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About Felix Cohen

Felix Cohen is the Director of Technology at openDemocracy; he studied Psychology at Bath University, graduating in 2006.

Articles by Felix Cohen

This week’s front page editor

Clare Sambrook

Clare Sambrook, investigative journalist, co-edits Shine a Light.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Peter Mandelson wants to turn off your internet

Peter Mandelson is drinking the record label kool-aid

openDemocracy comments, community and moderation

We're implementing a sea change in our commenting policy here at openDemocracy. For a long time, we've allowed anybody to comment on our articles, and while this has brought a very high level of debate to the site on some issues, it has failed to really provide conversation between you, our readers, and the authors and editorial staff who comprise openDemocracy as a publisher.

We'd love to change that, and we hope that our new commenting system is going to achieve that goal. We'll be moving all comments posted on articles over to be completely moderated, initially by our editorial team here in the office, as well as some authors, but increasingly by the community itself.

Microsoft's Hard Choice

Microsoft has, apparently out of the blue, released technical details of most of its largest selling products which will allow competing companies and open source developers to create software that integrates far better with the Seattle company’s solutions. For example, Microsoft has released full details of the file storage formats it has used for its Office products, and has committed to allowing developers to be able to add new format functionality to the software.

Is this the end for Wikileaks?

Wikileaks, the shadowy but seemingly genuine service for hosting leaked government and corporate documents, suffered a serious setback yesterday, when a US court forced their internet provider to remove their address records from their servers.

A crowd-sourced panopticon?

As a resident of the both terminally hip and poverty-stricken London borough of Shoreditch, I was amazed to see this announcement in The Register recently; my neighbours have been watching me stumble home drunkenly (although, I hasten to add, never criminally so, and never on a school night)! It seems, you see, that a pilot program(me) has been running in the area, whereby users of a governement sponsored broadband scheme would be able to access channels showing them (at a low resolution) the views from various CCTV cameras around the area. Ironically, the viewing figures for the CCTV and associated programming rivalled both Big Brother and Eastenders; life imitating art?

At the end of the Rainbow?

    This week Comcast released the final figures for how many people chose to pay (38%), or not(62%), for Radioheads ground-breaking (OK, not really, but significant for such a large act) release of their new album, In Rainbows, which was released on the internet under a ‘pay what you want’ model.
The internet, and especially the blogosphere, has reported the final paying figure of 38% as being very low; I’m inclined to disagree (as are Radiohead, who claim that ComCasts figures are entirely inaccurate). Given that the release was almost certainly available over P2P networks almost instantly, and that there were no advantages for paying for the record*, the game theorist in me is rather surprised that such a high proportion did decide to pay. If we are to believe the RIAA and BPI, then as we drop the barriers to entry of copying music (and releasing an album as DRM free MP3’s means there are no barriers), then the customers (or, as one entertaining commenter over at El Reg, coined it, the customer-criminals, or custimals) almost feel compelled to start copying that music, spreading it on P2P networks and generally revelling in piracy.

Women Online?

It's a common internet adage that there are no women online; clearly untrue, massively misogynistic, yet still trolled out in discussion forums everywhere. XKCD provides this brilliant counterpoint:

XKCD Cartoon

(linked under Creative Commons from the truly suberb XKCD web comic, by Randall Munroe)

FOWA: The State of the Web 2.0 Nation

This week the Future of Web Apps (FOWA) conference was held in London. Unfortunately, due to a bad landlord, I was unable to make it over to the conference till the end of the last day, but nonetheless managed to catch a very interesting panel on some of the lessons that successful web application developers and companies had learnt over the last few years. I also had a chance to get a feel for how the industry is feeling in the wake of the sub-prime crisis and a general economic slowdown. I had anticipated that the tech crowd might be subdued; even concerned, by the threat of a cut in investment, but it seems that the community is still financially bouyant, and there is no shortage of interesting new applications and programming languages to keep innovation happening. (I particularly like the look of the new Adobe Air system for taking web based applications onto the desktop).

