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Why IP Laws Are Blocking Innovation

avilliers Re:Remember the vast innovation in the baroque per (348 comments)

I totally challenge " and clearly IP laws help innovation". Consider UBUNTU, APACHE. And copyright breaches don't seem to alter the quality of music and movies published (although those last 2 are open to argument I guess).

Since I also said they hurt innovation, giving more example of things they've hurt is sort of supportive of half my point and irrelevant to the other half. But yes, I do agree with the suggestion that sometimes things aren't helped. Software patents specifically seem a real minefield for no apparent purpose.

Artists and Inventors will do what they do 'cos that's what they do. So maybe performance artists will have to go back to performing live to make a living. And just give recordings away free as promotion material.

The idea that "artists do what they do" is rather self serving. If you decide not to pay people for their labor, it's nice to pretend they don't care about the money. But I know artists who've quit spending time at it because they had a family to support and it became clear they weren't going to make it work as a profession. (Doesn't matter if you think that proves they weren't committed--they were producing art, and stopped, because of money.) I'm thinking mostly of people I know, but the brilliant cult SF writer John Sladek seems to have stopped his fiction output and gotten a day job near the end of his life. And some reasonably talented recording artists just don't like performing--the indie band XTC in the '80s, stopped touring because of Andy Partridge's stage fright but released a couple more good albums, and Gene Clark quit the Birds when his fear of flying got too much. Heck, the Beatles best stuff was after they stopped doing live shows. So a "no recording profits" rule would certainly cut some people out--ie, stop their innovation, even if it shifted it to others.

But really, I don't have much knowledge of the artistic 'industries' and don't have a strong opinion about how the world would change if we got fewer blockbusters and more garage bands, I don't like either much.

In technology an innovation that is great will be copied. But because of the difficulties of properly copying complex things, that is easier said than done. Buyers would probably get better results buying from the innovator, who will always have the latest ideas included, so long as he wasn't charging exhorbitantly (Like apples).

I am not advocating immediate, wholesale abandonment of the status quo. I would like to see the time that a patent "lives" shortened. Once upon a time, the first ten years of a patent life were used to tool up for production. Today production cycle is much shorter, and the market much larger, so lots of money can still be made, even if patent life were to be decimated every year till it's down to about 6 months.

Some things are easy to copy and hard to invent; in others the invention is less important than the skill to produce it. This is my whole point; there's a whole range out there in the world. In general, protections are going to be most useful when research and development costs are large or risky Picking industries where this isn't the case--like you did with consumer electronics above--don't prove any general rule, they just illustrate that there are situations where those factors don't apply and the benefits are less clear. People on Slashdot only know the one area--they often work in software, download non-mainstream music and buy smart phones--but if you actually care about the issue ignoring everything else is the intellectual equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears.

The US government actually did an experiment to see if extra IP protection would spur development of new products in pharmaceuticals. That wasn't the point of it, but the Orphan Drug Law promised extra years of protection for diseases with small patient populations. It has been a great success, at least in terms of spurring research and getting companies to develop cures. (Predictably, sales cost while the products remain under a state-protected monopoly are quite high, so not everyone is enthusiastic overall. But that's not the point of this discussion.)

more than 3 years ago
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Why IP Laws Are Blocking Innovation

avilliers Re:Remember the vast innovation in the baroque per (348 comments)

It's a bit sad, considering the amount of energy spent on Slashdot discussing IP and innovation, that a sweeping and incorrect generalization like "No IP protection in the Baroque" that is still considered "Insightful." You would have hoped that people would have spent a fraction of the time writing and ranting instead reading.

There were of course considerable legal efforts used to keep smart people in place and harvest their output. This was an era when monopoly rights were routinely granted to restrict competition and the wealthy were obsessively worried about secret knowledge.

If you were, say, a glassblower in Venice, it would be impossible to take that knowledge and use it elsewhere within Venice; risky to use it outside Venetian control; and downright fatal if you did use it outside Venice and then returned home. By comparison, a patent lawsuit where most of the time you split the profits is downright encouraging.

In the arts, Handel basically had to defect from Hannover to compose in England.

This is not to over-dramaticize; states were weaker and their understanding of what could be considered a "valuable innovation" much more limited. I don't know how you could reasonably compare "IP" restrictions and say one era was better or worse; they were just very different. It would depend what you were trying to do.

