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An Automated Cat Litter Box With DRM

RyoShin Re:sigh (188 comments)

I believe the most common solution is a covered box with fairly high side.

I volunteer at a cat rescue and sanctuary where the cats roam freely, and we use giant totes (>25 gal) in our main area filled about 1/4-1/3 of the way up. We still have some spill over because there are so many cats (mainly when they jump out, not from digging), but it's a sprinkling instead of a beach. High sides are a good way to go.

Our smaller rooms use normal litter boxes, but again only filled about 1/3 of the way. Still not much spill over, but that could be because they're mostly kittens and don't have as much digging power. Most people that suffer from litter going all over are filling it too high, so it may be as simple as just putting less litter in the box at a time.

The cover, however, might not help. The adoption counselors recommend against covered boxes: while it might seem useful to humans (between extra protection against spilling and odor filters that can be put in the top) it isn't that enticing to cats (I can't remember exactly why.)

3 days ago
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What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?

RyoShin Re:Old (622 comments)

Agreed. That's why I just roll my eyes whenever they say the unemployment has dropped another .1%, because that can mean plenty of stuff aside from people getting work with a livable wage.

I wish they would focus instead on A) % employed and B) % "viably" employed, meaning they have a single job that puts their income above the poverty level in their area (so regions would be on similar standing). There should be a statement whenever they release these that employment (viable or otherwise) will never hit 100% because there are those who have retired, stay-at-home parent where a second income is unnecessary, or are mentally/physically incapable of working.

5 days ago
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What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?

RyoShin Re:We already have "zero economic value" citizens (622 comments)

I think I got my points across, but in case anyone is confused, some corrections I should have made before hitting submit:

mostly they receive government benefits in an attempt to help them maintain some stable life despite not being able to work.

in convincing people that socialism is not a synonym for communism or evil

5 days ago
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What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?

RyoShin We already have "zero economic value" citizens (622 comments)

This is why we will soon be looking at hordes of citizens of zero economic value.

Not only do we already have "zero economic value" citizens, we have negative-economic value citizens. Consider those who are mentally and/or physically incapable of working today; do we just toss them out on the street? Sadly, sometimes; but mostly they receive government benefits in an attempt to help them maintain some stable life despite being able to work. They can only take and never give, except perhaps as research subjects for scientists.

The only way we will survive the Autonomy Age (where robots do the vast majority of necessary work, with little or no human interaction) intact is by giving up this stupid idea that people are defined by their productivity, especially when the productivity of many well-off people is essentially zilch, such as marketers, HR, CxOs, and a plethora of middle-men (but they don't take food stamps so are ignored.)

This will probably approach something like socialism, if not socialism itself, but we (people the world over, but especially Americans) have a huge hurdle to get over in convincing people that socialism is a synonym for communism or evil, and that taxes on obscenely large amounts of income is not only a necessity, but not evil. I personally look forward to a future where people are guaranteed a Minimum Standard of Living (not necessarily income; there are likely more efficient methods than handing out cash) and those who want to and can do work are able to do so for a higher Standard while the rest are able to just enjoy the long-term fruits of humanity, namely the arts, literature, and random cat videos.

(I think this will require an efficient and reliable male contraceptive medication to help reduce the birth rate even further, but that's a different subject.)

about a week ago
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T-Mobile To Pay $90M For Unauthorized Charges On Customers' Bills

RyoShin Re:Why not fine the 3rd party companies?? (51 comments)

Even if the third parties were the ones doing the charging, T-Mobile was the enabler. From the fine article:

T-Mobile let third parties continue billing its subscribers for services they never approved, even when as many as half the people getting billed for a service had complained to T-Mobile, said Travis LeBlanc, the FCC’s enforcement chief. The carrier had a policy of investigating any service with a complaint rate higher than 15 percent, yet it let many of those companies keep putting their charges on T-Mobile bills, he said. T-Mobile got a 35 percent cut of the third-party charges, according to the FCC.

