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Open Source Software

CIA Software Developer Goes Open Source, Instead 115

Posted by kdawson
from the deconstructing-silos dept.
jamie found this piece, at Wired's Danger Room from a couple of days back, about an encouraging sign for the growth of open source in the military / intelligence sphere. "For three years, Matthew Burton has been trying to get a simple, useful software tool into the hands of analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency. For three years, haggling over the code’s intellectual property rights has kept the software from going anywhere near Langley. So now, Burton’s releasing it — free to the public, and under an open source license."
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CIA Software Developer Goes Open Source, Instead

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  • by oldhack (1037484) on Saturday August 07, 2010 @03:58PM (#33175340)
    Doesn't he understand how the revolving door system work? Why is he fucking with our common well? Damn. Like we don't all have boat payments and stuff.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 07, 2010 @04:03PM (#33175364)

    on why ACH (the subject of this story) might not have been readily adopted in some quarters [lowyinterpreter.org].

    Summary:

    Ironically, the widespread adoption of ACH as the official method for hypothesis evaluation is the result of a failure to consider alternative hypotheses (ie. alternative possible answers to the question, 'What would be the best way to make hypothesis evaluation more rigorous and reliable?') ACH has been falsely assumed to be (a) valid and (b) the only game in town. That is just the kind of 'jumping to conclusions' that ACH would supposedly help us avoid.

    So when we hear about software for ACH failing to be adopted by the US intelligence community, we shouldn't assume that it is another case of tragic bungling by massive bureaucracy. In this case, it might in fact be a lucky escape.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ewanm89 (1052822)
      The answer as in an expert system software is not to entirely rely on it, but use it as a tool in your arsenal to help you do the job. Yes a computer can't figure every conceivable option in most circumstances, but neither can a human, the key is they my both come up with solutions unique to one another.
      • by Gazzonyx (982402) on Saturday August 07, 2010 @04:21PM (#33175488)
        You know, I remember reading about expert systems when I was a kid... are they any better or more intelligent than they were 15 years ago? Expert systems seems to be like artificial intelligence; mostly unheard of outside of academia with very few breakthroughs technologically.
        • Expert Systems and AI really shouldn't be in the same category. AI is, essentially, smart/clever ways to generically find a minimum/maximum of a function (which can, mathematically, be used for a lot of things). Expert systems were an attempt to mimic some human decision processes by hard-coding "expert knowledge" with a few parameters. In the field of meteorology, expert systems have been largely discarded, while AI systems are still researched and studied.
          • by martin-boundary (547041) on Saturday August 07, 2010 @06:00PM (#33176088)
            Both AI and expert systems are widely used without people realizing what they are, though.

            For example, everybody who has an email spam filter uses one. If it's based on rules like name of the sender, source IP etc, then it's an expert system in disguise. If it's based on bayesian tech, it's AI in disguise.

            The labels AI and expert system are slightly toxic, due to the overpromising about them that was done in th epast, but the fundamental ideas are sound and useful.

            • Good point, I hadn't thought of rule-based spam filters as an expert system, but it would fit the bill. I speak mostly from my own experience and research within meteorology. Expert systems became huge when computational resources were becoming more common, but still scarce. One couldn't run a weather model on their research machine, or code one up themselves, but a basic expert system was relatively easier.

              I have not to see much in expert systems in meteorology (at least, nothing new) since I entered th

          • Expert Systems and AI really shouldn't be in the same category. AI is, essentially, smart/clever ways to generically find a minimum/maximum of a function (which can, mathematically, be used for a lot of things). Expert systems were an attempt to mimic some human decision processes by hard-coding "expert knowledge" with a few parameters. In the field of meteorology, expert systems have been largely discarded, while AI systems are still researched and studied.

            where did you come up with t

            • Russel and Norvig, 2003. Paraphrasing (because I don't have the book with me), AI systems perceives its environment and works to maximize its chances of success. As a matter of technical implementation, this is traditionally framed as an error minimization problem.
              • Russel and Norvig, 2003. Paraphrasing (because I don't have the book with me), AI systems perceives its environment and works to maximize its chances of success. As a matter of technical implementation, this is traditionally framed as an error minimization problem.

                      Interesting. So given that this is artificial intelligence, real intelligence is an error minimization problem to maximize chances of success?

                  rd

                • Interesting. So given that this is artificial intelligence, real intelligence is an error minimization problem to maximize chances of success?

