Your Help Needed

Hi. I don’t get a lot of international traffic on this blog, it’s just a humble home for my rants. But I do see the logs and I do know there are people visiting from Arabic, Farsi and especially Russian-speaking locales.

If this is you, then this blog post is directly speaking to you.

News about Bassel Safadi today is not very good. The EFF published a statement saying that there is some chance that Bassel has already been sentenced to death.

This is, of course, shocking and distressing.

If you are Arabic, Russian or Farsi-speaking then Bassel needs your help. You can help by translating some of the news that will be coming through in the next days. Please consider helping with some of your time to keep the attention focused on Bassel’s situation at this critical time. Please email me at

If you do not speak Arabic, Russian or Farsi you can still help tremendously by signing this letter:

Many thanks for your help.


Open is not a License

Openness is a set of values by which you live. It is not a prefix for a sector – open access, open source, open data, open government. Nor is it a license. Openness is not contingent on what license you use.

Rather open is a personal position and it transcends both sectors and licenses.

Living in the open way can be a very painful process. It is a lifelong journey which is largely made up of understanding how the proprietary way of life has shaped you and how it is deeply, deeply, embedded in the way you act and think. Openness is the undoing of that. The process of peeling off layer upon layer the proprietary way of life. Openness is a way of life, or perhaps a way of growing, an often painful path where we challenge our own value system against itself. A path where we deliberately create internal disharmony as we allow open and proprietary values to fight for a place within ourselves. A path where we learn to first cognate this process, witness it, resolve it, behave it. It’s a practiced art of going the other way. Step by step. Towards a more open way of being.

Free Bassel

Some years ago, I worked with Bassel Safadi on an early Book Sprint called ‘The Open Web,’ in Berlin. I can’t claim to be Bassel’s friend, but I know a lot of people that are his friends, and by all accounts, he is a great guy.

Bassel is an active Creative Commons and free software advocate. He is, as they say, ‘just like one of us’. As Lawrence Lessig said:
“In the middle east, the fight for freedom is generic: To stand for the right to create and share freely is to risk the most extreme response. Bassel is now suffering that most extreme response.”

On March 15, 2012, Bassel Safadi was detained in a wave of arrests in
the Mazzeh district of Damascus. Events recently have turned for the worse.  According to the EFF on Oct 3rd: “Bassel was moved earlier today from Adra Prison. He was told to pack up his belongings with no prior warning, and taken to an unknown location.
There is currently speculation that he may have been transferred to the Military Field Court in Qaboun.”

There is a letter of support online. If you could sign it that would be


Why Bad Design Is Good

Many platforms out there that are really popular have the worst UX and UI imaginable. Mediawiki, Drupal, WordPress… you know the culprits. They are very badly organised, they look awful, and using them does not give one much pleasure.

Still, they are some of the most common platforms on the web. I’ve often pondered this and occasionally Googled around to see if anyone has much of a perspective on this, but I can’t find anything that addresses this phenomenon. Why is really badly-designed software so popular?

I think many of these platforms are popular because they have terrible UI / UX. Bad UX / UI can also express to the user that this software has been banged together in the back room by a couple of people who just needed it to do something. That ‘just get it working’ raw mechanics of the software has an appeal. I hate to bring up the spectre of punk… but there is something of a DIY in the aesthetic to these platforms. Something that is approachable and accessible (even if awkward). Something that is not present in say, Confluence. Confluence speaks to dull office boredom and functional lines and features. Using it makes me feel like I am working in a cubicle.

I don’t like Confluence even though it is functional – it makes me feel claustrophobic and I feel like I have sacrificed some of my autonomy to dwell within it. Whereas I kind of like Mediawiki in an odd way. It’s screwed up and ugly, which is kind of reassuring. I can mess with it…I almost want to put stickers on it.. I can own it… There is some basic non= pretentious ‘just ok’ kind of appeal that speaks to users. It’s not exactly a three-badly played-chords-and-the-truth kind of thing but its sort of close…

I’m not recommending you make badly designed software, by the way… just say’n

Moving On

In June, I resigned from my position of Product Owner for Tahi (now known as Aperta) at the Public Library of Science (San Francisco).

In September, I was very happy to receive a Shuttleworth Foundation Fellowship. Since then I have been head down and working on a new project. Information will be forthcoming this week about what this is and where it is headed. Stay tuned!