I'm afraid my own opinion is fairly bland--clearly IP laws hurt innovation and clearly IP laws help innovation. (I could give personal examples of both--projects killed because an invention was patented but not developed by a competitor; projects not considered because you couldn't establish exclusivity and thus saw no path for ROI.) They have different effects in different industries. The proper balance between freedom, basic fairness and innovation is tricky.

more than 3 years ago
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Statistician Cracks Code For Lottery Tickets

avilliers Re:Coolest part of the article (374 comments)

This is a case where the fine article is worth the time. I'm hardly a regular, but by far the most interesting one I've clicked on in quite a while. It addresses all your hypotheses:

If we estimate 220 working days a year this means he makes more than 132,000 a year. Seems like either he makes quite a bit

From TFA: "To be honest, I make more as a consultant, and I find consulting to be a lot more interesting than scratch lottery tickets." Not surprising for a talented, experienced person with technical degrees from MIT and Stanford--either in the degree of compensation or the matter of where his interest lies. He could probably shoot for 5 times that in the financial industry (pre-crash, anyway) if money was his main goal. Instead he chose "geological statistics."

or he needs to think bigger.

From TFA: "Instead of secretly plundering the game, he decided to go to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. Srivastava thought its top officials might want to know about his discovery. Who knows, maybe they'd even hire him to give them statistical advice." So yeah, less work for a potentially bigger paycheck, bypassing legal issues and the necessity of hiding the secret of his success . . . he does OK in the "think bigger" category. :)

Get 10 people all doing this and have him take 50% of the profits.

The article goes on to discuss statistical anomalies in winning ticket distributions. It is possible people are doing this, although there is "no direct evidence."

more than 3 years ago
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I would pay ___ monthly for a good online newspaper/magazine

avilliers Already Pay More Than $10 (315 comments)

Well, I already pay more for some scientific journals online. So obviously the right content is worth more than that to me.

For general interest, I wouldn't currently pay because plenty of good quality content is free. And if I'm paying (such as for the Economist) I prefer the print version, where I find it easier to read multiple medium length articles.

more than 3 years ago
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The Tipping Point of Humanness

avilliers Re:Survival? (272 comments)

The study has nothing to do with the point you are making. There is no real world situation where we encounter Polar Express level-of-competence simulacra and our life is threatened if we make an incorrect decision. Claiming "survival," let alone it being "key" to survival, is sloppy thinking by researchers who have apparently internalized some evolutionary pyschology memes.

This ability is presumably a side effect of other valuable mental skills, such as the ability to read facial expression and identify similar looking faces. Which is amazing and the subject of not much study, but no what this article is about and not what the experiment measured.

more than 2 years ago
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Placebos Work -- Even Without Deception

avilliers Re:Homeopathic Medicine (430 comments)

Actually with the placebo effect people don't just feel better but get the same results they would have had they had the real medicine. It goes even further than that. There are well documented instances of cancer remission with placebo pills and relief from angina with sham operations.

There is a bit of confusion here in concept. The place the "placebo effect" is well documented and reproducible is in things like pain relief, and in this case at least some of the biochemical pathways are actually known. We can actually administer drugs to *block* the placebo effect in these cases, from what I've read.

On something like cancer, I've never heard of a study that confirmed a placebo effect. There are anecdotes, but there are anecdotes of people doing nothing at getting cured. Designing a study would be tough, since even beyond ethical concerns you'd have to compare it to "no treatment" and there is no way to double blind; you wouldn't be sure you were getting "placebo effects" or simply doctor or patient changes in behavior. (Or a reduced stress level in the placebo group, which isn't traditionally considered the "placebo effect" although it could still lead to better outcomes.)

On angina, the studies compared real surgery to sham surgery and actually suggested to many doctors that state-of-the-art treatment wasn't helpful. Pain relief (which falls into the "known placebo effect" area) but no actual improvement in long-term health or the underlying diseasehttp://science.slashdot.org/story/10/12/23/1445207/Placebos-Work----Even-Without-Deception#.

more than 2 years ago
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Placebos Work -- Even Without Deception

avilliers Re:Homeopathic Medicine (430 comments)

Browsing the stories, it seemed like they had studies showing it was more effective. Or is that supposed to be a rhetorical question?

If it does turn out to be mistake (presumably what you're getting at, and while it hasn't happened yet it wouldn't be the first time) it will probably be in part because there was a measurable effect at high dose but that there were safety concerns. This probably led to somewhat reduced focus on the efficacy question at the lower dose study, since the drug was already shown to work. So a weak signal would be believed more easily in this context than others--you can get above the 95% confidence threshhold by chance.

