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Comment Re:Wording indicates the problem (Score 1) 136

"Lawful intercept" is a term used in telecoms to refer to a feature of a communications system that allows the police or the government or the TLAs to monitor the communications of a specific endpoint (a person or an address or a device). The implication is that there's some judicial oversight to stop the authorities from abusing it, and some security to stop anyone who isn't the authorities from gaining access to it. The term also implies that the feature is there by design - it can't (or shouldn't) "accidentally" disappear when the vendor releases an update. Just calling it "intercept" or "interception" doesn't convey what it's for and how it works.

I agree that bragging that your product has this feature (even if it's always been there) is a pretty dumb idea, regardless of what you call it. Unless your target market is no longer the users of your product, but people who want to spy on the users and who are in a position to force them to use the product...

Comment Re:DMCA reform (Score 1) 224

I'd be surprised if it was against anti-spam laws. CAN-SPAM applies specifically to messages advertising a commercial service or product, though I suppose this tactic could fall foul of other countries' laws. I'm curious as to how you'd get around them if it did. Claim you have an existing business relationship with Vimeo because you watched a video that someone posted there?

Comment Re:DMCA reform (Score 1) 224

There are penalties, but only for things that aren't usually in dispute. When you send a DMCA takedown notice to YouTube or Vimeo or wherever, you're essentially saying, "I own the copyright in work X (or am the authorised representative of the owner of X). You are hosting work Y, which infringes the copyright of work X, and I demand that you remove Y." If you're not the owner of X or his authorised representative, that's perjury. But if Y doesn't actually infringe the copyright of X, that's just, "Oh well, c'est la vie." I suppose the thinking is that the question of whether you own the copyright in X is a matter of public record (look it up at the Copyright Office), but the question of whether Y infringes on X's copyright (if X and Y aren't the same thing) is a matter for a court to decide.

So other than the overhead of doing the paperwork (very small if you program your computer to file the notices) and possible bad publicity (which probably comes out of some other department's budget), there's no disincentive to filing millions of bogus notices. Of course, since Vimeo don't seem to be doing any checking of the notices Columbia are sending, that suggests it wouldn't be too difficult for disgruntled independent filmmakers to disrupt the online publicity for Columbia's next big release...

Submission + - Could the Slashdot community take control of Slashdot? 10

turp182 writes: This is intended to be an idea generation story for how the community itself could purchase and then control Slashdot. If this happened I believe a lot of former users would at least come and take a look, and some of them would participate again.

This is not about improving the site, only about aquiring the site.

First, here's what we know:
1. DHI (Dice) paid $20 million for Slashdot, SourceForce, and Freecode, purchased from Geeknet back in 2012:
2. Slashdot has an Alexa Global Rank of 1,689, obtaining actual traffic numbers require money to see:
3. According to Quantcast, Slashdot has over 250,000 unique monthly views:
4. Per an Arstechnia article, Slashdot Media (Slashdot and Sourceforge) had 2015Q2 revenues of $1.7 million and have expected full year revenues of $15-$16 million (which doesn't make sense given the quarterly number):

Next, things we don't know:
0. Is Slashdot viable without a corporate owner? (the only question that matters)
1. What would DHI (Dice) sell Slashdot for? Would they split it from Sourceforge?
2. What are the hosting and equipment costs?
3. What are the personnel costs (editors, advertising saleforce, etc.)?
4. What other expenses does the site incur (legal for example)?
5. What is Slashdot's portion of the revenue of Slashdot Media?

These questions would need to be answered in order to valuate the site. Getting that info and performing the valuation would require expensive professional services.

What are possible ways we could proceed?

In my opinion, a non-profit organization would be the best route.

Finally, the hard part: Funding. Here are some ideas.

1. Benefactor(s) — It would be very nice to have people with some wealth that could help.
2. Crowdfunding/Kickstarter — I would contribute to such an effort I think a lot of Slashdotters would contribute. I think this would need to be a part of the funding rather than all of it.
3. Grants and Corporate Donations — Slashdot has a wide and varied membership and audience. We regularly see post from people that work at Google, Apple, and Microsoft. And at universities. We are developers (like me), scientists, experts, and also ordinary (also like me). A revived Slashdot could be a corporate cause in the world of tax deductions for companies.
4. ????
5. Profit!

Oh, the last thing: Is this even a relevant conversation?

I can't say. I think timing is the problem, with generating funds and access to financial information (probably won't get this without the funds) being the most critical barriers. Someone will buy the site, we're inside the top 2,000 global sites per info above.

The best solution, I believe, is to find a large corporate "sponsor" willing to help with the initial purchase and to be the recipient of any crowd sourcing funds to help repay them. The key is the site would have to have autonomy as a separate organization. They could have prime advertising space (so we should focus on IBM...) with the goal would be to repay the sponsor in full over time (no interest please?).

The second best is seeking a combination of "legal pledges" from companies/schools/organizations combined with crowdsourcing. This could get access to the necessary financials.

Also problematic, from a time perspective, a group of people would need to be formed to handle organization (managing fundraising/crowdsourcing) and interations with DHI (Dice). All volunteer for sure.

Is this even a relevant conversation? I say it is, I actually love Slashdot; it offers fun, entertaining, and enlightning conversation (I browse above the sewer), and I find the article selection interesting (this gyrates, but I still check a lot).

And to finish, the most critical question: Is Slashdot financially viable as an independent organization?

