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8.20.2008
Experts Exchange Community News
What's New at Experts Exchange
New Features, MVPs and Milestones

EE Core Conference 2008
A summit meeting in SLO

MySpace and Facebook: The New Viruses
stone5150 on social networking sites

More News and Notes
$20 bill and one shirt, and neither gets wrinkled

Nata's Corner
Thanks for the help, EE!

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What's New at Experts Exchange top

New Features: A few new things are now on Experts Exchange:

  • The Hall of Fame lists have been revamped; they now include weekly and monthly lists, in addition to yearly and overall totals.
  • By request, Mac OS 10.5 Leopard has been added to the list of operating systems in one's profile.

In the testing stages are some new tools for the Cleanup program, and customizable "EEples" -- the images you see on the Premium Skin next to your comments.

Milestones:

  • jkr has earned 7,000,000 points in the C++ Programming zone.
  • zorvek has earned 9,000,000 points in the Excel zone.
  • GrahamSkan has earned 5,000,000 points overall.

Microsoft MVPs: Mea culpa: we will admit that we do not know every member's real name, and as such, we missed [probably more than] a couple of Experts Exchange members who were named to the MVP list; for that, we offer our apologies. Among those we did not include in our last newsletter are VBRocks, who earned his award in Visual Basic; and scott, whose award is in Microsoft Visio. He also wrote:

It's nice to see the recognition given to Microsoft MVPs in the current newsletter -- but you omitted a new Microsoft Visio MVP. The irony of this omission is that I owe my MVP nomination and acceptance 99% to Experts Exchange!!

My profile on the MVP Award site is on the second page of Visio MVPs: https://mvp.support.microsoft.com/communities/mvp.aspx?product=1&competency=Visio.

I was flattered and surprised to learn in July that someone at EE had nominated me and that I had been accepted by Microsoft. BTW, I've been trying to figure out who to thank at EE for this honor -- but I couldn't locate any suitable "contact us" information on the web site, so I would appreciate it if you could provide a name and email address so I may thank the appropriate person.

Scott, we checked with the Admins, and if anyone at EE nominated you, they weren't told about it, and no one at Microsoft ever asked them about you... so we can't really help you find your Secret Admirer, but we can offer you our congratulations for a job well done.

Cleanup Volunteers: Below is a table of all of the active CVs who have helped us close questions, with their cumulative total of questions closed along with their production through August 9.

Expert Cumulative Last 2 Weeks
roos011810305
LeeTutor8457153
DanRollins858112
chris_bottomley25496
TheLearnedOne989676
rindi287460
mlmcc144559
dvz9157
Expert Cumulative Last 2 Weeks
tigermatt284550
compfixer101107037
hdhondt55416
Chris-Dent38815
Tolomir140610
mbizup30984
zoofan11
Experts Exchange Core Conference 2008 top

Our newsletter is a little late this time around because about 45 of your colleagues at Experts Exchange -- the Moderators, some of the Zone Advisors, and a good number of Experts -- were at Experts Exchange's offices last week for the first Core Conference, and everyone there was understandably occupied, so it didn't get sent. The meeting represents the next step in a new era at EE that began in February 2007 with the launch of the new site.

Over the past 18 months, many of the systems that originally appeared have had some changes to them; there have also been a number of new systems incorporated into the site. Most of those changes have been the result of member suggestions and ideas; the purpose of the conference was to further extend the ways in which the site's developers and programmers interact with the membership.

But that's not all. On the agenda for discussion were items related to the ways in which Experts Exchange will grow over the next few years; items related to how better to reward members for their contributions; items related to more new features, some of which will be released in the next week or so; and discussions about how to streamline and improve the existing systems. There were a few fun and games thrown in as well.

We will be posting a rundown of the conference in a special edition in the next week or so, as soon as everyone has recovered from their travels and has had time to digest all the information that went back and forth; we will also post everything on the site.

Editor's footnote: One cannot describe the graciousness, professionalism and enthusiasm of the Experts Exchange management and staff. Although I'm a member of Experts Exchange, doing this newsletter every couple of weeks has allowed me to become a little more familiar than most members with the people there, so I wasn't surprised that we would be received the way we were. But the EE staff went far beyond the call of duty; on behalf of all of the people who attended, 500 points, an A grade and a huge props are due to Redberg, AKA Randy Redberg, the CEO; jonathan_hoekman, the director of marketing; and last, but certainly not least, jennagirl, AKA Jenna Walravin, who coordinated the whole event masterfully.

