The books I have written are created from words invented by others, filled with ideas created by others. Even the few new ideas that are new depend on older ideas to work. What I had to say would probably be said by someone else not long after me. (More probably there have already been said by someone I was not aware of.) I may be the lucky person to claim those rare new ideas, but the worth of my art primarily resides in the great accumulation of the ideas and works of thousands of writers and thinkers before me — what I call the commons. My work was born in the commons, it gets its value by being deeply connected to the commons, and after my brief stewardship of those tiny new bits, it should return to the commons as fast as possible, in as many ways as possible.
Saturday, January 8th, 2022
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
A funny thing happened when I was in Berlin two weekends ago. I was walking down the street that my AirBnB apartment was on when I heard someone say “Jeremy Keith?” It turned out it was Andre Jay Meissner, one of the founders of the excellent Open Device Lab website. We had emailed but never met before. Small world!
Much as I’d love to take credit for the idea of an open device lab, it simply isn’t true. Jason and Lyza had been working on setting up the open device lab in Portland for quite a while when I flung open the doors of the Clearleft test lab. But I will take credit for the “Ah, fuck it!” attitude that I introduced to the idea of sharing test devices with the community. Partly because I had seen how long it was taking the Portland device lab to get off the ground while they did everything by the book, I decided to just wait for the worst to happen instead of planning for it:
There are potential pitfalls to opening up a testing suite like this. What about the insurance? What about theft? What about breakage? But the thing about potential pitfalls is that they’re just that: potential. I’m treating all of them as YAGNI issues. I’ll address any problems if and when they occur rather than planning for worst-case scenarios.
It proved to be a great policy. So far, nothing has gone wrong. And it also served as an example to other people thinking about opening up device labs at their companies: “don’t sweat it; I didn’t!”
But as far as anniversaries go, the one-year birthday of the Clearleft device lab is not the most significant event of April 30th. Today is the twentieth anniversary of the publication of one of the most important documents in technological history: the document that officially put the World Wide Web into the public domain.
Open device labs are a small, small part of working on the web but I like to think that they represent the same kind of spirit of openness and sharing that Tim Berners-Lee and his colleagues demonstrated at CERN:
I really, really like the way that communal device labs have taken off. It’s like a physical manifestation of the sharing and openness that has imbued the practice of web design and development right from the start. View source, mailing lists, blog posts, Stack Overflow, and Github are made of bits; device labs are made of atoms. But they are all open for you to use and contribute to.
At UX London I had dinner with a Swiss entrepreneur who was showing off his proprietary native app on his phone and proudly declaring that he had been granted a patent. He seemed like a nice chap, but his attitude kind of made my skin crawl. It seemed so antithetical to the spirit of sharing and openness that I’m used to from the web.
James Gleick once described the web as the patent that never was:
Tim Berners-Lee invented the Web and the Web browser — that is, the world as we now know it — pretty much single-handedly, starting in about 1989, when he was working as a software engineer at CERN, the particle-physics laboratory in Geneva. He didn’t patent it, or any part of it. On the contrary, he has labored tirelessly to keep cyberspace open and nonproprietary.
We are all reaping the benefits of Sir Tim’s kindness and generosity.
It’s not so much that Tim Berners Lee invented WWW, it’s that he gave it to the world as a gift. Supreme kindness as well as innovation.— Chris T-T (@christt) July 27, 2012
Thursday, January 31st, 2013
Michael Weinberg’s follow-up whitepaper to “It will be awesome if they don’t screw it up.”
Thursday, May 17th, 2012
This is wonderfully random: illustrations used to illustrate patent applications but without the context.
Tuesday, March 13th, 2012
A superb scathing piece by Andy, who has a personal perspective on Yahoo’s massively dick move in deploying the patent nuclear option against Facebook.
Thursday, August 26th, 2010
MPEG LA’s AVC License Will Not Charge Royalties for Internet Video That Is Free to End Users Through Life of License | Business Wire
Well, well, well. It looks like h264 is not going to be torpedoing us with any submarine patents anytime soon ...but this only applies to end users, not browser makers. Sigh.
Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010
A thoughtful piece by John Gruber on HTML5 video: yes, software patents are toxic to the web but perhaps H.264 isn't the worst offender.
Wednesday, July 1st, 2009
The spectre of patents is hurting progress on the web.
Tuesday, March 21st, 2006
Finally, questions are being asked about some of the more ludicrous patents out there. "Have inventors been busy patenting laws of nature, natural phenomena and abstract ideas?" Duh!
Tuesday, August 2nd, 2005
This, my friends, is the number of the beast.