Joe Clark, in a discussion of the iPad, states:

“While people will tolerate a lot of things, what we want are beautiful things that work well. There aren’t many nonexperts who can accomplish that. Expertise needs schooling, maturation, taste, and quite a lot of attitude.

The foregoing explains why open source has nothing to teach literature or indeed any artistic creation, since talent doesn’t scale as you give more and more developers check-in access to the version-control system set up for your novel.”

Open source has a surprisingly large amount to teach literature and all forms of artistic creation – at least, if you look beyond the simplistic view of open source presented here, and if you truly examine the myth of the romantic artist, the nearly Randian ideal many embed artists and artisans within.

Everyone’s familiar with (or should be, at any rate) the notion of artist as superman – someone with a talent simply inaccessible to those around them, an individualist creator who must be rewarded for the act of creating in order to utilize their talents and whose creation comes out of their very soul.  Some people even believe it.  But these notions are questionable, at best.

First, the incentive argument: in a survey of various creative media types (I don’t have the citation handy, but it’s somewhere in the pile of paper on my desk – email if you want it), roughly 2% cited a monetary motive as part of the reason they create.  The rest?  “I had to.” “I couldn’t help it.” “I wanted to make something that people would enjoy.” “I wanted to be remembered for something after I was gone.” “I needed to.”  You’ll note a distinct absence of the word ‘money’, and a large component of need – artists create because they feel they have to, whether or not they have any particular talent at it.  Open source principles argue that collaborative filtering will adequately serve (and this argument is probably *more* useful in the context of art than software, as the metric for “good” is more accessible to anyone in artistic media) to deal with the difference between good and bad taste, between ugly and beautiful – especially since people  have different conceptions of beautiful.

But the bigger problem with Clark’s argument is in the notion of the romantic artist as the creator whose creation is individual and internal.  Art doesn’t work that way.  All art is manipulation of common cultural symbols in order to achieve an artistic purpose – without these common symbols, art cannot truly reach the intended viewer.  The symbols can be anything from cultural tropes – the general, like heartbreak, or the more specific, like Dark Is Evil, the in-between like dog and shotgun references in mocking country music – to common structures – the GDC chord progression in pop music, traditional folk melodies – to in-jokes and references – sampling, or intentional reuse of musical chords to evoke another work.  Art is quite open source in the sense that artists expose their source code to others so that others can learn from that code and reuse it for their own artistic purposes.  No, you wouldn’t generally use version-control systems to write a novel (although don’t entirely underestimate the notion – the Sanctuary series, amongst many others, are shared universes – but if they’d been starting it today, perhaps it would have been styled an “open source” universe, where the basic modules are available for all to play with but are checked in and out of the central repository by the continuity editors) but that doesn’t mean the larger themes, lessons, and importance of the open source notion isn’t useful in arts.  In many ways, something even stronger than open source was the original model for art – copyright is a relatively recent innovation, after all, and in the medieval era most European musicians made their money from patronage and performance (you know, supporting code, whether they wrote it or borrowed it from someone else who wrote it).  Most artforms have always incorporated earlier works by reference, something that open source makes intentional and possible in the world of software.

Is open source the right model for everything?  I don’t think so, personally, but that’s not important – the flaws that Clark points out are very prevalent in open source software because the wrong types of people are exerting control over things like interface.  When you take someone with talent in UI design and give them control over the UI, open source produces excellent software – the problems arise when you give people without that skillset (programmers, alas, typically are not interface experts) the ability to control the UI, and don’t have adequate selection mechanisms (because interface expertise isn’t something that’s possessed commonly).  An “open source” field of art lacks these problems, as outlined above – selection expertise is inherent in the program.  Expertise is still desirable, but it isn’t incompatible with the open source ideology, despite Clark’s statement.

We find Pat Choate discussing patent infringement.

