Individualism

In individualism the individual is sovereign, and collective action is by the consent of the individual.

In collectivism the collective is sovereign and all individual action is by consent of the collective.

The fundamental issue is that only an individual can have a mind.

If any individual chooses to use their mind at any point then the threat or use of violence is inevitable. Violence will be used either to steal the benefit of the action or prevent the action from occurring at all.  i.e. Tax and other forms oppression and enslavement.  As the use of tax, regulation and oppression increases, the mind is going to be used less often and typical behaviour will become less rational and less productive – we get poverty and crime. Simples.

Examples in support: welfare dependency, gang violence, a majority of inventions coming from other countries, self imposed tax exile, the royal mail.

I fail to see how collectivists and altruists can fail to recognise this, even at the level of the subconscious, or as some form of cognitive dissonance. They must be evil, or very stupid, I think mostly the latter.

My solution to UK snow

LPUK deputy leader Andrew Wither’s wrote an article on Economic Voice about the infantile reaction to snow in the UK and places blame squarely on the welfare system. In the comments I wrote suggesting another reason:

I’d love to go out and – unpaid and uncompensated – clear a few meters of public pavement outside my home. I see it as a social nicety and wonder why my neighbours are not doing the same already. If we all did our bit the whole street would be a lot safer for pedestrians [including me].

Then of course, I turn on the BBC and hear about all the liabilities and insurance money available to people who slip on imperfectly cleared paths and the anchor person giggling about how cynical they are being. I am lead to understand that if I don’t do a perfect job – by some unknowable standard – then I open myself up to being sued for some huge amount of money.

The message is that the only way for me to be safe in the snow is to sit deliberately inactive and watch people struggle over the snow that it’s well within our power – my power – to remove and wait for the council to take up all the insurance risks and “do something”.

This is madness.

I was – unfortunately – able to confirm the advice of the BBC, sort of.

I contacted my Labour MP who started a three-way conversation with the Labour Council who responded with a Times article stating:

Private landowners are not obliged to clear snow or ice from the highway, even if the road or pavement passes over their land. Indeed, from a legal point of view it may be risky for private individuals to clear these areas. By sweeping snow from one part of the pavement you can create a danger in another area and if someone is injured, you will be liable for negligence or nuisance.

On your own land, it is a different matter. You owe visitors a duty under the Occupiers Liability Act 1984 to take reasonable care to ensure that they are reasonably safe. This means that if you know someone (such as the postman) is likely to walk up your garden path, and you also know that the garden path is slippery, you must take reasonable steps to clear the path of snow and grit it if necessary.

So… the law places an unchosen obligation on owners of roads and paths to protect arbitrary users from anything nature throws at them, absolving the people who actually chose to risk it and then creates liabilities to anyone seeking to reduce the dangers of their own environment voluntarily. In practice this obligation is not met and nobody seems to expect it to be met.  I think this is a clue that the obligation is irrational and ridiculous, people see it cannot scale to the main land owners, the councils, who consistently fail to meet it.

My take, following Peikoff (audio @ 11:37) is that nature is not something Government should ever try to protect people from, this principle would justify too much. The placement of this obligation on landowners is exactly an attempt to protect the masses from nature and is also a form of coercion applied to owners of roads, paths and other types of land.

Instead of placing unchosen burdens on land owners, the pedestrians and drivers that use the land should accept responsibility for the risks they have but should also be able to volunteer their assistance subject to landowner consent. All that is required is a change in law transferring responsibility clearly to the road user and mitigating the liabilities to people acting in good faith to help out. No duty or obligation needs to be placed on anyone because safer paths and roads are a rational value to most of the population.  In practice this is a small change, most people expect the paths to be unsafe after its snowed and there is actually very little carping about legal obligations.

Given the present conditions of thick ice coating London paths, its hard to imagine how the most incompetent action would make anything worse but I expect a body of folk knowledge would develop about how to tackle snow under this regime. We would learn how to act and when, using what tools and materials and we would gather those things in advance. The creation and distribution of this  knowledge to neighbours and tenants would be encouraged by the landowners as they act to protect and restore of the value of the land. They would ask people to stop handling it incorrectly and announce their actual preferences. I submit that this folk knowledge is evidently missing in the UK, and cite the lack of rock salt in general stores as evidence that we don’t know what to do, or care to learn.

