Open Paranormal Association for Research (update)

It’s been two years since I announced that I’ll be forming an organization dedicated to paranormal research on this blog, but until now it hadn’t had much momentum.

The fault is entirely mine as I’ve been far too occupied with other affairs to give much thought to it beyond the initial idea. Well, a few contacts past week provided me with the opportunity to advance this further. Namely, I’ll have a chance to create an archive system to document any research in order to present them in a meaningful way and, being a programmer, this will be naturally based on a searchable database.

So far, I have started work on a case management system that will store all documents and research information using an EAV paradigm since I have no way of knowing what type of materials I’ll come across, but still implement thorough record-keeping.

And finally, like all aspiring organizations, a logo will be needed. I chose an encircled, 12-petal, chrysanthemum for cultural and historical reasons. 12 Is an important number in several cultures of the Middle East and subsequently, the West through the spread of religion, and the chrysanthemum is a similarly important symbol of the East. Both, I think, represent what I’m trying to achieve with this.

Open Paranormal Association for Research

Following the choice of color, there will be no doom and gloom associated with this and, by extension, the website for the project. I’m not sure why many other paranormal research organizations insist on darkness as a theme, but just because you may conduct your research at night, doesn’t mean it should be a color choice as well. This organization will stand for knowledge and openness, hence lightness not darkness.

There’s no date yet on when I can start on actual research since I first need the infrastructure in place. The last thing I need is disorganization even before any work starts.

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Let’s build a free “indiscriminate collection of information”

I.E. What Wikipedia is not

Why do it?

Because if scientists are looking for a unified theory of everything, why don’t we create a compendium of all knowledge?

Besides this, Wikipedia has seen as string of deleted articles (of disputable noteworthiness) which are summarily overriden if restored by admins or other members with greater standing. Anonymous contributions, while still significant, aren’t valued as much. This wasn’t the case just a few years ago, where a significant portion of all edits came from anonymous contributors. Better yet, those were the days where individuals were willing to contribute without personal recognition, save for an IP address in the article history.

Ironically, Wikipedia’s own popularity is making anonymous contributions, it’s original backbone, cumbersome. This is tragic, since I’ve only bothered to login to Wikipedia just a few times. And if I’m not doing it, I know legions of others must be the same.

By the same token of what Wikipedia is, if it’s not a “Community”, Democracy, bureaucracy, battleground, anarchy nor my web host, then what it is, isn’t nearly good enough.

Wikipedia is not “free”

The collection commands a high price as the entire project is not knowledge for the sake of knowledge. It’s knowledge for the sake of recognition and self praise, often, at the cost of anonymous contributors.

While I can’t fault Wikipedia alone for this, by contributing and encouraging contribution to this project, we have, perhaps irrevocably, bound many aspects of knowledge to an intellectual prison.

Knowledge, Information, Data or what ever else you want to call it, isn’t “free” until you have unbound the hands of the user, contributor and distributor. Your opinion of what entails “freedom” does not diminish the true definition of the word.

Wikipedia is a religion

People obsess over its nuances as to its place in references. It contains innumerable contradictions (a byproduct of many cooks spoiling the broth etc…), theories as to its worth in a free (as in to criticism as well as praise) society. While these by themselves wouldn’t purely constitute religion, the arrogance of certain admins as to what knowledge is significant (especially when it comes to pet subjects) is almost insufferable.

And it has become ridiculous.

There are many such instances where the notability of the subject has not changed at all since its inception, only the number of instances it is used which shouldn’t have been a measure of notability as, by Wikipedia’s own admission, notability isn’t a function of popularity.

The article on bbPress, for example, was deleted as not being notable. Yet here it is now, created and contributed to. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s deleted and recreated several times more.

Behold the non-Anarchy, non-Bureaucratic and non-Democratic process at work.

Further proof that it’s a religion: Wikipedia allows non-sourced content all the time. Yet only deletes those articles which draw attention. Like the priest who swats away legitimate criticism for fear of debasing the whole premise, admins and plenty of users are more than willing to stick a banner questioning notability and walk away.

