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Comments

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Microsoft To Buy Minecraft Maker Mojang For $2.5 Billion

RyoShin Re:The big question is 'why' ? (329 comments)

The point is simply for them not to be competitors any more.

I think they're actually buying their way into competition.

Though there are rumors that Microsoft will sell off the Xbox portion, they're still running the race. The Xbone is floundering hard, and Microsoft wants to diversify. A big thing right now are open-ended creative/interaction games, where you don't necessarily play towards a goal or endgame, you just play. Minecraft is at the fore-front of this, but it's on everything. Sony has Little Big Planet, Nintendo has Animal Crossing (and, to a much lesser extent, Tomodachi Life), the PC has Garry's Mod and probably a whole crap ton of stuff I'm forgetting. Microsoft has shown off Project Spark, but that's still in the nebulous future and doesn't seem to have much hype surrounding it.

Minecraft is now. with lots of hype. While they won't be pulling it from other devices, they can halt all new porting and put Mojang to work on a sequel that they have complete control over and release only for the Xbone (and maybe Win9 if they want to pull a Halo 2 again). Even if they don't try to do Minecraft 2, they still get all the merchandising, new DLC (which happens to be distributed only to Xbone...), and revenue from sales to other devices.

9 hours ago
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Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

RyoShin Re:No, no. Let's not go there. Please. (905 comments)

If I can take a swing, I think the difference between American and EU (at least, UK) atheists is due to the respective theist groups. As far as I understand, while a large portion of the EU is religious to some extent it is far less common for religion to be the beginning and end of someone's character. And, despite our "Wall of Separation" in the states, it seems we have a lot more religious rhetoric and invocation in politics than the EU/UK. (Disclaimer: I don't follow politics in Europe closely.) Yes, the UK might have "God Save the Queen", but that doesn't seem any different than "God Bless America": it's rarely a religious invocation, just an expected stump line and a way to end a speech.

So the relative pervasiveness of religion in America, especially with things like the "War on Christmas" fueled by the likes of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, means that many religious folk don't see atheists as some fellow citizen with a different perspective but as a an all-powerful enemy seeking to destroy their religious beliefs. This mostly imaginary[1] threat puts them on the offensive towards theists, and some atheists--perhaps not even most, but a noticeable portion of American atheists--have gone on the defensive. You can look up things like "atheist congregations" and such Defense Leagues that are, as far as I can tell, simply about meeting other people without having to hear "Have you found our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?" (yes, he's in my closet, hiding from you) and having power in numbers.Some of it may also be those who have recently ended their faith but who are used to and enjoyed the sense of community, or maybe feel a hole without a tight community to belong to (not that this is inherently a bad thing). Though an atheist, I've not sought these out or read much about any specific group, so I could be way off here.

[1] I'm sure there are some atheist groups who seek complete annihilation of religion in America, but they're as representative of atheists in general as the Westboro Baptist Church is representative of protestants. Myself and atheists that I know don't give a shit so long as religion isn't being crammed into government or schools.

yesterday
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High School Student Builds Gun That Unlocks With Your Fingerprint

RyoShin Re:Great one more fail (589 comments)

Many policemen would far prefer that their gun not be useable if someone takes it away from them.

Then, to my knowledge, why are police departments and law enforcement in general not clamoring for this technology to mature so they can make it a department-wide requirement?

yesterday
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New Usage-Based Insurance Software Can Track Drivers Using Smartphones

RyoShin Re:Interesting, if optional (137 comments)

This seems like one of those situations where the "free market" would actually be useful. Want to sell your soul, er, data to save $5/mo? Go ahead. Or go with Company Y who have pledged not to institute such a requirement over privacy/security concerns.

States requiring car insurance does hamper the market, of course, so perhaps legislation now that would outlaw it is for the best.

Of course, even if companies make it mandatory, they won't actually make it "mandatory". That would lead to outcry and Congressional yapping. Instead, rates will raise across the board, but doncha know they have this whizz-bang device that will somehow save you exactly the same amount of money your rates just went up by...

about a week ago
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The Argument For a Hypersonic Missile Testing Ban

RyoShin Re:Um, no (322 comments)

The "bad actors" tend to be the ones that have the least capability to do the testing and building themselves. Sure, sure, there's still potential for our frenemies China and Russia to do it, but if you think some sub-department in the US military won't also build/test in secret on a small scale, you're crazy.