For this to be fully effective the ownership pattern for roads would need to change, knowledge sharing would work better when coordinated by local road owners such as residents associations or chambers of commerce covering a few streets each. To have the authority to speak to volunteers without accepting an obligation from Government implies the sale of roads to these organisations. I think this would be popular as it would provide a local actor in solving similar parking and bin collection issues. Concentrating ownership to groups of residents would enhance the incentives to act voluntarily as all the benefits of action (improved safety, cleaner streets, more convenient parking) would go directly to the residents.

Of course, this could be phased in gradually as grass roots groups form to buy their roads from Councils, and those people that prefer the old system can negotiate a contract replacing the imposed obligations of the Occupiers Liability Act, or leave the roads in the hands of councils.

My facelets are no longer parsed – an adventure in Google and Java

The new feelitlive.com website is powered by Seam running over Hibernate and JSF. The stuff you see – the HTML source code – is generated by Facelets.

Facelets is a layer over JSF and the two work well together. I have mixed feelings on JSF – I don’t think I’d use it without the corrections made by Seam – but the combination of Facelets+JSF+Seam is quite compelling – once you get it set up. If you are an ex-ASP.NET guy like me then Facelets is equivalent to the union of “master pages” and “user controls”. JSF is equivalent to the whole supporting notion of “controls” in ASP.NET, but has has a cleaner separation of front and back end logic.

In Facelets the “master pages” part is known as “templating” and gives you a template for the whole page. Your content is added into the middle.

The “user controls” feature is known as “composition components” and gives re-useable blocks that you can drop into the page or template ad-hoc by simply adding a namespace qualified element. These are used all over feelitlive.com for everything from individual links and images to whole blocks of content.

my composition components were not being parsed

So, I was a little shocked to find that all of a sudden my composition components were not being parsed! Though live for months, half the site was now simply missing;  little bits of each page eaten away like swiss cheese!

I had moved to using Netbeans and was focusing on a backend web service so hadn’t actually run my homepage from my development machine for a week or so. When I went to do so, the templates and every built-in tag library was working, but the tag library containing my composition components was not parsed or executed. In facelets the tag libraries are assigned a URL and that URL becomes the the XML namespace in the XHTML source file – today all the XML in my own namespace was simply transferred into the output verbatim.

So, I scoured my change-log for evidence of any relevant changes I might have forgotten. I found nothing that even the most desperate coder would choose to consider related. I tried building from the command line – still no joy.

Netbeans was using the very latest Apache 6.0.20, so I tried the locally built WAR in three different versions of Apache including the version used in live – nothing. So “great”, I thought, “I can’t even release untested code if I wanted to”.

Thinking of the live server gave me an idea, so I downloaded the WAR file running from live and ran that in two of the Tomcat versions I had locally. Nothing. “Huh? Surely that should work”!

What about the JVM? Nope, my JVMs didn’t seem to have changed. This was mysterious – I’m sure I remembered an update arriving, but then I have three computers I use regularly.

So, no clues. Stuck. I’m a team of one on this project so nobody to ask. I could possibly change JVM anyway, though I’m not sure what I’d change it to, or where to get an older version. Possibly I could try downloading old versions of the code and trying to do a binary search for the change that caused it, but that’s assuming a code change had caused it and nothing logged looked likely. I could waste a lot of time on this one!

understanding this issue was secondary to fixing it

I left those two ideas untried, because something else occurred to me. Some stuff was working – the built in tag libraries. These are packaged in the facelets JAR and I could see them being picked up by facelets in the tomcat log. My tag lib was not being picked up.  I decided that understanding this issue was secondary to fixing it, and went about building a version of my tag library in a separate JAR, breaking it out of its home inside the main WAR file, and hoping that making it look more like that stuff tat worked would cause it to work.