T-Mobile can certainly go after these companies to recoup their losses if the companies broke contract, but something tells me the contract had a few holes that T-Mobile didn't mind the companies using...

about a week ago
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Apparent Islamic Terrorism Strikes Sydney

RyoShin Re: Don't worry guys... (880 comments)

"Fundamentalist" christianity is actually very peaceful.

Matthew, Chapter 10 (NIV), Jesus commanding the Twelve Apostles to spread the word about the Kingdom of Heaven:

16 "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.
21 "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.
34 "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to turn "'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law--
36 a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'

Sure, these days Fundamentalist Christians are relatively peaceful, having found that social pressure and legislation is easier and safer than violence, but any who want to can easily find verses to support their own holy war, some from Jesus himself.

about two weeks ago
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Google Suggests Separating Students With 'Some CS Knowledge' From Novices

RyoShin Re:fast-tracking isn't about race or gender (307 comments)

When I started at an engineering university, part of our "orientation" week (before classes actually began) included a required math test to see which math class we would start out in. Most did the usual Calc I, some did well enough to jump straight to Calc II, and unfortunately large number had to take a Remedial Math class before moving on to Calc I.

Could the same be done for basic computer science courses?

about two weeks ago
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Judge Rules Drug Maker Cannot Halt Sales of Alzheimer's Medicine

RyoShin Re:Simple Solution (266 comments)

It also works against small inventors; the minute they stop making something a large company will ramp up production and claim the smaller company/person forfeited patent protection. If they were forced to stop making it due to supply issues, which could be controlled by the larger company, they become easy picking.

If you say "completely stop" then the company will maintain an extremely small line that makes one pill/day and sells it to an employee or just throws it away. If you say a minimum number then it could push out small players. Giving a delay of X days has the same problem. I don't know how you'd make a rule that wouldn't have loopholes so large that the big companies just walk right through them.

I support the idea, but a basic rule/law won't work. Rather, a party that can show a vested interest--such as a patent troll target or a competing manufacturer--should be able to apply to a patent judge for invalidation of a patent due to lack of use after a minimum time since the patent was granted has passed. Require a wait of, say, a year so someone can't be awarded a patent and then the next day have to defend their low manufacturing in court.

The judge could then look at multiple factors in deciding whether or not to invalidate, including:
- size of company vs size of output
- size of demand
- importance of patent
- reliance of company on producing patented item
The judge could also rule that manufacturing has to increase a certain amount by a certain date, or the patent is invalid. The company whose patent is being reviewed could present evidence of supply tampering, extraordinary events (warehouse caught on fire, sudden regional instability where the product is manufactured, etc.), or other things that would affect production that would allow them to keep the patent.

Not that this lacks its own pratfalls, but looking at "abandoned" patents on a case-by-case basis is better than trying to write some generic law. Plus, most companies that would have their patent invalidated by a law would fight it in court anyway, so this just fast-tracks the process.

about two weeks ago
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Fraud Bots Cost Advertisers $6 Billion

RyoShin Re:Not sure who to cheer for (190 comments)

Not only is the vast majority worthless (though various people might disagree on what qualifies as worthless), much of it is *repeated* worthlessness. There are these seemingly-large network of sites whose only purpose is to take content from other places and re-post it. Most use WordPress or something similar, and surround it with ads (I call these "tri-ad" sites). Not a single lick of original content. Then they go and infest StumbleUpon's Humor category; they use multiple domain names to get around the ability of users to block a domain.

I would be extremely happy for a web where most of the content comes form subscriptions; my only problem is that micro-payments never really took off, and there are some sites I would happily pay 50c/visit for but not $5/mo.

about two weeks ago
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CIA Lied Over Brutal Interrogations

RyoShin Re:Where are the war crimes prosecutions? (772 comments)

What other country has the power and will? Not the UN, since the US is a permanent member of the security council and gets a veto on anything. (Plus, all they would do is send a strongly-worded Resolution.)

What American with the power to act has the will? Both parties are more-or-less happy with the various powers built up by the federal government over the past century; while they will cry to the media about it, neither party will take serious action to remove any of the powers or charge someone (standing or retired) because they don't want to set precedent against their future, more powerful self. (Most politicians in Congress suffer from a form of "Temporarily Embarrassed Millionaire", which I call "Temporarily Embarrassed President".)