                  How the heck should I know? We have yet to find any real intelligence.

                  But seriously, I have always thought that AI was an unfortunate name for the field of study because it caused many people to misperceive what it can and can not do. I personally use AI to create useful data models in weather forecasting. I make no pretense that it has anything to do with "real" intelligence and cognitive systems of any life-form.

                  Take your trolling elsewhere.

                  • But seriously, I have always thought that AI was an unfortunate name for the field of study because it caused many people to misperceive what it can and can not do.

                          That in essence is the answer. It is actually not AI to you, but a useful algorithm.

                          Thanks for the insight.

                      rd

                         

                    • No, it is AI to me. The reason for calling it intelligence is that the algorithms exhibit a "learning"-like behavior. It is artificial intelligence because it is 1) artificial (I made it), 2) intelligent-like (in the sense that the process exhibits learning).

                      The unfortunate thing I was referring to is that people seem to misconstrue the "intelligence" in AI to mean that it is supposed to exhibit an intelligence like a life-form, which is not true.

                    • well, it was true when they named it.

                  • Not truly trolling... statistically, mathematically...

                    Your weather algorithms have a vested interest in being correct... obviously they are not aware of this fact, BUT... if they fail, they die!!!

                    It is in their interest to continue to be processed

                    PERIOD!!!

                    I will not pretend that this gives them a level of self-conscious awareness and self -preservation... but *THE PRESSURE* to do so... is still there

                    THAT is the *engine* behind evolution
                     

                • Ehhhh yes... if we for a moment allow us to look at the male human brain, it could easily be assumed that much of what we do has little to do with self preservation... the goal is to pass our genes on

                • Russel and Norvig, 2003. Paraphrasing (because I don't have the book with me), AI systems perceives its environment and works to maximize its chances of success. As a matter of technical implementation, this is traditionally framed as an error minimization problem.

                  Interesting. So given that this is artificial intelligence, real intelligence is an error minimization problem to maximize chances of success?

                  rd

                  My house is artificial; that doesn't mean it's not real.

                  • Your house is real, unless you're talking about your Second Life house, in which case it's not real.

                    Hope that helps straighten that out for you.

                      rd

            • by retchdog (1319261)

              By: 1) focusing on the approaches that actually work; 2) stripping the window-dressing of these approaches; 3) perhaps overloading the term "generically".

              • By: 1) focusing on the approaches that actually work; 2) stripping the window-dressing of these approaches; 3) perhaps overloading the term "generically".

                      This is your definition of AI?

                      Approaches that actually work at what?

                  rd

                       

        • Expert systems have been used in the Mortgage underwriting business for years to help gain an advantage over competitors who use a manual underwriting process. You take a zillion underwriting cases and store them and the end results. Then when a new customer wants underwriting, you find a close match and return a verdict plus any needed requirements..
        • Expert systems seems to be like artificial intelligence; mostly unheard of outside of academia

          Expert systems are useful. My first paid job (holiday between school and university) was to work on an expert system for analysing the results of tests on heat for BP.

          I did a prototype that performed reasonably well. It was expanded into a reliable system that was used for at least a decade.

        • It would be my guess, that XS would be more useful as the accepted fringe explorers...

          more likely scenarios can be predicted by humans and properly(?) countered...

          fringe exceptions as predicted by machine, and countered by sending small handfuls of specialists, seems to make better sense ...

          vs.

          presuming that the machine's answer is the *only* valid and therefore worth defending against answer..

          THAT *is* the error

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        The answer as in an expert system software is not to entirely rely on it, but use it as a tool in your arsenal to help you do the job. Yes a computer can't figure every conceivable option in most circumstances, but neither can a human, the key is they my both come up with solutions unique to one another.

        ACH is not an expert system but rather an analytic approach to conducting analysis of information; in this case intelligence information. Richard Heuer's "Psychology of Intelligence Analysis" is the classic text on ACH.

    • I have a different take on it.

      Some small defense contracting firm cant get its shit together enough to get the CIA to consider purchasing its software. They probably dont have people who know the procurement process well enough to get a start (or anyone with enough pull to push for its procurement). Then they claim to open source the software to try and get it through the door in a different way, probably in hopes of a support contract for future development.

      Then, instead of discussing in greater detail the

    • The author of the above quote is an employee of a company selling proprietary software that could be seen as competing with the ACH method.

