As you have probably noticed by now, I've updated the layout of my blog. If things look like a mess, your browser is probably using a cached version of the CSS file and you should reload the page. While you are admiring the new layout and the new features, you should also pay attention to the most important change, which isn't related to the layout at all. This blog is now licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License.
The Creative Commons is an organization that recognizes the importance of being able to build on the works of others. Copyright law has now become sufficiently restrictive that the law interferes with the creative process, so Creative Commons is engaged in various efforts to give creators ways to explicitly limit their own rights under copyright law. Their licensing scheme has gained popularity among blog authors. The licenses allow authors to grant some rights to others while retaining the rights they choose for themselves. The Attribution License is the least restrictive license available.
Speaking casually, the Creative Commons Attribution License states that anyone can make any use of the material for any purpose, on one condition: the author must receive credit as the author of the material. That means that if you want to make and sell a book containing my posts on this blog, you are free to do so and you are not obligated to pay me, as long as you identify me as the author. You are also free to make derivative works based on this blog without my specific permission and without paying me, again, as long as you identify me as the original author. There's a little more to it than that, so you should read the actual license before you start doing anything, but that's the basics.
The Attribution license is the most permissive license. If you are a copyright holder, you can choose to restrict publication to non-commercial uses or to prevent derivative works from being made. Creative Commons has more on the range of possible licenses. If you're curious about this idea, you should visit their site.
These licenses have some drawbacks. If you use my work in a way that I'm not happy about, I can't prevent you from that use as long as you obey the terms of the license. Also, these licenses are perpetual. Now that I have licensed the contents of this blog, I can't take it back. Use care with these licenses, because you can't change your mind. This doesn't affect anything else that I may create, just what I have licensed. If I decide I want a more restrictive license in the future, I can license future posts in this blog under that license, but I can't apply a more restrictive license to anything I've already posted. Also, these license terms don't interfere with your rights as the copyright holder. If you license something for non-commercial uses only, you are still free to publish it commercially or to grant the right to publish it commercially to someone else.
It's fair to ask why I, or anyone, would choose to do this. I can't speak for others, but I believe that responding to, reflecting on, and reusing the works of the others is the basis for creative work and public discourse. I also believe that existing copyright law interferes with this process solely to benefit corporations. The irony there is that many works which the corporations want to protect were created only because copyright laws weren't as strong when they were created as the laws are today. I can work to change the existing laws, but until then, I want my creations to have no more copyright protection than I believe they deserve.
I want to mention some of other changes I've made so you don't miss them. Besides making the body text wider, which I hope will improve readability, and playing with the fonts I'm using, I've updated the description of the blog and added a blogroll (still under development) and a FAQ. In case you've wondered what "rolls a hoover" means, there's now an explanation over on the right side. I've also added my email address at the bottom, so you can contact me directly if you feel the need. Any opinions about the changes I've made or anything else you'd like to see are welcome.