Certainly, no action will be taken by American people in general. Near 2/3 of those who could have done something this past election instead did nothing. Of the 1/3 that did vote, a majority of them (district/state wise, if not raw voter wise) decided the "other" guys would somehow fix things. 90%+ of the rest stuck with our two party system, as though "their" guys had done a superb job.

about two weeks ago
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CIA Lied Over Brutal Interrogations

RyoShin Re:From Jack Brennan's response (772 comments)

The uncertainty comes from what you mean by "protect citizens".

It doesn't even have to be that specific: the uncertainty can come from what you mean by "citizens". At one point in our nation's history there were humans who were born and lived here but not regarded as "citizens", and it could well happen again. By saying that the government is there to protect "citizens", and the government gets to define "citizens", a loophole is created. So even if "protecting citizens" was a valid, generic reason (and I agree with you, it is not), it's still problematic.

This is why many of our founding documents refer to "the people" in many places rather than "countrymen" or "citizens".

about two weeks ago
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CIA Lied Over Brutal Interrogations

RyoShin Re:From Jack Brennan's response (772 comments)

What's more, I believe that there have been studies showing that a gentle hand will get better results than a firm first. If you can show the person that they have a lot to gain, rather than something to lose, and treat them nice they are far more likely to divulge information (be it by slipping up or by confessing). Plus, the propaganda probably makes us out to be hellspawn demons, so if we turn out to be quite pleasant people after we capture them it will make them question other things they've been told about what they are doing.

Aggression puts people on the defensive, so they're more likely to fight against whatever it is you want to accomplish.

Can't back these words right now, though, as the Google is flooded with posts about the CIA torture reveal and it's harder to look for relevant information.

about two weeks ago
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POODLE Flaw Returns, This Time Hitting TLS Protocol

RyoShin Re:Test your site with this (54 comments)

Thankfully, this looks to be an implementation issue and not a protocol issue like SSL had. From the blog of the folks who run that SSL test:

As problems go, this one should be easy to fix. [...] [E]ven though TLS is very strict about how its padding is formatted, it turns out that some TLS implementations omit to check the padding structure after decryption. Such implementations are vulnerable to the POODLE attack even with TLS. [...] According to our most recent SSL Pulse scan (which hasn’t been published yet), about 10% of the servers are vulnerable to the POODLE attack against TLS.

about two weeks ago
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CIA Lied Over Brutal Interrogations

RyoShin Re:Enlightening... (772 comments)

Suspecting and Knowing are 2 different things.

Not in this case. While we weren't aware of the extent of their torture ("brutal/enhanced interrogation" my ass, it's torture), we did know they were doing it (at least since 2010, but perhaps earlier). They (namely Dick Cheney, but others as well) just played it off as "enhanced interrogation", as though they were Jedis hand-waving the American public.

Sadly, it seems that worked. Despite the atrocities that are Guantanamo and waterboarding, there were only a few (very loud) voices calling for charges against those who authorized them. Sure, some guys got roped in when the Guantanamo thing first broke, but the facility is still up and running. And, sadly, I doubt anyone will be taken to task over this; maybe some low-level nobodies in an attempt to placate the few angry mobs, but no one that actually made decisions.

It's kind of like the whole NSA thing. We had bits and pieces, knowing enough to know that they were doing some sort of illegal data gathering, but until the Snowden documents didn't know the details or scope of what they were doing.

That gave me some hope for the world.

Your hope comes easier than mine, then. That the officers were okay with sessions in the first place is highly disturbing to me, and only "some"/"several" were actually disturbed after it happened for a few days.

about two weeks ago
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Uber Banned In Delhi After Taxi Driver Accused of Rape

RyoShin Re:Sadly,... (180 comments)

Now cue scores of sexist, white-knight "do-gooders" who will say things like "sex-work endangers women" and other sexist statements that treat women like children.