A brand new drug/study/pathway typically meets with more scrutiny by the FDA. Doesn't mean those never get mistakes, either, of course, but you're more likely to see efficacy issues in something like this.

more than 2 years ago
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"Innocent Infringement" Defense May Reach Supreme Court

avilliers Re:No sign, no crime? (213 comments)

This is possibly the funniest post I've read on Slashdot in years.

more than 4 years ago
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"Innocent Infringement" Defense May Reach Supreme Court

avilliers Re:Let's turn this argument around (213 comments)

If a person can't innocently infringe because there is information out there that the material is copyrighted, it should follow that an artist (or distributor) should expect that somewhere out there is a person who will pirate the material and not pay. So why don't they just drop the case and accept that people pirate music? What you think you've got a monopoly on being unreasonable?

I've read this paragraph three times and can't see the logic. It seems to be a claim that some people will break a law, therefore there should be no attempt to enforce it?

On what planet is any amount of personal infringment OF ENTERTAINMENT worth thousands of dollars?

It's not "worth" thousands of dollars. It's punitive. That's the point; it is meant to be sufficiently harsh to discourage people from violating the law. Part of the logic is that the crime is easy to commit and expensive to enforce. Damages on the order of a few hundred dollars would never be worth pursuing.

This is the same logic used against corporations in civil cases to encourage them to act responsibly--if they illegally screw over an employee, for example, they'll usually get away with it, since most people have better things to do than spend thousands of dollars suing over a few dozen hours of overtime pay or even six months unemployment. So if someone takes the time charge them, under certain circumstances you hammer them with far more than the actual damages they caused, so they have an incentive to obey the law in other cases as well. It becomes a risk/reward calculation.

Both approaches have similar problems--it'd be fairer if punishment were more certain and smaller--but no one has figured out how to do that effectively.

When I was a school kid in Australia we were taught about the attrocious and unreasonble practice of sending starving people to a prison half away around the world for stealing a loaf of bread when they were starving. Well I grant you no one ever died of not having a crappy RIAA song to listen to, but it seems we're trying to bring back the most unreasoanble and disproportionate punishments possible. What next? Should people be summarily executed for backing up a CD? Just how far is this shit going to go? And these CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY keep getting pushed onto the whole world through trade and other agreements. As a reasonable person, how the hell am I suppose to feel any kind of sympathy for people who would push such laws?

Person pirates a song by Jessica Simpson. Person gets sued for civil damages, and the case is in court. You compare the act to stealing bread to eat, the (not yet assessed) punishment to lifelong exile, and the reaction a crime against humanity (sorry, a CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY) in the same paragraph you're complaining about unreasonable and disproportionate responses? Mote, plank, eye, etc.

more than 4 years ago
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"Innocent Infringement" Defense May Reach Supreme Court

avilliers Re:Not an unreasonable assumption to make (213 comments)

Please mod the parent up. Linux is copyrighted. Copying Linux is legal solely because it is explicitly granted by a license which is required to be present on every copy. If you didn't have the license--or violated it--you would indeed be a 'pirate'. The grandparent poster seems unaware of or indifferent to the legal framework; the fact that he found someone working retail at Microcenter who was just as unaware is a pretty much textbook strawman.

In this case in question, the songs are by people like Jessica Simpson, Avril Lavigne, and Jennifer Lopez. I have trouble imagining anyone asserting with a straight face that a reasonable person would believe the songs were off copyright attached.

IIUC, on the actual issue at appeal, it's whether a jury should be allowed to laugh at the ignorance claim and go to judgment, or a judge is allowed to say it's not even a plausible defense and disallow it from being raised. Either way, the result will not be a right to copy anything without a notice. It strikes me as a pretty narrow issue.

more than 4 years ago
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"Fair Trolls" To Fight Patents With Patents

avilliers Re:IP law needs to be rewritten (113 comments)

I work in the drug industry. Competitor drug patents are aggressively read for clues on what to do and what to work on. In short, they often contain valuable, non-obvious knowledge that, once they are made public, spur further innovation in others. In short, at least at times they work exactly how they are supposed to. (Other times the benefit is less clear cut.)

In the software industry, my understanding is that no one reads patents because they aren't helpful and it's better to have no knowledge of a patent you may unintentionally infringe upon.

I do think people on Slashdot whose primary exposure to patents is reading about especially outrageous software patents, and the occasional gene sequence patent, are missing half the picture. It doesn't mean the half they focus on is good or 'worth it', but it's not even close to the whole picture.

more than 4 years ago
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Microsoft To Pay $200M In Patent Dispute

avilliers Re:Awww what a shame (81 comments)

Requires them to? They could keep the technology under wraps as a Trade Secret, only disclosing the details to those who are willing to sign NDA's for it. This is, incidentally how software companies worked for literally decades and how many companies still work today. You won't find a patent application for the Coca-Cola recipe for instance.

