OpenCourseWare 500, Keeping it Fun

Kudos to MIT for reaching its first OpenCourseWare goal and first year anniversary. In honour of the milestone, here is the dedication of the required text for 6.001, Structure
and Interpretation of Computer Programs
, by Hal Abelson and Gerald Sussman:

This book is dedicated, in respect and admiration, to the spirit that lives in the computer.

"I think that it's extraordinarily important that we in computer science keep fun in computing. When it started out, it was an awful lot of fun. Of course, the paying customers got shafted every now and then, and after a while we began to take their complaints seriously. We began to feel as if we really were responsible for the successful, error-free perfect use of these machines. I don't think we are. I think we're responsible for stretching them, setting them off in new directions, and keeping fun in the house. I hope the field of computer science never loses its sense of fun. Above all, I hope we don't become missionaries. Don't feel as if you're Bible salesmen. The world has too many of those already. What you know about computing other people will learn. Don't feel as if the key to successful computing is only in your hands. What's in your hands, I think and hope, is intelligence: the ability to see the machine as more than when you were first led up to it, that you can make it more."

Alan J. Perlis (April 1, 1922-February 7, 1990)

That advice is generalizable. Try replacing "computer science" with "law" or "education" or whatever your passion is. "What you know about law other people will learn. Don't feel as if the key to a successful legal system is only in your hands."

Nesson on IPHacktivism

Donna writes (from her new perch at the EFF, though, in her words, "I speak for myself, here, and not for the Berkman Center, EFF or Corante. So if you want to enter a dialogue, be aware that you're entering it with me.") about Charles Nesson's joinder of the IP protection, hacking (in the older sense of using a tool in a way unintended by its designers) and activism. Hacking and activism have existed as a joint meme for a while, but the new meme iphacktivism (pronounced as if you are hiccupping the first two syllables, like 'yipaktivism' without the y) is also now taking on a life of its own (0 results on Google [disclaimer: I work there], 0 on AllTheWeb and 0 on Feedster). Not sure myself if protecting property is activism, but given the very political nature of the RIAA's actions to protect the property owned by their member companies and the EFF's political response, I guess it might be.

Professor Nesson often proposes iphacktivism (though that's not what he calls it) as a reaction to the current music IP mess or Professor Fisher's plan, but when I got the chance to moderate a panel of Berkman luminaries in July, I tried to force him to propose it as a positive platform, to which Professor Fisher and Professor Zittrain could then react. The results are now up in a transcript at HLSNet.

Update: Copyfighter Derek Slater writes: Raise Your Hand If You Think DoS Attacks Are Good.

Law Firm Hell

This harrowing essay about NYC Big Law Firm life (or lack thereof) is a must read. Forman writes:

"The big firm I worked at was-- like all big New York law firms--a cultural oddity. It combined aspects of the boarding school I had attended in England with the political climate of the former Soviet Union. Like school it was a nightmare world of irrational hierarchies, institutionalized bullying, and overwhelming peer pressure. Like the bad old USSR it combined grotesque inefficiency with a culture of Orwellian surveillance, universal distrust, shameless sucking up, and constant dishonesty. High ideals were honored only in the breach. Capricious tyrants roamed the hallways, the terrifying reality behind the movie The Revenge of the Nerds. Those who flourished in the system were almost always monsters, twisted into Balzacian shapes by the struggle for power. The office was a petri dish for the growth of abnormal psychologies."

[via MyShingle]