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User Journal

Journal Journal: Follow Slashdot on Google+ 7

Slashdot is finally back on Google+. Follow us if you're interested in keeping up with new posts via Google+. The old page was lost a couple of years ago by the previous ownership, but we are back and every post on Slashdot will appear on our Google+ page.

You can keep up with all our changes and improvements at the Slashdot blog.

User Journal

Journal Journal: PMs go here 1

/. has no PM system, so post public messages to me here

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: Falsifiability is the basis of science

Just one final clarification for you - keep in mind that my comments on error bars were musings on the falsifiability of global warming, from a philosophy of science perspective. [ShakaUVM]

That's quite a euphemism for repeatedly accusing scientists of failing to construct and test falsifiable theories, or accusing them of dishonestly claiming more knowledge than there is.


Now, I'd grown accustomed to 'spiritual'Â claims, and had decided to ignore them because they weren't falsifiable . ... I would like to see falsifiable evidence that they exist, rather than mere supposition. [emphasis added in all quotes] [Dumb Scientist]


My sense of duty to science stops here, unfortunately, so I can't falsify this hypothesis. [Dumb Scientist]


scientific theories have to make unique, falsifiable predictions. ... A metatheory has to be specific enough that it can be falsified entirely, though, otherwise it's not scientific. ... The Big Bang metatheory could be proven wrong by ... in the strictest sense his theory was falsified in the 1940s ... Evolution can also be falsified ... [Dumb Scientist]


... But don't include experimental data or unfalsifiable assumptions about parallel universes in order to account for fine-tuning of any physical constants ... [Dumb Scientist]


... presumably high-speed photography could falsify Chris's explanation. On the other hand, it's harder to falsify my hypothesis because ... [Dumb Scientist]


I agree that models which don't make falsifiable predictions are worthless. I've just never seen that happen in peer reviewed journals. [Dumb Scientist]


It's definitely falsifiable science, too. [Dumb Scientist]


My third piece of evidence is the concept of falsifiability. You see, a scientific hypothesis needs more than naturalism to be valid. It also needs to be falsifiable in the sense that an experiment (either real or gedanken) can be performed that will either support the theory or disprove it. Evolution, for example, is falsifiable in many different ways. ... any scientific theory proposes a naturalistic explanation for some feature of the world, and makes falsifiable predictions ... Because 'Intelligent Design'Â is not naturalistic and makes no falsifiable predictions, it not only isn't right, it isn't even wrong. ... it's clear that you think evolution produces no predictions and is not falsifiable. ... supernatural explanations are ... not falsifiable ... [Dumb Scientist]


But evolution as a whole just isn't comparable to an unfalsifiable concept like the Flying Spaghetti Monster or intelligent design. ... Evolution is falsifiable science, while intelligent design is a religious belief. [Dumb Scientist]


... evolution is only compatible with the evidence 'all life uses the same DNA,'Â which means evolution is falsifiable science and creationism is theology instead. [Dumb Scientist]


It's possible that abiogenesis happened several times, so finding two types of DNA wouldn't falsify evolution. ... evolution is falsifiable science. ... I've explored the idea that computer simulations can falsify evolution here. ... It's yet another way to falsify evolution. It wouldn't falsify creationism ... when did you offer these falsifiable predictions for creationism/ID? ... Please show me specific falsifiable predictions that could - in principle - falsify creationism/ID. [Dumb Scientist]


The word 'falsifiable' isn't applicable, because creationism/ID isn't science. ... that's my central point: creationism/ID isn't science because it's not falsifiable. Every time I mention this, you provide an example that could falsify evolution and claim that it's (somehow) a way to falsify creationism. [Dumb Scientist]


I'll note that too short a time between the bombardment and the first microbes could falsify evolution. ... it's one of the simplest ways to falsify evolution. ... they're not making falsifiable statements. When omnipotence (or omniscience, or any kind of supernatural power) is an acceptable answer, falsification is impossible because there's literally no limit to what an omnipotent being could do. [Dumb Scientist]


While I admire your attempt to adhere to the scientific method, I'm not sure that these examples constitute falsifiability in a rigorous sense. If every animal had different DNA bases, that would utterly demolish evolution. All of the predictions you're offering as falsifications merely seem to add a few more 'why'Â questions (as you say) to an already gigantic stack of 'why'Â questions that theologians have struggled with for centuries. [Dumb Scientist]


In science, nothing is ever proven true. Experiments might sometimes fail to falsify theories, but that's very different from being 'proven true.'Â [Dumb Scientist]


I don't know if you're discussing heresy or orthodoxy. All I'm saying is that you're discussing religion of some variety, not falsifiable science. [Dumb Scientist]


You say that as though my life's work isn't developing and falsifying hypotheses. ... [Dumb Scientist]


But, as I've stressed, creationism can't ever be refuted, because its inherently supernatural properties make it compatible with any potential discovery. On the other hand, I've listed two simple falsifications of evolution: chimpanzees in the Precambrian and many species with totally different DNA bases. ... Note that I'm not saying creationism is wrong! Quite the opposite! It's just not a scientific theory because it isn't falsifiable. [Dumb Scientist]