I'm not loving your business plan. The problem with trade secrets is that prior art doesn't apply to non-public inventions. If someone else invents & patents it, I lose my right to do business selling my own invention, just because you came up with it second but decided to use the evil patent system while I remained pure.

Patenting everything gives you direct defense against someone else trying to trump you, plus the ability to counter-sue or threaten other companies who harass you, plus the ability to harass the competition. The last one is optional; the other two are essentially required for a large tech company.

If software patents weren't issued at all, then the trade secret approach would work fine. Hence the "blame it on the system" comment.

more than 4 years ago
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Wikipedia Is Not Amused By Entry For xkcd-Coined Word

avilliers Re:Simple Solution (553 comments)

Yes, yes, you made a joke about implemented by computer. But that really is what rules are. Rules are things that anyone can look at and come to the same conclusion if something is in violation or not. That is the meaning of 'rules'.

I thought I was at least partly joking, but I guess not.

"Only people I like can come to my party" is a rule. Think that's too trivial? Consider that you can't kill someone--unless you are in a situation where you have a reasonable fear for your life, whatever that means. Jurors will argue about their opinion of what a reasonable person should fear, and the only answer is that a 'reasonable' man is what the jurors thought it was. But the anti-killing thing is still a rule.

Most human rules are like that, and not like simple algorithms at all. Some cases clearly on one side, some on another, and for some there's lots of arguments until the 'opinion' of the judge, prosecutor and jurors will eventually decide things.

I actually mostly agree on the results of the judgment, simply without finding it as severe or unusual flaw as you seem to. Except, as I said, cutting fluff from an encyclopedia *adds* value for me, since I enjoy browsing a concisely edited one.

more than 4 years ago
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Wikipedia Is Not Amused By Entry For xkcd-Coined Word

avilliers Re:Simple Solution (553 comments)

No, I'm pointing out that collective 'judgement calls' do not, in fact, work.

People cannot but disagree, and, what's more, it's something that's nearly impossible to be objective on. You can't just decide how 'relevant to the universe' something is...it's always what's relevant to you.

You can actually notice this lack of objectivity when it comes to sci-fi....nerds do a disproportional amount of editing, ergo, sci-fi is massively over-represented.

Actually your point was that they don't follow rules. You didn't mention "judgment" at all, not even indirectly; it was complaining about inconsistent application of rules.

If you now want to change your point to say that you question their judgment in applying rules, fine, but that's a different argument. I actually agree with the revised argument, at least the specifics, as I implied in my post (I'm the AC in the GP). I don't think an animated show deserves multiple entries, and I don't think an ideal encyclopedia should include implementations of algorithms in code just because a lot of editors are apparently undergrad comp sci majors.

But disagreeing with judgments being made doesn't mean they aren't being made, or even made consistently. "Wikipedia is an encyclopedia with many worthwhile articles but, among other flaws, over emphasizes science fiction and popular television" is IMHO an accurate description. The 1912 Britannica was a good encyclopedia with its own emphasis problems, plus some incredibly embarrassing mistakes about non-western history (such as not knowing when the Mughals came to power in India) because of the biases in *its* editorial pool.

The problems don't invalidate either project, let alone in concept (as you seem to be arguing) or the idea of a "notability" standard. They do affect the utility and the enjoyment of both.

Empirically, your are probably right that if Wikipedia tried to be more assertive it would do a bad job. But they could certainly change standards from the ridiculous 'cite needed' when making critical judgments (which discourages people who actually *know* crap from editing, and encourages Dunning-Kruger sufferers who read one book on the subject once and believed it) and be more encouraging about cutting marginal articles to the bone. In the theoretical space for 'collaborative projects', this could reach a stable equilibrium of sorts, with people cutting stuff out and fixing bad claims. But in practice? I doubt it's worth trying.

OTOH, I'm not entirely sure why they don't let everything in currently, but I'm sure there's a reason.

I assume their reason is to mimic a traditional encyclopedia. Personally my preference for less is based on two things: A 200-word article is more useful than a 2000 word article if you want a short introduction; and, length in a traditional encyclopedia does convey valuable information about the overall importance.

more than 4 years ago
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Mass. Data Security Law Says "Thou Shalt Encrypt"

avilliers Re:Doesn't sound so bad (510 comments)

It is reasonable in principle, and a significant new burden that a lot of small businesses won't be able to handle and will mess with a lot of the ways the internet has empowered the small-time crowds..