I followed the layout of the seam-mail JAR, but this doesn’t use composition components – only custom components. So I added my existing folder full of XHTML fragments into  “META-INF/facelets” with the “fil.tablib.xml” in “META-INF”. My fragments were already identified as “facelets/fragment.xhtml”. I created a separate Maven project for all that, added it to the parent POM as a module, to the WAR as a dependency.

I built the new JAR, then built the WAR.

I then checked the layout was showing up okay in the “Libraries” folder in Netbeans – the JAR layout matched the ones that were picked up. Good.

Build again – can’t hurt.

Right click — run.

Wait.

Drum roll.

Bang! It worked – phew.

So what. The hell. Was that all about…..

Googling was useless

I don’t know. I still need to check it all over to make sure its all there back working, but frantic Googling was useless on this one so I wanted to share the adventure and the solution out of pity for the next developer down the road. I’d also like to make an observation about the process of searching for a solution on line.

This problem occurred near the top of a stack of technology starting at Windows XP, then Sun’s JVM, Apache’s Tomcat, JBoss’ Seam, then my code and finally Sun’s Facelet’s implementation. The stack could have been interfered with by the IDE – Netbeans – and the build tool – Apache’s Maven, or by any Maven plugin I’m using.  Searching the web for the phrase “facelets composition components are no longer parsed” gives you a blog post saying “please use my new site at [blah], I will no longer be keeping this one up to date” even the migrated article was not relevant, but did mention facelets. Fail. Big stinking fail.

What I needed was to find all documents – blog and forum posts, bug reports, and knowledge base articles – related to any of the technology components I listed and to the feature of “Facelets” called “composition components”. Properly understood, that is a small set of documents. Bonus points would have gone to the search engine that allowed me to select my symptoms from a list (they are not uncommon) but using supplied keywords to rank with would be good enough. A find-engine like this could have also offered an alert service and gone to work trying to find more results over a course of days, even monitored new bug reports and forum posts for results.

I got my answer after about 5 or more  hours of work spread over two days. I’d have been jubilantly happy to have had my answer after 2 hours. Others might be happy with 6 rather than 24, or 24 rather than 72, but I don’t think it would have taken anything like that long. I think you could do this kind of thing in interactive time, but the point is it doesn’t need to be that fast to be useful. I can always find other stuff to do as long as I can expect an answer. With Google I can’t get that answer without reading thousands of pages, and without hope of the answer being there.

Of course, linked data is the only current technology likely to ever offer answers to this sort of query. It involves too much precise classification and description for a statistical-web approach. How do statistics tell you the release history of  the Maven plugins which are used to build WAR files? They don’t. How do statistics provide an unambiguous list of the features in Facelets? They don’t. The runtime dependencies of JSF? Likewise. Can statistics help to rank pages according to the nature of their relationship with other concepts? Can stats weight pages directly related to given  concepts over those with links to concepts two degrees apart? Maybe. Placing problem reports over brochures, or holding that product components are more relevant than competitive products? Unlikely.

People say we don’t need semantic search because we can always add keywords, or they put up ridiculous road blocks because they think its “too hard”. Don’t they ever encounter issues like this one? Really? This is long tail stuff, but its definitely worth addressing. Those five hours were worth over £200. Once it exists I will use the web site that does this, I’d even pay a fee for the privilege.

A taxonomy of Atlas Shrugged critics

I just finished reading Atlas Shrugged interspersed with the first few chapters of Jamie Whytes Bad Thoughts, which is another book that is already coming in useful.

I loved Atlas Shrugged. Probably this means I’m both mad and an ass hole by the reckoning of most people, but never mind. I’m not going to be put off because a book and an author I admire is disliked by lots of other people, this is an appeal to the authority of the people, not even to experts, and rests neither on logic or on facts. If I’m to desist from admiring Ayn Rand it will be because she’s wrong and for no other reason.

