Watch this incredible real-life Jaws moment

Jeff Crilly and his friends were participating in a mako shark fishing tournament off the Jersey Coast when a different kind of shark came by for a snack of chum. Yes, they're gonna need a bigger boat. John Chisholm, a shark expert at the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife, estimates the 16- to 18-foot Great White weighs as much as 3,500 pounds.

From the Asbury Park Press:

Chisholm keeps a running database of great white sharks he's identified by certain features, such as markings. Crilly's shark had white markings on its gills, which Chisholm found no matches for in the hundreds of sharks logged in the database.

"She wasn't in there. I was able to determine it was a new shark and if we ever see it again, we'll be able to identify her," Chisholm said.

Chisholm invited Crilly to name the animal and he dubbed her Sherri. After his mom. Read the rest

How DRM has permitted Google to have an "open source" browser that is still under its exclusive control

A year ago, Benjamin "Mako" Hill gave a groundbreaking lecture explaining how Big Tech companies had managed to monopolize all the benefits of free software licenses, using a combination of dirty tricks to ensure that the tools that were nominally owned by no one and licensed under free and open terms nevertheless remained under their control, so that the contributions that software developers made to "open" projects ended up benefiting big companies without big companies having to return the favor. Read the rest

"Open source" companies are playing games with licensing to sneak in proprietary code, freeze out competitors, fight enclosure

Writing new software licenses is a seemingly irresistible vice in the free and open source world, and the decades since the first GPL have been filled with bitter disputes and splits over licensing, with new licenses proliferating for motives both noble and base. Read the rest

Dog cools down by napping in an ice machine

When it gets too hot outside, make like Mako the Husky dog and climb into the ice machine to cool down. Chill out, the machine's owners now use ice from the fridge instead:

A few weeks after the original video was shot, Mako's human companions caught this footage of him getting into the ice machine:

Thanks, Steve! Read the rest

How markets plundered Free Software's best stuff and used it to create freedom for companies, not people

Bejamin "Mako" Hill (previously) is a free software developer, activist and academic with a long history of shrewd critical insights into the ways that free software, free culture and the wider world interact with each other. Read the rest

Comprehensive, open tutorial on using data analysis in social science research

Benjamin Mako Hill (previously) collaborated with colleagues involved in critical technology studies to write a textbook chapter analyzing the use of computational methods in social science and providing advice for social scientists who want to delve into data-based social science. Read the rest

Scientists test hagfish slime-defense techniques by building an artificial shark mouth

There are many mysteries to hagfish goo.

Hagfish are "widely regarded as the most disgusting creature on earth", in part because of how they defend themselves: They excrete a ton of viscous, revolting slime out of 100 glands on all sides of their bodies, blocking the gills of the unlucky predator and essentially drowning them in marine snot. The trick works well enough that hagfish haven't evolved much in 300 million years. Indeed, the slime is so nauseating that there aren't very many predators who'll even dare to attack a hagfish. One of the few? The mako shark.

Still, scientists have long puzzled over one mystery: The hagfish only release the goo after they've been attacked. So how do they survive the first bite? Maybe hagfish skin is so thick the shark teeth don't penetrate?

Only one way to figure it out: Build an artificial mako shark-mouth and have it chomp on a bunch of recently-deceased hagfish, then observe the slime production!

A bunch of scientists actually undertook this awesome steampunk experiment. There's a fun writeup at Popular Science:

To figure this out, biologists at several universities collaborated to make a shark-tooth guillotine, the details of which they published alongside their results in Journal of the Royal Society Interface. Not many animals will even try to attack a hagfish, and mako sharks are some of the proud few, so the researchers gathered mako teeth and glued them to the edge of a metal plate. This plate could be pulled back into the top of the guillotine, compressing a spring as it went, such that it shot down when released.

Read the rest

Cute mermaid tail blanket

This mermaid blanket would be just the thing when binge-watching H2O: Just Add Water or Mako Mermaids. Available in blue or pink from Firebox. (via Laughing Squid) Read the rest

You are a Gmail user

For years, Benjamin Mako Hill has paid to host his own mail, as a measure to enhance his privacy and independence from big companies. But a bit of clever analysis of his stored mail reveals that despite this expense and effort, he is a Gmail user, because so many of his correspondents are Gmail users and store copies of his messages with Google. And thanks to an archaic US law, any message left on Gmail for more than six months can be requested by police without a warrant, as it is considered "abandoned."