  • Wired... empf (Score:4, Informative)

    by El_Muerte_TDS (592157) <<elmuerte> <at> <drunksnipers.com>> on Saturday August 07, 2010 @04:17PM (#33175452) Homepage

    There is something about Wired I cannot digest since the whole wikileaks farce.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There is something about Wired I cannot digest since the whole wikileaks farce.

      I have no idea what you're talking about wrt Wired and Wikileaks, but I would like to know. Anyone?

      • Re:Wired... empf (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday August 07, 2010 @05:12PM (#33175762)

        He's talking about Wired's connection to Adrian Lamo who claims to have outed the guy apparently responsible for leaking that video of the civilians being gunned down by a helicopter and perhaps even the latest round of documents. Without getting into the details there is something fishy about the relationship between Lamo and the reporter at wired that wrote (broke?) the story.

        • Re:Wired... empf (Score:5, Insightful)

          by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Saturday August 07, 2010 @05:59PM (#33176080) Homepage Journal

          there is something fishy

          When has Wired magazine been anything besides glossy fishwrap? Their website is your standard Conde Nast press release publishing machine. There is so much fishy going on at Wired magazine between the editorial, advertising sales and the PR industry that whenever I read something of theirs I come away feeling like I'm covered in grease. There used to be a couple of good bloggers over there, including the great Bruce Sterling, but even he has started mailing it in, probably because even submitting stories to Wired leaves him feeling like he's covered in grease, too.

          The last straw came a long time before the filthy business between Adrian Lamo and the editorial staff's sucking up to power, in true Conde Nast style and selling out wikileaks.

          As hard as they try to appear hip and edgy, they're really nothing but part of a huge corporate billboard machine. There are dozens of excellent sites on the web that cover technology and culture much better. There's no need for anyone to visit or read Wired.

        • by Raenex (947668)

          Without getting into the details there is something fishy about the relationship between Lamo and the reporter at wired that wrote (broke?) the story.

          Why not get into details? What's fishy about it?

          • by Rijnzael (1294596)
            I too am curious.
          • Why not get into details? What's fishy about it?

            Because I am too damn lazy to retype something most people could dig up on their own with the judicious use of a search engine or two.

            • Re:Wired... empf (Score:4, Interesting)

              by Raenex (947668) on Saturday August 07, 2010 @11:17PM (#33177796)

              Well ok, for the sake of others following along I found an article on Salon airing out these suspicions: http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/06/18/wikileaks [salon.com]

              Most of this just seems to be anger directed at Lamo and Wired via proxy.

            • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

              by drinkypoo (153816)

              Because I am too damn lazy to retype something most people could dig up on their own with the judicious use of a search engine or two.

              Link or it didn't happen. Or put another way, provide a citation or shut the hell up. And let's not just have an opinion puff piece from Salon, which jumped the shark a long fucking time ago.

              • Fuck off. If a word to the wise isn't enough for you, then you aren't very smart.

                • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                  by drinkypoo (153816)

                  Fuck off. If a word to the wise isn't enough for you, then you aren't very smart.

                  I'm looking for a word from the wise, and so far I've seen no evidence that there will be any.

                  • I'm looking for a word from the wise, and so far I've seen no evidence that there will be any.

                    Look dillweed, if you have a problem you have it with the original poster. All I did was explain what he was saying AS REQUESTED.
                    Not enough for you? Do your own damn homework and learn your idioms while you are it.

                    • by drinkypoo (153816)

                      Look dillweed, if you have a problem you have it with the original poster. All I did was explain what he was saying AS REQUESTED.

                      Dill is delicious. I prefer to call someone "dillhole" as it implies sex with a pickle.

                      All you did was make an unsupported statement. You didn't explain shit, you shared an opinion. And that's how it continues to be until you provide a citation. Citations are not just a game played by academics, they separate people who really know what they are talking about from people who just want to sound like they do.

                      Not enough for you? Do your own damn homework and learn your idioms while you are it.

                      You are truly full of yourself (but empty of intellect) if you can't recognize deliberate manipulation

                    • by DMadCat (643046)

                      I agree with parent.

                      Oddly, you're too lazy to put up links to prove your assertions but you're not too lazy to type two fairly longwinded paragraphs rewording the original poster and then multiple follow up insults to requests that you prove your theories.

                    • I agree with parent.

                      How nice for you.

                      Oddly, you're too lazy to put up links to prove your assertions but you're not too lazy to type two fairly longwinded paragraphs rewording the original poster and then multiple follow up insults to requests that you prove your theories.