Trying to follow up a reading of Atlas Shrugged by conscientiously googling for Ayn’s Rand  critics is a painful experience. There is so much garbage said about the book. I’ve identified some broad categories of criticism:

  1. She’s wrong – without any justification – often the critic admits to having not actually read the book or only skimmed it, and gets details wrong.
  2. She’s wrong due to some X, where X is an argument adequately discussed in the pages of Atlas Shrugged. Inherited wealth for example, is dealt with in a speech by Francisco d’Anconia. Or the criticism that to survive we all draw from society the means of our survival – this is exactly the premise of the book, she is mostly having a go at the destruction of those means by the moochers and enslavers who do not draw out those means in exchange for some value.
  3. She’s wrong due to some Y which she forgot to mention, but its actually easy to guess what she’d say. A Y might be old people, there is Hank Rearden’s mother in the book, who is looked after despite giving nothing, including love, to her son and Hank is described as wrong for doing so. I’d guess that a different Mrs Rearden that did offer some value to her son, say Wisdom, should indeed be looked after as there is something in that for all parties. Children came up as well, but there is loads about children and childhood in the book. Somebody wasn’t paying attention.
  4. She’s wrong because some  Z is implausible and essential, where Z is a prop in the book that is not necessary to the plot or which is easily replaced by something more plausible. A motor powering a whole town by converting static electricity in the air, is no different from a town powered by a hydroelectric power plant. In fact, anything remotely technological, would have done since the point she was making is that its the mind that powers civilisation – try replacing that. Sheep farming and candles made of animal fat, would actually have enhanced the plot value of the valley – since both require a mind –  but would have been inconsistent with the valley as it would be near to the end of the strike.
  5. She’s wrong or the book is bad because thing N in the book is clearly wrong, but N is not in the book. A strawman argument. A country could not be and isn’t powered by a handful of intellectual elites say the critics, but this is not described in the book. The book describes a spectrum of secretaries, dispatchers, foremen, engineers, industrialists and inventors with different levels of talent and a tactically selected few hundred of the most talented go on strike in the valley, hundreds of thousands strike in other ways both before and after the pivotal speech by Galt telling them to strike. Somebody wasn’t paying attention.
  6. Her book is M where M is a feature of books normally held to be bad, long boring, having 2D characters etc fair enough I guess!

I enjoyed the book because it granted me a sanction to discard contradictory moralities, and encouraged me to value that which is an achievement and to take joy in achievements around me, including competence in people. Since I live in London suddenly there was a lot to take joy in, I was giddy for days even as I continued to finish the book.  I found it useful because it enumerated some virtues – reason, courage, honesty, pride, productivity – which I went straight ahead to use as a check list to evaluate those around me – which lead to some useful observations about some people in my life.

For all that, however, the book is in fact rather too long and boring on account of repeating itself a bit too much. Some of the characters are a bit flat e.g. Wesley Mouch, Eugene Lawson, John Galt but developing them in more depth would only serve to make the book longer. I guess its a matter of what you value, if you want a fun read this is not the book, try Pratchett, but if you value the philosophical content as well then there it is.

Then there is this overlap between the philosophy and the plot of the book which is hard to separate and works both ways. I believe Ayn Rand has compromised the expression of her philosophy for the plot of the book, which necessarily has a focus on striking, but I don’t think she is actually advocating going on strike for real. In the other direction, the critics can of course say stuff like the characters acted as a collective set of strikers or the hidden valley is a communist utopia, and use that as evidence of a contradiction in the philosophy.

I need to be careful as well.  If I’m to use this philosophy to some extent to make decisions then I must know it accurately – living according to a plot device is stupid. This is why some non-fiction Objectivist material is on my wish list. Living by a creed is widely recognised as useful and is widespread practice that helps a lot of people to make decisions and live better – I’ve seen that with my own eyes. Usually the creed is irrational and its dignified by the term “religion”, strangely I can’t think of a similar word for rational creeds so that’ll do.

So  yeah I might be about to be sucked into the Objectivist “religion” and become a complete ass by most people’s definition – perhaps that’s not even new – but if I do it’ll be because its right. I won’t be describing myself as Objectivist any time soon, not until I’ve read a lot more about it and heard from competent critics. So far I have no reason to suspect its wrong, but there is no need to hurry.

