I Am A Snob
I enjoyed reading lately of a FireFox plug-in called the YouTube Comment Snob which filters out comments featuring
- More than a certain number of spelling mistakes
- All capital letters
- No capital letters
- Doesn’t start with a capital letter
- Excessive punctuation
I’d use it if I ever read YouTube comments. I would also suppress all comments featuring the word “anyways” (wouldn’t a feedback system that showed people how they’d been filtered be terrific too?). I know some very smart people who can’t spell, however, so this would be unfair if efficient. And the fallibility of obscenity filters is well known (even risible; click here for The Clbuttic Mistake).
Can we actually construct a web with reputational filters? Would it really be a good thing to do? Wouldn’t the system just be gamed?
Which leads me, in passing, to Schneier’s Law:
Any person can invent a security system so clever that she or he can’t think of how to break it.
And, no, it doesn’t mean everyone forgets passwords, nor is it a banality. It’s a profound truth.
The captcha system for moderating comments is now said to be completely broken, in part because evil people have farmed out the data entry to humans in the developing world who sit there all day long decoding captcha puzzles. WordPress’s founder Matt Mullenweg says that content is the only way to filter. His plug-in Akismet does an astonishingly good job, but really it’s nothing more than a windscreen wiper.
Some of the best jokes on Slashdot sometimes involve profanity and may not feature any capital letters at all. Slashdot uses peer review and adjustable filters that help keep loons with no history and bad karma off the screen, but it’s a weird little universe unto itself.
Why can’t the entire web have some unbreakable cyberkarma filters?
It’s the author, stupid
I’ve been scanning a new book called Content by Cory Doctorow which is available online as a PDF. It begins with a lecture to Microsoft staff on how Digital Rights Management is bad, unworkable and bound to fail.
I haven’t decided yet whose hubris is worse, the would-be immovable or would-be unstoppable. Science fiction authors take their own and each other’s genius a little too seriously at times. I haven’t decided about this one yet.
Whether DRM is borked for content or not, and I don’t think that’s decided yet either in practice or philosophically, we have an interest in it being workable as far our digital identities are concerned.
In general (not referring to this book), I would far rather read something by a person with a history and real knowledge of a subject than some merely popular opinion. It’s why I think the new news site NewsCred, which aims to rate news on its popular credibility, is fundamentally misguided. What people en masse think either of the news or comment on the news is of interest mainly to politicians and marketing people and is completely irrelevant as far truth is concerned (which credibility is presumably intended as a proxy for). Millions of people can be entirely deluded (read this IHT article about thinking in the Middle East on 9/11; update: now on the NY Times site).
Why is it that on 9/11, the Jews didn’t go to work in the building,” said Ahmed Saied, 25, who works in Cairo as a driver for a lawyer. “Everybody knows this. I saw it on TV, and a lot of people talk about this.
What, no Internet connection? It’s truthiness as Stephen Colbert defined it
Clearly, it’s an issue well beyond the country whose conceit is that it is the greatest on earth.
There is no safety in numbers at all. Discrimination and insight matter, even in quantity 1.
Tell me that Bruce Schneier, one of the wisest authorities on IT security, has written something in a newspaper and whether it’s the New York TImes or The Times doesn’t matter, I’ll be interested, precisely because he is a voice of reason who punctures popular prescriptions offered by the “something must be done” and “everybody knows” choruses.
When Google Chrome can show me, among other things, news of interest to “readers like you”, without my having to Digg stories, it will have my attention. Whitelisting with relevance. The world needs it.
Meanwhile, News-Spider seems to be an interesting news site.
Update: note in blue added after comments from the author.