Saturday’s Telegraph magazine’s weekly Social Stereotype invented a media-friendly academic called “Damian”*, so it’s perhaps not the best time to tell you that I’ve been commissioned [dahling!] to do the cover story for an upcoming edition of geek glossy Linux User. It will be an update of this piece about the human genome project(s) that I wrote for them in 2001 [warning: 300K PDF with complex background image]. This older article is a good place to start if you are reasonably computer literate and would like to read a layman’s guide to (intellectual property issues in) the human genome project. Both that and my new one assume that the reader also has some familiarity with the idea of open source software. You should also be aware that those-in-the-know refer to the good guys who write free software as “hackers” and to computer vandals, of the sort who write viruses and break into computers illegally, as “crackers”.

It happens that we in Britain make some wonderful free software for manipulating gene data, but there is a danger that we are about to make a lot less of it. I argue that this would be A Bad Thing. I believe that free or open source software, creative commons licensing, and the creation of a viable gift economy are vital to the future of the Left and of human civilization, but that argument is mainly for another day.

In the meantime it would make me very happy if you did these three things:

  1. Read the article and tell me about any errors in it before it progresses to the proofing stage. [I’m afraid you’ll just have imagine the pretty pictures that will accompany the print version.]
  2. After getting a flavour of the content from the first few paragraphs email me with a title, because I haven’t thought of one yet.
  3. After a few more paragraphs realise that this essay is pretty long to read from the screen and decide instead to buy a copy of the whole magazine at WHSmith when it comes out.
  4. Find the whole thing so interesting, informative and entertaining that you then buy five copies for your friends—or, ideally, take out a subscription to Linux User, citing my work as your motivation.

Lest PooterGeek’s reputation for frivolity is damaged by my posting this kind of thing, I should point out now that I am also now one of Google’s top five recommended sources for pagan lesbians. Oh yes, and I promised my guitar teacher I would bless his band with my awesome Google karma: go see SoulPower, featuring Dave Cartwright!

[*Though the “Damian” in the Torygraph is a historian who looks like he’s rolled from Ampleforth to Magdalen without ever having tasting the business end of a chav trainer.]