nelson's blog

An Open Source Silo

Okay, so Doc Searls has been blogging for a long time about how you don't want to get involved in a silo (context: a silo is a proprietary user interface built on top of proprietary APIs built on top of a proprietary operating system running on proprietary hardware. If you can't think of any examples, pull your cellphone out of your pocket and think about it for two seconds).

Do Patents Encourage or Hinder Innovation? The Case of the Steam Engine

The Freeman, in December of last year, published an excellent study of a natural experiment in patents: the Steam Engine. The power of a steam engine is rated in "duty": the amount of weight it can lift. During the 42 years from 1772 to 1813 duty rose 3.8 percent per year; during the 38 years from 1814 to 1852 duty rose more than twice as fast-8.5 percent per year. The difference?

Not a coder? Want to contribute to open source?

Are you not a coder? Or are your coding skills rusty, having moved on? No matter! You can still contribute to open source. Open source is only one part of a program. The other part is open data. I'm encouraging people to contribute to OpenStreetMap. We're running OpenStreetMap mapping parties all over the world. All skills taught! What's important is your willingness to contribute to an Open Data project, and location, location, location. We can only map where you are.

Support Carl Malamud as Government Printer

Please lend your support to Carl Malamud's effort to be appointed as the Government Printer, called YesWeScan. He has a history of breaking out closed (or difficult to get) government information. I've known him for over 17 years, and I trust that as the printer of government documents, he will make sure that these documents are also available in electronic form. Open Data is the left hand to Open Source's right hand!

Looking for speaking opportunities in the Northeast, giving mapping parties in Boston and NYC

Hey all, I'm looking for speaking opportunities in the Northeast of the US, specifically near Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, and Pittsburgh. Will talk about Open Source, Open Data, and OpenStreetMap. Thursday or Friday nights preferred. Tuesday nights not preferred.

Also running mapping parties in Boston 2/14-15 and New York City 2/21-22. Follow the link if you're curious about mapping parties.


I've recently taken on a new job, after 17 years of consultancy. I grew restive at my own weak points, and wanted to outsource sales and management, neither of which I am very good at. I'm now working for Cloudmade, which is a for-profit company seeking to advance the use of OpenStreetMap data. Open Data is very similar in manner to Open Source. It's data that nobody can own, because its value is in the community that creates, cares for, and nurtures it.

Open Source ECG

Wow. Open Source comes to medical instruments. Of course, hewlett-packard makes great ECG hardware, but for western hospitals, price really isn't their concern. If you could drive the price down, that opens up better medicine to many many people.

Open Source Data and an associated Open Source Data Definition

Andrew J. Turner ( suggested to me that we need a term for user-created, user-entered, user-discovered, and user-curated data. Of course, if you change "data" to "code" you have exactly what the Open Source Initiative is already doing for software. We could do the same thing for data. Write an Open Source Data Definition, which puts strictures on the attributes of data that claims to be Open Source Data.

SciPhone && Open Source

These guys (SciPhone) really REALLY ought to get together with some open source developers. Looks like a great product, but it's almost 100% certain that their software stinks. Is it simply that they don't believe that hackers will come togther to write software for their hardware? Do they not know how to build such a community? Are they bound by contracts not to disclose programming information for the chips they've used? Do they not speak English well enough to make a difference in the Open Source creating part of the world?


Subscribe to RSS - nelson's blog