Debugging JNLP applications

I recently had some trouble with a Java Web Start application and needed to debug. A little experimentation led to the following following Linux shell script which works a charm:

#!/bin/sh
uri=$1
export JAVAWS_TRACE_NATIVE=1
export JAVAWS_VM_ARGS=”-Xdebug -Xnoagent -Djava.compiler=NONE -Xrunjdwp:transport=dt_socket,address=8989,server=y,suspend=n”
env | grep JAVA
javaws $uri

Save it somewhere convenient, perhaps in your PATH. I saved it to ~/bin/djavaws.sh and set chmod u+x.

run with:

~/bin/djavaws.sh http://localhost:8080/logserver/webstart/launch.jnlp

The Robot that wasn’t

Robot

I had fun trying to jazz up a boring web page yesterday, I’m quite pleased with the resulting background graphic. Unfortunately it turned out to be more trouble than it was worth to actually use it, so here it is.

Its derived from this bit of artwork by Sciatic, with a photocopy filter and manual colouring with the fill tool.

How the health system should work

I decided to blog this here since its a bit involved for a comment on a politics blog. Suffice to say I’ve been argumentatively agreeing with LPUK.This is also the second time, I’ve advocated the semantic web to solve market place failure. There is no particular reason for this, its just that modern life seems to gel with it, or something, and once you are familiar with it you can’t help but apply it when thinking about IT issues. It’s also a very open liberal system of working.

I’m going to get really specific here, because that’s the the best way to avoid being vague:

I’d choose to use Linked Data expressed in RDF+N3 to represent information about my health, and something not unlike FOAF+SSL for authentication, since I’d like to be able to use more than one service provider at the same time so it needs to be a format with native features that enable integration of data. RDF happens to also resemble EAV/CR which is a medical design pattern. The data would be stored wherever, whenever, by any number of arbitrarily chosen organisations and would be brought together ad-hoc via a tools in the Linked Data tradition. Integration tools would also be selected from an open market for doing exactly that job. If I chose to use one provider for every medical service obviously I wouldn’t need this extra bit, but having that allows a more diverse market, more privacy. Importantly, emphasising data integration as a feature leaves scope for organisations to add integration features to whatever system they already have, which includes retaining human procedures speeding up the evolution of this ecosystem.

If I were someone with specific conditions likely to need it then I’d carry a card designed to permit rapid access at A&E departments. I’d buy these cards from a similar marketplace of providers, but probably all of them would be eventually forced to catch up with the state of the art circa 1994 and support content negotiation such that once the URL is accessed whatever the doctor needs is delivered to them over HTTP. All the standard authentication options for HTTP, including FOAF+SSL would be available and may or may not be used in deciding to serve up the data. Imposing a standard protocol and format here wouldn’t be too bad, but the state needed bother compatibility with A&E is the core feature.

The method of formatting the card would be decided by an industry organised standards body, but need only be a URI. There is nothing scary now about URIs! It will contain a very long random number – too long to bother guessing it – and after first use, this URI can only be accessed for a few days. The server will know its serving emergency data and can take care of procedure matters, like waking up your mom, if that’s what you want.

The system is essentially a Summary Care Record resource but hosted by the person I chose to host it, and containing whatever I decided to put on it. If I remain in a coma, the care record will name someone to come sort out access to data, probably a relative or a staffer from one of the many organisations I might buy services or insurance from. Possibly the expired record will still provide that data, just in case.

XML, having at least the ability to be unambiguous and machine verified would be my 2nd choice of format. Automated integration is not a feature, but there is a good selection of tools and an experienced workforce. Stuff like SOAP might make things harder – too many variables – but a proper REST implementation would evolve as a norm (Linked Data is RESTful). With content negotiation the syntax doesn’t actually matter that much, because providers of emergency care cards will be incentivised to run really good software to handle syntax issues, as would the ad-hoc integration providers used in every other circumstance. Obviously then, data integration features  are the deciding factor for consumers, and whatever data-integration techniques work best will rise to the top in an open market.