MySpace and Facebook: The New Viruses top

stone5150 is one of the Zone Advisors at Experts Exchange. In real life, he is an IT administrator for a non-profit organization and an aficionado of Mexican food. He thought so much of the article below that he decided to start a blog with it.

Recently I had to rebuild a couple of work computers because some people had used a proxy bypass to get around the content filter and firewall so they could access several social networking sites. In case you didn't know, we IT people don't put those sorts of protections in place to thwart users from having a good time, but rather to cover our own butts and keep needless repairs to a minimum. Besides, no one ever claimed work was supposed to be fun; otherwise it would be called happy fun time instead of work.

While social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook have a fair amount of innocuous content mostly directed toward online dating, inane ranting and probably far-too-revealing personal information, there is a dark side to them. MySpace has been repeatedly linked to sex offenders, child molesters, pornographic content, character assassination and even a few cases of people committing suicide due to continual harassment on the site. They also consume way too much time and energy spent updating, reading, and playing an idiotic game of one-upmanship to keep your profile more cutting edge and ironic than those of your colleagues and friends. I imagine the productivity loss is on par with that of chain smokers and heavy drinkers.

The practice referred to now as microblogging has seen a huge increase in popularity due to these sites. Microblogging is when you write short, usually incomprehensible, blurbs about the inane things you have been doing all day. It is most entertaining to know that spacedgurl69 had a greasy burger for lunch and cried about the size of her rear end afterwards. I can see the therapeutic benefit to this, but people in the olden days used journals or diaries and very rarely let other people read them. MySpace's instant messaging system has only made things worse.

Letting people know about your hobbies, quotes you like, your preference for music / food / sexual partners / etc., your favorite web comics and other such things might seem like a good idea, but few people seem to realize that pretty much everyone can see this information. I like my boss and most of my coworkers, but I don't want them to see what I do outside of work. I really wouldn't want people who could fire me to know what I do on odd weekends when I am really bored, especially if I was still wild, single, and in my twenties. I would rather charge people for those sorts of stories and probably could make money doing it too.

It is a sad state of affairs when people count their so-called friends by the number of little cutesy pictures with a badly misspelled note beside it on a website. It has become popular for politicians to claim to have millions of friends based on these sites. I hardly have time to keep up with the handful of real friends I have, so I can't imagine the time it takes when you have millions. Then again, if our current crop of idiots-in-power had that many friends they wouldn't have had time to screw up so damn many important things. Think about it: If they had been perusing their friends' social networking pages instead of doing whatever it is they supposedly do, we'd still be able to make it through an airport 'security' checkpoint in less than an hour, the US dollar would still be worth more than its Canadian counterpart, the oil market wouldn't be such a mess, and best of all, 4300 or so soldiers and who knows how many tens of thousands of Iraqis would still be alive.

While researching this article, I found a petition supporting MySpace removal from block lists in schools. Some of the responses, with the associated terrible spelling and grammar, are about the best reasons I can find for keeping it blocked in schools.

Tips From the Moderators top

This issue's Tip was inspired by comments from Lunchy and modus_operandi.

In our last issue, we mentioned the changes to the auto-close system. One of changes was that the act of posting no longer interrupts the auto-close system; that has to be done by clicking the "Object" button and posting your reasoning for not agreeing with what the Asker wants to do.

The problem we're seeing, though, is when someone posts that he wants to accept his comment as the answer -- whether or not he wants to award points -- and then clicks the Object button, thereby stopping his own request. If you're one of those people who is doing that, it would make everyone's life a little easier if you would refrain.

We also want to pass a little tip about selecting zones when you are asking your question. We have suggested that you should cross-post whenever it makes sense. If you are asking a question about downloading songs from your CDs to your iPod, then selecting the iPod, the iTunes zone, and maybe even the hardware zone on Removable Backup Media make sense. But sometimes, you need to get a little more ingenious. For example, the zone for ANT (under Java Editors/IDEs) is a fairly new zone, so you might want to also include the Java programming language zone, because there are a good number of Experts looking at it.