I think the real goal might be to keep plans and results from the low-budget bad actors (North Korea etc.) Banning the testing means that they have far less to go on, and so won't be able to make any real progress themselves. If they do it now, while the weapons are still in their infancy and require heavy testing, they can avoid that.

Barn door and all that.

about a week ago
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Why Phone Stores Should Stockpile Replacements

RyoShin Re:I'll be honest (253 comments)

Or else Slashdot just posts him because he's click-bait, baby

No skin off my back. Like korbulon, I see his name and click on the "articles" only to read the well-deserved rage. My karma grants me no ads, so it's not as if /. is making money off of me taking the bait. Even so, I rather wish they would stop, his "thoughts" are a waste of time.

Incidentally, I read the blurb before the submitter and thought "What kind of idiot thinks that this is feasible for any small store or..." and then I saw the name. "Oh, that kind of idiot."

He probably pays Dice for the privilege.

I wonder... I'm too lazy to look it up, but does anyone know when he started using Slashdot as his blog? If it was after the purchase by Dice (and I think it was), it could be that he's an employee of Dice, perhaps even the "corporate overseer" for Slashdot. And as long as he has to manage the corporate side of /., well, why not share some thoughts...

about a week ago
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U.S. Senator: All Cops Should Wear Cameras

RyoShin Re:For Classrooms Too (643 comments)

For a while I heavily considered a career in teaching (which I've since given up on), and one of the things that I thought of from very early often is that, if at all possible, I would keep a camera in the classroom, recording, at all times that someone was in there. If it wasn't possible, I would think twice about teaching there. While there are a lot of privacy implications, it would be known there was a camera there and recording which might even make the room a haven of sorts from those worried about bullying.

Aside from showing parents how much of a demon their little snowflake is, as a male educator (who doesn't like towing the line) I would be open to a lot of claims and complaints. If it was a he-said-she-said situation, even if the claim was completely false I expect I would be asked to resign (at best) and forced/hounded out and rumors spread that make it hard for me to get a teaching position elsewhere (at worst.) While a camera wouldn't be 100% effective against that, it would go a long way to preventing it.

about two weeks ago
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U.S. Senator: All Cops Should Wear Cameras

RyoShin Re:The death of leniency (643 comments)

only "the right" infractions

Not to mention "the right" people, especially in affluent areas where everyone's skin is pastel. Bobby Bucks can fly by a cop doing 100 in a 55 without the cop even blinking, but if someone who happens to have dark skin or Asian features meanders by at 58 then those lights go a-flashin'. Or a park is "closed" and a young couple happens to stroll through the middle and are ignored by a patrolman, who latter comes upon a haggard looking fellow sitting on a bench on the edge of the park and think he looks a bit suspicious...

This gives a lot of people, especially white voters who rarely have to deal with attempts to make voting hard, a mental barrier so that when they hear about new laws/restrictions being put in place (if they even pay attention!) they can think "well that law will never apply to me" or "they wouldn't catch me doing it, and even if they did I'd probably just get a minor fine". By the time the law does seriously impact them, it's too late and they've become part of the "others" (perhaps simply by being caught up in the law) and lose much of the power they had to change things...

about two weeks ago
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TechCentral Scams Call Center Scammers

RyoShin Re:How to make a telephone solicitor mad (251 comments)

I might have one worse on ya: During my latter High School years I worked for a telemarketing company. It was a depressing job, but it was also the only one I could ride my bike to in the farming town I lived in so that was that. At the time I was incredibly timid and couldn't sell worth beans. One of our "campaigns" (that sometimes overlapped) was Direct TV and I had a call where I went through my spiel and, to my delight, the guy seemed highly interested! He kept asking questions and I was happy to answer, but when we had run through pretty much everything and I tried to actually sign him up he stalled for time and I eventually asked "You aren't actually interested in purchasing the service, are you?"

His response, which I will always remember, was: "No, but you sure have a purty voice!" As a self-conscious teenage male who had already passed the majority of puberty, this was fairly devastating; I thanked him for his time and hung up.

I lasted at the job for three months total. I would probably use the same tactic myself these days, but since I haven't a landline I never get telemarketing calls.

about two weeks ago
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Comcast Tells Government That Its Data Caps Aren't Actually "Data Caps"

RyoShin Re:Sigh (341 comments)

Why do you think one of the fastest ways to become a millionaire in the US is to be elected to Congress or the Senate?

This comment pre-dated an extremely relevant example by a week, one I felt necessary to mention before the comments go into archive: Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has been hired by "small independent investment bank" Moelis & Co. "Moelis & Co.’s new vice-chairman and managing director will get a $3.4 million pay package between September and the end of 2015."