Building off your statement, which I agree with: (American) Football purposefully endangers men, having them slam against each other at higher-than-normal velocities, and yet, despite many recent medical revelations, there's no large trumpeting call to shut the whole thing down.

The only difference between football and prostitution is how they're using their bodies for entertainment. The first is done for physical competition for a public audience; the second is physical excitement amongst private participants. The only real problem with the difference, as far as I can tell, is America's very reserved view of sex.

In addition, legalization has brought down the dangerous aspects of many things. Ending alcohol prohibition severely hurt the mafia. The slow legalization/decriminalization of marijuana appears to be having the same affect on many gangs. Legalizing abortion made a botched or fatal operation extremely rare (AFAIK). If there's a case where legalizing something made it more dangerous, I'm not aware of it. While I don't have data to back me up, I can only assume that legalizing prostitution would be good for prostitutes:
1) Keeping it illegal keeps it in the shadows, so it's hard to see things that are actually bad happening (abuse, theft)
2) Making it legal allows for regulation, so that prostitutes have to receive regular checks for STDs and some health department can make sure the places of business are sanitary and the prostitutes not abused
3) Making it legal might help lower the spread of various STDs; part of it is requiring regular checks of prostitutes, and larger brothels might be able to get scientists to develop a quick and fairly reliable test for various STDs that clients have to use before being allowed in

Also, while not as popular, there are male prostitutes so this helps them as well.

about two weeks ago
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Displaced IT Workers Being Silenced

RyoShin Re:More than one reason the coverage is biased (398 comments)

Going quite a bit off topic here, but I'll bite:

Build a border that can be enforced

I hope you're not talking about building a wall. A wall is one of those ideas that seems pleasant, simple, and realistic at a quick glance, but when you get into details it starts to break down. Even the Great Wall of China failed many times.

Rather than trying to go back to Isolationist policies, we should be looking at A) why they come here, and B) what steps we can take to diminish A. In the long run, removing their need/desire to come to America illegally will have far more benefit for everyone than simply trying to hide the problem behind a chain-link fence.

A isn't easy; a lot of people will claim "because America is the greatest country in the world!" Except we aren't turning back a tide of Canadians at our northern border, so far as I'm aware, meaning either America and Canada are roughly equivalent in greatness or there are other reasons that Mexicans are risking quite a bit to come to the U.S. While I'm no expert on Hispanic relations, it seems to me that what is happening is not so much Mexicans wanting to come to the US, but Mexicans wanting to leave Mexico and the US being the most natural choice. (I'm not aware of Guatemala offering a lot, and in fact Mexico is facing its own illegal immigrant problem with Guatemalans)

The main cause that I'm aware of is the Mexican Cartels, who mainly use drugs as their source of revenue. The surging movement in America to legalize weed is having a growing impact on that. They still have crack and heroine, of course, but these are far more destructive drugs that will result in fewer return users.

There are likely other other factors, such as poverty, especially in the border towns (driving along the highway by the border in El Paso, TX gives you an eerie comparison between Juarez and El Paso, especially when you consider that much of the El Paso side is still lower class.) Government corruption might be a factor.

For B, I already mentioned the legalizing of weed in America. If we can change the discussion of our "War on Drugs" from punishment to rehabilitation, we could lower the demand for drugs from Mexico (and other countries dealing with the same thing) even further.

For poverty, I don't have a good plan. But let's consider that fence again. It could cost $22.4 Billion to build (though the full cost is hard to figure out, apparently). A quick search tells me that the estimated population amongst the six Mexican border states was 12,246,99... in 1990. So that number's a bit old, we'll bump it up to 20M (another source says 24M by 2020, but that's for both sides of the border.) With about 27.9% being kids, that's about 14M adults, giving us $1600/Mexican adult (more, actually, as the "kids" only includes up to age 14). The average yearly income for Mexico is about $13K, so that's significant but not huge.