Mako has posted the script he used to calculate how much of his correspondence ends up in Google's hands.

I host my own mail, too. I'm really looking forward to Mailpile, which should make this process a lot easier, and also make keeping all my mail encrypted simpler. Knowing that Google has a copy of my correspondence is a lot less worrisome if they can't read it (though it's still not an ideal situation). Read the rest

This Day in Blogging History: Group sues Wikipedian over non-notability; South Korea ready to implement three strikes; Empirical data on file-sharing vs music sales

One year ago today

Group whose Wikipedia entry was deleted for non-notability threatens lawsuit against Wikipedian who participated in the discussion: Benjamin Mako Hill writes, "Last year, I participated in a discussion on Wikipedia that led to the deletion of an article about the "Institute for Cultural Diplomacy." Because I edit Wikipedia using my real name, the ICD was able to track me down. Over the last month or so, they threated me with legal action and have now gotten their lawyers involved."

Five years ago today South Korea prepares to nuke its technological competitiveness with a three-strikes copyright rule: Joe sez, "South Korea is arguably one of the world's most internet-connected countries. Regrettably, the corrupt dinosaurs in the Korean National Assembly have just passed a bill in-committee to use a "three strikes" law against ISP connections there."

Ten years ago today Empirical data on file-sharing's effect on album sales: Koleman Strumpf, a conservative, Cato-affiliated economist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has just co-authored a paper on the effects of file-sharing on album sales, based on the first-ever empirical data analysis in the field. Read the rest

Check out the latest hand-picked videos in Boing Boing's video archives

Some of the most recent video selections you can find on our video archive page:

• Top Chemistry Moments in Breaking Bad

Visitors, from Koyaanisqatsi-director Godfrey Reggio

• That fast Italian song Gale sings in Breaking Bad

• What's inside the stomach of a mako shark?

• Children's choir sings Crystal Castles

• Her: Spike Jonez's new film

• Town swallowed by sinkhole

Boing Boing: Video archives Read the rest

What's inside the stomach of a mako shark?

Psst, hey kid. You wanna see some clips from the dissection of one of the largest mako sharks ever caught? Sure you do.

This NOAA video has amazing footage of the shark's stomach — so big it fills a tall Rubbermaid tub — and the even more amazing footage of scientists lifting an almost completely intact sea lion head out said shark's stomach.

What's the benefit? Studying the stuff in a shark's stomach helps us understand how different species are interrelated — which helps scientists figure out how to better manage the conservation of whole ecosystems. Essentially, write the good folks at, this is an example of scientists making valuable use out of a not-exactly-ideal situation. The shark was legally caught and killed by fishermen filming a scene for a reality TV show.

Video Link Read the rest

What makes a project remixable?

In The remixing dilemma: The trade-off between generativity and originality [PDF], a paper just published in American Behavioral Scientist, Benjamin Mako Hill and Andrés Monroy-Hernández analyzed a data-set of projects from the Scratch website that had been made available for download and remixing. They were attempting to identify the formalattributes that made some projects more likely to attract remixers. As Mako describes in this summary, they found that the projects that were most remixed were neither overly complex (too intimidating) and finished, nor overly vague and undefined (too uninspiring). The Scratch dataset was a good one to study here, because it includes the number of times each project was viewed as well as the number of remixes it inspired, allowing the authors to calculate the probability that a project will inspire a remix while controlling for its overall popularity:

To test our theory that there is a trade-off between generativity and originality, we build a dataset that includes every Scratch remix and its antecedent. For each pair, we construct a measure of originality by comparing the remix to its antecedent and computing an “edit distance” (a concept we borrow from software engineering) to determine how much the projects differ.

We find strong evidence of a trade-off: (1) Projects of moderate complexity are remixed more lightly than more complicated projects. (2) Projects by more prominent creators tend to be remixed in less transformative ways. (3) Cumulative remixing tends to be associated with shallower and less transformative derivatives. That said, our support for (1) is qualified in that we do not find evidence of the increased originality for the simplest projects as our theory predicted.

Read the rest

Group whose Wikipedia entry was deleted for non-notability threatens lawsuit against Wikipedian who participated in the discussion

Benjamin Mako Hill writes, "Last year, I participated in a discussion on Wikipedia that led to the deletion of an article about the "Institute for Cultural Diplomacy."

