Rebooting democracy? The case for a citizens constitutional convention.

I’m getting increasingly cynical about our largest organisations and their voting-centred approach to democracy. You vote once, for people rather than programmes, then you’re meant to leave them to it for up to three years until they stand for reelection and in most systems, their actions aren’t compared with what they said they’d do in any way.

I have this concern about Cooperatives UK too, but then its CEO publishes http://www.uk.coop/blog/ed-mayo/2015-02-18/rebooting-democracy-case-citizens-constitutional-convention and I think there may be hope for it yet. Well worth a read if you want to organise better groups.

Posted in Democracy | Leave a comment

Outsourcing email to Google means SPF allows phishing?

I expect this is obvious to many people but bahumbug To Phish, or Not to Phish? just woke me up to the fact that if Google hosts your company email then its Sender Policy Framework might make other Google-sent emails look legitimate for your domain. When combined with the unsupportive support of the big free webmail hosts, is this another black mark against SPF?

Posted in Autonomy | 3 Comments

Social Network Wishlist

All I want for 2015 is a Free/Open Source Software social network which is:

  • easy to register on (no reCaptcha disability-discriminator or similar, a simple openID, activation emails that actually arrive);
  • has an email help address or online support or phone number or something other than the website which can be used if the registration system causes a problem;
  • can email when things happen that I might be interested in;
  • can email me summaries of what’s happened last week/month in case they don’t know what they’re interested in;
  • doesn’t email me too much (but this is rare);
  • interacts well with other websites (allows long-term members to post links, sends trackbacks or pingbacks to let the remote site know we’re talking about them, makes it easy for us to dent/tweet/link to the forum nicely, and so on);
  • isn’t full of spam (has limits on link-posting, moderators are contactable/accountable and so on, and the software gives them decent anti-spam tools);
  • lets me back up my data;
  • is friendly and welcoming and trolls are kept in check.

Is this too much to ask for? Does it exist already?

Posted in Autonomy, Community, Education, Training and Information, Web Development | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

GPG Transition Statement

Online Blackjack Expert

Rather late but I guess that just confirms it’s really me, right? ;-) The signed text and IDs should be at http://mjr.towers.org.uk/transition-statement.txt

Thank you if you help me out here :-) I’ll resign keys in a while.

Posted in GNU/Linux | Leave a comment

Autumn Statement #AS2014, the Google tax and how it relates to Free Software

One of the attention-grabbing measures in the Autumn Statement by Chancellor George Osborne was the google tax on profits going offshore, which may prove unworkable (The Independent). This is interesting because a common mechanism for moving the profits around is so-called transfer pricing, where the business in one country pays an inflated price to its sibling in another country for some supplies. It sounds like the intended way to deal with that is by inspecting company accounts and assessing the underlying profits.

So what’s this got to do with Free Software? Well, one thing the company might buy from itself is a licence to use some branding, paying a fee for reachuse. The main reason this is possible is because copyright is usually a monopoly, so there is no supplier of a replacement product, which makes it hard to assess how much the price has been inflated.

One possible method of assessing the overpayment would be to compare with how much other businesses pay for their branding licences. It would be interesting if Revenue and Customs decide that there’s lots of Royalty Free licensing out there – including Free Software – and so all licence fees paid to related companies are a tax avoidance ruse. Similarly, any premium for a particular self-branded product over a generic equivalent could be classed as profit transfer.

This could have amusing implications for proprietary software producers who sell to sister companies but I doubt that the government will be that radical, so we’ll continue to see absurdities like Starbucks buying all their coffee from famous coffee producing countries Switzerland and the Netherlands. Shouldn’t this be stopped, really?

Posted in Autonomy, Community | 1 Comment

software.coop reduces price of .coop domain names

During the Co-operatives North West “Co-operation Now!” event, software.coop heard concern at the price of .coop domains. We listened.

Having negotiated with our suppliers, we’re delighted to announce a significant reduction in the price from £75 to £64 per year.