He objects to “efficient infringement”, a sub-species of efficient breach.  Essentially, like any corporation, various companies will add up the potential cost of infringing a patent (including an estimate of what they will be forced to pay and the probability they are forced to do so), total up the potential profits, and if the profits outweigh the costs, they breach (in this case, they breach the social contract of the patent system) – intending the whole while to pay if found liable in a court of law.  Where a patent holder’s valuation of a technology and a product creator’s valuation of the same technology vary widely, where (after accounting for the transaction costs of negotiation and litigation) the likely cost of infringement is lower than a patent holder’s asking price for use of a patent, efficient infringement is the result.

Now, you may personally feel that some moral opprobrium should attach to this.  But it’s not a new observation that the law does not feel the same.  Justice Holmes, in his influential turn of the century article “The Path of the Law”, noted that to the ‘bad man’ there is no difference between paying a fine for doing something he was not allowed to and paying a fee to be allowed to do something.  While the notion of efficient breach wasn’t truly refined until the law and economics movement picked it up three quarters of a century later, the essence of it is stated there.  To Intel, to Microsoft, to large corporations in general, infringement is often economically efficient.  To attach morality to this, as Choate does, reads into the law something that simply isn’t there – we don’t legislate morality.  It isn’t immoral to infringe a patent, simply illegal.

Beyond this, the assertion that companies are knowing infringers is at best questionable.  Though the problem of submarine patents has lessened with changes to the law, it still exists – often companies who infringe don’t know of the existence of the original patent.  One of the reasons those large companies are advocating for changes to the system that make willful infringement proof a more stringent requirement is because they’re so often subject to suits by non-practicing entities.  These companies are often some of the largest patent holders in the world – IBM is usually the top recipient of new patents in any given year and has an incredibly valuable patent portfolio.  They’re not interested in making infringement impossible to prove – they’re often the entity suing in infringement cases, and patent litigation typically represents a profit center for them.  They are interested in limiting the scope of willful infringement – for example, as represented by the modifications in the Seagate case, voiding the requirement of a company to conduct expensive patent searches before going ahead with use of a technology, and allowing good faith belief in the invalidity of a patent (as represented by opinion of counsel) to serve as a defense to willfulness.  The changes in law are intended to protect good faith actors.

Further, Choate misunderstands the remedy.  There’s already an extra penalty for efficient infringement.  If his assertion that a company knew of a patent and chose to go ahead and infringe it anyway (predicate assumptions to a situation of efficient infringement) is true in a given case (and not having followed the DataTreasury case, I offer no opinion on the validity of the statement with respect to it) there already is a remedy.  That’s willful infringement.  That’s treble damages (and, of course, the product owner must also pay the patent holder for their patent rights going forward or remove the patented technology from their product).

It may feel wrong to defend a corporation’s infringement, but it’s generally not a bad idea to try to limit the scope of willfulness in patent law – allowing it too much play will do anything but “promote the progress of . . . useful arts”.

(These instructions assume OS X.  Windows users, they should be adaptable.)

First, you’re going to need to sync your iPhone with iTunes.

Browse to Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/<id>/3d0d7e5fb2ce288813306e4d4636395e047a3d28.mddata
(the 3d0d is fixed across systems – the <id> changes)

Copy this file to some safe location. This file is an SQL formatted database.

To generate a CSV file that’s easier to work with, run:
sqlite3 -csv -separator ‘,’ 3d0d7e5fb2ce288813306e4d4636395e047a3d28.mddata “select * from message;” > output.csv

This will spit out a CSV file, with fields as follows.

MessageID; phone number text was sent to/received from; UNIX timestamp of message; message; incoming/outgoing (3 is outgoing, 2 is incoming); 0 (unsure purpose, but always 0 in my dbase); null; recipient ID; sometimes UNIX timestamp sometimes 0; 0 (again, unsure, but always 0); field that is either 0 or 4 (unknown purpose); 0; null; message encoding (all mine are us); null; null; 1 (unsure purpose – terminator?)

Load it into Excel, or whatever text processing language you enjoy, and bob is your uncle. Or your brother, your best friend, your ex-girlfriend, or whoever else you’re archiving texts from.