Comment Re:Lawsuit incoming? (Score 3, Informative) 90

DMCA takedown requests are made under penalty of perjury, but that only applies to the part where you declare that you're the copyright owner of the work that's being infringed (or are authorised to act on their behalf). That is, if you file a takedown that says "I am the owner of work X and I claim that work Y, which you are hosting, infringes on the copyright of X," and you're not actually the owner of X, you can go to jail for it. (Though I've never heard of that actually happening.) If you are the owner of X, but Y doesn't actually infringe on it, you're allowed to say, "Oops, sorry!" and carry on as if nothing had happened, even if it should be obvious to any reasonable person that there's no way on Earth that Y could possibly infringe on X.

I don't know anyone who uses Google Play Books either - not that I imagine my friends are a representative sample of ebook users. More than that, I don't know any authors who claim to be selling well there. (I probably know more authors than the average reader - see signature.) It's rare that the site even comes up in conversations about ebooks and where to sell them and how to market them. So even though it appears to be easy to get away with selling pirated books there, I'd be surprised if the pirates are making a large amount of money.

I'm surprised the pirates have even figured out how to upload books, to be honest. When I decided to start selling my books there, I found the publisher's interface one of the most unfriendly and ill-thought-out sites I'd used in recent years. (To give you just one example, it would allow you to upload an ePub that didn't conform to the relevant specs, which Google would refuse to sell, but didn't give you any indication of the error until you drilled into your dashboard a few days later to find out why the book wasn't live yet.) So far, it hasn't been worth the effort for the number of books I've sold there.

Comment Re:I took a high speed train recently... (Score 1) 189

I live near the Thameslink line between Bedford and Brighton, and we have a similar arrangement there - two pairs of tracks, one for the express trains, one for trains that stop at all stations. Except that it goes down to one pair of tracks in the middle of London, so a late-running or non-moving train can still stop everything else. It doesn't help that the line is at 100% of capacity in rush hour, and it also didn't help that the previous operating company stopped maintaining the trains when they knew they were going to lose the franchise...

Comment Re:I took a high speed train recently... (Score 1) 189

True, but then you have to worry about an express service getting stuck behind a local one if the local one is running late or has broken down. You could have the tracks fan out at the smaller stations, so the local service switches to a track that's next to a platform, while the express stays on a track that passes straight through. It doesn't help if the local train hasn't reached one of those stations yet, but at least means the express doesn't get held up for the whole of the route.

Or you build two sets of tracks along the whole route at twice the cost and probably twice the amount of NIMBY-ism...

Comment Re:fool or liar, which is it? (Score 2) 392

If you ban strong encryption or make its use impractical, then anyone using it, pretty much by definition, must be using it to hide something illegal. That gives the spooks a good idea as to who they should be investigating, even if they can't crack the encryption. And if they can crack the encryption, preventing law-abiding citizens from using it drastically cuts the number of messages they have to crunch through in order to find something useful.

(I'm not saying I think strong encryption should be banned, just why I think the spooks might want it to be banned.)

Comment Re:Turing test is flawed (Score 1) 68

The Turing test is usually presented as something that a machine either passes or fails, but since no machine has yet passed it, contests have focused on how long a machine can withstand questioning before the interviewer decides it's not human, or what percentage of interviewers it can fool for, say, ten minutes. So you can say one machine is more intelligent than another, even if you don't have a definition of intelligence apart from "intelligence is the ability to convince a human that you are human". To use your GPS analogy, it's more like the GPS tells you how far from the destination you are, but not in which direction.

I agree the Turing test isn't very useful in its own right - or at any rate, attempting to build machines that can pass it isn't very useful. We already have 7 billion entities that can pass it, and making more of them is a very low-tech process. I'd rather we figure out how to build machines that can do things we want to do but can't, or aren't very good at.

Comment Re:So good that the proxy battle is over (Score 4, Informative) 69

So why does Amazon get to set the price, and not Apple or the publishers?

Because that's how the sale of every other product to the consumer works - the manufacturer or publisher tells the retailer "we'll sell you a crate of widgets for X dollars apiece" and the retailer is free to sell them to the consumer for whatever they think the consumer is willing to pay. Usually it's some function of X, but it doesn't have to be.

Agency pricing (so-called because the publisher sets the retail price and the retailer acts as an agent of the publisher, taking a fixed percentage of that as his profit) removes the ability of retailers to compete on price. Apple liked it because they don't want to compete on price anyway. It doesn't matter so much when you're talking about their hardware - plenty of people are willing to pay a premium for an Apple computer or phone or tablet because they perceive them as better or cooler than cheaper products with similar specs from other manufacturers. But if you're talking about ebooks, it's hard to see why you should pay $12.99 or $14.99 for the latest Stephen King or James Patterson from Apple when you could get exactly the same thing for $9.99 or less from Amazon. But if it's the same price at Amazon, you might as well get it from Apple.

The publishers liked agency pricing because it meant Amazon couldn't price ebooks at a point where it would cut into the publishers' print business. The publishers know that print is going away anyway - they're just trying to prolong it as much as they can because they know that when Barnes & Noble goes bust, there won't be anyone else they can play off against Amazon. They also know that print distribution is the last advantage they have over self-publishing. Self-published ebooks now compete on a level playing field with ebooks from the big publishers, but it's still very difficult for a self-published book to sell a lot of copies in print. (The ones that have managed it were usually picked up by a publisher after doing well as ebooks.) Everything else a publisher can offer an author can be bought from freelancers for a one-off fee, instead of most of the revenue for the life of the copyright.

Having said all that, the lawsuit was never about agency pricing as such. US competition law cares very little about protecting retailers. What was illegal was that Apple and the publishers colluded to raise prices, thus harming consumers. The fact that they used an unusual method of pricing to do it is neither here nor there, really.

"We shall reach greater and greater platitudes of achievement." -- Richard J. Daley