                      Clue for you x2 - not my theories. Cafuckinpiche? The only theory I hold here is that the original poster was talking about the Lamo. Its easy to insult an idiot, drinnkypoo and you have made your status self-evident with your ridiculous demands, and as for 'longwinded' lol, you must be new to teh internetz.

              • by rakslice (90330)

                Oh, I get it... the hypocrite is you =)

              • by Raenex (947668)

                And let's not just have an opinion puff piece from Salon, which jumped the shark a long fucking time ago.

                I wouldn't call the piece from Salon a puff piece. He did an interview with Lamo. He emailed the Wired journalist and posted the full exchange. He tried to get a hold of Assange. In the end, there doesn't seem to be much there except for anger, but he does raise a few good points:

                • Lamo quite possibly breached his trust as both a self-claimed "journalist" and "minister".
                • Lamo is known as a publicity hound. His proclaimed interest in national security may not have been his motivation for exposing the hacker.
                • The
            • I am too damn lazy to retype something most people could dig up on their own with the judicious use of a search engine

              You can help us be judicious by providing good keywords with which to start searching.

  • When they are done creating the ultimate spy software will it be free to download?

  • by njdj (458173) on Saturday August 07, 2010 @04:29PM (#33175524)

    Neither the post, nor the article linked, tell us much. "Open Source" just says that some people can read the source code. It doesn't tell us:

    1. Who can read the source (licensees only?)
    2. What you're allowed to do with the source

    "Open source" doesn't mean "public domain". Somebody still owns the copyright, and can make permission to copy the source conditional on acceptance of a license. Then the terms of that license are all-important.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 07, 2010 @05:02PM (#33175690)

      If you had bothered to actually RTFA, you'd have seen it has been released under the Apache license. While not a BSD license, it's about as liberal and "do whatcha want" as most OSS licenses get.

    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)

      ``Open Source" just says that some people can read the source code. It doesn't tell us:

      1. Who can read the source (licensees only?)
      2. What you're allowed to do with the source''

      To a degree, it does tell us that. By The Open Source Definition [opensource.org], we know that, at a minimum, source code can be distributed to anyone (free distribution, source code, and no discrimination against persons or groups), and that using the source code for creating derived works and distributing them under t

  • Do we want that? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by imsabbel (611519)

    Do we really want growing open source use in the military / intelligence sphere?
    Where is the border between helpful and harmful, and where is the moral event horizon for the contributors?

    "Software for Analysts" sounds harmless, but could very well be their best shot at re-creating 1984. Is it really encouraging to have Echelon being empored by open source to eavesdrop on even more emails and phone calls?

    Or how about drones, avionics, etc? Would you feel empowered by having a killbot using your code?

    • by xous (1009057)
      Well, you don't really have a choice, if you make your code FOSS. Either anyone including 'people you don't like or agree with' can use the code or it ain't FOSS.
      • by afabbro (33948)
        Weren't there some peacetards who had a license that said "you can use this software, but not for X, Y, and Z"? I seem to recall some piece of software released under such a license but I can't remember it now.
        • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I've seen this. Some scientists at my lab use a particular note-taking application, and I had occasion to read through the license while I was poking around the file format to add some features. The license specifically called out prohibiting the use of the application for anything having to do with nuclear technology. Which put us in a bit of a grey area, as there is some radioisotope use for tagging in our section of the lab, and technically violates the letter of the license.

          And, posting AC...

        • by xous (1009057)
          Probably but I don't believe it qualifies as FOSS if you put restrictions on it's usage. (e.g. non-commercial)
    • by Eevee (535658)

      Would you feel empowered by having a killbot using your code?

      Wernstrom: Ladies and gentlemen, my Killbot features Lotus Notes and a machine gun. It is the finest available.

    • by WWWWolf (2428) <wwwwolf@iki.fi> on Saturday August 07, 2010 @06:10PM (#33176162) Homepage

      Do we really want growing open source use in the military / intelligence sphere?

      The article mentions several good points, biggest of which is that it stops people from reinventing the wheel all the time.

      Where is the border between helpful and harmful, and where is the moral event horizon for the contributors?

      All of the definitions of the open source and free software currently say "no discrimination of fields of endeavour" or something similar. Software shouldn't be "private use only" or "private or non-profit use only" or "only for use in field X".

