from “anonymous” immediately following his posts that received responses on them.  One is curious as to why comments were received on those plagiarized posts and not on Mr. Petrofsky’s.  As he stated earlier, the debate isn’t about the deletion of the aforementioned posts, but rather, the way in which Mr. Petrofsky’s posts were addressed.  Making the posts visible to only himself and site administrators/moderators can be seen as a direct form of deception.  While not outside of the limitations of a site administrator or moderator’s power, it does bring up a question of morals.  Is it ok to deceive your supporters and readers/site visitors?  I say no.  In my opinion, any form of deception discredits your reputation to yourself and your site visitors.

Some may ask, why I posted this at all. Good question.  I think it is because I’ve started documenting in the category “GreatDivide” examples of definite or possible injustice and outright nastiness that happens to people/groups/individuals that are active in or supportive of free and open source software (FOSS).  It’s also a platform for injustices that are done with intent to harm FOSS.  I found it fitting that I post this article in that category and on this blog.  Even though Groklaw is not an open source project, it does support open source…refer back to #2 on the mission statement and you can see why this was posted here.  While not all of you may agree with what is claimed above, rest assured that there will be future developments and clarifications on the way.

Currently, I am contacting PJ of groklaw.net to verify her side in things (one has to be fair). More to come on this.

The Great Schism Continues and the Rift Grows Wider

We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still. ~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 18591

It has happened again. Just like water seeps into cracks in rocks and freezes in the cold, splitting them apart…so has an ideal begun to chip away at Linux. In my previous post on this subject I talked about how Linux was beginning to be categorized. Not in the normal categories you would think…but in demographic and social categories. Linux is beginning to become associated with political ideas and social idealism. Political Correctness and concepts of sexism have flexed their muscle from within Debian.

The Debian Women’s Group (link broken at the time of this article) have spoke yet again against something considered sexist. Instead of being sexist language in a file…we have something a bit different. Newsforge reported on a small program that had been submitted for packaging called Hotbabe, which is a graphical representation of CPU activity. It depicts a cartoon woman who strips off clothing with higher CPU activity and is based on the artwork of Bruno Bellamy, a French cartoonist. The synopsis of what happened is this: Someone didn’t like the fact that this could be considered sexist or erotica…so they submitted a bug to the list and started a thread on the Debian Women’s Mailing list. A BUG!?!?? Since when did content become a “bug”? For that matter, where in Debian Policy does it say that a package must contain content that is unoffensive to all groups?? Wouldn’t that defeat the concept of free software and uncensored free software?

Continue reading “The Great Schism Continues and the Rift Grows Wider”

Linux, Open Source, and the Great Schism.

I’m relatively low key. I don’t get excited and shout alot. I don’t get worked up on politics. I’m not too exciteable. I REALLY don’t like ranting and raving about nonsense. I also hate the fact that when someone has a blog, that ranting is the most common thing done. I feel somewhat bad that this will be only my third entry, yet my second ‘rant’. But in the first case, I ranted in a way to defend open source, in this entry I could be seen as attacking it. If you’re still interested, please read on.

I can hear a Scorpions song in the back of my head…that silly whistling sound that permeates pores and seeps into the jellied slab of the mind. The winds of change (cliche I know) have begun to blow in open source. I noticed this quickly on a very specific day. It was November 5th, 2004 and Linux…not Linux worldwide…but one distro…got the ball rolling. Allow me to impart the specifics to you.

MEPIS Linux, a very solid and good distribution of Linux, announced on 5 Nov 04 that it was supporting The U.S. Military with free downloads and support via a community website called Mepislovers. This in itself is ok to almost any American but I cringed at this notion. I waited patiently for things to develop and had fear that somewhere someone wouldn’t take this offering very well. Less than a week later, it happened. On MEPISLovers’ (MEPIS official community site) main site they expressed concern over the decision to support the troops citing, “why not give free support to Iraqi(s) [families] as well?” This person was silenced immediately, as was I when expressing concern about how this person was silenced. I was Someone who had been involved with MEPIS Linux since it’s first public offering and someone that had a website recieveing 400k site views per month; I was silenced on the ‘official community’ website for MEPIS. This is the change I took notice of. I was censored. Odd, I had never been censored since discovering the internet in 1993. Didn’t matter too much but the thing that really really got me thinking is the fact that Linux had been categorized!By announcing that MEPIS Linux offered free stuff for the military they opened themselves up to criticism from its foreign users who didn’t agree with this decision. They had officially alienated some of their userbase! I cringed again. This isn’t the way open source is supposed to operate. I looked on the net for examples of what I had just seen but couldn’t come across any. This seemed (there may be other previous instances I’m not aware of) to be a new concept. I hoped it wouldn’t repeat itself. Flash forward to a few days ago.

The headline reads, “Debian Women: Geek feminists in action.” Give it a read through and you might see what I’m getting at. I’m not an anti-feminist and I’m not against women’s lib. I don’t take political sides…I try to stay as neutral as possible until I see an injustice such as the censorship of ideas. However, on this instance, an exception MUST be made. Linux is becoming more divided than I ever thought would be possible. Not just divided in distros…that part is ok because each one offers something specific to a niche of people. The difference now is that Linux is being associated with political situations and ideas…which is alienating others.

The Debian Womens group even went so far as to submit a BUG to the debain buglist on something they considered SEXIST LANGUAGE in documentation and instructions! A Bug! What kind of “bug” would this be?? It’s ridiculous to think that this would have been a ‘bug’ of any kind. But alas, some developers and maintainers even accepted this. What in the world is happening to Linux and open source if we are dividing ourselves in this manner? We’ve gone over 10 years without having these subdivisions…why start now? Remember that together, rope strands make a strong coil…but unstrung from the original cord, they are weak and will snap under small amounts of stress. I sure hope open source remains together as a strong rope.

The simple fact of the matter is that when open source started out…there were only handles…nicknames…with which people were known as. No one cared if you were a female or a male unless you were in an IRC chatroom (shout out to efnet! 😉 ). What have we begun to do to ourselves? I’m sure there are others that have seen similar situations like these two happen across the web…if so, please let it be known here. Something has to be done before we fork ourselves into having “Gay/Bisexual Linux” or some sort of racial Linux that only certain people should ascribe to? This is a problem that has begun to seep into the very foundation of open source…and the fact that it is printed on newsforge means that people are accepting it.

Think about it everyone. If changes like this happens, Linux will suffer a huge setback. As an open source user it shouldn’t matter what sex you are or if you prefer apples to oranges. What should matter is that you are willing to sacrifice a bit of your spare time to further along whatever program or distro you support.

“A House divided against itself cannot stand” Abraham Lincoln, 1858