You can transfer existing domains and benefit. We can make you a web site, too. Visit www.software.coop or email info@software.coop.

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Three systems

There are three basic systems:

The first is slick and easy to use, but fiddly to set up correctly and if you want to do something that its makers don’t want you to, it’s rather difficult. If it breaks, then fixing it is also fiddly, if not impossible and requiring complete reinitialisation.

The second system is an older approach, tried and tested, but fell out of fashion with the rise of the first and very rarely comes preinstalled on new machines. Many recent installations can be switched to and from the first system at the flick of a switch if wanted. It needs a bit more thought to operate but not much and it’s still pretty obvious and intuitive. You can do all sorts of customisations and it’s usually safe to mix and match parts. It’s debatable whether it is more efficient than the first or not.

The third system is a similar approach to the other two, but simplified in some ways and all the ugly parts are hidden away inside neat packaging. These days you can maintain and customise it yourself without much more difficulty than the other systems, but the basic hardware still attracts a price premium. In theory, it’s less efficient than the other types, but in practice it’s easier to maintain so doesn’t lose much efficiency. Some support companies for the other types won’t touch it while others will only work with it.

So that’s the three types of bicycle gears: indexed, friction and hub. What did you think it was?

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

#coops14 sees last days of Downham Food Co-op

image

While  cooperatives fortnight is mostly a celebration of how well cooperatives are doing in the UK, this year is tinged with sadness for me because it sees Downham Food Coop stop trading.

This Friday and Saturday will be their last market stall, 9til 1 on the Town Square, aka Clock or Pump square.

As you can see, the downturn has hit the market hard and I guess being the last stall left outside the market square (see picture: it used to have neighbouring stalls!) was just too much. The coop cites shortage of volunteers and trading downturn as reasons for closure.

But if you’re near Downham today or tomorrow morning, please take advantage of this last chance to buy some great products in West Norfolk!

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New comments methods

After years of resisting it, I’ve added the least evil Twitter/Facebook comments plugin I could find to this blog as a test and updated the comments policy a little.

Please kick the tyres and try commenting to see if it works, phase.

Posted in Wordpress and Blogs | 6 Comments

The Kelly Lessons in About 1555 Characters

So the Kelly report “of the independent review into the events leading to the Co-operative Bank’s capital shortfall” was published yesterday. During the day, I was putting odd bits from it out in 140 characters with the hashtags #coops #kellylessons. Here they are in one more permanent place. How many of these lessons has your organisation – whether a co-op or not – learned?

  1. “Running a full-service bank… is a complex business… Bank failed to understand the limits of its own capability”
  2. “The most important task for any board is to put in place the right Executive leadership for the business”
  3. “Ownership of a regulated bank…requires a clearly articulated statement addressing…mgmt & gov’nance relationship”
  4. “Failures in board oversight are inevitable if the criteria used to elect… do not require… the necessary skills”
  5. “A bank board must include sufficient numbers of technically competent directors”
  6. “Boards need…good m’gmt info’ and to demand it if it is not forthcoming. Failure to obtain…explains…failings”
  7. “A bank should develop&implement robust risk gov’nce&oversight and an appropriate control framework”
  8. “IT transformation…keep…as simple as poss’, phase delivery.., deploy the right resources, plan for contingencies”
  9. “Bank should have paid closer attention and responded with greater urgency to what the Regulator told it”
  10. “Pay careful attention to the advice of…external advisors. The Group…ignored well-founded…inconvenient advice”
  11. “Postponing dealing with problems is almost never a sustainable solution.”
  12. “Values…need to be translated into meaningful guidance…The Bank’s ethical positioning should be…more apparent”
  13. “Mantras about scale and ethics are no substitute for strategies grounded in a real understanding”
  14. “Talent management is critical… Lack of capability…driven…by weaknesses in its recruitment&subsequent m’gmt”
  15. “Tolerating…culture of underperformance, weak transparency and a lack of accountability, constrains an organisation”

Are there other lessons that you would add?

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