Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?

Comment Re:/. turns green, lifts bus over head: PATENT SMA (Score 1) 584

Hmm. Well, there's also 7844610 which was filed in 2004 and does seem pretty similar. In fact their abstracts are identical. That's a little deflating.

The patent whose application was filed in April 2002 is this related one, 7502770, which isn't very similar. I think that's the one you meant.

Comment /. turns green, lifts bus over head: PATENT SMASH (Score 5, Informative) 584

I think I may want to contest this patent.

The patent cites Slashdot comment moderation as an example of how not to assign importance to user actions. Its authors were apparently unaware that the algorithm they described in November 2010 is virtually identical to the way Slashdot has actually assigned importance to user voting on Firehose stories since May 2008 (give or take). I know because I wrote it.

What this patent calls "authority," we call user "clout."

Multiple clouts, actually. Each Slashdot user has a number that describes how valuable the system believes their up/down votes in the firehose are, and it's separate from how valuable their descriptive tags applied to stories are. (Up/down votes are simply tags with special names, making vote-scoring and description-determination very similar under the hood.)

It's been a while since I looked at this code -- I work for sister company ThinkGeek now -- but scanning over our public repository here are some of the interesting parts:

plugs/Tags/ - the tags_peerclout table is the way that each type of clout is built. It has fixed entries at gen=0, the zeroth generation, which would typically be the Slashdot editors or other users considered reliable and definitive. To build gen=1, the code looks at how many users tagged or voted on the same objects as the gen=0 users did, and assigns the gen=1 users scores based on similarity (or difference). Then from the gen=1 users, gen=2 users are assigned scores similarly, and so on.

The gen=0 entries in that table "designate one or more contributing authorities by delegating to each a specific quantity of authority." I don't think I could describe that better myself.

plugins/Tags/Clout/ process_nextgen() - here's where each new generation of user clout is successively determined, for firehose votes in particular. Line 194 invokes the algorithm and line 203 assigns that user their new voting clout. This iterative process is the automated method through which "each contributing authority may in turn designate and delegate authority to one or more additional contributing authorities."

plugins/Tags/Clout/ init() - sum_weight_vectors totals the change in clout for each generation, and possible weight decreases exponentially. If you're in gen=1 the maximum weight you can have is only 60% of the maximum from gen=0, etc. The fraction is smaller than 100%, which helps ensure "that the total quantity of authority delegated does not exceed the quantity of authority the contributing authority was itself delegated." When the clouts are used to determine firehose item ratings, "the ratings are combined in a manner that affords a higher priority to the ratings provided by contributing authorities to which a greater quantity of authority was delegated."

All this may have changed since it was written. I don't actually know what's running on Slashdot at this moment. I'm just going by the public repository that I knew was on, and I don't even know if there's a later version of the code available anywhere.

But I suspect that this system would constitute prior art.

Also, looking over my code from 2008, boy, I really wish I'd put in more comments.

Comment Re:Why should I read this? (Score 1) 477

You're just incorrect. You may have been misled by a modern American right-wing propaganda campaign. You should read what actual historians have to say about the idea that the Nazis were leftists.

If you're too busy to read the whole debate, allow me to excerpt:

Having set up distorted stereotypes of “liberalism” and “fascism” Goldberg finds them united by a host of similar projects such as campaigns against smoking (it was Nazi doctors who first established the link between smoking and cancer, and Hitler was a fanatical anti-smoker). These similarities concern peripheral matters. The foundational qualities that separate liberalism from fascism simply vanish from the analysis: political pluralism vs. single party; universal values vs. the supremacy of a master race; elections vs. charismatic leadership; fascism’s exaltation of feelings over reason.

Comment Re:Why should I read this? (Score 2) 477

Heh. I quoted statements of fact which were unsubstantiated. That's a problem. You quoted me giving an editorial opinion. That's not.

You edited out the link I provided (which, unlike Herring's, gave more information about what I was saying). And you omitted the sentence where I quoted someone to back up what I wrote.


Comment Re:Why should I read this? (Score 4, Insightful) 477

If I'm being asked to trust what Joe Herring says because of who he is, then of course I need to know who he is. He doesn't present evidence to back up many of his assertions, he just writes stuff and hopes I'll believe it:

The Missouri River Recovery and Implementation Committee has seventy members. Only four represent interests other than environmentalism. The recommendations of the committee, as one might expect, have been somewhat less than evenhanded.

Says who?

This year, despite more than double the usual amount of mountain and high plains snowpack (and the ever-present risk of strong spring storms), the true believers in the Corps have persisted in following the revised MWCM, recklessly endangering millions of residents downstream.

Says who?

Whether warned or not, the fact remains that had the Corps been true to its original mission of flood control, the dams would not have been full in preparation for a "spring pulse." The dams could further have easily handled the additional runoff without the need to inundate a sizeable chunk of nine states.

Says who?

Comment Why should I read this? (Score 5, Informative) 477

Who the hell is Joe Herring and why should I trust anything he writes? Did Slashdot review his scholarship here and give it a stamp of approval, or was it just put up on the website, leaving it to the readers to decide whether it's B.S. or not?

No qualifications or expertise are claimed for Joe Herring on the website. In fact no information on his background is given except that he is "from Omaha, NE." This is highly unusual for a publication that hopes to be taken seriously. We don't even know if that is his real name.

We are left to judge the value of this Joe Herring essay by his previous contributions and by the reliability and reputation of the website that publishes his work.

Joe Herring is, in short, a right-wing nut.

He claims all leftists -- all! -- want to overthrow the Constitution: "The continuum on the left that ranges from the 'wouldn't it be nice if we all just smiled' types to the hardcore authoritarian communists may disagree about methods, but sadly, all agree on one thing: if their utopia is to come about, the Constitution -- and the form of government derived from it -- must be replaced with...something."

He says the Nazis were left-wingers: "The Left will not willingly lay claim to the true legacy of socialism, so we will have to hang it around their necks."

He believes that the true goal of health care reform, renewable-energy subsidies, and regulations on Wall Street is for "the left" to seize power and exterminate half of the human race. Really: "As the federal government asserts control over health care, energy production, and the financial markets, the trinity of power is within the left's grasp. Unless driven back from their goals -- and quickly -- the likelihood grows daily that more than four billion of our 'species' will be joining the table scraps and yard clippings on the compost pile."

He thinks the problem with Politifact's 2009 Lie of the Year, "death panels," is that the right wasn't lying hard enough: "To describe this board as a 'death panel,' as Rush Limbaugh has, is to underestimate its power and misconstrue its purpose."

And five minutes with Google reveals that American Thinker is a source that, shall we say, lends no additional credibility to Joe Herring's contributions. Take global warming as a typical example. They printed essays claiming to have found a "smoking gun" that disproves global warming (wrong). Then they found another single argument that by itself disproves global warming (still wrong). They argue that global warming is a Nazi lie.

This "intentional flooding" piece looks like yet another right-wing hit job on leftism. I would be happy to entertain the idea that misguided environmentalism is partially to blame for one disaster or another, but I would like to hear a reasoned argument from someone who's not a nut.

Open Source

Submission + - How did WordPress win? (

jamie writes: Byrne Reese discusses why WordPress beat Movable Type, and offers some insightful thoughts about licensing and the perception of "free." (I hope his impression that people think perl is "scary" isn't as common as he thinks.)

Slashdot Top Deals

A right is not what someone gives you; it's what no one can take from you. -- Ramsey Clark