The OLPC hits the mass market

Yesterday the OLPC Foundation announced that they would be making the OLPC (One Laptop per child) laptops available to buyers in the developed world; with the caveat that when you purchase one for yourself, you’re also paying for one to be sent to a child in the developing world. Hardly a difficult ethical decision, especially once you see and get a chance to play with, the OLPC itself, which is one of the cutest and most engaging products I have ever used (although it did take me a few minutes to work out how to open the lid, apparently the kids get it every time).

Microsofts Day in Court

Whilst I'm loathe to continue blogging so much about Microsoft, I wanted to highlight the antitrust judgement that the European courts handed back to them today. Microsoft was up for antitrust behaviour in Europe for a couple of reasons; firstly shipping their Media Player with their operating system; it's a similar thing to what has happened to them in the past with the browser, Internet Explorer. And, while with IE, there was a genuine, if FUD-y reason for the browser to be included in the OS (basically, much of the same back end is used for browsing your files), Windows Media Player provides few, if any, system wide benefits. Secondly, refusing to provide sufficient details of how their server technology works so that other companies could interoperate with MS servers.

Microsofts SNAFU

This weekend, the blogosphere was aflame with reports of Microsofts Genuine Advantage Servers crashing. And on a Bank Holiday weekend, no less.

The Windows Genuine Advantage(WGA) servers are what your Windows XP or Vista installation 'phones home' to in order to verify that you are not using a pirated copy...if the servers think you are, there are various restrictions and warnings placed on your account. All most unpleasant, I'm told, although as a Mac/Linux user I am unbearably smug about such things.

BoingBoing threw petrol onto the fire initially, and when the WGA manager replied to say he couldn't give a time for a fix, why, it seemed to some people like this was the death knell for Microsoft. Treating paying customers like thieves? An outrage!

The persistence of Google's memory...

While this post over at uncov, the Techcrunch for cynics, might seem a little inflammatory, people search is apparently going to be one of the big new search tools we use from now on. I went on to Spock to see what it had to say about me, and, after battling with many errors and server problems (this doesn't feel like a site that was ready to come out of beta), managed to find my profile listed. And filled with manifold and varied errors and omissions. I didn't study at Manchester uni, it's been quite a while since I was an editor on Bath's student newspaper(better, of course, while I was there!)and, although I am entreprenurial, I certainly don't run the website!

Max Blumenthal reports...

by Felix Cohen

Max Blumenthal, son of one of our authors, has put together this great short documentary on Republican college kids. Enjoy!


The New Wave of British Terrorist

The most recent wave of British terror attacks; cars at Glasgow airport, parked outside the TigerTiger nightclub in london and in various other locations, has failed to instil any kind of terror in me. In fact, it has ameliorated many of the concerns I had about further attacks this summer, especially as Brown took on the mantle of PM. Why? Because the terrorits in this case have shown an absolute lack of talent, skill or intelligence in their bomb construction. While the 7/7 bombers were able to undertake the very difficult and dangerous task of mixing peroxide based explosives successfully, this round of petrol, domestic gas cylinders and nail bombs is frankly, laughable.

The iCommons harvest

There's no tragedy in a digital commons where quality content is king, says Felix Cohen.

Facebook, google and personal data

by Felix Cohen

Last week saw two very significant pronouncements from two of the most significant online businesses; Facebook and Google. On Tuesday, Google was reported in the Financial Times as having the intention of gathering 'so much information about individual users that it could even offer suggestions on how to spend free time or what career move to make'.

And on Friday, Facebook, the 6th most trafficked site in the US, held a press conference to announce that they were not being acquired at this point, and that instead, they were offering the Facebook service as a universal platform for other companies to use as they wish. For example, openDemocracy could (and might) add facebook membership to our members (the people who receive our e-mails and can login on the site), so that you could discuss articles, have discussions outside the scope of the forums, form activist groups based upon various issues or geography. We would be able to create an 'application' on facebook, deeply connected to the community here. I predict that a lot of online communities such as ours will be considering adding the features that facebook can offer soon*.

openDemocracy's beta launch

Felix Cohen introduces openDemocracy's new-look site, and invites your contributions on how to improve it.

Free software's Faustian moment

A recent deal between Microsoft and Novell has ignited the long-smouldering controversy about whether code can be owned. Is it the first step towards a two-tier software economy?
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