October 18, 2005
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Some items OTHER than Ally Sheedy

We love getting mail -- at least, the kind that doesn't try to sell us something. Occasionally, we'll try to solicit some (with mixed success); other times, it will just jump into the boat, to quote Lunchy. Some of what we've recently received is below.

We had an item a couple of weeks ago about duz, who earned the first Genius certificate awarded in Online Marketing. In singing his praises, one of his colleagues in the TA said, "duz has forgotten more about online marketing than I and the next two best Experts there will ever know."

That got us several complaints that we had made a typographical error, but let's take a look at the sentence. It says simply that duz has already discarded more information about online marketing than three other people will ever learn. It's high praise... but it also makes perfectly good sense.

gregoryyoung, the Page Editor for C# who has been writing about programming issues for the last month or so for us, received a very kind letter from MarkChengdu regarding the last article, which was about anti-patterns. "I found the newsletter interesting and informative, and I enjoyed reading it," Mark wrote. "Thanks to everyone who put it together and sent it out." You're welcome, Mark, and thanks for your email.

Finally, we received one email on the item we had that Eolas had prevailed in its lawsuit with Microsoft over the patent on how browsers handle plugins, from Havin_it, who wrote:

I hoped this might just go away once Microsoft's ninja lawyers went on the defensive and things went quiet on the courtroom front... no such luck, I guess.

Two years ago, I'll admit, I savoured the irony of big bad MSFT being caught on the wrong end of a software patent. Right now that's giving way to a sense of dread.

Surely this patent, particularly once already vindicated by legal precedent against Microsoft, spells equal doom for other browsers using active embedded content? If there is a distinction in the terms of the act between IE and other browser/plugin architectures, I don't grasp it.

If there is an open, standards-based implementation that successfully side-steps the patent (something with SMIL or other XML dialect perhaps?), it would be delicious to see Microsoft left no choice but to play ball with the others. But somehow I'll remain just a mite skeptical of this happening...

Keep those cards and letters coming...

Tip from the Moderators: Points and Grades

"I don't see no p'ints about that frog that's better'n any other frog." -- Mark Twain, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County

Here's the official way that the points system is supposed to work: When the asker of a question posts the points, s/he is saying what the question is worth, based on its difficulty or urgency. That has nothing -- not a single thing -- to do with whether the asker gets a good answer or not.

That's where the grading comes in. Despite the words EE uses (Excellent, Good or Average), the fact is that a C grade is the lowest grade a member can give on a question. Not only does it become part of the Expert's grading history, but it also becomes a part of the Asker's grading history as well. While EE doesn't condone it, too many C grades by an Asker will cause Experts to avoid his/her questions.

So the next time you're planning on giving someone a C grade, remember three things. First, there's a pretty good chance the Moderators will be asked to change it, which means that you'll be asked to explain it. Second, your grading history will have an impact on your ability to get your questions answered -- and it won't matter how many points you offer. Third, most Experts will accept a lower grade if you explain why you're giving it before you actually do. They may even try a little harder to find the answer for you.

Blogging and a free press

"Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one." -- A. J. Liebling, The Wayward Pressman

Blogging advocates were justifiably pleased last week when the state Supreme Court in Delaware overturned a lower court's decision that required Comcast to reveal the identity of a blogger who had written about Patrick Cahill, a town councilman in Smyrna; Cahill and his wife sued for defamation. The lower court allowed the Cahills to subpoena Comcast's records in an effort to find out who they were suing, but the Supreme Court said that they had not done enough to find out who the blogger was.

Of more importance was that the Court mentioned, in its 34-page ruling, that blogs are generally opinion, and are therefore not subject to defamation lawsuits. "Given the context, no reasonable person could have interpreted these statements as being anything other than opinion. ... The statements are, therefore, incapable of a defamatory meaning," wrote Chief Justice Myron Steele.

That wasn't the only news on the blog front. Google announced a while back that it had created a search system for blogs, so Yahoo went one better, by announcing that it would put bloggers side by side with "legitimate" news sources on its website. That's created a minor stir in the journalism business.

Journalists are a funny lot (we grew up in the newspaper business, so we've been around a lot of them). In addition to feeling like they're deserving of a free lunch for attending your event, they also like to feel that they know what's going on -- virtually all the time, and under all circumstances. That attitude, for decades, was reinforced, if only because newspeople (mostly of the print variety) WERE the only people who would find out about and say what was going on.

"The superficiality of newspaper coverage is without excuse; public characters appear as on a child's drawing, two-dimensional and without perspective. All that is lacking is the childish charm. That is not the fault of the reporters but of their employers, who will neither invest in thorough reporting nor even sanction it, because it might disturb their own concept of the world they live in." -- A. J. Liebling, Op cit.

