Thursday, June 22, 2006

From the Mailbag: "...meat-turd god-kings..."

Well, it has certainly been a strange trip. A little over a week ago VGS's blog pages gradually started indexing again. At about the same time one of my reviews at a new venue disappeared from the search engines and subsequent reviews there have failed to appear altogether. I will provide more detail on this subject in a seperate post.

With the majority of my blog pages, and more than a few of my pages on other servers, yanked off the search engines I thought it a good time to step back and reflect upon the true nature of the Internet. Now that most of the pages have returned - albeit at a much lower ranking for having been removed for well over a month - it seems best to make at least a few more posts and to see where matters go.

I begin with a look at the mailbag. I'll also post the comments at their associated pages but will answer at greater length here. I'll take them in pretty much chronological order:

Fri, 16 Jun 2006 21:20:14 -0700 (PDT)

Jaberwocky6669 has left a new comment on your post "...the politics, the lameness, the backstabbing...":

Just to be sure, I did not say that which is in quotes! That is from a wiki called Wiki Truth. So don't misquote me!

While I did not in the least misquote Ms. J. I will be glad here to verify that the text in quotes was not her own creation. That is what quotation marks indicate and I have depended upon the reader to be aware of the grammatical implications of those particular items of punctuation.

Nor did I quote her comment in its entirety. I did indicate her cooptation of the Wiki Truth quote, as did she herself. I did not, however, include such choice morsels as the following which in her original post went without quotes:

The idea of Wikipedia is absolutely wonderful and amazing, but sadly a large group of meat-turd god-kings has decided to be extremely anal and put a stop to all of that because they believek that they have the final word on everything. Wikipedia: the most anal place on Earth.
I hope these clarifications are sufficient to Ms. J's needs.

* * *

I've been quite pleased that recent comments are actually sane (if a bit edgy, at times). The following, from Anonymous, makes an excellent point:

Wed, 21 Jun 2006 01:14:24 -0700 (PDT)

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Is Wikipedia Handing Out Your Browsing Information to Thousands?":

No browsing information is displayed, only your IP address. The information obtained and displayed on the Administrators' Noticeboard was just what could be gained from a whois, which anybody can do. The GNU Free Documentation License requires that every contributor be attributed, so Wikipedia must give out IP addresses- to everyone, not just users. Click the "history" tab to see.

First, while IP addresses are not properly brows-er information they are brows-ing information. That the information can easily be misused is clear from the chat thread (
) quoted in Is Wikipedia Handing Out Your Browsing Information to Thousands? It is hardly an answer to point out (quite correctly) that the information is actually available to millions rather than thousands.

Can it possibly be a coincidence that edits by registered users are entered under noms du wiki rather than their IP addresses? If the information is so harmless or somehow required by law why aren't their IPs being listed as well, I wonder? As I have demanded, the IPs need to be available only to a small group of the most trusted administrators who can release them only to proper authorities, etc., as a lawful requirement arises. The edit histories can easily display discrete IDs of non-registered users in a fashion something like the following: "Anon 06-21-06-00012" (indicating the 12th non-registered user to edit on the 21st of June, 2006). The tag would then be corrolated to the user IP in a secure data base and the information available for offical and/or lawful uses.

* * *

And here's an edgy one:

Wed, 21 Jun 2006 01:20:27 -0700 (PDT)

IT Engineer has left a new comment on your post "Is Wikipedia Handing Out Your Browsing Information to Thousands?":

Legal threats no matter the situation are heavily frowned upon by the system.
Your 'IP' by itself is handed out with every email you send, wikipedia records nothing more than that for 'everuser' access. It just so happens, that ~any~ internet user with annother's IP can reduce the area they are from to a general locality, that fact has absolutely ~nothing~ to do with wikipedia. It's called a 'whois' and has been around since the bit twiddling days of the net. Please do your reseach before inserting foot futher in mouth.

Well ain't that sumthin! I love these comments because they make it so clear how much Wikiaddicts live in a world of their own.

Let's take it from the top, shall we? Who or what exactly is "the system"? And just when did the legal system defer to it such that it is a law unto itself? And how is it's belief that it is a law unto itself anything less then another glaring example of why IP addresses and other information can not be entrusted to it?

I might even accept that "the system" lawfully has considerable sway within its own virtual domain. But the point here is that "the system" easily, and with a sense of empowerment, went stalking prey well beyond its borders in the real world. The minute it crossed those borders, "the system" was nothing more than a dangerous mob with a sense of empowerment to commit egregious torts and transgress the law. In short, if anyone is wilting under the "frown" of "the system" it can only be because the legitimate legal system is failing to do its job.

I would not be surprised, at that rate, to learn that the Gambino family is considering buying Encyclopedia Britannica so that it can pursue its interests with impunity before the law. I can see it now: "Legal threats no matter the situation are heavily frowned upon by The Family." They apparently would also qualify for non-profit status in the state of Florida.

Next item: Yes, our IP addresses are readily available to anyone who wishes to expend a modest amount of energy. And, of course, I am not unaware of WhoIs. I've used it myself as part of Virtual Grub Street's research into adware sites.

There is the additional "edit history" feature available to Wikipedians, it bears saying. It is how Donald Albury "coincidentally" found his way from the Seminole page at 1:14 UTS ( 01:14, 22 April 2006 Dalbury) to the Claudia Emerson page at 1:16 (01:16, 22 April 2006 Dalbury), noticing that Beth Wellington was furious that her C. E. fan page was edited by someone who didn't have her fan-club-leader authorization and giving him the perfect opportunity to game the system like an old hand. He followed my edit history waiting for his best opportunity to pounce. You guys are really something.

But then back to IPs in general. As simple as they are to get ahold of, you may notice that almost no other forum (or similar group written/edited site) gives people the information just by virtue of becoming a registered user. That is because they know that they can not vouch for how users will put the information to use and realize that they quite properly have a responsibility for might happen as a result. Only a tiny number of site admins have access to the information. And most of those sites don't systematically invite the general public, thus attracting millions from among the unwary to deposit their individually indentifiable information in a vast database where thousands of unvetted users have the option to gather time-lapse information from them for stalking, fraud, identity theft, etc. Furthermore they do not have non-profit status suggesting that they are especially responsible.

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