These four principles are like Asimov’s Laws of Robotics in that enforcing one principle may not create a conflict with the principle above it. These define our goals and priorities in developing the MemexPlex application.
- Nurture Research and Enlightenment: MemexPlex’s primary purpose should be the support of academic endeavors. System and community integrity should a primary focus towards the end of providing an increasingly useful tool to Curators. If the Curators need something to make their lives easier, give it to them.
- Safeguard User Privacy: Don’t gather user data. Store passwords encrypted as hashes so even the application administrators don’t know what the user’s password is. The only exception to this is storing a valid email address in order to support the first principle and maintain community integrity, and this single piece of data must be guarded with the utmost vigilance. Data users make public may be harvested for network analysis to explore relationships between ideas, but all non-public data must be treated as invisible to the application administrator and not viewed in the database unless absolutely necessary for troubleshooting a bug.
- Free as in Speech: Code is poetry. The idea that one can patent prose is nonsensical; therefore, all MemexPlex code must be kept open and licensed with the GNU General Public License, allowing others to see and modify the code. This principle strengthens the first principle as the open peer-review process will improve the overall codebase and collaboration will bring additional features to the user base in a more timely manner. The need for transparency must never override the principle of maintaining user privacy. A user’s email and non-public memes, references, and other data must be protected first and foremost.
- Free as in Beer: MemexPlex relies heavily on the principle of Fair Use in order to provide its services. Quotes from references may be posted because users provide commentary and construct mashups with them; therefore, it would be hypocritical and unethical, not to keep MemexPlex free to use. Keeping MemexPlex free also contributes to the First Principle. It may be necessary to find funding for MemexPlex in the future, at which point an optimal means of providing free service while generating financial support will need to be explored. Currently the system will rely on charitable donations.