That said, if people want to squirt pigments through feathers onto bits of reconstituted tree to depict vague and inconsistently applied words and move the resulting “information” around using horse and cart, then they should be free to do that. Want to use something properly stunted like JSON? Sure, but those organisations doing so  should also be perfectly at liberty to loose customers to competitors doing it properly.

Insurance providers would insure against the cost of transferring data out of systems when providers go bust and will set premiums according to how well the chosen providers operate, taking into account things like security, off-site back-up procedures as well as the quality of implementation details. If I choose to rely on paper records, I pay a bit more. If I am foolish enough to use a record-keeping service that uses  JSON then I will pay a lot more – obviously ;-)

Abody of shared knowledge will be created about the quality of each company – known as its “reputation”,  remember them? – that will include horror stories about data coming out wrong and  user interfaces being good, bad or ugly just as search engines or price comparison sites have reputation today for the same features. Obviously consumers won’t ask “is that SOAP or REST?”, or “do you have a comprehensive OWL ontology for health records?” but they’ll get to know the consequences of those technology options. Just like with search engines there will be default choices that people make, and times when you want something different, or more complex to suit your needs, so no-one will be greatly  inconvenienced.

Anyone too stupid to want to own their own records could just be handed the existing dead tree words or digital records on CD and told to keep them safe or suffer their fate. A kinder alternative would be to apply the kind of opt out system advocated for education (not the one for health, but I don’t feel strongly on that) in The Plan, to the NHS until such point that all the pathetic losers that can’t be bothered to think about staying alive end up dead and the NHS is mercy slain in 2060.

It goes without saying, that side issues like access to anonymous data by academics will also be subject to market forces and people will vote with wallets.

How to build your own Chainsaw

I needed to access chainsaw‘s library from a project, and determined that this is best done from source rather than downloading the JARs. What if something happens to the chainsaw project?

So I got HEAD from the SVN location below:

http://svn.apache.org/repos/asf/logging/chainsaw/trunk

This returned revision 789818, fwiw.

HOWTOBUILD in that project contained these other source dependencies:

log4j-component – http://svn.apache.org/repos/asf/logging/log4j/companions/component/trunk/
log4j-pattern-layout – http://svn.apache.org/repos/asf/logging/log4j/companions/pattern-layout/trunk/
log4j-receivers – http://svn.apache.org/repos/asf/logging/log4j/companions/receivers/trunk/
log4j-filters – http://svn.apache.org/repos/asf/logging/log4j/companions/filters/trunk/
log4j-zeroconf – http://svn.apache.org/repos/asf/logging/log4j/companions/zeroconf/trunk/

-component, -receivers and -zeroconf were found, there was no evidence of -pattern-layout
or -filters in the public SVN. Therefore the following were downloaded using the commands
Import->Check out Maven projects from SCM feature in Eclipse

Item Revision
http://svn.apache.org/repos/asf/logging/log4j/companions/component/trunk/ 789820
http://svn.apache.org/repos/asf/logging/log4j/companions/receivers/trunk/ 789821
http://svn.apache.org/repos/asf/logging/log4j/companions/zeroconf/trunk/ 789821

JMX was downloaded from here:

http://java.sun.com/javase/technologies/core/mntr-mgmt/javamanagement/download.jsp

and unpacked to here:
/home/simon/Desktop/jmx-1_2_1-bin/

and installed with:

mvn install:install-file -DgroupId=com.sun.jdmk -DartifactId=jmxtools -Dversion=1.2.1 -Dpackaging=jar -Dfile=/home/simon/Desktop/jmx-1_2_1-bin/lib/jmxtools.jar
mvn install:install-file -DgroupId=com.sun.jmx -DartifactId=jmxri -Dversion=1.2.1 -Dpackaging=jar -Dfile=/home/simon/Desktop/jmx-1_2_1-bin/lib/jmxri.jar

log4j-component built immediately with mvn install. Both of the others had direct
dependencies on artifact “log4j:log4j:jar:1.2.16-SNAPSHOT”

Downloading logj was done the same way. (I had some errors with folders that could not
be renamed , I cleared some guff from the target folder to fix) I downloaded from

https://svn.apache.org/repos/asf/logging/log4j/trunk

and got revision 790113

Building started in the Eclipse IDE and caused issues for mvn install. mvn clean install worked fine for log4j.

