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Comment It just isn't worth the fight anymore. (Score 5, Insightful) 632

I was an old-timer on Wikipedia who began contributing in 2002.

I've witnessed layers and layers of bureaucracy be added to Wikipedia all under the benevolent dictatorship of Jimbo. I've witnessed what used to be a culture where all editors were considered equal become one where there are definite castes and hierarchies (and cabals).

It just isn't worth the effort to edit anymore.

Case in point: from 2002 to 2006 I was one of the primary editors of a set of articles that had to do with a subject that definitely has politics surrounding it. All the editors involved and I did our best to present both sides of the topic and to try to keep the articles fair and balanced. The number of editors was sparse and it was relatively easy to keep the articles on track.

A couple of years ago a new user started editing these articles. He was extremely contentious but a skilled at wikilawyering. Every edit he didn't agree with would be dragged by him down a rathole of WP:V, WP:NOR, WP:POV, WP:PSTS, and so and and so on ad infinitum. It doesn't matter how well *your* edits are sourced from quality peer-reviewed sources. If he didn't agree with your edits he would find something to complain about; the journal you are citing isn't respected enough, the author you are quoting has an obvious bias, your summary of the published literature doesn't agree with how he would summarize the published literature, etc, etc, etc. Similarly, any objection you had to his edits (or to the overall effect his edits in aggregate were having on the article) would also be dragged down a similar path of his gaming the system.

Editing the articles involved simply became too painful to continue. If you wanted to make any change that this user would disagree with then you had to prepare yourself of days of arguing with him before he would leave you alone. Similarly, one became hesitant to "correct" any of his articles because of the time-sink that you knew arguing with him was going to become.

The existing editors tried many times to work within the system to make this user stop. There were multiple attempts at mediation and arbitration. But over time all of the "old" editors simply gave up. It just wasn't worth the effort anymore.

When I visit these articles today I am ashamed at what they have become. What was once a fair attempt to present all sides of an issue has become extremely one-sided and quite misleading to a reader not familiar with the subject. The "problem user" has become in effect the only editor of these articles, tolerating only a handful of other editors who primarily make grammatical and punctuation changes.

The only hope for the articles in question is that this user eventually gets tired and quits. He has won in his attempt to take over these articles, everyone with an established interest has been driven away, and I don't think any new user is going to be able to mount a challenge as he will simply tie them down in wikilawyering forever.
 

Google

Dashboard Reveals What Google Knows About You 260

CWmike writes "Ever wonder exactly what Google knows about you? Google took a step today to answer that question with the unveiling of Google Dashboard, which is designed to let users see and control the copious amounts of data that Google has stored in its servers about them. 'Over the past 11 years, Google has focused on building innovative products for our users. Today, with hundreds of millions of people using those products around the world, we are very aware of the trust that you have placed in us, and our responsibility to protect your privacy and data,' Google said in a blog post today. 'In an effort to provide you with greater transparency and control over their own data, we've built the Google Dashboard.' Dashboard is set up so that users can control the personal settings in each Google product that they use. Google said the tool supports more than 20 products, including Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Web History, YouTube, Picasa, Talk, Reader, Alerts and Google Latitude. Consumer Watchdog said in a statement today that it applauds Google for giving users a single place to go to manage their data. But at the same tine, the group also came down hard on Google, contending that it needs to give users a vehicle for stopping the company from collecting any personal data."

Comment Re:Of course you can get it labeled (Score 1) 427

Once again, there has never been any commercial product that used a terminator gene. Never.

Regarding your "heirloom crop" scenario; there is nothing new here, and nothing GMO specific here. Heirloom crop producers already have to deal with gene flow from neighboring crops. Adding GM to the mix does nothing at all to change that problem. And as has been pointed out here by me and others, Monsanto does not sue farmers over accidental introduction of Monsanto genes into their crops.

Comment Re:Forget the Beets! (Score 1) 427

The "terminator corn" is a myth. The terminator gene has never been used any commercial product. It wasn't "removed from the market", it was never on the market.

Further; Monsanto was not even one of the key players in the development of the terminator gene technology (although they did later acquire one of the developers, years after the terminator gene was no longer an issue).

Comment Re:Forget the Beets! (Score 1) 427

Monsanto does not go after farmers when their crops accidentally pick up Monsanto genes. They do go after farmers who purposely try to use Monsanto genes outside of a license agreement.

This myth probably perpetuates itself because farmers trying to beat the system will claim it was on "accident". The Percy Schmeiser case is one that springs immediately to mind. But remember, in that case, the Canadian Supreme Court found that the extent of Roundup Ready crops on Schmeiser's farm could not possibly have come from accidental contamination.

Comment Not the same Monsanto (Score 1) 427

Monsanto has gone through a very confusing corporate history.

This is quite simplified;

Monsanto used to be a large chemical company with several agricultural divisions. Products like PCB and DDT were made by the Monsanto chemical company.