      What would you say if you found an awesome graphics application, but its license said "only for professional design industry use"? A license like that would annoy art students (who aren't in the industry yet), independent artists (who don't give a damn about the "industry"), or plain old normal people who happen to have a need to patch up some graphics some times (and who think "industry" = "they'll charge a lot of money from us if I want anything done").

      From the description, it sounds like this software package would be very useful for researchers, analysts, and maybe even lawyers. Is arbitrarily limiting this software to "only for military intelligence use" really fruitful?

      "Software for Analysts" sounds harmless, but could very well be their best shot at re-creating 1984.

      There are more than one software packages in existence. They have widely varied forms of operation. Software vendors are capable of producing very different products that have nothing to do with each other.

      Let's try this conspiracy theory in private sector: "Microsoft released Windows, which was their opening salvo for an unspeakable horror unleashed upon mankind in form of Bob." Yeah, that conspiracy worked really well and now Windows is suspicious. (Well, Windows is suspicious, but not for this reason.)

      Is it really encouraging to have Echelon being empored by open source to eavesdrop on even more emails and phone calls? Or how about drones, avionics, etc? Would you feel empowered by having a killbot using your code?

      Here's the thing: You could say the same thing about science. You can use science to explore the universe and improve the quality of life. But at the same time, you can use science to blow the shit out of your enemies. People discovered rockets - and now they can be used to both propel people to the moon, and to propel warheads across the world.

      Like science, software solves problems. Sometimes these problems can be applied to problems that either morally sound or morally questionable.

      Who says Echelon's code couldn't benefit morally acceptable uses? The details are scarce, but assuming the system exists, it must process tons of data really fast. Telephone call analysis part sounds very interesting - even the best publicly available speech analysis systems are very weak [gvoicefail.com] and there's certainly a legitimate, pressing need for actually working automatic speech transcription. Drones and avionics? Tons to pick apart, but even I could list a few things that come to mind - navigation systems (route finding, location awareness/reaction stuff) would be awesome. Smart weapons do a lot of image processing, too; identifying people and reacting to their movements sounds like a tough image processing challenge - and if the science behind it was more accessible to people, it could be used for all sorts of cool things [youtube.com].

      You may say that this is backwards, but the direction doesn't really matter. If you build any publicly accessible piece of software, it can be copied and reverse-engineered by people who are up to no good, if it helps them to accomplish their goals. The military keeps an eye on the scientists and their new discoveries and wonder how this helps them to blow more people up. They get the

      • WWWWolf, I agree with the moderation that your comment is insightful. And we do have to make moral choices about how we use our tools, as well as moral choices for how we distribute the fruits of our labors with tools (why I support a "basic income" for all, for example).

        But there are at least two other aspects to this, and they relate to the point you made in your last sentence: "Perhaps it'd be best to see exactly how those best ideas that were leeched off of good honest scientists are put to action - may

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Are you really trying to put a moral equivalence on software? Insanity. Either you create and share the code with the world, or you don't. You don't get to share it with only the people you like. That's called Closed source licensing.
    • If I write military software and use a variety of open source projects in my software, what it does is allow me to build with tools that have been vetted by analyst as being clean. E.g. I need a crypto software for my submarine communications systems, I can re-use open source knowing that the code has been researched and found to be clean of "other influences". If I use a black blox software, you don't know what is inside (at least not as easily). An open source box can be analyzed and signed, joining a lis
    • by jd (1658)

      First, open source code is - and will be - used to kill people, whether you like it or not. If you don't contribute to such projects for moral reasons, you're not really helping those who use the software for moral purposes and you're not really hurting those who use it for immoral purposes.

      Second, this is really a question of the level of indirection. If you contribute a patch to a kernel module which can be used by Linux and that version of Linux is downloaded and used by a third-part vendor which supplie

    • by H0p313ss (811249)

      Do we really want growing open source use in the military / intelligence sphere?

      Bit late to worry about that. Where do you think SELinux comes from?

