April 01, 2004

P2P and Open Source Editorials

by Nick Morgan

Feel a bit left out of the file-sharing copyright debate? Professor Solum, in critiquing Lessig's new book, breaks down some the of major economic arguments and offers his usual rigorous treatment. A must read.

I also noticed, from the same Bookclub post, this fantastic idea from Copyfight's Ernest Miller:

In the spirit of free culture, I offer a broader variation. How about extending the culture of open source software to political argument? Suppose I write an op-ed style critique of, say, some provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Some other blogger likes it, but thinks I should have included better evidence, or stylized my argument better. Instead of the ordinary blogger critique of quoting me and then making suggestions, why not just rewrite my article, provided I don't mind? The right creative commons license makes this easy. I might call my article "version 1.0" and the next fellow who rewrites it could call it version 1.1. Subsequent revisions of my original article could be version 1.2, 1.3, etc. Or if a third writer wants to revise version 1.1, they would call it 1.1.1. Naming versions like this, combined with blogospheric linking could preserve a pathway of the article's evolution. With any success, the article could improve, or get more interesting.

I suspect that this sort of collaborative revision does not happen now, even on blogs using liberal creative commons licenses, because the blogging culture of attribution and respect requires writers to clearly distinguish between their own writing and the writing they critique. However, by explicitly dedicating a post or an article to the kind of collaborative revision I suggest, any anxiety about tinkering too closely with "someone else's work" should lift.

Who knows, could work.

April 1, 2004 06:33 PM | TrackBack

I like the concept a lot, but numbering would be hard. For instance, when I modify Nick v.1.1, on what criteria do I distinguish between 1.1.1 and 1.2? Too unwieldy a system would just accumulate reading, not revise the work into the better collaborated whole.

One word why linux succeeds: Linus. He is the hub for all revisions. Anyone can copy and modify the code, but all revisions to the "official" linux kernel are approved by Linus. This helps prevent a rogue strain from throwing everything off--you can always come home again and get the checked and verified official linux release. Incremental change is very very powerful, but leadership in a project is what gets things done if we are talking about one work with many authors.

I don't know if scholarly articles and books would do as well. Annotations seem best, but still this just builds off of the core text, not revising it into something else. The problem is subjectivity. Computer programs are checked against an objective standard--they have to function the way the user wants. Loose-leaf legal treatises move a little further away--while arguing points, the generally explain what the law is and cite cases to prove it, so revision to a core text is possible. Things like books and blogs may simply be best left to the annotation or discussion board format since there is no way to know what should go into the single collaborative version. In other words, there is no product to make better, only ideas to further.

Posted by: Matto Ichiban at April 1, 2004 07:09 PM

Agree; open source is a powerful tool. Software is just the beginning. I'm planning an open-source biography of lbj's presidential years.
Essential readings on open source include eric raymond's "the cathedral and the bazaar." MIT?harvard's the Berkman Center has an open source
law project going on. Here via crescat.

Posted by: arbitraryaardvark at April 7, 2004 01:49 PM
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