Scientific theories compete in the sense that every new observation either supports or falsifies them. ... [Dumb Scientist]


Science is falsifiable. It produces specific predictions. Creationism/ID doesn't. [Dumb Scientist]


That's what falsifiability means. There has to be some type of evidence which could, in principle, prove the theory wrong. I've linked to many many more tests in the conversation that list was taken from. [Dumb Scientist]


Evolution is thus falsifiable in that manner. Creationism can work either way, so it's not falsifiable and therefore not science. ... It's just not falsifiable, and therefore not a scientific statement. [Dumb Scientist]


And yet again, the distinction is that your belief can't ever be disproven because it's based on religious faith, whereas scientific theories have to be testable by definition. [Dumb Scientist]

... It's nice to see that we both agree on the core matter. ... [ShakaUVM]

No, the "core matter" here is that you're repeatedly and baselessly libelling an entire subfield of physicists, which I most certainly do not agree with, in any sense of the word.

Why do people insult scientists in this manner? It's like telling a plumber "Oh, come on... you don't really know the difference between a bathtub and a sink." Presumably, people wouldn't insult him by suggesting that he's fundamentally incompetent at his life's work. Maybe that's because plumbers carry big wrenches, while scientists carry calculators? [Dumb Scientist]

... the point of my original post above was to talk about the very paradox of verification and falsification in regards to climate science... which I think it seems you agree with. They are very problematic. [ShakaUVM]

This is the second time you've claimed that I agree with your bizarre misconceptions. Please stop. It wasn't true then, and it's not true now. As I've already discussed, some physics topics can seem very problematic if you spend your time (for instance) running a small business. That's why professional physicists spend that time doing physics and getting structured feedback from other physicists. As it turns out, experience and peer-review can help one tackle subjects which armchair quarterbacks might consider "very problematic." If that weren't true, then physicists probably would agree with you... but only if they could manage to stop muttering "f*ckin' magnets, how do they work?"

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.

User Journal

Journal Journal: J.K.Rowling wins $6750, and pound of flesh 17

J.K. Rowling didn't make enough money on Harry Potter, so she had to make sure that the 'Harry Potter Lexicon' was shut down. After a trial in Manhattan in Warner Bros. v. RDR Books, she won, getting the judge to agree with her (and her friends at Warner Bros. Entertainment) that the 'Lexicon' did not qualify for fair use protection. In a 68-page decision (PDF) the judge concluded that the Lexicon did a little too much 'verbatim copying', competed with Ms. Rowling's planned encyclopedia, and might compete with her exploitation of songs and poems from the Harry Potter books, although she never made any such claim in presenting her evidence. The judge awarded her $6750, and granted her an injunction that would prevent the 'Lexicon' from seeing the light of day.
User Journal

Journal Journal: U. Mich. student calls for prosecution of Safenet

An anonymous University of Michigan student targeted by the RIAA as a 'John Doe', is asking for the RIAA's investigator, Safenet (formerly MediaSentry), to be prosecuted criminally for a pattern of felonies in Michigan. Known to Michigan's Department of Labor and Economic Growth -- the agency regulating private investigators in that state -- only as 'Case Number 162983070', the student has pointed out that the law has been clear in Michigan for years that computer forensics activities of the type practiced by Safenet require an investigator's license. This follows the submissions by other 'John Does' establishing that Safenet's changing and inconsistent excuses fail to justify its conduct, and that Michigan's legislature and governor have backed the agency's position that an investigator's license was required.
User Journal

Journal Journal: ABA Judges Get an Earful about RIAA Litigations 5

Well, I was afforded the opportunity to write for a slightly different audience -- the judges who belong to the Judicial Division of the American Bar Association. I was invited by the The Judges' Journal, their quarterly publication, to do a piece on the RIAA litigations for the ABA's Summer, 2008, 'Equal Access to Justice' issue. What I came up with was 'Large Recording Companies vs. The Defenseless : Some Common Sense Solutions to the Challenges of the RIAA Litigations', in which I describe the unfairness of these cases and make 15 suggestions as to how the courts could make it a more level playing field. I'm hoping the judges mod my article '+5 Insightful', but I'd settle for '+3 Informative'. For the actual article go here (PDF). (If anyone out there can send me a decent HTML version of it, I'll run that one up the flagpole as well.)
User Journal

Journal Journal: eBay beats Tiffany's in trademark case 2

Tiffany's has lost its bid to hold eBay liable for trademark infringement of Tiffany's brands taking place on eBay. After a lengthy bench trial (i.e. a trial where the judge, rather than the jury, decides the factual questions), Judge Richard J. Sullivan has issued a 66-page decision (PDF) carefully analyzing the facts and legal principles, ultimately concluding that 'it is the trademark owner's burden to police its mark, and companies like eBay cannot be held liable for trademark infringement based solely on their generalized knowledge that trademark infringement might be occurring on their websites'.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Dow Jones MarketWatch likens RIAA to the Mafia 11

