Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Rarely Is The Question Asked

Four years ago the first major Smart Contract was launched. Then this happened:
"Smart contracts" are programs, and programs have bugs. Some of the bugs are exploitable vulnerabilities. Research has shown that the rate at which vulnerabilities in programs are discovered increases with the age of the program. The problems caused by making vulnerable software immutable were revealed by the first major "smart contract". The Decentralized Autonomous Organization (The DAO) was released on 30th April 2016, but on 27th May 2016 Dino Mark, Vlad Zamfir, and Emin Gün Sirer posted A Call for a Temporary Moratorium on The DAO, pointing out some of its vulnerabilities; it was ignored. Three weeks later, when The DAO contained about 10% of all the Ether in circulation, a combination of these vulnerabilities was used to steal its contents.
$25M goes Poof!
Now, David Gerard reports the latest Smart Contract fiascos in The dForce and Hegic DeFi exploits, and why Smart Contracts are bad. One caused the $25M loss shown in the chart, the other caused this reassuring message to users:
!! ALERT A typo has been found in the code. Because of that, liquidity in expired options contracts can’t be unlocked for new options. !! Please EXERCISE ALL OF YOUR ACTIVE OPTIONS CONTRACTS NOW.
Below the fold, some details.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Funder Publishing Platforms

After posting Never Let A Crisis Go To Waste earlier this month, I can't resist a shout-out to Elizabeth Gadd's The purpose of publications in a pandemic and beyond:
The virus is reminding us that the purpose of scholarly communication is not to allocate credit for career advancement, and neither is it to keep publishers afloat. Scholarly communication is about, well, scholars communicating with each other, to share insights for the benefit of humanity. And whilst we’ve heard all this before, in a time of crisis we realise afresh that this isn’t just rhetoric, this is reality.
Below the fold, a few comments.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Outsourcing Reduces Productivity

Salim Furth provides yet more evidence of falling productivity in What’s Behind Falling Productivity: The Census May Hold the Answer:
Records kept since 1940 tell a contrasting story: even as the census has introduced labor-saving technologies, it has required more, not fewer, workers. The efficiency of census-taking appears to have declined over time as it has for most of the economy.
Below the fold, some commentary.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Yay, Library of Congress!

LoC Web Archive team
The web archiving team at the Library of Congress got some high-visibility, well-deserved publicity in the New York Times with Steven Kurutz's Meet Your Meme Lords:
For the past 20 years, a small team of archivists at the Library of Congress has been collecting the web, quietly and dutifully in its way. The initiative was born out of a desire to collect and preserve open-access materials from the web, especially U.S. government content around elections, which makes this the team’s busy season.

But the project has turned into a sweeping catalog of internet culture, defunct blogs, digital chat rooms, web comics, tweets and most other aspects of online life.
Kurutz did a good job; the article is well worth reading.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Never Let A Crisis Go To Waste

On March 13th, an Elsevier press release entitled Elsevier gives full access to its content on its COVID-19 Information Center for PubMed Central and other public health databases to accelerate fight against coronavirus announced:
From today, Elsevier, a global leader in research publishing and information analytics specializing in science and health, is making all its research and data content on its COVID-19 Information Center available to PubMed Central, the archive of biomedical and lifescience at the US. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine, and other publicly funded repositories globally, such as the WHO COVID database, for as long as needed while the public health emergency is ongoing. This additional access allows researchers to use artificial intelligence to keep up with the rapidly growing body of literature and identify trends as countries around the world address this global health crisis.
Elsevier and the other oligopoly academic publishers have reacted similarly in earlier virus outbreaks. Prof. John Willinsky pounced on this admission that these companies normal restrictive access policies based on copyright ownership slow the progress of science, and thus violate the US Constitution's intellectual property clause:
That Congress shall have Power...To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.
Below the fold I provide some details of his proposal.