What if, instead of spending that money on the border, we use it to improve the cities on the Mexican side of the border? They would give at least a small economical boost, though short-term, and while improving those cities we could have US law enforcement work with Mexican law enforcement to further route the gangs. This isn't without risk, of course, and a lot of people would like to see that 22.4 Billion invested in our own country through either education or infrastructure, but if we're talking about ways to fix the "problem" of illegal immigrants then I believe it will be far more useful to use money appropriated for such a task in that capacity.

about two weeks ago
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Valve Rolls Out Game Broadcasting Service For Steam

RyoShin Re:Games themselves are copyrighted (92 comments)

Valve is a slumbering behemoth. They seem to have dropped any big push for SteamOS (as the goal was to loosen Microsoft's control through their App Store, and this appears to have been successful), but if they really wanted to brute force it they would have a lot of power to bring to bear, in terms of both capital and support. The MAFIAA has far more capital and legal resources, but Valve wouldn't go down without giving them a large bruising and, perhaps, getting some victories that weaken the copyright cases the music labels want to bring against smaller entities.

And if they needed quick cash, all they have to do is release Half Life 3. It could be nothing more than Goat Simulator with Gordon Freeman instead of a Goat, and the frenzy caused by releasing it would give them a large boost. A real, actual Half Life 3 would probably double whatever they have for a war chest.

Despite the sale price, Twitch is a relatively small player and easier to push around. Being bought by Amazon only makes this worse, as it gives media companies some extra leverage against the sales giant by saying they'll up the ante on Twitch DMCA filings if Amazon doesn't agree to better terms for the media companies.

about three weeks ago

Submissions

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Ask Slashdot: Best software for charity/animal shelters?

RyoShin RyoShin writes  |  more than 2 years ago

RyoShin writes "I volunteer for a no-kill cat rescue shelter. After learning my background in software development, they've asked me to come up with a solution that will make it easier for them to keep a database of the felines currently in their care (including things like vaccinations, background (if any), etc.) as well as donors and potential donors. They've dropped hints that I should roll my own, but I'd rather get them something tried and tested and preferably with support; however, I have no knowledge of this area, so I turn to Slashdot users. What are good pieces of software for use by charities, especially animal shelters? An all-in-one would be great, but I will consider multiple programs. And, as always, free or open source is highly preferred (they are a small shelter), but I also want to research paid-for options and present those if they are high quality, easy to use, and can be afforded."
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Telling Kids They're Smart is Stupid

RyoShin RyoShin writes  |  about 6 years ago

RyoShin writes "A recent Scientific American article entitled "The Secret to Raising Smart Kids" (print version) looks at research on motivating kids in school. From the article: "Many people assume that superior intelligence or ability is a key to success. But more than three decades of research shows that an overemphasis on intellect or talent--and the implication that such traits are innate and fixed--leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unmotivated to learn. [...] Teaching people to have a 'growth mind-set,' which encourages a focus on effort rather than on intelligence or talent, produces high achievers in school and in life." Another finding is that "a belief in fixed intelligence also makes people less willing to admit to errors or to confront and remedy their deficiencies in school, at work and in their social relationships." So don't go telling your kid he or she a genius, but rather a studious, hard worker."
Link to Original Source
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Do Zebra Stripes actually help?

RyoShin RyoShin writes  |  more than 6 years ago

RyoShin (610051) writes "A List Apart, an excellent resource for web development and related aesthetics, has put together an article based on original research by Jessica Enders into "zebra striping". From the article: "Zebra striping [, coloring alternate rows,] is used when data is presented in an essentially tabular form. The user of that table will be looking for one or more data points. Their aim is to get the right points and get them as quickly as possible. Therefore, if we set a task that uses a table, and zebra striping does make things easier, then we would expect to see improvements in two things: accuracy and speed." The conclusion of the peer reviewed paper? It's a wash. Striped tables offered only a slight increase in accuracy and speed overall. The article notes a few other benefits to using Zebra striping, so it's all up to the individual."
Link to Original Source
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Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