“Being bold” may result in countless reverts. Since “consensus through discussion” is double speak for a plutocracy that ridicules dissent by removing knowledge wholesale.

Looks like religion to me.

What Wikipedia could have been…

An archive of knowledge that should belong to none; that should simply exist as knowledge. The accumulated net worth of a species.

If each person contributed everything they know about any chosen topic to the universal collection of knowledge, the benefit for humanity would be almost incalculable. But let’s not lament on that now.

Let’s begin now– it’s not too late — to pick up the mantle to a truly free fountain of knowledge. An archive of everything.

There is an origin to a project that could be very promising in this vein.

Open Paranormal Association for Research (OPAR)

I’m officially announcing the start of a new paranormal research organization… Yes, I’m totally serious.

The Open Paranormal Association for Research or OPAR.
I had another name in mind:
Open Paranormal Research Association for Hunters or OPRAH, but that may cause some issues…

So why this one when there are already countless other paranormal this and that organizations out there?
I don’t believe in ghosts or the supernatural. I’ve lived, literally, next door to a cemetery for many years and never once encountered anything paranormal. So I want to approach this from a perspective of someone who’s never experienced any of this. Perhaps that would give me some perspective on what’s really going on.

Are these things real or just figments of a collective imagination? Can so many people be hallucinating or making up stories or are there actual phenomenon that could be construed as paranormal?

I want to see what all the hubbub is about.

And what’s with the name?

Open

All research and investigations conducted within the organization will be available for public review. This includes logs, video and audio (when available) and other records collected during the course of the affair. Furthermore, every effort will be made to ensure the majority, if not all, the content of the research will be available outright in the public domain or at least free (under “fair use” in copyright law if external material is involved) whenever possible.

Paranormal

Or as the good folks at TAPS would elaborate “above-normal”. Floating balls of dust, your strap or finger caught on camera, and fog, do not constitute a “paranormal” event. Neither do “feelings of discomfort or paranoia” which could easily be caused by food poisoning or inhaling chemicals or dust from a particular structure, as much a ghost.

Association

So this won’t be a party of one, obviously. I’ll need some volunteers at some point. Also it’s good to have more than one perspective on anything as you’re likely to observe the non-existent or miss the existent if you only have one set of eyes and ears. And good ideas are always more likely to come by in groups.

Research

We’re actually going to be finding stuff and documenting everything. Even if we find nothing, documentation will still exist. More importantly, if what’s found is nothing, what’s shown will be nothing along with the data showing nothing. Everything will fall within objective and unbiased scrutiny.

The subjects of research will be ghosts, mainly, and hauntings as well as poltergeist activity. No UFOs, extraterrestrials kryptids or other such things. I want to stick to things that are actually feasible for testing purposes. Challenging the government to declassify documents and going into the woods looking for Bigfoot is a no-go.

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And so… Onward and upward!

Is blocking ads the same as stealing?

I submit that it is not, but Svetlana thinks otherwise.  I won’t address the Amazon issue, as it’s explained it pretty well and I agree on that stance.

Here’s some clarification…

Yes, you are a content creator, and that means you can receive compensation if you feel you should be rewarded for your work. However, you’re not “selling” your writings.  We do have a choice to not “purchase” your writings as you haven’t disabled public access to them.

Now, if you publish your work in PDF or locked HTML form and the only means to access it is through a subscription or individual sale of articles, then you are saying that you definitely want compensation and are, actually, “selling” your content. Then, if someone gets access to your work without compensating you, it is indeed “stealing”.

But until that happens, no one is “stealing” from you just because they’re blocking ads. Even your “about” page clearly notes, “Profy is a blog…” not a pay per view site. If, while browsing the site and viewing your ads, your visitors will generate revenue for you, then that’s a nice plus. However it isn’t a prerequisite for browsing your site as you have not configured your site for that.

“And advertising is supposed to be an equivalent of paying…”

Incorrect. Advertising is the advertiser paying you for views and clicks from a visitor (a solicitation) which the visitor is free to refuse.  If I’m walking down the street past an art exhibit (created by you) and while enjoying it someone hands me a flyer, I’m more that free to not look upon it or even accept it. The fact that web advertising is configured for a page load (or automatic view) is incidental.