Over the last 50 years or so, though, journalists have fallen on the integrity index, in part because of television (it's pretty hard to be a journalist when you can't write three consecutive sentences and have to condense a story into a 20-second item before cutting to Joe on sports); in part because people don't read (newspaper circulation in the US has been steadily dropping, and reporters don't get paid that well); and in part because getting a story, even if it's just the regurgitated pablum offered up at a staged news conference, is more important than getting THE story, which is usually real work -- the regurgitation is where the buffet is, but identification of the pablum isn't a consideration.

So the controversy is pretty straightforward: On the one hand, some would allow people with opinions distorted by either a lack of or ignorance of facts to be given the same status on the legitimacy index (and the same legal protections) as those who would actually research and report; and on the other, they would allow them standing as "journalists" without their ever having to go out and actually research a story simply because they're willing to express an opinion and have the computer skills and time to do so.

NOTE: we're not suggesting for a minute that people aren't entitled to their opinions, and they aren't entitled to use the means at their disposal to express them. However, I can hit an 18-foot jump shot, but that doesn't make me Michael Jordan.

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Page Two: More News and Notes
Nata's Corner: New tools, old tactics

woman in specticalsThere have been a lot of stories in the news lately (see the "Legal Notices" section of the newsletter over the last couple of months) about people who are creating viruses (actually, trojans and worms) for reasons that aren't the reasons we're used to -- spam, Nigerian "investments", and the old fashioned phishing attacks. Now, they're becoming a lot more sophisticated.

Everyone has seen "The Godfather", where Robert DeNiro plays a young Vito Corleone whose neighborhood is dominated by a man who receives money from shopkeepers for providing the service of ensuring that their businesses aren't disrupted and their families aren't harmed. It's called a "protection" racket, and now, the people who create zombie networks have begun to threaten businesses with denial of service attacks if they don't pay.

But that's not the only example of old style crime with new style tools. Crooks are not only going after the little guy -- they also know that there is a lot more money in a bank than there is in the cookie jar on the shelf, so they're now targeting businesses with the same kind of spyware that can be found on a home PC. Spyware uses screen captures, key loggers, behavioral analysis and common word recognition to gather data; combined with common virus software, all it would take is a well-written cute toolbar and a mildly-lapsed security policy to infect thousands of computers in a matter of minutes.

The latest phishing scam is one that I have to admit caught me a little off guard. I got an email, supposedly from eBay, that said that a member had complained that he had not received an item I'd supposedly sold him, with links to a page. It wasn't very well done -- it looked like an eBay email, though all of the links were to an IP address with the page being index.html -- but we can expect that to evolve and mature. If you get one of these, don't click the link -- just go directly to eBay.com and take a look at your account.

Inside the numbers
ameba, one of EE's prominent Experts, provides us with a list of newly earned Certificates. His list of all of the Certified Experts is located at his site. The list below covers the period from October 2 through October 16.
Expert Certified in Topic Area
dannywareham LPurvis leclairm DrB1309 dmitryz6 squirrl mgh_mgharish PSSUser danaseaman pai_prasad vadimrapp1 jimhorn Qlemo ckratsch cpc2004 dlwyatt82 LeeTutor mattisflones Edwin_C awilinsk dba_netanya Genius Guru Master Master Master Master Master Master Master Master Master Master Master Master Master Master Genius Master Master Master Master MS Access MS Access MS Access MS Access MS Access MS Access MS Access Visual Basic Visual Basic Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL Windows 2000 Windows 2000 Windows 2000 Windows XP Windows XP ASP.NET ASP.NET ASP.NET
Expert Certified in Topic Area
pseudocyber PennGwyn Danny_Larouche NetoMeter TimYates matthewdfleming EddieShipman dstanley9 Zephyr__ marc_nivens ram_0218 FBIAGENT oleggold Zephyr__ ckratsch RobWill jimhorn umbrae Jakob_E war1 mikeleebrla Sage Guru Master Master Genius Master Wizard Master Master Wizard Master Master Master Master Master Master Master Master Master Guru Master Networking Networking Networking Networking Java Java Delphi C# C# Exchange_Server Oracle Oracle Oracle VB.NET Win Server 2003 Win Server 2003 Programming ColdFusion Flash Operating Systems Operating Systems
Expert Certified in Topic Area
nedvis Heem14 garycase sajuks WoodyRoundUp Eternal_Student moorhouselondon leew madheeswar Gertone actonwang JFrederick29 -Leo- calvinetter ravenpl ozo diasroshan humeniuk PsiCop earthman2 Master Master Master Master Guru Master Master Master Wizard Wizard Master Sage Master Master Master Guru Guru Wizard Master Guru Operating Systems Linux Storage HTML PHP and Databases CSS Miscellaneous Miscellaneous Lotus Notes/Domino XML JSP Routers Routers Firewalls Linux Net. Unix Prog. PowerBuilder Online Marketing Groupwise PostgreSQL
1680 experts have 2735 certifications: Genius:66 Sage:117 Wizard:175 Guru:488 Master:1889
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