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Re: [Bug-gnupedia] Nupedia

From: PIIS31415926
Subject: Re: [Bug-gnupedia] Nupedia
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2001 09:06:35 EST

>I'm not overly sure about the merger due to NuPedia's
>content. I think we need to know more about what they
>allow on their site, how (in detail) it is moderated,
>how (also in detail) the technology behind it works,
>and then where we would all fit into the project (ie
>would our ideas count for anything in Nupedia?).

I've been reviewing the web site for Nupedia (http://www.nupedia.com) and 
there are quite a few things that I like personally regarding their 
organization.  I think the main differences in disagreement between the group 
that is posting right now and what they have at Nupedia are mainly some 
subtle differences regarding just how "open" the content is.  The arguments 
are more along the lines of which is a better OS kernel?  FreeBSD?  Linux?  
HURD?  There are valid points for each, but if I tried to explain them to the 
CEO of the company I work for, he would probabally think they are in fact 
identical except for brand name (from his viewpoint).  

I would also agree that it would be tragic if there were a split along 
philosophical grounds, but that does seem to be the case.  I think Nupedia is 
probabally going to get a few more editors and writers out of this whole 
debate anyway, but the real question is "How could these efforts be pulled 
together?"  What would be acceptable to people of both groups?

I can understand how participants of Nupedia would be annoyed, and even angry 
at Richard Stallman for announcing this project (the GNUpedia).  Furthermore, 
the people on this mailing list would be considered a brash upstart, and why 
should they (people with Nupedia) be forced to change anything to accomodate 
the efforts here?

Three big concerns that I have regardnig Nupedia:

What are they using for source code to actually run the web site and use as a 
database to organize the information?

This isn't so subtle as it might appear on the surface.  One of the largest 
complaints about the Open Directory Project is that the source code for their 
front end server is completely propriatary.  If Netscape (the sponsor of ODP) 
were to completely disappear, or for some reason, any reason, the web site 
was shut down, it would take a massive effort to rebuild the web site engine 
from scratch and be able to add to the database, even though the database 
itself is freely available.  There are also some complaints that Richard 
Stallman has expressed regarding the Open Directory License, but really these 
are secondary.

Standards for non-textual content?

Right now I'm in a "fight" with Unisys over the LZW patent, and the company 
I'm working for doesn't mind paying licensing fees, and we even are willing 
to give Unisys a little bit of money just so we can distribute and utilize 
images generated under the GIF format.  Unfortunately in this case, Unisys is 
insisting that we pay them a paltry (1%) fee to use this format.  In this 
case it ends up costing our customers over $10,000 to add this really minor 
feature to the product that my company builds (outdoor advertising signs and 
stadium scoreboards).  I DARE you to throw a GIF into Nupedia without Unisys 
essentially taking complete ownership of the project.  GIMP gets away with 
this by having the libraries available in a country that doesn't respect the 
LZW patent, with development going on in those countries as well.

Multimedia resources must be available in patent-free, royalty free formats 
where the standards are also generally available to software developers.  
Image formats such as PNG, and audio formats such as OggVorbis are some 
examples of formats that fit this definition.

How likely is the license for Nupedia going to change to something not quite 
as free (IE blatent corporate exploitation of a group of volunteers)?

This has happened in the past.  One interesting example that I just found out 
about was the Radio Club of America (RCA.... anybody ever heard about this 
group?)  A subtle name change (to Radio Corporation of America... they didn't 
even change the logo) and they took a group of early 20th century ham radio 
enthusists and made a big for-profit enterprise.  BTW, I'd love to know a 
little bit more of what actually happened here, because many of these 
individuals in this group were the hackers of their time, designing radio 
circuits and setting up transmission protocols for communicating with this 
new technology called "radio" or "the wireless".  Most of them were rather 
young as well, rather reminisent of the group of folks you see at a typical 
GNU/Linux convention rather than the greybeards you find with a typical ham 
radio club now.

There is an implicit assumption that the Free Software Foundation won't be 
exploiting software developers in this manner, and even if they did, the 
terms of the GPL can easily allow you to move a project or two that you feel 
restricted about using.  Or even if the Free Software Foundation ceases to 
exist, you could easily set up a new group to have similar goals without 
fighting legal red tape and hassles of trying to resurect the group, or more 
importantly, trying to use the source code to further develop a project that 
has been stagnant for a decade or so.

None of this is impossible to resolve, or even that difficult.  I do think, 
however, these are some legitamate concerns that should be addressed before a 
merger between GNUpedia and Nupedia were to happen.

Robert Horning

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