Remember, your zone selections do not cascade up or down. Selecting Access Forms will not put the question in the Access zone, nor will selecting the Databases zone cause your question to be seen by Experts who are looking for questions in the Access zone.

Finally, stcroix103 asked about a list of the acronyms used at Experts Exchange, which caused us to realize that we should probably reprint it:

  • EE - Experts Exchange; it denotes either the site itself or the ownership and management
  • TA - Topic Area; called "zone" on the site, they were called Topic Areas for so long that a lot of people still call them that
  • CS - Community Support; it refers to either the specific topic area or to the Moderators, who handle the questions in the CS topic area, as a group, or to the group of CS topic areas.
  • ZA, PE and ZAPE - Zone Advisor or Page Editor. This started out as PE, then switched to ZA, and because there's no difference between the two jobs, we call them ZAPEs. ZAPEs are members who "watch" their TAs, helping members get answers to their questions. Because they're mostly more senior members, they are familiar with which Experts know what subjects.
  • MC - Member Comment; a comment left in a profile by either a Moderator, Administrator or Zone Advisor that is sent directly to the member. They're only visible to the Member and the Mods/Admins/ZAs, so don't worry that a lot of people are going to see it.
  • PAQ - Previously Asked Question; when a question is PAQed, it is closed, and points are refunded or awarded. PAQ also refers to the database of stored questions and answers.
  • CV - Cleanup Volunteer; a member who spends time going through abandoned questions making recommendations about their closure.
  • RFA, RA - Request For Assistance or Request Assistance; this refers to both the button in a question that allows a member to ask for the Moderators to look at a question, and to the request that is automatically posted in the CS zone.
  • NQ - Neglected Question; a question is marked as neglected when it has gone 12 hours without a comment being posted. When a question becomes neglected, one or both of two things happens: a request for the Moderators to find the asker more help is posted automatically in CS; and a notice is sent to DEs (see below) asking them to look at the question.
  • DE - Designated Expert; members who have a Guru certificate can choose to become Designated Experts in the zones they have the certificate in. When they accept, they will receive notifications of NQs (see above) in those zones, and are eligible to receive bonus points for answering the questions. DE status can also be assigned by a Moderator, but it still must be accepted by the Expert.
  • OFD - Open For Discussion; a week after a question is closed, comments posted to it are OFD comments. They cannot be accepted as the answer (since the question is closed), and they appear at the bottom of the thread. You shouldn't use them to ask a new question either.
More News and Notes top

"They show up with a $20 bill and one shirt, and neither gets wrinkled" (thanks, Ed!): The annual Black Hat conference was in Las Vegas, and only a couple of things really got anyone's attention: First, Dan Kaminsky, the researcher who proved a few months back that it is possible to exploit flaws in the domain naming system, detailed the flaws. A trio of French journalists found themselves all dressed up in Vegas with nowhere to go after they were expelled from the conference for snooping around the conference's network. And if one item from the Huh? department wasn't enough, Microsoft has said it wants "credit" for reporting vulnerabilities to third party software vendors; Redmond also gave an interesting take on open source software in its annual report.

Oh, and lest we forget to give a nod to one of our favorite institutions of higher learning, a federal judge blocked, at the request of the Massachusetts transit authority, a presentation by three MIT students (no, not GhostMod) about hacking subway cards. Unfortunately for the MTA, the injunction came some time after the presentation materials had already been distributed. Another presentation, on a flaw in Apple's encryption, was also pulled from the schedule. Or maybe it never existed. With Apple, who knows, right?

From the Bureau of Wasting Time: How many of the 100 most common words in the English language can you guess in five minutes? Probably none if you're playing with cards.

Maybe they should have been spending their time in a different kind of court: We had an item a month or so ago about how Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had won his court battle with his former college classmates over a settlement agreement in the case involving who actually should own Facebook. The classmates, twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, made the Olympic team in rowing, but finished fifth out of five boats in their first race. They got a second chance to make the semifinals on Sunday.

Speaking of the Olympics, NBC paid a very large fortune for exclusive rights to broadcast the Olympic Games from Beijing, which had absolutely no impact on a radio station in Florida that obtained video of the Opening Ceremonies and posted it to its website before NBC had even broadcast it, let alone posted it. And if you don't like the quality on NBC's website, there's always YouTube. Or China.

