Twitter, physics and sprinkling of the social sciences. The best post about twitter I’ve read.


(image from wikipedia. Keplers map.thanks!)

One Human’s Minutiae is Another’s Munificence

Please read all of Amy’s post, but here is an excerpt.

I laugh at the notion that technology alone will ever solve a problem; even if we lived in a world in which every person could contribute to one global database, these invisible barriers would still exist. The fact is I am regularly surprised by what I say has meaning to whom and while I myself don’t want to read every single thing a person does or thinks, I’d be willing to bet the farm that the compilation of this minutiae, coupled with other sources of data, would reveal patterns never obvious to us before and present answers to questions that have eluded humankind for ages. To do this however would require a lot of data, a lot of minutiae, all the minutiae you don’t want to hear. And yet the more information we make available, the greater our ability to understand our world and change it.

I believe with enough data, we can discover the truth in everything – and we will unveil an artisan’s masterfully ordered structure and achieve what Einstein simply did not have enough minutiae to achieve.


All this physics, philosophy, and maths on my blog lately may be sign of some mid life intellectual crisis. But I think not. Have no fear,  I will return to normal programming soon.

I found the post via Andrew MacAfee’s twitter.  Thanks.

Mathematics history turned on its head


(photo from the cc collection of lambageek, thanks)

I’m not a mathematician, not even by the wildest stretch of imagination. I reckon I have about another 3 years before the kids homework will defeat me.  However, I’m a big fan of the history of mathematics and science; Riemann conjecture, Nash equilibrium, Gauss and number theory, Mandelbrot and so on.  I’m a sucker for layman books on maths and science history, just don’t ask me to factorise, solving where X is a real number.

One of the great  mathematical rivalries was between Newton and Leibniz over who came up with Calculus first. It turns out that they were arguing over second.

A Palimpsest rediscovered showed that Archimedes had a grasp of the principles of calculus 2000 years before either Newton or Leibniz. You can read more about the discovery here.

I wonder how many other inventions and discoveries that we hold so dear are in fact rediscoveries?  Palimpsests do make prior art literature reviews rather difficult.


I’m not a lawyer. This is just my musing,  not any sort of formal legal advice.

I was reviewing answers to my Software and Law survey last night when I saw a tweet  where someone was wondering how to claim the company name back from a Twitter user. The user doesn’t work for the company and was apparently bad mouthing the company. This got me thinking about trademark dispute management in Twitter. or more correctly the lack thereof.

Several years ago I wrote an LLM paper on domain names. It was all about the dispute resolution issues to solve trademark disputes. I remember reading some excellent stuff from legal academics like Froomkin, Edwards, Mueller, and Geist. It was a hot issue at the time, and trademark and domain names are far more complex than first meets the eye. Lots of messy freedom of speech and constitutionality issues. Fun if you like that sort of thing (sadly, I do).

Well, what about cybersquatting in Twitter?  Trademark law applies in Twitterland, the same as it does everywhere else.

Take this case:

1. A person registers the name of a company as a Twitter handle.

2. A reasonable person reading the tweets would then likely assume those tweets came from the company.

3. Those tweets are damaging to the company in that they are misleading, or hostile to the company.

4. Company wants the handle back

5. What happens next?

With domain names, there is a procedure.  It has its flaws, but there is a procedure. 

ICANN has a dispute resolution policy (UDRP), and there is also specific anti-cybersquatting legislation  (ACPA) in the US, and there is case law and specific statute in other countries about domain name disputes. I won’t go into details on the UDRP or the Anti-cybersquatting legislation here, but there is lots of good  information on this issue. see Wikipedia for a start.

Is a Twitter handle a domain name?  If so then the UDRP and the ACPA would conceivably apply, but as Twitter actually own the 2nd level domain name, the Twitter bit in ,  this could get very messy indeed.

Twitter has responsibilities to trademark holders. It has responsibilities to its users and it has responsibilities for privacy and security too. Cool technology is not above the law. This isn’t the first time that Twitter has had IP challenges.

The lawyers are stirring. As one recently stated.

Twitter has become a cesspool of trademark infringement and copyright infringement claims.  Essentially, people set up twitter accounts and add feeds from popular websites and blogs.  They brand the twitter account using the trademark protected logo of a third party and then see how much traffic they can drive.  If you or your company is experiencing brand-jacking on Twitter, contact one of our internet attorneys for more information about your rights and successful approaches to having the infringing content removed.  If you do not protect your trademark registrations and copyrights, who will?

