Thursday, February 25, 2010

Appropriate editorial emphasis of the lead Global Warming article in Wikipedia

I.ve gotten a bit involved in trying to assist in bringing some more collegial editing to the Global warming and Climate Change areas within wikipedia

One thing that has come up is what the right emphasis for the lead article ought to be... should it be primarily science or should it be on more than just that, such as sociopolitical and economic considerations as well, and how much of which. My talk page has been abuzz with this and other GW related topics (for example see Primary focus (a permanent link once archived will be in archive 63)

I decided to see what Britannica had to say as a possible guide to the right emphasis...
here is what I found... Read it for yourself. I confess I found it a bit harder to follow what their lead was but they do seem to lead with the science. However there is a fair bit of emphasis given to other matters as well. So perhaps not a perfect test but interesting.

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Friday, July 3, 2009

Password masking considered harmful?

Private Folder password promptImage via Wikipedia

We've all seen it, it's ubiquitious... the little box to type your password into. The line of asterisks grows as you type the secret characters in.

We've had it drilled into us, make your password safe, use lots of different kinds of characters (some sites even require that you use 3 of the 4 types, lowercase uppercase, numeric, special characters), don't use a common dictionary word, make it long, and so on.

So there I am on some site or another that shall remain nameless, trying to enter in "RodgerD0dgerC0dger!" and all I see is a line of *********

The phone rings mid stride. What character am I on anyway? hmm.. let me count backwards... I think I got it... OK.

"wrong password". Let's try that again ... A bird chirps outside the window Hey, did I remember to make that third 0 a zero but not the first one? Ah, must be right... OK.

"wrong password". Drat... Give it another try. Almost done.... Did my hand slip when I was holding down the 1 to make the ! ? No way... OK...

"wrong password" followed by "You have entered an incorrect password three times in a row and are now locked out of the system, please call our help desk between the hours of 8 AM and 6 PM Mumbai time to get it reset"

Argh! It's happened to all of us. And it's so needless. What do those asterisks do for us anyway? Unless we are being shoulder surfed, nothing.

As reported on Out-law.com there may finally be a realisation dawning that this is needless, and mindless, security. Well known usability expert Jakob Nielsen recently wrote about this in his AlertBox of 23 June 2009, opining that it's not needful, cleartext is better, and it may actually make things less secure. For those that actually have to deal with shoulder surfing, a checkbox to make the system use asterisks in that one case (or default to that for high security sites) is the easy way to handle that.

High time this was done. Start suggesting it to the sites you frequent. I think I'll go open a Bugzilla bug for MediaWiki if there isn't one already.


Oh, and RodgerDodgerCodger isn't actually my password.


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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dirty Laundry

Italian street, with laundry hung to dryDirty Laundry, out for all to see... Image via Wikipedia

There is rather a nasty thread on WR right now, about me. I have been holding back because this whole thread is wrong on many levels. The following doesn't exactly put me in a very favorable light as far as interpersonal relationships go. So be it.

When I started editing on WP, my wife and I had been estranged for almost 10 years. We led completely separate lives. I was approached by a female Wikipedian and we had a short relationship. That led to a couple more, none lasting more than a few months. To me, at the time, these were serious, sincere relationships, not casual, and I am still on good terms with these women.

After some time, Josette and I started talking again. She decided to look into Wikipedia and LEGO to see if we might find some common ground, and by mid 2007 we had decided to get back together... it's been bumpy, I've made mistakes, and even backslid a couple of times, but we are trying very hard, we are still working at it, and things are getting better. The other women I had relationships with all understand that I have gone back to my wife and they all respect that. One benefit of this statement is to ensure that women that don't know the situation are now also aware of this.

I had heard vague rumors of stuff being shopped around to ArbCom, but until the last few days, I did not know what this was about, or who the person was that supposedly took offense and later raised a ruckus on WR. She gave me no indication of any problem at the time. Rather, she used phrasing like "mad 4 it" in response to my seeking permission as the conversation progressed.

While it is true that I have always been a flirt, this whole thing bothers me because I have always respected the women on WP and women in general. I am sorry if any woman feels I was out of line in my chatting, but I was always, I thought, careful to repeatedly check for permission, to ask if it was OK, and to always remember that "no means no". Even so, I'm sorry anyway, it should not have happened.