For comparison… I’ve started selling T-Shirts, and if someone wants that particular content, then they have no choice but to purchase it.  It is a form of restricted access to content. But if someone wants to block images from RedBubble or links to the site, then they’re certainly free to do that. They’re not “stealing” from me. They’re just choosing to ignore extraneous objects for sale.

It’s a configuration enabled or installed on the visitors’ own computers for which I have no say and neither do you. Everyone should be free to browse however they please, and if the type of browser or browser setting disables access to ads, then that’s their call, not ours.

“Yet I think that this plugin (and multiple others intended for the same purpose) should be as illegal as the torrent one that Amazon was so quick to protest to last week.”

Welcome to China? How is infringing on the rights of the visitor any different than infringing the rights of the creator? You are arguing that computer users are not free to install whatever software they please and not use their computers however they please (provided they do nothing illegal). Choosing not to see your ad is not illegal. And making illegal any software intended for that purpose violates all our rights as netizens.

The road to hell, as they say, is paved with good intentions. This kind of draconian view on advertising will have greater (far worse) rammifications in the future.

The term “Patriot Act” comes to mind.

Warning: Personal opinion ;)

My writings are not for sale and I’ve placed most of it (since 1997) in the Public Domain. Obviously this isn’t acceptable for all content creators and many have locked them in copyrights etc… Mind you, under the Berne Convention, I don’t really have to assert my copyright claim. Just by creating the content, I’m automatically entitled to copyright. I have just chosen not to exercise that right for the vast majority of my writings.

My only wish is that someone will find my work useful for worthwhile and just purposes and will, in the end, benefit the community at large.

Edit_

Forgot to mention this eariler…
Wikipedia runs on donations. If your content is truly useful, you will find a way to make money off of it without ads. Consider what they did at the Daily Kos. They asked ad blocking visitors to buy a subscription.

GPL vs BSD

Here we go again!!

I know I will probably stir up the the sediment all over again, but this has to be clarified. If anything because this came up at work yet again. And It’s quite frightful at how ill informed people are on these licenses.

(This will be long and tedious, so feel free to browse away now)

Let’s clarify a few important points right here…

The GPL is not about “freedom”

In fact, the word “freedom” doesn’t even belong in there. The problem is that the GPL, and indeed many software projects that use it, has been turned a religion. And like all religions, it contradicts itself in sentiment… repeatedly.

I don’t have any problem with someone using the GPL in their work, and I’ve been happy using GPL’d products. But I will not treat this license as something it isn’t. That is, a doctrine on freedoms. A license is a license, and by definition all licenses carry restrictions. The GPL carries a particularly ridiculous combination of doctrine, philosphy, and law. Sounds like religion to me…

“The licenses for most software and other practical works are designed to take away your freedom to share and change the works”

The GPL does exactly the same, in that developers have to release every bit of derived or modified code under GPL or face legal action. That is a restriction placed upon the developers and distributors.

“To protect your rights, we need to prevent others from denying you these rights or asking you to surrender the rights. Therefore, you have certain responsibilities if you distribute copies of the software, or if you modify it: responsibilities to respect the freedom of others.”

 
So you’re forcing the code to be free because you recieved it free?
You’re denying some of the developers’ rights to give more rights to users?
That’s a lot like “peace… through superior firepower”.

Where’s the developers’ freedom to not distribute the code when distributing the product? Or does that get swept under user rights? I didn’t realise there were different standards for developers and users when it came to “rights”.

The freedom to distribute code or programs is, and has always been, a choice. Much like selling cake vs selling the cake with the recipie. A baker may choose to do both or only one, however, the customer is not forced to do the same by eating the cake thereby entering into a binding contract with the baker. If the customers decide to make cake using improvements to the same recipie, then they’re automatically forced to sell it with the improvements in the recipie?

That’s what the GPL really is. A binding contract : That is a set of restrictions on those who use, develop or modify content licensed under it. It is not now or has ever been a formula on “freedom”. The GPL is not the definition of “generocity” that is giving without expecting any return. I hope all you GPL advocates would stop treating it as such and call it what it is. A license and a binding contract. Nothing more.

