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User Journal

Journal Journal: Overheard in my office just now

(Someone speaking to an intern): "When you send stuff like that, save it as doc, not odt. That way, people who don't have Openoffice can open it."

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Trolls 81

Wow, it's been 15 years but I've finally got my own personal troll! :-)

I must apologize to everyone I've ever called a troll now that I've seen a real one. Yeah, there are trollish comments, but this... it's a different league. If you ever wondered who these brain-damaged morons were who set up geocities homepages with blinking purple text on blue background with red dots in Comic Sans - that kind of different league.

Now it does make me wonder about trolls in general. Has there been a study on this? I really wonder if psychologists have tackled this because quite honestly, you cannot be mentally stable and post in this and this content at the same time. So I do wonder if trolls on the Internet (the real trolls, not the people occasionally posting something stupid) do have a mental problem. It definitely looks like it. Probably insecurity issues, definitely an exaggerated need for attention, might be related to borderline syndrome or schizoprenia.

And, of course, the Internet provides:

As someone who has had to deal with family members suffering from mental illness, let me tell you that it's not funny. So despite the fact that they are, in fact, obnoxious, aggravating assholes, these sad little fucks also need help and their miserable little existence is not something you'd want to trade for yours, no matter how much you think your life sucks. Trust me, with a mental illness on top, it'll suck more.

Obviously, we can't offer therapy to people who usually comment anonymously and will often go to great lengths to avoid being tracked down. What we can do, however, is get a better understanding for how they act this way (they can't help it, mental illness is stronger than your conscious mind) and that the best thing we can do for them is to not continue the feedback loop. "Don't feed the trolls" - old wisdom there.

The last link in that list contains a few more ideas.

Now that I'm at the end, I kind of regret the smiley face at the top. But I'm leaving it in because this journal entry is a bit of a journey, even if it is short. Thanks to some Internet resources, a bit of research and connecting the dots, I've come a short way, changing my mind a little on this particular sub-sub-sub-part of life.


A short additional statement on how to treat trolling. From what I've gathered from the resources above, a few comments (both here and in the various spammed threads) and my own life experience:

First, don't feed the trolls. Most of them seek attention, so if you stop giving it to them, they become frustrated and go away. Notice that they seek attention, not validation. A rebuke or an angry rant or even a shootout of personal insults satisfies them as much as anything else. Much like the old PR saying "there is no negative publicity", it is all about the attention itself, not about its content.

Second, stand your ground. Do not leave the site or stop commenting just because you're being trolled. It takes a bit to do that, yes. Trolls consider it a "victory" if they shut you up, either by simple flooding or by frustrating you enough to disappear. In their twisted minds, it gives them validation and somehow proves that they were right.

Third, if you see someone else being trolled, give them support. Doesn't take much - a single sentence is more than enough. Someone under attack by a real troll is being flooded. The troll will commonly post under multiple aliases or otherwise attempt to appear as more than one person. Psychological experiments such as Solomon Asch's show how we humans as social animals experience conformance pressure. So give that other person support by showing him that the flood he's getting is no the only opinion around. It doesn't matter if he consciously knows it's just one troll, the pressure is subconscious.


I'd like to have comments disabled on this journal entry, for obvious reasons, but you can't publish a journal entry with comments disabled, so... 1000:1 bet that he's stalking the journal as well and will add his drivel below?

Also, if the formatting looks atrocious, turn off beta and revert to classic. Seriously.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Circular dependencies in three languages 1

Here are six files for ya, showing a problem in 3 different scripting languages. What will they do?
--------- test1.php:
require 'test2.php';

define('SOMECONSTANT','hello world');

function foo() {
                return SOMECONSTANT;

echo foo(); echo "\n";

--------- test2.php:
require_once 'test1.php';

echo foo(); echo "\n";
import test2

SOMECONSTANT='hello world'

def foo():
                return SOMECONSTANT

print foo()
import test1

--------- test1.rb:
require 'test2.rb'

SOMECONSTANT='hello world'

def foo

puts foo()
--------- test2.rb:
require 'test1.rb'

puts foo()
Ok, scriptfiends, predict the output of these three commands:
php -q -f test1.php
ruby test1.rb

and then do some pasting and try it out. Match your predictions?

The PHP one bit me pretty hard today.

User Journal

Journal Journal: One Too Many 2

I have a password written on a post-it note underneath my keyboard. Decades went by without this ever having happened, but now I have one of these. [rationalize]And I'm keeping the post-it, because it'll probably be months or years before I ever need that password again, so there's just no chance I'll be able to remember it (it's actually a pretty well-made password).[/rationalize] OTOH, I suppose I could just throw it away and then the next time I need it, ask someone for it again. [truth]But no, it amuses me that I've entered the ranks of people with passwords on post-its at their desks, so I'm keeping it, for that reason if nothing else.[/truth]

User Journal

Journal Journal: The "new" and "de-improved" Slashdot 4

If you've known /. for a while, you've certainly noticed all the recent changes. The front page articles auto-load-extend (presumably through AJAX code), the link to get to your own page has moved twice, and now there are two (that both look alike - your username - but work differently), and checking if anyone has replied to your comments has been a two-click journey instead of the old one-click for a while now.