It's one thing for anyone who's core business is on-line selling, let alone a corporation. But don't think like them. Suppose you run a local used bookstore that's willing to ship books to customers out of the area, or are a musician who is happy to supplement performance income by selling that self-recorded CD? You handle the orders with paypal, but have you really encrypted that customer list you used to keep in a notebook but is now in Excel? Have you even thought of it?

In addition, it applies to anyone who *sells* to a MA resident. If other states follow suit, but don't do things exactly the same, could you imagine trying to keep up? You'll have to do best practices (including written security policies) to have a fighting chance of avoiding fines.

To be fair, there usually are exemptions for small businesses; I didn't see one skimming the story, but my examples may be irrelevant. Hopefully they are.

more than 4 years ago
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Studying For Certification Exams On Company Time?

avilliers Re:Oh dear (281 comments)

I'm surprised this isn't a standard clause in the USA as well, because it solves most of the issues in this area.

It creates whole new classes of problem, where an employee is motivated to do poor work in order to get fired so that they don't have to pay for their training. And since they can be dismissed for a whole host of reasons, then there is ample opportunity for a court battle over who foots the bill.

A lot of companies do have something like this in the US, including my employer, and the problem you mention isn't a big deal.

From the company's point of view, the worry is basically that after paying for a shiny new MBA they get screwed when the employee immediately leaves for a higher-paying job. So you risk being out the tuition cost *and* a good employee. At a minimum, the clause gives the employee an incentive to stay for a couple years, so you at least get something out of him in return for the bonuses you paid him. Ideally, you've transferred more responsibilities to them during that period and they want to stay.

In this context, an employee trying to get fired isn't a huge risk. Being fired from your last job for incompetence will hurt you on the market more than the extra credential or degree helps. And you certainly can't interview while still employed, then explain that you can't set a start date because you aren't sure how long it will be until you get yourself fired.

Really, the only good-faith issue that will come up in this situation is if the employee leaves for personal reasons (spouse takes a job somewhere else?) in which case the employee may be on the hook, as in leaving halfway through a year-long lease. I'd assume larger companies do try to cut a deal in those cases, to split the costs and leave on good terms.

more than 4 years ago
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Red-Light Camera Ticket Revenue and Short Yellows

avilliers Re:-1 False Assumption (976 comments)

Legal in CA, MI, NY, and CO, too.

In California, the rule is actually that you cannot enter an intersection unless you can clear it before the light turns red. It doesn't matter if the light is yellow or green before you enter. So any photo of a car in an intersection, after the light is red, is nominally enough to show a violation.

I'm sure there are laws on how long a yellow has to be, given the speed limit. Just as there are laws on stop sign visibility. If you could show that the yellow doesn't follow those guidelines (as per TFA) it makes sense you'd get off.

more than 4 years ago
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SETI Is 50 Years Old; No Sign of ET

avilliers Re:They are there invisibly (454 comments)

But imagine in your mind an alien on an alien world because those same numbers say that it is a logical certainty that they exist.

Those numbers say absolutely nothing, certainly not with "logical certainty".

If you could quantify how likely intelligent life is to evolve over a given time on some star, you could then use the numbers you toss about to estimate the probability of alien life at some time. You basically have a denominator but no numerator, and you're claiming you know the value of the ratio. You don't.

more than 4 years ago
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SETI Is 50 Years Old; No Sign of ET

avilliers Re:Fermi Paradox anyone?? (454 comments)

It's taken us this long to be here. Who's to say there's not another intelligent species out there who is just now coming into space travel, but is already depressed because the Xorblat Paradox says searching for alien life is probably a waste of time. The Fermi Paradox is still incredibly short-sighted.

Common sense, actually. No spacefaring species at all for the last 2 billion or 10 billion years or so (depending how you want to score), and then another "just now coming into space travel," within a few thousand years. As a hypothesis, this is weak--and violates Occam's razor. If you propose, as a solution to Fermi, that there was no spacefaring life for 9.999950 billion years, then it's far simpler to assume that there is no other spacefaring life for the last 0.000050 billion years as well.

more than 4 years ago
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SETI Is 50 Years Old; No Sign of ET

avilliers Re:We are the only ones (454 comments)

Look how difficult it was to get here in the first place. We are the First Ones.

I realize Slashdot loves the ET thing, but who modding the parent as a troll? Really? For suggesting we're alone and tosssing in a sci-fi cliche?

Beyond that, I don't even think it's a ridiculous suggestion on the merits. Life itself seems to have risen quickly, but it did take life a long time for any intelligence to appear on Earth--billions of years with life, but no technology and no intelligence. That certainly suggests it's not inevitable. It might really be a one in a billion fluke--we don't know.

more than 4 years ago

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