If you try to pass it off as anything other than that, then you have problems.

I’m well aware of the motivation of using the GPL and, in theory, it is a noble cause. You’re trying to ensure that quality code remains free and any quality modifications are returned to the community without becoming invisible. While distributing products for free or profit, you also want to ensure the sources are available to the community.
But let’s not call this “freedom”. Free code is just that… free code.

If someone modifies some code and chooses not to distirbute it for free or profit, it still becomes invisible to the community. So this is only for those who choose to distribute their work anyway.

The BSD is not about “freedom” either

It’s about not getting involved in what the end user chooses to do with their copy of the sources and protecting the developers from harm. It’s none of their duty nor concern to police the actions of users.

Specifically, the ISC License…
The only usage restrictions are the disclaimer and copyright.

Copyright (c) Year(s), Company or Person’s Name

Permission to use, copy, modify, and/or distribute this software for any purpose with or without fee is hereby granted, provided that the above copyright notice and this permission notice appear in all copies.

THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED “AS IS” AND THE AUTHOR DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES WITH REGARD TO THIS SOFTWARE INCLUDING ALL IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHOR BE LIABLE FOR ANY SPECIAL, DIRECT, INDIRECT, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES OR ANY DAMAGES WHATSOEVER RESULTING FROM LOSS OF USE, DATA OR PROFITS, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, NEGLIGENCE OR OTHER TORTIOUS ACTION, ARISING OUT OF
OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE USE OR PERFORMANCE OF THIS SOFTWARE.

That’s it!
That’s the whole license.

Notice anything about “freedom” or philosophical ramblings?
Notice anything other than what the license is about and the criteria?
NO!

Unlike the GPL, the BSD license doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t and users of BSD license are well aware that, like all licenses, it is a binding contract between developers, distributors, and users. They have no delusions about how much “freedom” both licenses afford however the BSD still being a license it still has usage restrictions. Namely the copyright and disclaimer.

Developers using the BSD license don’t care nor want to police the actions of users once the source is copied. They’re not interested in “freedom” through coersion, which is actually slavery. They just want to make sure their products and sources are available from them regardless of need or future availability. If the users want to share their own modifications, then more power to them. But they’ll be damned if it’s by force.

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That said, I don’t use the BSD license in examples I’ve posted here. I would have placed them in the public domain if not for one indemnity clause. That’s the only reason every single line of code/HTML/CSS I’ve posted on this blog isn’t in the public domain.

I don’t want to get in trouble when someone using my work didn’t have things go over so well. Except for that, everyone is free to do whatever they please with it. Use it in personal  or professional projects, buy, sell, modify, reverse engineer, give me credit or not give me credit… whatever! I pretty much wash my hands of any responsibility after it’s posted. I don’t expect anything in return.

I’m not forcing anyone who uses any of my examples to treat their work as I do mine. In fact, I’m not forcing anyone to do anything at all with it or while using it. With the exception of the indemnity clause, there is no “law” involved in the source.

I only require anyone using my examples to agree to the following disclaimer :
THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED “AS IS” AND THE AUTHOR DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES WITH REGARD TO THIS SOFTWARE INCLUDING ALL IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHOR BE LIABLE FOR ANY SPECIAL, DIRECT, INDIRECT, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES OR ANY DAMAGES WHATSOEVER RESULTING FROM LOSS OF USE, DATA OR PROFITS, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, NEGLIGENCE OR OTHER TORTIOUS ACTION, ARISING OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE USE OR PERFORMANCE OF THIS SOFTWARE.

That’s it! That’s the sum total of the “restrictions” I place on anyone using my examples. Keen observers will note, it’s identical to the disclaimer in the ISC license as I want to make sure that I don’t tread around on someone else’s needs while protecting myself.

In that aspect, it’s the closest I could come to placing everything in the public domain.

Public Domain : That’s freedom, folks.

A utopia by choice is heaven. A utopia by force is hell.