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To contact me, leave a message on my discussion page or for emergencies see my personal homepage.


Ciarán O'Riordan here. I'm working on the End Software Patents campaign and the ESP Wiki wiki, launched in February 2009, is one of the major focusses. (The wiki now has articles for End Software Patents and for me.) I've been working on campaigns against software patents since 2003. Before that, I worked for four years as a software developer.

Contact: The best way to contact me about the wiki is by leaving a note on User_talk:Ciaran. Or to discuss something with the wiki users in general, you can leave a note on Talk:Discuss this wiki.

I speak English, French, Tagalog, and Dutch. You can also contact me in Spanish or German. My Spanish and German are good enough to understand most texts, but not yet good enough for me to write replies in those languages.

...and you'll find my email address and phone number on my personal homepage.

Wiki policies that I think are good

  • Don't be rude, especially to new contributors (this includes writing curt criticisms in edit summaries when modifying someone's edit)
  • Don't delete people's contributions
  • Don't protect pages
  • Topics should be covered only once. If you notice that the same information is explained in multiple articles, then that usually means that that information should be moved to its own article and just linked to from each article that discusses it. For example, what is patentable in the USA? If one person puts some effort into explaining this in in re Bilski and another person puts some effort into explaining it in the article on The Patent Reform Act, we'll have two mediocre descriptions that might contain contradictions. The right solution is to put it in one article such as USPTO.
    • Note: this principal might give someone the idea that certain info could be collected into boxes that could be included in multiple pages. We'd thus have all the info in one place and we'd have the info where it's needed. Sounds great, but I've seen it tried and it's a catastrophe, for two reasons: (1) people editing the box info won't check each page that uses the box to confirm that they haven't broken the readability, so some page will say "As you can see in the left-hand column..." but that info will have been moved to the right-hand column. Mess. And that's a very simple example. (2) When the same info appears on multiple pages, the wiki becomes hard to navigate because the length of the pages increases, so there's more info to search through, but each time you follow a link, you end up with the same info. Infuriating.
  • No external links on the Main Page. The Main Page is supposed to be a portal to's content, not for sending people elsewhere. And anyway, there are hundreds of great sites. We'd never decide on which to link to. (Links to ESP alerts about are obviously an allowed exception)
  • Whenever possible, use an internal link instead of an external link. E.g. when talking about the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property, make a link to Gowers Review of Intellectual Property rather than to
  • Descriptive, plain English page names. The domain name of this site is short, so we have enough space left over for nicely descriptive page names like Analyses of the patentability of specific ideas, or Litigation and specific patents (rather than what some wikis might have done: PatAnalyses, or just "patents") Descriptive names are also important so that people can see what they're looking for when browsing categories, and they help search engines know the topic of each page.
  • Subpages (with "/") are a bad idea (except for subpages of user pages).
  • lists should start with the newest thing first (e.g. 2011 goes higher up than 2007) - newer stuff is usually more interesting/relevant and interesting stuff (which keeps people reading) should be presented before boring stuff (which might make people leave).

Page names, layout

Maybe each page should eventually have sections with these titles:

  • Related pages on ESP Wiki
  • External links
  • Press coverage
  • Hints for further researching this topic
  • References

Actually, I've no certain recommendations right now as to the order of them or whether press coverage should be a sub-heading, a box, or if there should be multiple such sections. This isn't a suggestion, it's just me thinking out loud.

Maybe pages about companies should all have sections:

  • Litigation by and against
    • By Companyname
    • Against Companyname

Differences from Wikipedia

I think everyone should contribute to Wikipedia. (I have over 12,000 edits there - if you find paragraphs on ESP Wiki that are similar to the corresponding Wikipedia article, it's probably because I contributed that section to the Wikipedia article.)

But exists because:

  •'s goal is to contain all related info - not just information that's in a finished, well-written state. If you want to scribble an idea on or add a link without going into detail, that's fine. It's all potentially useful. Here, a half-done section is better than nothing and is very welcome.
  • We need to be able to focus on swpats without debates about how much coverage patents should get or where to put the info.
  • Documenting patent problems might be difficult on Wikipedia since we'd be sharing those pages with fans of the relevant companies or technologies who might have a problem with our work making the object of their fandom look bad.
  • articles should contain a "Press coverage" section, which can be a short or very long list of articles about something. I don't know the reason why this doesn't exist on Wikipedia, but it will exist on
  • Here, on pages about court cases, like i4i v. Microsoft, we have a section about problems highlighted. That obviously wouldn't be allowed on Wikipedia.

My thinking space; theories, etc.

There are three categories targeted by aggression

Theory: All, or the vast majority, of negative uses of software patents can be put into one of three categories:

  1. Rich software developing companies: targeted by non-software companies, or by much much smaller software companies
  2. Upcoming software projects: targeted by large, established software development companies who are afraid of competition
  3. Companies (software or not): requested to pay royalties by trolls or by rich software development companies (such as Microsoft)

This explains who doesn't get targeted

  • Startups that have no money and no market impact (that is, until they make something useful, at which point they start having money and market impact and they become a target).
  • Individuals writing macros and small programs that will never be widely distributed (because they're so specific to a certain task, or because they're simply not that good or no patent holder is aware of them).

The people who are in danger are those who make useful or successful software.

But, even if community projects are not targeted directly, they are obliged to avoid the patents, and they often do so, so they're "attacked" by the existence of the patent even if the patent holder doesn't actively threaten them.

Which categories are for swpats? Why?

The first category is for software patents, because they claw back their expenditure by being the attacker in categories 2 and 3.

The second is against (unless they're under pressure from the first, but this needs evidence).

The third should be against except that they're not aware that they should have an opinion.

Only the first is taking part in consultations and court cases, plus the bonus contributor: lawyers.

Who's stealing ideas?

One theory of patents is that they exist to stop you "stealing" my idea. I'm going to commercialise my idea, and if you want to commercialise it, you have to ask me for permission.

But, in software, if my idea is a way to play videos, then I find myself in the position that to commercial my idea, I absolutely need to use other people's ideas. So others have a veto in me being able to commercialise my idea - instead of me getting a veto on others commercialising my idea.

So for software, patents backfire. This is the starving genius myth that Stallman talks about, and it's also called the small inventor myth, but I think the above telling of the story takes a different and useful angle.

Software feature monopolies

Or "software functionality monopolies"? Probably "feature". Maybe this is the best term to describe the problem.

To do

  • Maybe it would be good to have a page on: Whatever you think about the patent system as a whole, software patents are way below the average in terms of goodness (more concise title needed)

Merges and renames

Also, is speculation just a form of patent trolls? Or is it broader since it includes companies putting patents on their account books (without knowing the real value).


Categories - March 2012

I'm getting the case law and patent office sections organised, and that means reviewing all the related categories and making lots of new ones.

These should all exist (subject to change...):

Patent office stuff:

Court stuff:

Category syntax style

(No one should worry about this, it's just something I'll do as I go along. It's really not important.)

  • One space between the colon and the category name
  • First letter should be capitalised (it will be displayed capitalised either way, but having it capitalised in the code makes it easier to automatically put them in alphabetical order.)
  • Categories should be sorted in alphabetical order.

Special pages to watch's future

Maybe the scope should be expanded, but in what way?

I'd like to add copyright, but it's not that straight forward.

Or expand it to all legal aspects of technological freedom, but how do I define what's in and what's out?

Should it be limited to things that affect free software? I want to say yes, but I don't want to exclude contributors who care about privacy but don't share my stance on free software. Hmmm...