And in case you missed it, those three big internet companies that prostrated themselves before the God of the Chinese Economy are finally sorta kinda getting ready to maybe start working on the finishing touches of a code of conduct when it comes to doing business with repressive governments. Apparently, the IOC doesn't really care about such niceties.

What's the Japanese word for "solidly built, maybe a little on the sturdy side, but certainly not chubby"? Everyone who hates video games should be outraged at the revelation in England that a Nintendo Wii called a 10-year-old, 4'9" (145 cm) 84 lb. (38 kg) girl "fat" when doing a body mass analysis. Being a little on the ... big-boned ... side ourselves, we have no comment.

And since we're in that kind of mood, there's another contribution to the file on the translation difficulties of computer systems (thanks, Mark!).

Why the Moderators have always used YIM: Microsoft has "studied" 30 billion conversations among 180 million people and has come to the conclusion that everyone in the world is really 6.6 degrees separated from Kevin Bacon. We'd like to know what business of theirs is who we send messages to.

TSA prepares to open eBay store: If you're traveling to the US, don't be surprised if the folks at the airport decide that you really don't need your laptop or iPhone. Under regulations the Homeland Security people released last month, federal agents can seize your laptop or other electronic device -- even if there's no reason to do so -- and keep it as long as they want. They can share whatever is stored on it with anyone they choose. And they don't have to 'splain nothin', even if you're a US citizen. The complete regs are here, and for your review, the text of the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution is here.

Delpiero? Didn't he play for Padova in the late 80s, early 90s? Eleven people have been charged with the theft and sale of 40 million credit card numbers stemming from the TJMax hacking case. Only three people are in custody, and one of them is known only by an online alias.

Software of the week: Edison from Verdiem -- a company that helps other companies reduce their electricity bills -- is free for consumers. Your typical five-computer house, assuming they're all PCs, can save $200 a year. Now, if these guys from MIT come through, we'll all be packing around laptops with solar panels in the next few years.

When it's all said and done, we'll let you know... but at this point, it's still a situation that gets only stranger by the minute. "It's" is what is going on at Yahoo, besides the inexorable decline of its stock price:

Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel, paper by the ton... Or electrons by the megabit.

Notes from the shallow end of the gene pool: Some time ago, the good scumbags at the MPAA hired a hacker (he got $15,000) to break into the files of Valence Media -- the company that developed TorrentSpy -- to steal copies of emails that were to be used in a lawsuit against Valence. Valence sued, but in 2007, a federal judge ruled that because the hacker didn't intercept the transmission of the emails and other data (he "took it from storage"), he wasn't in violation of the 1968 law against illegal wiretapping. The appeals court is reviewing the decision; hopefully, the appeals court will slap the MPAA the same way another court did when it said that Cablevision can start selling its DVR service.

Nata's Corner top
Nata's Picture

I have mentioned that my new laptop came with Vista on it. I have also mentioned that there are times when I think my Vista-enabled laptop is best used to keep papers from flying around when there is a breeze coming through the window.

Everything in our home network runs through a wireless router. We do that in part because we're far enough from anyone that we don't have to worry much about people piggybacking off our router, and partly because our house doesn't lend itself to running wires and installing jacks. The problem is that our cable provider hasn't bothered to upgrade most of its wiring around town for the last forty years or so, and every once in a while, the system drops just long enough that we have to reset our IP configuration.

I know just enough to be dangerous, and the other day, for the first time, I was looking for the way to get to a DOS window; on my desktop, I just click Run and then type in cmd, and I get a box that lets me type in ipconfig/renew, and I'm up and running. So where is that box on Vista? I couldn't find it -- until I got my other half to go on Experts Exchange, where he found this question and this one, which is even better. Thanks, folks -- I knew there was a reason why I keep looking at EE.

In an article up a few paragraphs from here, stone5150 talks about why he thinks the MySpaces and Facebooks are like viruses. Here's another reason: there's a new virus that targets MySpace and Facebook users, turning their computers into zombies that look at the friends' lists and send them the same malicious program, which is supposedly a Flash file.

It's not just the MySpace types (I know you have this image in your head about the typical MySpace user) that are getting stung; even the people you would expect to know better are buying into the various scams and viruses that are available. Just take a look at what happened a few months ago on LinkedIn.

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