RyoShin RyoShin writes  |  more than 6 years ago

RyoShin (610051) writes "Alex Papadimoulis, head of TheDailyWTF, has put together an interesting article about turnover in the IT industry and why quitting is okay (and employers should like it). Using ideas like the "Cravath system", why good people quit while slackers stay behind, and how ex-employees can be a good thing, Papadimoulis offers some interesting ideas for both employers and employees. "In short: embrace turnover, encourage separation, and don't even think about saying 'careers, not jobs.' Oh yes, it's Employment 2.0.""
Link to Original Source
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RyoShin RyoShin writes  |  more than 7 years ago

RyoShin writes "Even after the conservative members lost control of the old Kansas school board, evolution still remains a large issue for the Board of Education in Kansas. Well, in video games. Specifically, one video game: Pokemon. On Monday, the Kansas Board of Education approved a measure to ban most content related to Pokemon, including the games themselves and trading cards "because of the franchise's blatant promotion of evolution". Furthermore, they instructed teachers to "search their students at the beginning of the school day to make sure that they aren't carrying any copies of the game". The article is sparse on further details, but states that the ACLU will challenge the decision."
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RyoShin RyoShin writes  |  more than 7 years ago

RyoShin writes "Signs of the apocalypse: seven-headed beasts, cats hanging out with dogs, and a video game that combines two previous rivals. Well, according to USAToday, we're one-third of the way there. From the article: "Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, due in stores this holiday season for Nintendo's Wii console and DS handheld system (prices not yet set), will also include other popular characters such as Luigi and Yoshi (from Nintendo's Mario games), as well as Knuckles and Tails (from the Sonic games), all competing in such summer Olympic events as running, swimming and table tennis." Furthermore, Shigeru Miyamoto is giving oversight to the project. Could this be a sign that Sonic might appear in Super Smash Brothers Brawl?"

Journals

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How to StumbleUpon StumbleOver and StumbleOn

RyoShin RyoShin writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Like many on the internet, including other /. members, I am a user of StumbleUpon. For those who don't know what StumbleUpon is, the short and simple is that it is a gateway to the internet at large. It's great for lazy afternoons when you just want to find new webpages. You set some preferences, some content filters, and boom, you're off. It covers topics from architecture to zoology, and most everything in between. A great way to read new and interesting scientific discoveries or watch sleeping cats fall off of whatever shelf they happen to be sleeping on. Or both, if that's your thing. But not at the same time.

However, StumbleUpon reveals one of the larger annoyances of the internet: data redundancy. Site after site, blog after blog will host the same content (usually video or pictures, but it can even be word-for-word text), meaning that you'll wind up Stumbling Upon it time and again- and it really gets grating after you see the eighteenth LOLcat collection. To my knowledge, SU has no way to deal with this. You can rate things up or down and perhaps have less of a chance of seeing them, but that's not always the case.

To this end, I feel that StumbleUpon would do well to introduce two new features: StumbleOn and StumbleOver. Both features would be user preferences. You could choose to StumbleOn, StumbleOver, both, or neither (seeing the internet in a pure, unadultered form).

StumbleOn is a feature that would reference all citing pages to the main page or site that the citing pages talk about. This is the harder of the two features to implement. The idea is that instead of stumbling upon a page that is either a rehash or just a quick blog entry about another page (usually done for ad hits), you would instead be redirected to (or On) the original page. Slashdot will see things like this- a summary for an article will contain a link to a blog that contains a link to the actual article. StumbleOn would cut out the blog entry, giving focus where it is rightly due: the original authors.

As stated, this is harder to do. Some things see circulation for so long that pinpointing the "original" is tedious (assuming it still exists). Then there are sites that jump up simultaneously, such as the smattering of lolcat sites that appeared within a few days/weeks of each other. Content can give some help. For instance, if a blog entry directly links to the original, you know you can StumbleOn to that original. Perhaps the video being shown lists a URL to use; failing that, you could StumbleOn to where it's hosted on Youtube/MediaCafe/whatever.

Part of the problem here is ballot stuffing. Someone might get a bunch of friends/paid hacks to all say that that person's site is the "original", though it would clearly be just a lame blog entry for ad hits. But, as with most systems like this, it can be overcome with other user adjustments. Then there's the risk that a blog entry that is actually useful, like dissecting a video or giving further insights, gets marked as StumbleOn. A second level might be introduced for these, but that would start making this very complex.