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Depends how you feel and who you might feel in 20-30 years. The young lawyer signed off on rendition flights, turned a blind eye to everything, saw full reports and just filed time.
      The young doctor who watched and kept records on water boarding and more, gave treatment to ensure they could return for more sooner.
      If you have a feeling your code will be used for evil, you cant stop it under open source, but you can "not add more" to any project that you know will be used for things you dont like.
      Walk away
  • No Sale (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tomhath (637240)
    As I read the article, the guy extended to some software the CIA already had on speculation, but they don't want to buy his extension. So he has a hissy fit and decides to abandon the project and release the source. Nothing to see here...
    • by mjwalshe (1680392)
      and in the process burned himself in the defence and security comunity or does the USA's TS not demand absolute confidentialy.
  • what software?! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Phizzle (1109923)
    So far, and for a while now, all this has been but site that collects peoples emails. There is NO SOFTWARE, just a promise that it's "Coming Soon"... Pardon the skepticism, but this could just be a misguided stunt by a butthurt developer to try and leverage public interest or a more nefarious scam, or just attention whoring.
  • He would probably make more money writing a book about who killed JonBenet than he would have by selling his software. I wonder if that's what he's planning to do, because he boldly said that he was wrong in thinking that the mother killer her, but he did not say who the evidence led him to believe actually did it.
    • He would probably make more money writing a book about who killed JonBenet than he would have by selling his software. I wonder if that's what he's planning to do, because he boldly said that he was wrong in thinking that the mother killer her, but he did not say who the evidence led him to believe actually did it.

      I haven't RTFA, but just as a point one could make a personal determination that the mother wasn't the murderer without being able to determine who was the murderer. In other

    • by JeffAtl (1737988)

      In the comments section of TFA, he says that he is not interested in the case at all or that his conclusion is meaningful. Below is his comment from the page...

      The lesson in the Ramsey case has more to do with ACH itself than this particular case. One of the benefits of ACH is that it encourages you to think objectively about a complex case. My experience with the Ramsey case highlights this effect: when I reviewed a large (yet probably incomplete) body of evidence from the case, I was certain the

  • They also allowed the release of "Vortex", http://sourceforge.net/projects/vortex-ids/ [sourceforge.net], created by Charles Smutz of Lockheed Martin. Its a Near-Real Time IDS system that captures streams and allows multiple threads to evaluate the captured data. Very nice. (Not LM, just a fan).
  • You can only make something open source if you own the rights to it or manage to get the appropriate rights to someone else. You can't make something open source if the intellectual property rights are owned by someone else.

    So if, as claimed in the article, "haggling over the code's intellectual property rights has kept the software from going anywhere near Langley", then he shouldn't be able to take it open source at all. (Unless it just means that he had the rights and was haggling over giving them up.)

    • by Jiro (131519)

      (appropriate rights from someone else, that is.)

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Langley has powerful forces in the shadows. They recall the long struggles with the NSA over signals and tapping - the CIA took many risks. They recall the code fights with the UK, Aus, Canada, NZ, the leaks and the turf wars.
      Another issue is the 'Microsoft' mindset. "Open" is very evil and if they want to contract back or work with huge closed networks of merc, contractors and consultants, best not to have a your name on 'open source'.
      Then you have the idea of telling the world what your interested in
  • by afabbro (33948)

    Site summary: [competinghypotheses.org] "We don't have anything really to download, but hey, give us your email address and we'll let you know when we do. No really, it's completely legit. Just type in your email address below. We promise not to use it for anything nefarious. Really, we do."

  • You can watch for the code the repository in github. It's empty at the moment. http://github.com/Burton/Analysis-of-Competing-Hypotheses [github.com]
  • There is a statement at the bottom of this /. page, I guess we could call it the random thought of the moment. For this page it is:

    Men seldom show dimples to girls who have pimples.

    For equal opportunity purposes, this should be accompanied by:

    Girls seldom show nipples to men who have pimples.

    I'm wondering when slashdot started indoctrinating the faithful in close encounters with the female kind.

  • by Paul Fernhout (109597) on Saturday August 07, 2010 @11:32PM (#33177866) Homepage

    I posted two comments related to this issue of open source sensemaking tools to understand how socio-politico-techno-economic stuff works at the following URL in response to a larger issue raised by Marshall Brain on the USA's ongoing economic decline:
    http://blogs.howstuffworks.com/2010/08/06/makes-you-think-in-america-we-realize-that-our-children-will-do-worse-than-their-parents/ [howstuffworks.com]