According to commentator Therese Polletti at Dow Jones MarketWatch, "the RIAA's tactics are nearly as bad as the actions of mobsters, real or fictional. The analogy comes up easily and frequently in any discussion of the RIAA's maneuvers." Among other things she cites the extortionate nature of their 'settlement negotiations' pointed out by Prof. Bob Talbot of the University of San Francisco School of Law IP Law Clinic, whose student attorneys are helping private practitioners fight the RIAA, the illegality of the RIAA's use of unlicensed investigators, the flawed evidence it uses, and the fact that the RIAA thinks nothing of jeopardizing a student's college education in order to make their point, as support for the MAFIAA/Mafia analogy.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Class action complaint against RIAA available online 4

Recommended reading for all interested in the RIAA's litigation war against p2p file sharing is the amended class action complaint just filed in Oregon in Andersen v. Atlantic. This landmark 109-page document (pdf) tells both the general story of the RIAA's campaign against ordinary folks, and the specific story of its harassment of Tanya Andersen, and even of her young daughter. The complaint includes federal and state RICO claims, as well as other legal theories, and alleges that "The world's four major recording studios had devised an illegal enterprise intent on maintaining their virtually complete monopoly over the distribution of recorded music." The point has been made by one commentator that the RIAA won't be able to weasel its out of this one by simply withdrawing it; this one, they will have to answer for. If the relief requested in the complaint is granted, the RIAA's entire campaign will be shut down for good.
User Journal

Journal Journal: EFF travels to Arizona to argue Howell case

Although based in San Francisco, and only an amicus curiae in the Phoenix, Arizona, case of Atlantic v. Howell, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is sending its senior intellectual property lawyer Fred Von Lohmann to Phoenix to argue the Howell case, on behalf of the defendant, who is not represented by counsel. Due to the RIAA's attempt to take advantage of Mr. Howell's being undefended to try to convince the judge that merely 'making files available for distribution' -- i.e., just having them on one's computer in a manner that is accessible to sharing -- and that copying files from one's cd onto one's computer in mp3 format is itself "unlawful", EFF filed an amicus brief in January. Now it's taking the unusual step of actually sending someone to the courthouse to orally argue the motion.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Should RIAA's investigator have to disclose backup? 12

A technology battle is raging in UMG v. Lindor in Brooklyn over whether the RIAA's investigator, SafeNet (formerly known as MediaSentry), which has produced certain *txt printouts, now needs to disclose its digital files, validation methodology, testing procedures, failure rates, software manuals, protocols, packet logs, source code, and other materials, so that the validity of its methods can be evaluated by the other side. SafeNet and the RIAA say no, the information is "proprietary and confidential". Ms. Lindor says yes, if you're going to testify in federal court the other side has a right to test your evidence. A list of what is being sought is here (pdf). MediaSentry has produced 'none of the above'. "Put up or shut up" says one commentator to MediaSentry. What do you say?
User Journal

Journal Journal: Connecticut Judge rejects RIAA 'making available' theory 3

A federal judge in Connecticut has rejected the RIAA's "making available" theory, which is the basis of all of the RIAA's peer to peer file sharing cases. In Atlantic v. Brennan, in a 9-page opinion (pdf), Judge Janet Bond Arterton held that the RIAA needs to prove "actual distribution of copies", and cannot rely -- as it was permitted to do in Capitol v. Thomas -- upon the mere fact that there are song files on the defendant's computer and that they were "available". This is the same issue that has been the subject of extensive briefing in two contested cases in New York, Elektra v. Barker and Warner v. Cassin. Judge Arterton also held that the defendant had other possible defenses, such as the unconstitutionality of the RIAA's damages theory and possible copyright misuse flowing from the record companies' anticompetitive behavior.
The Internet

Journal Journal: Giving up on Wikipedia 2

I'm giving up on Wikipedia today. Which means no more editing, and a lot less using it.

The reason is one word: Deletionism.

The details are three points:

a) It goes so against the spirit of Wiki, because a deletion is a non-reversable, non-reviewable change. The history gets lost, all work of everyone gets lost, and nobody can see and check it later. Every other change in a Wiki is documented, and you can see exactly what was changed, by whom, and when. Not so with a deletion. If you are lucky, you can find out that there used to be a page named this, but nothing about its contents.

b) It is destructive. You put hours of work into something, and it just gets deleted. Not updated, changed or even vandalised, but deleted. Poof, gone, as if it never existed. Have you ever lost your documents folder with no backup? Then you know the empty feeling. Don't do that to people, especially not those who might be new (and could have become worthy contributors, if they hadn't be hit in the face for their first attempt).

c) Notability-Nazis. Some time ago, the main reasons for deletion where actually valid. Nowadays, the main reason for deletion is notability, or in simpler words "I've never heard about this". My position on notability is very simple: Add a "non-noteable" category, namespace or at least archive and move stuff there, but it should not even be on the list of reasons for deletion. To me, an encyclopedia is where I look up the stuff that I've never heard about, so it'd better be there.

So for all these reasons, and a few minor ones, I've really switched sides over the past few weeks. I think I even begin to understand why large parts of the science community view Wikipedia with scepticism, and that much of the media's portrayl of their reasons is grossly simplified.

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