StumbleOver is likely easier to implement, and, in my opinion, far more useful of the two. In the case of StumbleOver, you don't care what the original site is. You only know that you've seen it before and, even if you liked it, don't want to see it again from another site. Whereas StumbleOn would be pictorially represented as a tree, with one main site (the "root" site) being lead to from many others, StumbleOver would be seen as a nice, round circle. By seeing one part of the circle you've seen them all, so you don't need to see them again. This would lead to a lot less repetitiveness in your stumbles.

However, this is not without it's own problems- how specific should content be measured? Most would agree that a word-for-word copy, a single image or set group of images, or a video would all be easy to StumbleOver. But what about a blog entry that restates the original text in the user's own words? Is one lolcat page with 10 images the same as another with 15? (This case can be kind of solved with StumbleOn, using something like icanhaschezburger as the main source) What if someone has a higher quality version of another's video (quite unlikely, but possible)?

These aren't perfect ideas, and I have no idea how to submit them to StumbleUpon, but I think they would make great strides in making StumbleUpon a better product and the internet easier to browse.

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Facebook Phone Number Folly

RyoShin RyoShin writes  |  more than 7 years ago

I, along with most of the Slashdot community, know much about social networking sites. I, probably unlike much of Slashdot, am a member of a few. One of these sites, Facebook, came under fire about a year ago for their News Feed feature, which allowed users to see updates made by their friends in one convenient form. This resulted in a massive and seemingly unexpected backlash by the Facebook crowd, which caused Facebook to lock it down only a few days later.

So users of Facebook are not ignorant of the privacy hazards that sharing information like that can lead to. However, it seems that some haven't learned their lesson. Through my own News Feed, I learned that one of my friends had recently joined a group. However, the group had a very odd title, almost like it was a personal journal entry. Curiosity got the best of me, and I clicked through to find out.

To my utter surprise and slight discomfort, I found that it was a group set up for someone that lost their phone. He had set up the phone for the express purpose of retrieving the phone numbers he had lost in the old one. This can seem like a mis-guided attempt with only one example, as doing this may be an easy way to notify all of your friends. Facebook does allow for closed groups- close the group, and only the friends you've invited can see your new phone number or post their own. Perhaps this poor fellow merely misunderstood how the process worked.

With this in mind, I decided to plug "phone lost" into Facebook's search engine. The result is so many groups that it stops counting at 500. Yet not all is lost; once again, this could be a matter of convenience, and other users had closed their group. I decided the best way to test this theory was to do a sample of the first three pages of results and compile some (simple) stats. (Note that all numbers are assumed unique, which may skew the results in favor of panic.)

Total Groups: 27 (Facebook returned the same group a few times)
Open Groups: 81%
Total Members: 523
Phone Numbers (with Area Code): 184
Phone Numbers (no area code): 14

Percentage of Group Members with posted numbers: 37%

Average Membership per Group: 19
Potential Amount of Numbers available (with 500 groups): 3515

Sadly, I was very wrong. The number of users willing to post their phone numbers in an open location such as that is worrisome. While Facebook does have the option to enter your number in your profile, it can be restricted only to friends. Furthermore, by default profiles are locked to friends-only. The combination of these two elements may have set a false sense of privacy within the users who did post their numbers.

A few users had the fore-thought to at least withhold their area code. Even so, Facebook provides their primary network (area, college, or high school), which could be used to figure out the area code in relatively short time. One group owner did ask for numbers to be e-mailed rather than posted, citing the desire not to broadcast them to Facebook. He was ignored by nine people.

While I hate the "Protect the Children" argument, I believe it has some merit in this case, and extends beyond that. These numbers are readily available for anyone on Facebook to use for their own malicious pleasure. Even if all they can do is leave psychotic voice messages at odd hours, it can still be enough to emotionally scar a person, as happened to another friend of mine earlier this year.