Dude lost the primary because he was too focused on federal matters (and that whole immigration thing...) and, as punishment, he gets a job where he will likely do jack all (to my knowledge he has no experience in investment banking)--except, perhaps, talking to the current crop of Congresscritters about how to best pass laws that help banks--for the tidy sum of $3.4 MILLION for just a bit over a year's work. Jon Stewart does a nice rip of him over this.

about two weeks ago
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News Aggregator Fark Adds Misogyny Ban

RyoShin Re:Much ado about nothing (748 comments)

You have to be careful; if you browse at 5 you'll get a venerable circlejerk. +3 or +4 seem much better (if you set up a negative funny modifier) for getting worthwhile discussion that also has dissenting opinion.

Fark's style of moderation is more about control than actually taking care of jerks. IMO, if there are going to be specified moderators their only job should be to get rid of the outright spam and nefarious links (to malware sites etc.) I help moderate a 4chan offshoot, and my job as moderator has three parts:
1) Get rid of spam/illegal content (namely child porn)
2) Get rid of content that is not relevant to a board (posting about fighting games on a train discussion board, for instance)
3) Get rid of spammy trolls, the ones who will hop thread to thread posting irrelevant opinions or otherwise trying to derail every thread

That last part is censorship, yes, but is only done when something or someone seems to quickly fouling the entire community. I try to use it as rarely as possible; an IP or tripcode has to show a history of such antics before it's even considered.

about a month ago
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News Aggregator Fark Adds Misogyny Ban

RyoShin Re:Not moderated on their pay site? (748 comments)

I was a TFer long, long ago for many years (ending in the year 2008/9 or so) and we had moderation on the paid side, too. I personally earned a (warranted) 24 hour posting ban for being a dipshit and submitting an inappropriate link. However, the moderation seemed to be more lax than on the "Lite" side, likely because advertisers didn't care about TF (and advertisers are often the source of a site implementing censorship of any kind). When it was applied it seemed a bit uneven, which is a reason I eventually let my TF account lapse.

I imagine this hasn't changed in general, and the rules will be applied there as well (though not as tightly.) I don't know that it would be necessary; back then TF was a fairly solid community and, while you would have cliques, a misogynist would be shouted down by members. I doubt this has changed much, either.

(Will Drew still allow Farkers to say "UFIA"?)

about a month ago
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Selectable Ethics For Robotic Cars and the Possibility of a Robot Car Bomb

RyoShin Re:Insurance rates (239 comments)

Once self-driving cars reach critical mass, I think that it will become uncommon to actually own a vehicle (why own something and deal with maintenance/insurance/etc. when it will sit around doing nothing for 10-20 hours a day?). Instead you'll be part of some sort of "Auto Club" or other, where you pay a monthly fee and are able to summon a car (the number of times and priority you get will depend on the level of service you purchase). Insurance companies will then charge these guys, who will pass on the cost to members. If someone manually controls their rented car (if even possible), the car would log this and they would likely pay an extra fee due to insurance premiums.

Until that point we'll have a lot of schisms with insurance and self-driving cars. This will probably be much like the early 20th century when cars were gaining broad adoption and were sharing the road 50/50 with horse-drawn wagons and so forth. Was there horse or auto insurance back then? If so, does anyone know how the companies reacted to the changing road?

about a month ago
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Web Trolls Winning As Incivility Increases

RyoShin Re:Problem already solved (457 comments)

Indeed. Things like "Ignore User" are only useful when it's one half-hearted troll. When you get a dedicated troll or, worse, a mob of trolls, it's a stop-gap measure you can use to plug holes in the dam as the wall falls down around you.

A better option would be to allow users to auto-ignore accounts that are under a specified age (perhaps with an option to exempt "verified" accounts). This doesn't completely preclude multi-account attacks--either through hacking existing accounts, buying botnet accounts, and/or creating a cache of accounts for future use--but will make it extremely prohibitive for trolls to attack in the heat of the moment, as they did Zelda Williams.