This tone from the lawyer above is not particularly helpful, but the lawyers have a point.  IP infringement does take place in Twitter.  Trademark owners are required to defend their marks, otherwise they risk loosing them.

At the same time Twitter needs to be transparent, even-handed and fair in how it assesses violations. Trademarks often conflict, and simply kowtowing to a trademark holder’s demands  without proper due course isn’t fair to Twitter users either.

According to this post from Steve Poland they still have a lot to learn.  Steve had several Twitter names removed from his possession by Twitter.  He wasn’t happy about it.  Based on the facts in the post I think Twitter were probably right to do so, but the process was far from ideal.

So Twitter, I suggest you create a clear and simple dispute resolution policy for trademark issues, and make it part of your T&Cs. Here is my two cents’ worth.

1. Outline the procedure to challenge a twitter domain registration. Trademark holder to fill in a request form, outlining the grounds for the challenge.

2. Notify the domain name holder that their registration has been challenged, and on what grounds (bad faith, financial gain…)

3. Allow them 2 weeks or so to respond.

4. If the domain name holder wants to contest the challenge, then offer a simple mediation service, at a fixed and relatively small fee, paid for by the challenger.

5. Evidence from both sides to be presented in writing, via an online template,  to the mediator.

6. Mediator replies in writing via email within 10 days or so.

7. Judgement of the mediator is binding on the parties.

8. The fee goes to pay for the mediators, as per the ICANN model.

9. Mediators are required to have a good background in trademark law. Perhaps  this sort of service could be run by law schools with a Information Technology focus?


Sort this out please Twitter.



Interior of Kopi,  punk squat and music venue; Kopenicker Strasse, Berlin Photo from the cc Flickr Paul Graham Raven.  Thankyou

Launching a survey.

As some of you know, I’m labouring away at what must be one of the longest part-time PhDs ever.  My research is looking at how software code and law work or don’t work together. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel.  In order to add a bit of empirical juice to will be a rather dry theoretical legal tome, I’ve decided to do a survey. 

I won’t bore you with the whole long story of the diss. here , but if you are interested in knowing more, please drop me a note and I can send you more details.

Whether it is ERP systems or toasters, software impacts much of our daily lives. We ask and demand software to do things on our behalf;  software transacts, it searches, it assesses, and in some cases it judges us.  Legal systems have evolved over centuries to codify rights and obligations in societies. Throughout history law and technology have interacted, modifying each other along the way.  It is often an uneasy relationship.

Whether it is contract law, licensing, intellectual property, privacy laws, accessibility, liability software and law interact significantly. There is a fairly large field of research looking at this relationship between code and law. (Lessig being the most famous, but there are many others)

However, not much research has focused on the role of the software developer and software firm in this relationship. So I decided to spend part of my dissertation looking more closely at the role of the software firm and the software developer in the code as law relationship. I want to ask as many software people as possible about what they understand of the law that can impact software, and what their attitudes are towards a couple of legal concepts in a software context.

It is designed to gather information about the knowledge, education and attitude of software developers towards the law related to software, and how law is or isn’t built into software. My goal is not to just have a small survey of a couple of hundred developers, but to really survey lots of them.

To do this, I want to tap as many of my readers  as I can to spread the news of the survey, and for as many of you to take the survey as possible. The more answers I can get from around the world, the richer the results will be. I will also be following up with telephone interviews with a much smaller sample group.

In this survey I have used the term software developer rather broadly. I define this to be anyone working professionally to design, build or maintain software (information technology). So if you are a product manager, solution manager, implementation consultant, systems architect, business analyst, or a systems tester, for instance, then we would be just as interested in your responses. The survey isn’t just aimed at those who code, but those who make a living from its construction and maintenance. Much of this group would fall under that definition. The Germans have a rather nice term, informatiker, but it doesn’t really translate very well.

Gartner is supportive of my PhD, this research doesn’t form part of my formal Gartner research agenda. In other words,  it isn’t a Gartner survey!

Several developer friends  have been kind enough to test the survey, and give me feedback, much of which I have incorporated in this final version. (If you tested the earlier versions, please take the test again)

Blunders and errors remain my responsibility.

Here is the survey as it stands today.

Please take this link and spread it to your software friends. colleagues and families.