    In short, I feel open source tools for collaborative structured arguments, multiple perspective analysis, agent-based simulation, and so on, used together for making sense of what is going on in the world, are important to our democracy, security, and prosperity. Imagine if, instead of blog posts and comments on topics, we had searchable structured arguments about simulations and their results all with assumptions defined from different perspectives, where one could see at a glance how different subsets of the community felt about the progess or completeness of different arguments or action plans (somewhat like a debate flow diagram), where even a year of two later one could go back to an existing debate and expand on it with new ideas. As good as slashdot is, such a comprehensive open source sensemaking system would be to slashdot as slashdot is to a static webpage. It might help prevent so much rehashing the same old arguments because one could easily find and build on previous ones. Hopefully in a better way than this classic: :-)
    "Argument Clinic Sketch by Monty Python"
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQFKtI6gn9Y [youtube.com]

    As I mention in my comments to Marshall Brains' blog entry, Elizabeth Warren did a terrific job of socio-economic sensemaking, in terms of "The Two Income Trap" and her presentation on the struggles of US middle-class families in the video Marshall Brain linked to. But why should even Harvard Law professors essentially wing it as far as sensemaking with only email, spreadsheets, and word processors, probably working mostly alone, and in a way that she can not easily share all the details of her explorations? Especially when the USA has invested, probably, literally billions of dollars to create software to help groups of people collectively understand complex social and economic issues? And given the US is likely to spend billions more in this area? And given that, if we have any faith in "truth", one would hope that helping everyone in the world come to a better understanding of various truths and a better understanding of each other would, in general, lead to less conflict rather than more?

    I also commented on that idea about a year ago:
    "[p2p-research] FOSS modeling tools (was Re: Earth's carrying capacity and Catton)"
    http://listcultures.org/pipermail/p2presearch_listcultures.org/2009-August/004130.html [listcultures.org]

    I tried a little to put together a non-profit foundation to do that, so far to not much success.

    And here is why I feel the (non-secret) results of any public funding should be open source rather than proprietary:
    http://www.pdfernhout.net/open-letter-to-grantmakers-and-donors-on-copyright-policy.html [pdfernhout.net]
    http://www.pdfernhout.net/on-funding-digital-public-works.html [pdfernhout.net]

    I feel there is room here for an entirely new approach towards structured collaboration across the internet. It has its roots in Doug Englebart's Augment ideas from the 1960s, and in scale may well be the next Red Hat, Wikipedia, or even Google (whether for-profit or non-profit). Or, it is possible it may be some bunch of related companies and non-profits, all using a common infrastructure

    • See also my comments in a different thread of this same article; a short excerpt:
      "Moving beyond tool/use distinction and irony"
      http://news.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1746980&cid=33189078 [slashdot.org]
      """
      As with that notion of "mutual security", the US intelligence community needs to look beyond seeing an intelligence tool as just something proprietary that gives a "friendly" analyst some advantage over an "unfriendly" analyst. Instead, the intelligence community could begin to see the potential for a free and open

    • I posted yet another two comments in a different thread in this article, that I will point to here:
      "Strategic advantage vs. diplomatic initiative"
      http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1746980&cid=33190792 [slashdot.org]
      "On different actors using OS intelligence tools"
      http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1746980&cid=33193588 [slashdot.org]

      An excerpt from that last post:
      """
      So, in that context, what would be the implications of different political actors getting hold of really good free and open source in

    • by Mandrel (765308)

      A wiki is a good tool for accumulating and summarizing insights revealed in a discussion forum, enabling new members of the forum to quickly get up to speed, and providing a resource for decision-makers.

      Such a wiki can be hierarchically structured, providing quick summaries at the top-level, but allowing people to drill down to specific points.

      But a normal wiki is no good for contentious topics, because a lack of consensus causes editing wars.

      That's why I made Make The Case [makethecase.net], a wiki where an article i

      • Great stuff! I'm looking into aspects of that sort of approach for a more P2P-oriented system (Pointrel). It's terrific to have a wonderful open source example. Much of the work that goes into a lot of these things is thinking through the design (and iterating it, analogous to pressing an the arguments in your "Make the Case". :-) Which suggests your approach could also be used for software engineering or to reflect back on itself? Thanks for all your hard work.

        Also related by me on P2P aspects of structure

  • They are too worked up about what is their territory to work with anyone else, or use anyone else's info / software. They are too busy marking their territory, like the dumb dogs they are.
    I can just hear them now:
    Hey, git away from there. That's my tree.
    It's not your tree. I just marked it.
    Hey guys, did you just hear an explosion?
    I don't care if you did just mark it. It's in my yard.
    Does anyone smell smoke?
    I don't care if it is in your yard. Just sniff it. You'll know I have been marking it. It's my tree.
    Do

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