Building chainsaw requires a clean build of receivers and chainsaw. Build chainsaw with:

mvn -Dmaven.test.skip=true clean package
mvn -Dmaven.test.skip=true install

or similar, otherwise the tests will fail on you (mildly alarming).

Notes about my set up:

I have Eclipse 3.4.2 with

– Sonatypes Maven Integration for Eclipse 0.9.7.
– Subclipse (from update site  http://subclipse.tigris.org/update_1.4.x)

Once I got going I realised the project need not be included in my Eclipse workspace.

History, politics and culture of hacker spaces

I just read a thread started by Michael Zeltner on the London Hack Space group and assimilated the linked monochrom article.

Interesting points raised and I can’t dispute the history, but it seems to me that Monochrom (and I think also Zeltner)  sees hackspaces as a blank canvas onto which the (mostly left-wing) politics of the age are creatively drawn, and from which information is read by those nasty exploitative capitalists. Such an enterprise does need to agree on its purpose and destination in the way advocated by Monochrom, because otherwise the content of the canvas will be a complete mess, leading (in the real rather than the analogous world) to an unpleasant and fractious cultural space.

I thought I was helping to create a paint brush or a set of tools, capable of being used in a neutral and open way by any one friendly enough to turn up and get on with it without being an ass hole. I believed people would work on different canvases chosen by those individuals and any project groups they form as they socialise together in the space.  Some might work on their own web sites, perhaps even commercially while at the hack space as certainly happened at meetings #4 and #5. I contributed for selfish commercial reasons to an open project run by a major media company, but was friendy and sociable to the point of distraction while in “the space”. Others are working on kit to use in their own homes.  I’m sure others will get together and work on grander visions involving more people, even all of society, though I think that will take time to start happening. This latter model does not need a political direction or even a shared belief system, in relies on people with shared interests getting together and being sociable while using the facilities of the space.

Zeltner and Monocrom both approach the culture of hackspaces from what I would call (noting that my post 9/11 political awakening is still relatively recent) a collectivist meta-context and end-up ascribing collectivist features to it. Zelter reveals this when he calls setting up a space a political act and Monochrom likewise in his references to capitalists and capitalism as if they are something “other” than whatever it is he labels himself*. I wonder whether, if the factual history and consequent semantic baggage of the phrase “hacker space” is somehow unavoidably collectivist and whether I will find myself accidentally supporting a de facto left-wing political group of which I cannot approve. The rumours of funding from a certain assuredly left-wing media organisation does nothing to counter this impression.

I realise of course, that I have also ascribed features of the libertarian meta-context I was born with to the culture I expected to see formed at the London Hack Space. The description I gave above of a group of individuals united socially by accident of the facilities they enjoy and voluntarily uniting ad-hoc is basically the way I’d like my nation to be run, writ small. I would argue though, that this model of running a space – be it a country or a communal workshop – is superior exactly because it doesn’t matter if groups within the whole want to work on commercial, personal or communal projects as long as they respect the needs of every other individual sufficiently. The country, or the hackspace is a political entity in this model to exactly the same extent that a shop or a pub is political – not very political at all, but rather cultural or just social.

That all sounds very grand, but what it amounts to is turning up, getting on with whatever it is you want to get on with for whatever reason it is you want to do that, and getting on nicely with the others – exactly what has happened at every gathering so far.

Long may it continue.

* I realise I am anthropomorphising the group, but whatever…

Spectator on taxation of the rich

at the time of the 1988 Budget the top 1 percent paid 14 percent of all income tax – by 1997 this rose to 21 percent. And why? Because the top rate was cut from 60 percent to 40 percent.

Interesting.

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