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Archive for October, 2009


The Readability of the EULA

   Posted by: wkossen    in Uncategorized

End User License Agreement
Photo by fczuardiThe Software License and the EULA (End User License Agreement) have always been part of software. It contains the rights people have regarding the software, often limiting those rights as much as possible. It’s being a contractual document, Eula’s often contain a lot of legal jargon, which usually is gibberish to ordinary human beings. The question is, do they have to be this difficult to read?

I’m not going to answer that question of course, since I’m no legal expert, but readability – which happens to be a part of usability – is part of my expertise. It can be measured. Many scientists studying language have come up with formula’s to calculate the level of difficulty of a particular piece of text. The most well known of these scientists is Mr. Flesch who invented the Flesch Reading Ease test. The result was the following formula:

Flesch Reading Ease Formula

The results from this formula come in categories:

90.0–100.0easily understandable by an average 11-year-old student
60.0–70.0easily understandable by 13- to 15-year-old students
0.0–30.0best understood by university graduates

This table showed you that the higher the score, the easier the read… (source of both formula and table is Wikipedia)

Luckily there are tools to calculate the score on your texts (like this one which was used to calculate the values below) and even websites like this one. (And also note that there are other ways to calculate readability which I’ve kept out of this article to keep some readability…)

Let’s get back to the Eula. Is it any good, Is it readable and how do different Eula’s compare? I created this little table for your enjoyment:

GPL v246,26
Microsoft Windows XP EULA25,26
GPL v339,41
BSD simplified FreeBSD27,48
MPL (Mozilla)32,64
MS-PL Microsoft Public License40,80

As you can see, the most readable license in this list is the GPL v2. The worst is the Microsoft EULA for Windows XP. Interestingly, the very open BSD license in it’s simplified FreeBSD version doesn’t do much better than the MS Eula. Also note that the Microsoft Public License isn’t that bad a read, meaning that you don’t need to be a MSc to understand what it tells you.  Since I didn’t check every license in the world, this is just an indication. Want your favourite license added to the list? Just leave your comment and I’ll update the table (when I find time to do so…)

An interesting question is the following legal one (please leave your comments!): If a license requires you to have more education than you actually have, can you actually be bound by it’s terms? In other words: If you can’t understand because they made it too hard, and you still accept, are you bound to it? And how about: Do we need to force companies to create their license documents with a minimum Flesch Reading Ease score of 60? Should we have a law about that? Should an ‘average’ person be able to understand this sort of documents since that same average person is also using the software? Should licenses be written in a way that helps the reader and user of the software? I think they should, How about you?

to further compare free licenses on other characteristics a good source to look is this one.

I am currently not aware of tools and formula’s to calculate readability in other languages than English. If you are aware of one of those, don’t hesitate to leave a comment as well…

I hope you enjoyed this post!

UPDATE: A discussion has started partly caused by this post on IusMentis (dutch).

4c685b3de1f98bc3665afa55cc11559d The Readability of the EULA

I’m a Google Waver Now

   Posted by: wkossen    in Uncategorized

Photo by Yme BosmaYes, My invite came this last night. Between bits of work I found a little bit of time to play with it a few minutes. And I am not (yet) very impressed. Sure it works and sure it’s fast. Sure I can create a wave (which isn’t much more than a simple document) and have a conversation. But there are problems that wave doesn’t solve yet, promises that aren’t kept.

Wave should be all about communication, but it is very limited in the sense that I can’t communicate without the boundaries of wave and without the (very small) group of people I found on wave so far. If this is to surpass e-mail, the least it could do is allow me to converse with those who still have nothing else…

And then, I’m not even talking other communication platforms. I want to interact with microblogging services like Twitter and Identica and (google owned) Jaiku. I want to socially network with Facebook, Hyves and (google owned) Orkut. I want to manage my calendar and todos in Outlook, Remember the Milk and Google Calendar (also Google owned). I want to interact with bulletin boards, I want to import data from RSS feeds, I want to export WordPress Posts (and not just embed a wave that consequently nobody can see without a wave account). I want work with data (like spreadsheets and databases) and not just text and images and I want to draw pictures and graphs like I can on a whiteboard.

I haven’t found any good ways of doing those things with wave yet… Maybe it’s early days, maybe I’ll have to wait, maybe I have to team up with folks with strong development skills and make these dreams come true. I don’t know. For now it remains a nice toy rather than a very useful application for my work. A hello world testwave I created I embedded in a sandboxwordpressinstall I created at geirriteerd.nl. Have a look and (probably) see (nothing?)

To get the invite I begged and participated in a small contest and won. I made the promise to write about my experiences (which I’m doing now and will do in the future). One of the things I want to investigate is how this new tool can be useful in the real world as a communication channel between organisations and people, especially in an e-Government setting. So that’s what I’ll be looking into in coming months. However, limited as it is right now (including my inability to invite people myself) the added value isn’t as big as I hoped.

I guess that between hype and hope a lot of land lays barren…

Please respond to this post or contact me on Google Wave (wDOTkossenATgooglewaveDOTcom, yeah, I don’t like WHAM (wave spam))


Towards my presentation October 29

   Posted by: wkossen    in Uncategorized

Some of you may know that on the 29th of October I will be speaking at the fall conference of the NLUUG, the Dutch Linux and Unix Usergroup. The conference is about The Open Web and naturally I will be speaking about interoperability, or better, the lack of it.

In recent days I talked to a journalist of the website Transparante Zaken (Transparent Matters) about this conference and this resulted in an article that tells you a little bit about what I’ll be talking about the 29th. Here is the link to that article. It’s in Dutch but hopefully Google Translate will excel this time for you if Dutch isn’t your cup of tea…

Don’t hesitate to respond to the article on Transaparante Zaken, but don’t forget to also respond here!