The important takeaways from this are:
  • None of this has any bearing on my carrying out my duties and responsibilities on the various wikis.
  • If you think someone is acting inappropriately and you don't like it, call them on it. Or get a friend to say something. Or just leave. Any of those things are better than engaging in whisper campaigns later.
  • The days of my looking for relationships, of having relationships, are in the past, and have been for quite a while, because I am committed to my relationship with my wife.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Something for nothing?

Auburn Hills, MichiganChrysler Headquarters,
Auburn Hills, MI,
Image via Wikimedia Commons
S0... Fiat (late of greenmailing GM not to merge with them after GM foolishly signed up, to the tune of 2B USD) gets 35% of Chrysler.

What did they give in exchange? Billions of dollars? Some factories? 35% of themselves? Nope. None of the above. They gave nothing except the promise of some future advice and access to technology.

Great work if you can get it...

Tell you what, Mr. Nardelli, give me .0035% of Chrysler and I'll give you some advice. Or maybe I'll just give it to you for free. You should have actually come out with the Durango Hybrid back when you first started talking about it. You know, in 2000? Then you'd have some technology experience by now. And stop giving away your company for nothing.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Infrastructure?

Amtrak train in downtown Orlando, Florida.Amtrak Locomotive
image via
Wikimedia Commons
First, as a libertarian, I'm of course holding my nose even just writing this post... things should be funded by private enterprise rather than government. But since it's being talked about, and it's going to happen anyway... might as well make some constructive suggestions

Everyone has ideas for what sort of infrastructure the big stimulus should build. Everyone says be smart, and avoid pork... way easy to say but hard to do.

Some stuff is obvious:

  • Improve the electric grid so that renewable energy can be routed to where it is needed.
  • Fix bridges, tunnels, water mains, and so forth that really need it
Those are both "construction" sorts of things. Manufacturing has been hit too, though.

Amtrak has seen a surge in ridership of late, as other modes of transportation have become pricier. But they're running into limits. Why? Amtrak has a rolling stock shortage. For years, their capital budget has been far short of replacement, and there are lines of passenger cars in need of repair, awaiting funds. New trains or more frequent service are proposed and often deferred because there just isn't the rolling stock available.

So then... build some... increase Amtrak's capital budget, and get the shops going repairing things. That has the advantage of not only stimulating manufacturing, it also produces something that's actually needed, and when used, will reduce energy consumption.

And don't limit it to Amtrak, review all the other mass transit modes and see what capital improvements for rolling stock have been lacking. We need that more than we need new freeways that promote urban sprawl.






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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bonanzle

Two telephones can make only one connection, f...Network effect.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
I sell on eBay. Mostly LEGO brand sets, because that's what I have a lot of and what I know a fair bit about (plus b... IBM doesn't sell a lot of LEGO products so I'm clear on Conflict Of Interest concerns)

(I think I've got a link to my store over there on the sidebar... but hey, just in case you missed it, my store is Milton Train Works...)

I made Power Seller status a while back. Nothing big, it's very small time, but we do sell a fair bit. I do OK, but I am there not because it's cheap but rather, it's the biggest venue. Network effect means it's a good place to be if you want a lot of buyers.

For the record eBay charges small sellers like me, all in, somewhere around 15 %, give or take, of the gross sale price when you calculate store fees, listing fees, and final value fees. Plus another 3% for Paypal. Periodically, I look at what eBay is charging me and wish I had a different alternative. People keep trying to introduce some, but so far none has panned out.

But maybe this time it will be different. Bonanzle.com has come on the scene fairly recently and seems to actually be doing OK. They make it easy to migrate, you can just import all your eBay listings into a "booth" and away you go.

So I figured why not. I set up yesterday. It was easy. And today, I had my first sale.

Color me pleased. I hope you will give Bonanzle a try. Competition is good.

My Bonanzle "booth" is also called Milton Train Works. Tell all your friends :) If you mention this blog posting when you make an offer, I'll give you a 5 percent discount. Let's see if that viral marketing thing actually works :)

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Toward less boring layouts

Bill Ward, of BayLUG/BayLTC has a blog...

This post on track geometry is worth reading. Though LEGO has ended 9v, there is a lot of 9v track out there. As well, the ideas work for their new RC track too.

The images were done with Track Designer but you can experiment with BlueBrick as well.

MichLUG uses some of these ideas (notably the 45 degree curve) but there are others that we don;t use enough of. Myself, I use the 1 straight == 2 curves alignment trick all the time.

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