Help Wanted: Audio Engineers

We’ve had an embargo on admitting new audio engineers into our apprenticeship program while we debugged our new automated show-assembly system. Now that that’s done and working well, we’re ready to ramp up our post-production volume as we plan for new channels in The Conversations Network next month.

If you’d like to join The Conversations Network team as a part-time post-production audio engineer, and if you really do have the skills, experience and required software, just go to our volunteer signup page and tell us a bit about yourself. It won’t make your rich, but it’s pretty good beer money.

Good Health Wishes to Dorothy

An important member Team ITC, Dorothy Yamamoto, has just been diagnosed with leukemia, and will be hospitalized at the UCLA Medical Center during her tests, chemotherapy and more for at least a month. Dorothy had been feeling week ever since having the flu late in 2005, and had undergone one test after another until getting this diagnosis. In fact, they still don’t know precisely which form of leukemia she has. That’s going to require some gnarly bone-marrow biopsies this week.

You may not know Dorothy by name, but you’d recognize her work, which includes The Conversations Network graphics and the logo for Leo Laporte’s This Week in Tech (TWiT) podcast. Dorothy is a brilliant designer and a huge supporter of The Conversations Network, TWiT and podcasting in general.

Dorothy, we’re all thinking of you and hoping for your rapid recovery.

IT Conversations News: March 13, 2006

(Hear the MP3 version with additional commentary in beautiful monophonic audio.)

New Programs Last Week

Here are the programs we’ve published in the last week, ranked in increasing order of listener ratings.

  • Luther Ragin – Is Grantmaking Enough? (not enough votes to rate) Luther Ragin, Jr., Vice President of Investments for The F.B. Heron Foundation, explains how the mission-related investment approach can harness a foundation’s financial power to maximize its social return. From the Center for Social Innovation at Stanford.
  • Mark Lynas – Global Warming (not enough votes to rate) Global climate change is seen by many as a hot political controversy. Journalist and author Mark Lynas argues that it is much more important than that. It is the whole of the human species versus the biosphere, requiring a collective species level response to resolve.
  • Martinez Hewlett – Science and Theology (rated 3.3 by listeners) Dr. Moira Gunn speaks with Martinez Hewlett, professor emeritus, molecular biology at University of Arizona, and the author of "Evolution from Creation to New Creation — Conflict, Conversations and Convergence. He’s looking at the relationship between science and theology.
  • Jaime Sguerra – SOA for Competitive Advantage (3.7) Adopting a service-oriented architecture (SOA) can provide both technical and competitive advantages for an organization. Jaime Sguerra gives details of both the benefits and the challenges for Guardian Life in its transition to an SOA implementation. Sguerra outlines key reasons for doing this and how Guardian chose to deal with the challenges of: multiple platform support; distributed IT organizations; and lack of alignment between IT and the business centers.
  • Gary McGraw – Software Security (4.0) Security is not a feature – it’s a requirement for today’s software. According to Gary McGraw, the good news about software security is that we know how to do it, but the bad news is that we aren’t. In this interview with Sondra Schneider, Dr. McGraw describes how to build secure software and what the security challenges are for the software industry.
  • Daniel Dennett – Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (4.2) Dr. Moira Gunn interviews Daniel Dennett, professor of philosophy at Tufts University and author of "Breaking the Spell — Religion as a Natural Phenomenon." He looks at the emergence of religion throughout natural history and asks us to bring in science to study it.
  • Cory Doctorow – Europe’s Coming Broadcast Flag (4.7) As many American innovators are pleased with the defeat of the broadcast flag in the United States and move on to other concerns, the television and motion picture industries have turned their attention to Europe as the next battleground in the copyright and infringement war. The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Cory Doctorow calls on open source innovators in Europe to fight for their rights as well.
  • Carolyn Porco – Explorer’s Club (4.8) Answers about the origin of living organisms, planets, entire galaxies, all from one robotic space expedition? Perhaps. Carolyn Porco, the Cassini Imaging Team Leader, presents imagery and insight from the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn. In her talk, she takes the audience on a rapid fire, guided tour of Saturn’s rings and moons including the exciting discoveries of active geology, organic compounds, and surfaces that are "strangely Earth-like."