Because I edit Wikipedia using my real name, the ICD was able to track me down. Over the last month or so, they threated me with legal action and have now gotten their lawyers involved. I've documented the whole sad saga on my blog. I think the issue raises some important concerns about Wikipedia in general."

Donfried has made it very clear that his organization really wants a Wikipedia article and that they believe they are being damaged without one. But the fact that he wants one doesn’t mean that Wikipedia’s policies mean he should have one. Anonymous editors in Berlin and in unknown locations have made it clear that they really want a Wikipedia article about the ICD that does not include criticism. Not only do Wikipedia’s policies and principles not guarantee them this, Wikipedia might be hurt as a project when this happens.

The ICD claims to want to foster open dialogue and criticism. I think they sound like a pretty nice group working toward issues I care about personally. I wish them success.

But there seems to be a disconnect between their goals and the actions of both their leader and proponents. Because I used my real name and was skeptical about the organization on discussion pages on Wikipedia, I was tracked down and threatened. Donfried insinuated that I was motivated to “sabotage” his organization and threatened legal action if I do not answer his questions.

Read the rest

Antifeatures: deliberate, expensive product features that no customer wants

Free software advocate Benjamin Mako Hill's lecture on "Antifeatures" for the Free Technology Academy is a fascinating look at the ubiquitous "antifeature" -- that is, a deliberately designed product feature that none of the product's users desire. Examples include cameras that block saving images as RAW files, phones that are designed to identify and drain third-party batteries, and, of course, printers that are designed to reject third-party ink.

Mako makes a compelling case that these sorts of features are endemic to proprietary technology, and that free and open technology are the antidote to them.

Antifeatures at the Free Technology Academy

  Disney's Fast Play is the slow way to the DVD feature - Boing Boing Six reasons to hate Facebook's new anti-privacy system ... Ubisoft's notorious "uncrackable" unfair game DRM falls in less ... Amazon reviewers clobber Spore DRM - Boing Boing LilyPad microcontroller's success in welcoming women to ... Read the rest

LilyPad microcontroller's success in welcoming women to electronics

MIT's Leah Buechley and Benjamin Mako Hill recently published a paper called LilyPad in the Wild: How Hardwareʼs Long Tail is Supporting New Engineering and Design Communities, about the success of the LilyPad microcontroller in attracting women to electronics projects. LilyPad is derived from the Arduino open processor, but was "specifically designed to be more useful than other microcontroller platforms (like normal Arduino) in the context of crafting practices like textiles or painting." The Buechley/Hill paper shows that this was a successful strategy for engaging women makers and contemplates how to use the LilyPad approach to engage with women and girls in other science/technology/engingeering/math (STEM) domains:

Our experience suggests a different approach, one we call Building New Clubhouses. Instead of trying to fit people into existing engineering cultures, it may be more constructive to try to spark and support new cultures, to build new clubhouses. Our experiences have led us to believe that the problem is not so much that communities are prejudiced or exclusive but that they're limited in breadth--both intellectually and culturally. Some of the most revealing research in diversity in STEM found that women and other minorities don't join STEM communities not because they are intimidated or unqualified but rather because they're simply uninterested in these disciplines.

One of our current research goals is thus to question traditional disciplinary boundaries and to expand disciplines to make room for more diverse interests and passions. To show, for example, that it is possible to build complex, innovative, technological artifacts that are colorful, soft, and beautiful.

Read the rest

Penguicon 6: free software and science fiction con near Detroit with Vernor Vinge

Penguicon 6, the Detroit-area science fiction and free/open source software convention, is coming up soon! The guests of honor include Vernor Vinge and Jono Bacon from Canonical/Ubuntu. I attended one of these a couple years back and had a high old time: open source and science fiction go together like peanut butter and chocolate.

Tech Guest of Honor: Jono Bacon, Ubuntu Community Manager for Canonical Tech Guest of Honor: Benjamin Mako Hill - Debian/GNU, MIT Media Lab, Free Software Foundation, Ubuntu, Wikimedia Author Guest of Honor: Vernor Vinge, Multiple Hugo winning science fiction author, computing visionary Author Guest of Honor: Tamora Pierce, fantasy author, co-founder of Sheroes Central Webcomics Guest of Honor: Randall Munroe of xkcd Gaming Guest of Honor: Keith Baker, creator of Ebberon world for Dungeons and Dragons Hack of Honor: The Giant Singing Tesla Coils

April 18-20/Troy, Michigan


(Thanks, Peter!) Read the rest

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