Then there's the annoying inline popup (so it's not caught by popup blockers) that tells you that "Firehose is paused due to inactivity". Whatever that means, it doesn't seem nearly important enough to interrupt my reading.

Quite frankly, from a user interface design standpoint, the "new" slashdot sucks. Badly. Maybe I'll try disabling all javascript for and check if that improves the experience.


Journal Journal: multicast video: someone's finally doing it 1

I've long advocated that the future of video delivery should either be multicast, or old-school protocols like HTTP combined with caching at the ISP. (Why all ISPs don't run transparent Squids, I still don't understand.) Bittorrent just isn't the right way to do it.

Thanks to Freedom To Tinker I've just learned that someone is using multicast to deliver TV.

Except it's not available in my area, and still requires propriety DVRs/STBs, which I assume means that it probably uses DRM and therefore has massive interoperability problems.

But it's a start. I hadn't heard of anyone actually doing it, before now.


Journal Journal: I can't believe this happened. I miss .. Pascal?! 1

I was writing a function in PHP4 and it kept getting bigger. It could use some splitting up for readability/testing/debugging purposes, although it didn't really need that to work. But then I realized I needed to reuse some sections of code, and since I hate duplicating code, those parts needed to be pulled out into their own functions.

But they needed access to the working set of local variables of the big function. Oh great.. do I pass all those vars by reference, making the argument list really long? Do I move all those variables into a struct (well, an associative array) and pass that?

These are, like, Programming 101 issues. Experienced programmers don't normally have to think about this stuff, because the right thing to do is just .. obvious.

Then I remembered that Pascal has the unusual (and rarely(*) needed) feature of nested procedures, where the sub-procedures can directly access the outer scope's local variables. It dawned on me: that would be incredibly convenient (and readable) in this case.

I wussed out and put everything into a class. It's not really oop (all this class does, is return a result) but that looked like the best way to deal, except now I have an ugly this-> in front of everything.

(*) I haven't programmed in Pascal (or anything like it) in over 20 years. Never really missed that feature until today.

The Military

Journal Journal: Hudson River plane crash 1

It just astonishes me that they got everyone out of that plane safely. Kudos to the Coast Guard and whoever else ran that operation. It's absolutely mindblowing.

Journal Journal: Hudson River plane crash

It just astonishes me that they got everyone out of that plane safely. Kudos to the Coast Guard and whoever else ran that operation. It's just mindblowing.

Journal Journal: What to buy on eMusic? 3

My new wireless router came with a coupon for 50 free downloads from eMusic. Is there a particular strength that store has? It seems like mostly the usual unfiltered jumble of unknowns, with no good way to see what gems others have found and Todd Snider is the only one I know at all, with shovelware albums from some bigger-name artists mixed in.

Any suggestions for an artist or genre I could try out, or a better way to browse? The site also has a lot of scripting that my Firefox doesn't like.


Journal Journal: The ad business REALLY sucks 2

It's bad enough when you're actually serving the data from your own site but it's in some form where you can't audit it. That's one of the many reasons I hate Flash.

But even Javascript sucks, when you <script src="someothersite">. The moment you do that, you know that all sorts of horrible things can go wrong. You just have to have faith. Faith is what it comes down to. And it can be justified, I guess, because you can get away with it for years.

Until this morning when our webpage was only showing for a second and then the whole thing would then redirect to someone else's site. Adios, visitors.

(What actually happened: the domain we were including from, apparently expired and now any http request goes to a Network Solutions page, instead of returning a DNS error like it should. Fuck you, Network Solutions, as if we didn't already know you're evil and dangerous. But the same risk remains even if someone's domain doesn't expire; they can always serve a different script today than they did yesterday, and that script can do anything with the DOM that it wants to. There's no way to sandbox it.)

It's "standard practices" to include external scripts. Everyone does it. The ad people aren't techies; if I were to tell them, "uh, we don't want to include any external scripts that might change from load-to-load, and we also don't want to include any Flash crap unless we've compiled it from readable, auditable source ourselves," they would think I'm crazy. You know, one of those open source fanatics. They would say, "Gee, that's a shame you don't want the money," and go on sending the same dangerous ads to our competitors while we collect nothing.

Is it really an unreasonable weirdo religious fanatic position, to just want to be able to make sure that stuff will work and not do anything crazy? I don't think so. The fucking "standard practices" need to change, but how can one person do that? *sigh* I feel so powerless.


Journal Journal: Bailout bill, Rosh Hashana 2

I'm not qualified to have an informed opinion on the bailout bill, and I certainly understand the skepticism and hostility towards it. But I get the feeling that this was a huge missed opportunity to avoid disaster...

Anyway, Shanah Tovah to all Jewish readers!

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The solution to a problem changes the nature of the problem. -- Peer