The O’Reilly Pick of the Week:

This week’s IT Conversations/O’Reilly Pick of the Week is from 2004:

  • David Brin Debates Brad Templeton David Brin debates Brad Templeton on "The Costs and Benefits of Transparency: How Far, How Fast, How Fair?" From the Accelerationg Change 2004 conference.

The Forums are Yours!

Two weeks ago we created the free Guest membership on The Conversations Network, and many of you have signed up to take advantage of it. And hundreds of you are stopping by the IT Conversations Forum to read messages every day. The only problem? Almost no one is bothering to leave a message of their own.

I know the Forums will eventually pick up steam and become popular, but we need your help. Did you hear an IT Conversations program this week that inspired you? Stop by and say so. Disagree with a guest, host or speaker? We want to hear that, too. You can also get there by clicking on the Discuss link on any progam’s deail page.

The Conversations Network Affiliates

We’ve just added an affiliates page to The Conversations Network web site. The idea is sort of like “matching grants” in the public-radio world. If you, our loyal listeners, visit the affiliates page, click through to the affiliates’ web sites, and conduct any business, The Conversations Network receives a small payment. Whether or not you can afford to become a paying member of The Conversations Network, the affiliates page is another way you can help us keep user-supported audio on the ‘Net alive.

More on Conference Video

We’re making some progress towards our goal of being able to capture and publish the slide presentations from conferences along with synchronized audio.

  • We can’t use a scan-rate converter from the presenter’s laptop projector output, and then record in standard video. It looks awful.
  • But we can now capture laptop output on a Mac or PC, and we can save it in a variety of formats such as MPEG-4. H.264, etc.
  • We can do post-production using tools like FinalCut Pro.

The next question is what is the optimal release format for these videos? We can easily release them as QuickTime movie files, for example. They look great, but they’re still fairly large, on the order of hundreds of megabytes per hour. Any full-motion formats are wasteful, particularly given that these presentations are usually just still images, which don’t change for long periods of time.

Should we release as Flash/Shockwave files? They would be much smaller. Are they compatible with more playback devices and computers? And what tools exist to convert from full-motion video such as H.264 to Flash?

Creative Commons Confusion

Adam Curry posted a classic edition of the Daily Source Code today in which he tells the story of his recent lawsuit against a Dutch tabloid’s editors. But more than that, he goes into a great deal of personal history as somone trying to do good while in the public eye. The lawsuit, by the way, was over unauthorized use of Adam’s photos posted on Flickr with a Creative Commons License. The program was enough to remind me that I’ve been wanting to post these thoughts about the misunderstandings of copyright and licensing.

As of 1976 (here in the U.S.) anything you write or publish is automatically covered by copyright law. No longer do you have to put that little © symbol on your works, although it does make it clear who the copyright holder is. You don’t need to register your copyighted works unless you want to litigate, and even registration can be deferred until that time. Copyright protects your rights and (supposedly, but no longer very well) the rights of the commons. The latter is an important subject, but not the one I want to address today. For the sake of this discussion, just consider the aspect of copyright that reserves for the copyright holder certain rights.

A license, on the other hand, is a granting to others some of those rights normally reserved for the copyright holder. A license never strengthens your rights to what you’ve created. If anything it weakens those rights by giving something to someone else. The Creative Commons licenses — and there are many varieties — are an attempt to clarify and simplify licensing, particularly in cases where the licensee is anonymous: a person or persons among the commons. A Creative Commons license grants certain rights to individuals or organizations without the copyright holder (the licensor) having a clue as to who those individuals or organizations might be. Creative Commons is a brilliant idea, not only because it allows granting of limited rights to the commons, but because the licenses are generally straightforward and don’t require lawyers or even phone calls to make clear what’s allowed and what isn’t.