Still, it is no surprise that many in this generation, especially high schooler students, don't understand the potential ramifications for posting such personal information online. I do plan to contact Facebook and ask them to attempt to send out a notice to these users or Facebook in general, but even that may go ignored.

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Practicing Practices

RyoShin RyoShin writes  |  more than 7 years ago

So much for that idea.

Working as a lowly intern for an internal programming department of a Fortune 500 company, it's amazing the quality of the code I read. Despite being a department just for one of the local facilities, you would think big money == big talent, right?

The apparent answer is no. I am in charge of maintaining over four dozen small internal web applications, written mainly in ASP and Coldfusion. (Not even .NET and MX - ug.) I've read through and fixed up code done by a dozen other "programmers", some of them interns such as myself, some of them full-time "specialists", and rarely do I look at a page and not think "WTF?".

Part of the problem could be the "rigorous standards" put in place here- and by that, I mean there are none. Very few of the applications are used by more than 20 people in the entire building, so the general process of new program creation goes like this:

  1. Program request goes to manager
  2. Manager approves/denies program
  3. Program is assigned to one of the available programmers
  4. Programmer works as quickly as possible to finish project
  5. Project is tested for approx. two hours
  6. Manager makes sure that project looks good to requestor
  7. Project is booted out door, and any bugs are fixed as they come up

Since none of the programs are large scale (even the few used by more than 20 people), this doesn't work too bad, though it doesn't have anything useful like code review.

The other problem, one more glaring even in those programs that did have a better quality control (such as those where the programmer took the time to write out a scope and get it approved), is the large absense of proper programming practices. Repeated If-Thens where Switch-Cases should be used, code copied and pasted instead of put into a function/method, the same header code repeated on every page instead of put in a file to include, horrible naming schemes, bad use of whitespace, etc. Granted, programming styles will vary from person to person, but some of the things done within these are ludicrous.

Thanks to sites like TheDailyWTF (an excellent time waster, which is also beneficial for programmers to see what not to do), I believe that this is not a local problem, but one that affects many of those who get into this because they're looking for big bucks, especially when they start using languages like Coldfusion and Visual Basic (easy to write, and therefore easy to mess up). In my courses as a Computer Science major, I have yet to see anything that deals with proper programming practices. I realize that Computer Science is intended to go beyond programming itself, but even in the classes dedicated to programming it is not touched on much.

I would almost say that an entire course could be devoted to it, but I think that would be too much time. The various practices I'm thinking of are fairly simple; a week or two at most would be needed to go over them and make sure people understand them. Potential points would include:

  • Whitespace indentation
  • Descriptive Naming practices (I prefer lowerCamelCase, myself)
  • Programming for efficiency (redundant IF checks, using SWITCH-CASE instead of IF, proper loops, code reuseability)
  • Function creation (as well as some talk about recursion)
  • Truth logic (using such things as truth tables)
  • Database setups (my college actually has an entire class for Databases, but this would be useful for those who aren't CS majors)

I'm sure others have more things that should be added to the list (feel free to comment), but if colleges would put heavier emphasis on covering these kinds of things, maintaining programs would be easier for the rest of us.

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The Road to Inlightenment is Paved with Gummy Bears

RyoShin RyoShin writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Cause they're tasty.

I've decided to use my Slashdot journal as a sort of "blog". Whereas I have a LiveJournal to rant about my personal life and day, this "blog" will deal more with issues that affect everyone, and not necessarily only topics that Slashdot as a site is concerned with (but I still get to rant).

Some entries will be long, some will be short, some will have no point. Regardless, this blog will be open to the public and comments will be on, though I will never "Publicize" any entry, unless I find it relevant to Slashdot somehow, as well as being well written and containing references. This will be one of those "choose two" things.

Ideally, I update every weekday. Gives me a good side-thing to do at work when I get bored. If I do it at work, I doubt I'll have much in the way of references- internet use is fairly restricted. If I save it and complete it at home, then I can include helpful links.

So, if you ever visit my profile, get ready for more stuff to ignore.

Here's looking to tomorrow.

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