To deal with the zealous troll, then, you would have a final defense: an account lockdown where the only messages you see/receive are from users you've personally friended/followed. (So none of that bullshit like Pintrest making you a follower of a few thousand accounts; why is that even a fucking thing?) It would be nice to have a complimentary system where you can grant other accounts (either people you trust or, for larger celebs/businesses, paid staff) the ability to whitelist individual messages so you aren't completely cut off from fans/followers in general (and the morale boost they might bring.)

about a month ago
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Web Trolls Winning As Incivility Increases

RyoShin Re:Not Government (457 comments)

I've always thought that a way to curtail that would be to have some sort of "+0 Agree/-0 Disagree" modifier. It would be shown along-side the regular score and also give an idea as to how Slashdot (or just the moderators of that day) perceives an opinion without actually drowning out.

That won't stop people from using the Troll option to penalize those they disagree with, but hopefully it would decrease it a perceptible amount. (Of course, metamoderation should be helping the system choose people less likely to use "Troll" as "Disagree", but people are less interested in metamoderation than moderation and if the person metamoderating is of the same mind, it won't help the quality of moderators.)

about a month ago
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Hemp Fibers Make Better Supercapacitors Than Graphene

RyoShin Re:Gives new meaning... (178 comments)

I believe the conspiracy theory goes that when marijuana was first banned, a farming industry (cotton? can't remember) lobbied/convinced Congress that hemp was also a massive part of this "drug craze" in order to shut down hemp farmers who were able to produce better quality textile material at a lower cost, thus making it harder for these farmers to sell their own crop.

about a month ago
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Writer: Internet Comments Belong On Personal Blogs, Not News Sites

RyoShin Re:News websites vs. Aggregators vs. Blogs (299 comments)

(Oh-ho, a former Fark admin? My condolences. I remember my days as a TFer fondly, but I eventually got fed up with the over/slanted moderation and cliques.)

I'm going to the model of 'invitations' where you have to know someone already in the community to get an invite -- because then if we get someone being an ass, we can suspend their friends' accounts, too (giving them some external pressure to not be a dick), or prune the whole tree of accounts if that doesn't help.

Even if that helped with trolling*, this is an excellent way to create an echo chamber/circlejerk. Since your friends likely have similar opinions to you, the site will maintain a steady consensus about topics for some time. By the time invites branch out to people who have opinions that are very different (but still reasonable), they'll be awash with mob mentality the moment they make their first counter-consensus post and likely just leave.

If you're not trying to have a serious discussion site or are going for the insular angle, that would be okay, though.

* I think that once you hit a certain (fairly low) threshold it will become nearly ineffective against trolling. "Friend" will become "anyone who asks me for a referral"/"uses the referral codes I post on another site", much like the early days of Gmail and pretty much any invite-only site, and trolls will use this to not only cause the general site anguish, but extra special and indirect harassment upon the person who gave them the invite

about a month ago
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Writer: Internet Comments Belong On Personal Blogs, Not News Sites

RyoShin Re:No, internet is openly hostile period (299 comments)

Considering Jezebel's reason for existing, I'm wondering why they're only dealing with this now. I would have thought that such troll antics would have hit them years ago (or at least as soon as the Kinja commenting system allowed images without a moderated queue, which I believe has been far longer than this troll has been at it.)

about a month ago
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Writer: Internet Comments Belong On Personal Blogs, Not News Sites

RyoShin Re:But Jezebel IS a blog (299 comments)

Heh. In the gaming circles I run in, if anyone links to Kotaku the link is ignored and the user posting it belittled. They are very much pandering for clickbaits; I can recall seeing links for a few "outraged" pieces that the entire rest of the internet (except the SJW side of Tumblr) had no problem with (sadly I can't think of a specific example at the moment aside from the Dragon's Crown thing.)

And, while we're bringing up nasty habits of Gawker, I'd like to remind Slashdot about Gizmodo's CES 2008 TV-B-Gone incident. I think that's when a lot of people on the internet realized that Gawker, in general, is trash.

The lone exception is Lifehacker; while they do a lot of the "blurb 'n' a link" stuff, they do have some detailed articles that can be useful. Like Slashdot, their major usefulness tends to be in the comments (except that they're stuck with that horrible Kinja system.)

about a month ago
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Geneticists Decry Book On Race and Evolution

RyoShin Re:I don't get it. (541 comments)

unfair genetic advantage

Why does it have to be "unfair"? Why can't it be "(pseudo-)luck"? If someone else wins the lottery and I don't, it would be quite silly for me to call the whole thing unfair.

(I added "pseudo-" because genes aren't completely random, and what potential there is for gene development is based on what genes the parents pass along. I, with my predominantly German/Scottish heritage, could not have "lucked" into being born with Asian features.)

about a month 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  |  more than 5 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  |  about 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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