December 12, 2007

Kaltura, Open Web Awards

Category: Kaltura — Biella @ 5:15 am

The Open Web Awards are accepting votes and well, my vote is going to Kaltura and if you don’t know what the do, or who they are, check em out. You might be surprised to find some really cool video editing software that is pushing collaboration to new heights.

October 13, 2007

Decoding Liberation: The Promise of FOSS (and Web 2.0)

Category: Academic,F/OSS,Kaltura,Politics,Tech,Web 2.0 — Biella @ 2:53 am

Last week I helped Samir Chopra and Scott Dexter kick off their book release party in New York City. The book Decoding Liberation: The Promise of Free and Open Source Software is the first academic book length piece on free software proper that among other things examines the repercussions of such elements as language use (free software vs open source) and licensing (such as non-copyleft licensing). Here are my opening remarks, which don’t give justice to the book but give a small taste of what is in there.

Samir and Scott are computer scientists, philosophers, and political thinkers and bring these positions and perspectives to bear in their work. While I tend to avoid the discussion on the differences and divergences between free and open source software and licensing (just because I ask a set of questions that tend not to go into that territory), they spend a hefty about of time on this sort of engagement And what is so useful about their approach is that it is technically detailed and carefully analyzed, clarifying the stakes involved in choosing a certain set of licensing over others, or the political implications of language use. Along with this focus, there are many other threads they unpack and one of my favorites is on the aesthetics of code, which I discuss with some detail in my opening remarks with the help of one of my favorite literary writers, Susan Sontag.

The conversation that followed was lively, in part because there were a number of people in the audience who are also very familiar with FOSS (Somewhat unbelievably, there were 3 anthropologists there who study free software, myself, Jelena Karanovic, and Anita Chan). And I think one of the most interesting questions was launched by Anita who asked the authors what they meant more precisely by “the promise of FOSS” as well as liberation.

The conversation that followed was too rich to recount here, but something that I raised and I do think is important is the relationship between the buzz word of the last few years, Web 2.0 and FOSS. Web 2.0 is related to FOSS in so far as Web 2.0 refers to a suite of technologies that allow for the creation of user-generated content and collaboration. FOSS refers to a development methodology that is based on promiscuous sharing of code and collaboration.

The similarities, however, end there because much of the Web 2.0 infrastructure is proprietary. FOSS by definition is non-proprietary. But I think that soon we are going to see more Web 2.0-like companies open up their infrastructure entirely or at least important components.

One example of a new technology that is Web 2.0-like and is entirely free software is a activist networking tool crabgrass that is pretty impressive (I have used it to coordinate my move and am using it now to coordinate a collaborative grant). It is still under development but once released, it will be a great boon to any group that needs to collaborate and organize and coordinate:

Crabgrass also provides a public advocacy centric view of content so that people can learn more about issues and organizations through social relationships. Blog tools, voter guides, petitions, event organizing tools, and action alerts are being added to the functionality of the platform. Crabgrass integrates wikis, asset repositories, task lists, calendars, polls, and meeting schedulers into one tool which allows groups to manage their internal organizing.

The other technology that I am excited about and that I have already written about is Kaltura. As I mentioned, Kaltura is important because it lowers the bar for collaboration, providing tools to facilitate video editing. But what I find as interesting and as significant is that they are perhaps the first large-scale Web 2.0 company that is actively seeking to enter the territory of FOSS and in this respect, once they do so, they will lead the field, not simply for technical reasons, but because they choose to make and engage with open source technologies.

Bringing Web 2.0 within the orbit of FOSS and brining FOSS within the orbit of Web 2.0 can only work to bolster each other, and this is where I think, at least part of the promise of FOSS lies.

September 23, 2007

Kaltura, lowering the bar

Category: F/OSS,Kaltura,Tech,Video_editing — Biella @ 2:20 pm

I have a number of friends who are finishing PhDs and then I have those “special” friends who are wrapping up their dissertation and manage to do something else quite extraordinary right at the same time. Shay David is one such friend who is currently wrapping up a fascinating dissertation on the social implications of openness and collaboration in various contexts (software, biology) but is also pushing the boundaries of what we mean by collaboration by helping to create a new vision, platform, medium, tool, and site, Kaltura.

As you can read about more on their about page, Kaltura basically lowers the technical bar for video editing bringing the power of editing to anyone, at least anyone who registers for an account. Kaltura provides an easy-to-use tool kit that allows you and others to hack away to create, edit, & mashup videos. In lowering the bar, they are significantly expanding the mind (and actual space) for video collaboration.

Some more good news is that Kaltura is soon going to GPL its technology, and they are looking for developers who want to contribute to this exciting project. The project is in PHP and Flex/ActionScript3, if anyone is interested, they should email !

Happy (video) hacking…