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Slashback: Walmart and Wiki, Alan Ralsky 119

Slashback, as always, provides updates and clarifications to previous Slashdot stories. Tonight we bring you updates on Australian Smart ID Cards, the security danger that USB memory sticks pose, Wal-Mart's Wikipedia War, Lego Mindstorms, LiveJournal's stance on Ad-Blocking software, and news about 'Spam King' Alan Ralsky. Read on for more.
Update on Australian Smart ID Card. CaptainDefragged writes "According to an article at Australian IT News, the data from Smart Card that our government is introducing is going to be used for a lot more than just health care and welfare fraud prevention. From the article: 'Intelligence agencies and police will be given access to a vast database of biometric photographs of Australians to be created for the new health and welfare smart card to fight terrorism and more general crime. ASIO and the Federal Police will be allowed routine access to the smart card database on national security issues, while state police will have restricted access for general crime investigations.'"

USB sticks as a security threat. martijnd writes "The BBC follows up on the risks of USB sticks as a threat to business by looking at data theft and virus-spreading-as-from-a-floppy infiltration."

More On Wal-Mart's Wikipedia War. An anonymous reader writes "Past the media coverage of their article 'Wal-marts Wikipedia War', Whitedust has apparently received an interesting email from Mike Krempasky (representing Edelman Public Affairs in Washington, DC). While maintaining that Whitedust has no actual specific issue with Wal-Mart - the article was published on the simple premise that Wikepedia's important neutrality was apparently being compromised - and in the interests of a more balanced argument, Whitedust have published the email in full to their readership along with some other interesting notes."

Mindstorms NXT: Mindstorms Resurrected?. Since the announcement of Mindstorms NXT; many people believe that my earlier article was completely off target. My latest article, Mindstorms NXT: Mindstorms Resurrected?, attempts to complete the analysis. It concludes that Mindstorms NXT does not represent any change of direction for Lego; and unless forced by competition to act otherwise, Lego will continue to market Mindstorms as a niche product line."

Spam King Alan Ralsky NOT Jailed. narzy writes "DailyTech.com is reporting that contrary to reports last week, spam king Alan Ralsky was in fact not picked up by the Feds. Inquires put in to the DoJ and Detroit FBI field office resulted in puzzling dead ends as both agencies had no information as to having Mr. Ralsky in custody. Early Monday morning the original source recanted the story of Mr. Ralsky's arrest."

LiveJournal Explains Ban on Ad-Blocking Software. An anonymous user writes "LJ Founder, Brad Fitzpatrick, blames the change to the Terms of Service on boilerplate language put into the document by 'some lawyers'." From the article: "This is a pre-announcement that a more user-friendly TOS change is on its way. (After all, we can't even detect that you're even using ad blockers to begin with, so there's no point in us saying you can't. Plus you might not even have control over what's installed on your computer, etc.) So, yeah, sorry: we messed up."

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Slashback: Walmart and Wiki, Alan Ralsky

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  • by redelm ( 54142 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:34PM (#15266946) Homepage
    I'm a bit surprised: Why would WalMart use an external consultant (especially a lobbyist) to deal with a press inaccuracy? Don't they have people who do that in-house?

    If they don't have'em, how likely is it they have people to manipulate a wiki in-house? They'd just contract it out, like the defense. Plausible deniability.

  • by Phanatic1a ( 413374 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:53PM (#15267029)
    According to our latest poll, at time of writing 74% of Whitedust readers believe that Wal-Mart have manipulated Wiki.

    A purported *security* company thinks this is valid evidentiary support? "The lurkers support me in email" is even lamer in the real world than it is on Usenet.
  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatman&gmail,com> on Thursday May 04, 2006 @09:15PM (#15267454) Homepage Journal
    Why would WalMart use an external consultant (especially a lobbyist) to deal with a press inaccuracy?

    If you read his email, he was just trying to establish a dialog with the author to prove or disprove his claims. Whitedust decided to act irresponsibly (again) and published it rather than forwarding it to the author.

    Honestly, if I have any security needs in the future, Whitedust will be the LAST company I look to for help or recommendations.
  • by Zeinfeld ( 263942 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @09:25PM (#15267516) Homepage
    While I don't work directly for W*M, I do work with their IT dept very closely. One thing I've learned is they are very serious about ROI's (return on investment). I find it very hard to believe anyone (Public Relations or IT) would be able to convince management that fighting over a Wiki entry had a solid ROI.

    Try editing the Walmart article on Wikipedia and you will soon learn that you are wrong. They always have someone on the Wikipedia article. Every piece of criticism is pushed as far down the article as possible and then deleted. They have something like ten different editors. If you look at their histories they don't edit many other articles.

    This is a big problem across Wikipedia in general, it is pretty easy for a politician or a company to erase negative information.

    If you look at the Fox News article you will find that pretty much all mention of its role as a conservative propaganda organization is eliminated. The only mention of the fact that many people consider Fox has a hard right tilt comes right at the end. Thats just the folk comming in from the wingnut-sphere. I really doubt Fox cares about being considered conservative, its just an act they put on because they know it gets up the nose of liberals (but not as much as Colbert got up their nose this week).

    If you read the Katherine Harris article you will find that there are people who don't think the fact that she had a meal costing $2,800 with a defense contractor who just pled guilty to corruption and bribery notable at all, nor the fact that she tried to send a $10 million federal contract his way through an earmark the next day and subsequently lied about doing so repeatedly. That fight is particularly amusing because the people most desperate to get Harris off the November ballot are her own party. Jeb Bush, Karl Rove and Ed Rollins are all on the record briefing against Harris.

    You can even find bogus info in the history articles and the articles on religion. There is a group that is very eager to tell us that nothing really bad happened during the Spanish Inquisition.

    Crank contributions come in from both the left and the right. Its quite interesting to see an MIT full professor being told he does not understand the technology he pioneered.

    I think that these problems are fixable but it needs a change of priority that Jimbo does not seem willing to make at this point. The priority is to have the widest range of participation with the lowest barriers. That may not be the best way to create articles on controversial subjects.

    I think that there needs to be a bit more process and a mechanism to track editor reputation, similar to the slashdot scheme but with something added to cope with the partisanship factor. Slashdot forays into politics are none to successful unless it is on a topic like CALEA where there is a guaranteed 500 posts, all with the same opinion.

  • by Zeinfeld ( 263942 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @11:24PM (#15268047) Homepage
    This type of activity just doesn't make business sense. The overhead would be enormous, and the payback would be undefined. That's not to say someone isn't doing it...I just don't think it's Wal-Mart Store, Inc.

    It would not be the first time that that Walmart spent a pile of cash on a pointless operation. They spend a fortune trying to avoid paying their staff a living wage or give them real health benefits.

    Exxon spent tens of millions last year on phony think tanks dedicated to peddling the myth that there is scientific doubt over global warming.

    Walmart is penny wise pound foolish. Their financial results over the past five years are far from impressive. Pay peanuts, get monkeys. Costco has a much better, much more sustainable model. Pay an honest wage, control costs by selling in bulk.

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