At some point in the company history, they decided to spin off the agricultural products. The new spin-off got to keep the "Monsanto" name, while the chemical company renamed itself Solutia. Solutia continues to exist today and is the historical descendant of the original Monsanto chemical business.

This ignores the Pharmacia spin-off, the Pfizer acquisition, and several other twists and turns, but it makes the general point clear - the agricultural company known today as "Monsanto" is not the linear descendant of the old chemical company with the same name.

Comment Re:Forget the Beets! (Score 1) 427

Due to the way GM plants are created and the fact that things like terminator genes mean that for many GM plants natural reproduction is not viable.

The terminator gene has never been used in a commercial product.

Regarding the rest of your argument, you are either severely overestimating the amount of diversity found in non-GM commercial seed, or severely underestimating the amount of diversity found in GM commercial seed. When you read a fact like "95 percent of crop X planted this year use Monsanto's glyphosate resistance trait", that does not mean that 95% of crop X are clones of the same seed. Monsanto licenses many of it's genes to third-party seed producers, who them introduce those genes into their own seed products.

The major risk here isn't that 95% of the plantings of a crop contain a specific gene, which you falsely hypothesize leads to increased mortality. The major risk is that we've already concentrated the bulk of our food production into only a handful of crops. For most diseases and pests, wheat is wheat, whether it is GM or not. If a pandemic begin spreading among the US wheat crop, it would likely affect most varieties of wheat.

Comment Re:There's tickets? (Score 3, Interesting) 210

I'm not going to correct all the errors in your post, but the key error is falling into the "we need permits" trap that the Burning Man organizers have set up for you.

Anybody can camp on BLM land. No permit required. In the early years, we all used the "spontaneous gathering" excuse (the same as rainbow gatherings still use today). If a group has no leader, there is nobody for the government to demand a permit from. If 20,000 people spontaneously all decide to individually camp at the same place at the same time, no permits are required because the gathering is not organizing.

By setting themselves up as the "leaders", Larry Harvey and company were able to exert further control over an event that was originally all about spontaneity and lack of control.

Comment Re:Bah, It's been that way for aa few years now. (Score 1) 439

You went in 1999 and 2000? Too bad you got there after it sucked. I went 1991 through 1995 (when it became clear how badly they were going to destroy BM in order to monetize it), and then went to a private alternative event (same desert, same weekend) for the next six years.

Larry Harvey has destroyed everything Burning Man originally stood for. Don't believe me, google "John Law" (another Burning Man cofounder) and learn.

Comment Is he speaking English or New Speak? (Score 5, Insightful) 403

The words all make sense by themselves, but collectively it is like he is trying to redefine every word he uses.

> "Consumers face potential identity theft, system failures and unrecoverable data loss,"

That isn't a consequence of piracy. It may be the consequence of malware, spyware, worms, or viruses, but you can't blame piracy for any of that.

> "Customers want to know that they are using the genuine high-quality Microsoft product they paid for, and they want to know that their systems are more secure and that their software does not contain malicious code"

What about customers who want to use Microsoft products without paying for them at all. Not to defend them, but that is what we are talking about when we discuss piracy. If someone takes a "genuine" copy of Windows and disables your license validation code, what does that have to do with making their system more or less secure and what does it have to do with malicious code. If anything, a hacked copy of Windows may be more secure and less malicious because it isn't "phoning home" to Microsoft.

> "We see many cases of customers who wanted to buy genuine software and believed they did, only to find out later that they were victims of software piracy."

Wow. This one just made my head hurt. They are completely trying to redefine victim here. That's like calling a bank robber the victim of his crime because he stubbed his toe running out of the bank.

I guess I'm supposed to read all the above and think that Microsoft is acting benevolently to make sure no malicious code has been inserted into the operating system at install time. If that was really some sort of crisis that needed to be solved, they could simply ship install CDs with known signatures and provide a mechanism for checking those signature. Problem solved with no need for checking hardware configurations, issuing serial numbers, tracking activations, etc.

What a bunch of asshats.

Comment Yeah, anonymity on the internet is broken. (Score 2, Insightful) 690

> ...asking whether the Internet is so broken it needs to be replaced.

Yeah, I agree. Anonymity on the internet is completely broken. It is trivial for law enforcement to get a subpoena to force websites to reveal the IP addresses of users, and also trival for law enforcement to get a subpoena to force ISPs to reveal who had that IP address at a given moment in time. Granted, there are ways to make sure that the IP address you are using can't be traced to you, but those methods are kind of a pain in the ass.

> ...where users would give up their anonymity and certain freedoms in return for safety

WTF? Any rearchitecting of the internet needs to have subpoena-proof absolute anonymity built in from the beginning. This "proposal" is like suggesting we rearchitect transportation to make sure that vehicle occupants receive no shelter from the weather.

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