Contrary to what Adam suggested, however, I don’t believe his case in The Netherlands is a test of the validity of the Creative Commons licenses. I haven’t read the judge’s opinion — it’s probably in Dutch anyway — but from Adam’s comments it seems to be just a copyright case. Again, the issue here is that a Creative Commons license does nothing to protect a copyright holder from illegal use of his/her intellectual property. If anything, Adam’s rights in his photos would have been more secure had he not opted to publish under a CC license.

So remember, when you publish under any of the Creative Common’s licenses, you’re not providing yourself any additional protection. What you’re doing is granting rights to others.

Update: Looks like people who know more than I do about this (i.e., lawyers) may disagree. A post on Groklaw entitled Creative Commons License Upheld by Dutch Court translates the Dutch ruling. Still, I don’t think this was a legitimate challenge of a CC license. No specific provisions were attacked.

IT Conversations News: March 6, 2006

(Hear the MP3 version with additional commentary in beautiful monophonic audio.)

New Programs Last Week

Here are the programs we’ve published in the last week, ranked in increasing order of listener ratings.

  • Andy Brown – Adopting SOA at Merrill Lynch (rated 3.2 by our listeners) SOA is "the next big thing" and although everyone uses the term SOA, everyone means something different. For Andy Brown of Merrill Lynch, it is a framework architecture and a way of thinking. At the InfoWorld SOA Executive Forum, he argues that "SOA provides an integrated architecture that empowers us to deliver client focused solutions," and explains how Merrill Lynch is leveraging the power of SOA.
  • Rickard Oste – Food Chemistry (3.2) On this week’s BioTech Nation, Dr. Moira Gunn speaks with Dr. Rickard Oste, professor of Food Chemistry at Lund University. He tells us how to turn oats into oak milk. You don’t just add water — that would be gruel. You’ve got to know your food chemistry!
  • Paul Levine – The Architecture of Participation (3.5) The "architecture of participation" is a key theme in the evolution of location- enabled services. Paul Levine – General Manager of Local for Yahoo! – reveals how his company is encouraging users, merchants, developers, and publishers to participate in Yahoo!’s local services and contribute to a grand strategy of expanding the sum of human knowledge.
  • Larry’s World – Mashups (3.5) Mashups are a good example of what some Internet insiders are calling "Web 2.0," a relatively undefined term that sort of means something like the Web serving as a platform with sites that take advantage of — among other things — user supplied content. The best place to find mashups is at which currently lists more than 450 mashups, 50 of which are classifies as "popular." Larry Magid speaks with three mashup site pioneers.
  • Timothy Zahn – The Star Wars Novels (3.8) Dr. Moira Gunn interviews sci-fi writer Timothy Zahn, author of "Star Wars — Outbound Flight." He talks about writing the official Star Wars novels and tells us what it’s like to see the occasional inclusion of his work in the Star Wars movies.
  • Ludo Oelrich – A Public-Private Partnership that Works (4.0) Ludo Oelrich is the Director of "Moving the World" a partnership between TNT and World Food Program. Speaking at the Effective Disruption Management Seminar convened by the Stanford Graduate School of Business last September he explains how the benefits of this association play out both ways.
  • Nic Dunlop – Finding the Khmer Rouge (4.4) Moira also speaks with author and photojournalist Nic Dunlop, author of "The Lost Executioner — A Journey to the Heart of the Killing Fields." He sought out and found the head of the notorious Khmer Rouge secret police, and he tells us how it happened.

The O’Reilly Pick of the Week:

This week’s IT Conversations/O’Reilly Pick of the Week is from 2004:

  • Janine Benyus – Bio Mimicry Biomimicry: It’s the conscious emulation of life’s genius. Janine Benyus is a life sciences writer and author of six books, including her latest — Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. In Biomimicry, she names an emerging science that seeks sustainable solutions by mimicking nature’s designs and processes (e.g., solar cells that mimic leaves, agriculture that looks like a prairie, business that runs like a redwood forest).