More voting theory (this time mathematical)
Nov 03, 2002
Nearly all political elections in the United States are plurality votes, in which each voter selects a single candidate, and the candidate with the most votes wins. Yet voting theorists argue that plurality voting is one of the worst of all possible choices.... Unlike these procedures [described in the elided section], the plurality system looks only at a voter's top choice. By ignoring how voters might rank the other candidates, it opens the floodgates to unsettling, paradoxical results.

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LawMeme on the Microsoft Decree, me on voting theory
Nov 01, 2002

It's pretty pointless for me to go on about how I feel about the Microsoft ruling. But I feel obligated to nonetheless at least register as One More Coder who thinks this is complete bullshit, so that my silence is not interpreted as assent. I'll leave writing the actual opinions to two people who have already done a better job then I could hope to do anytime soon. One, James Grimmelmann on LawMeme, and two, John Robb with both of his points regarding the case.

I'd particularly like to echo John's "In the meantime, enjoy your life (family, friends, work, and play) and vote against every person that represents the status quo." I urge you to vote for anybody other then Republican or Democrat if you feel you can possibly afford it in any given race. I think at this juncture, our votes are much better spent empowering non-status-quo parties, almost regardless of whether you agree with them ideologically (worry about that if they might actually win), then letting the Republocrats and Demlicans continue to do the same ol', same ol'. It's the closest thing we have to a real, meaningful "None of the above" vote. I intend to do this next Tuesday.

All the better if you can find an off-party you agree with. I've mentioned this before, but I am increasingly subscribing to a "tug-of-war" voting theory, where I vote for "the direction I want to see things go" rather then necessarily the exact candidate I want to elect. I think adding to the vote count the Liberatarians get is, in the long run, a more meaningful use of my vote then adding it to the Republican or Democrat pile. Even though I wouldn't necessarily want a government composed entirely of Libertarians, I would like to see them have more real influence, which they might start to have if they can garner some actual percentage of votes. Food for thought, anyhow.

Human Justice redux
Oct 30, 2002

In my Human Justice for Human Beings essay, I used as an example of automated law enforcement the idea that somebody could today take satellite imagery, and write a program that would attempt to detect when people do things to wetlands that they are not supposed to do, such as fill them in, or dredge them out, or drain them, etc.

Well, I still don't know if that's happening, but something similar enough to it is happening that I feel justified in claiming that the example is now firmly grounded in reality. The Mercury News reports on a project to photograph the coast of California to look for illegal sea walls. It doesn't use computers to process the photos in any sort of automated fashion, but does take advantage of computer networks to allow the problem to be conveniently partitioned amoung any interested people, which counts as something difficult to do without computers, easy to do with. I even got the "environmental" aspect right. ;-)

Mark expands on comment spam
Oct 29, 2002

Mark expands on a couple of comments I made with regards to the recent beginning of people spamming comments sections of websites. Apparently the weblog community recently passed some sort of critical mass that makes it worth spamming.

Mark, if you read this, I think for now the only "Lojack" solution that will be feasible in the short-to-medium term is the one I proposed in my second comment, which is to let the web site owner easily review all recently posted comment and easily delete offending ones, in combination with a generalized rate-constraining scheme to ensure the user never has to filter through 3000 messages at a time. If enough comment tool authors do this, and enough of the comment tool users are proactive in deleting the spam (which is easily imaginable), it may (emphasize may) deter the spammers from working too hard to deface the comment sections, since unlike email spam, the spammers desired result is that these spams stay there indefinately, so that people (or search engines!) can see them.

Speaking to those who don't believe this, and giving these comments a place on my own site: The fundamental problem is that computers don't understand English, and until you solve that, a human must be in the loop. If you design to that, instead of trying to deny it, you can make this easy to deal with. Try to fight with automated solutions, and you'll only A: Engage with the spam tool makers, who enjoy a good techno-arms-race as much as the rest of us and B: By so engaging with them, you'll encourage them; it's human nature to try to get around things.

Remember, your "technological solution" must jump over all of the following hurdles, in the end:

There's just no way to leap all of these hurdles at once, esp. because of the last one, which implies you're not fighting program vs. program, you're fighting spamming human vs. program. The only way to win that fight is to add human intelligence to your side so it's spamming human vs. website-owning human. Nothing else will do.

Comments removed
Oct 28, 2002

As per Phil's observation people are starting to spam weblog comments, I've disabled the comments here. I think maybe a sum total of 10 comments have been posted anyhow, none of them terribly importent. It's not worth the exposure.

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