Saturday, August 27, 2005

Sploggers and Sploggents

Just now I finished reading an article by Rashmi Bansal on the "Spam on her blogs". I too had similar problems a few days back and had to turn on the word verification feature of blogger. This ensures that no automated script can post comments on your blog. I hope that this will be a good deterrent to spam comments, referred henceforth as Sploggents.

But it is worth noting how far can this technology help. On the bloggers side, assuming most of them are intellectually alert to activate this feature, the Sploggers will have a tough time breaking into the popular blog domains. But as e-mail spamming and phishing, they won't have to sweat much in order to look for fresh victims.

Taking analogy from e-mails, let us assume that we get the feature of marking Sploggenters as Spam, disallowing them to comment on our blog any further. Another advantage could be for people who don't want obscene comments on their blogs and can block people whom they are apprehensive about. (The feature currently available on Blogger is that one can "Flag as objectionable" a blog indicating that the content of the blog is questionable/objectionable. But it does not help in preventing spam comments, nor does it do anything to take the blog out of the web.)

But as we have seen in e-mails, the spammers take refuge in the powers of world wide web by always using a different ID or many a times phoney ID. A new feature that aims to counter this is "Domain Keys". But the trouble again is that people can create new blogs on trusted sites such as Blogger which will lead to passing them as authentic as they have actually been created. On the e-mail world, the feature used to counter this is again Word Verification. So the problem boils down to this.

If with the advent of new technologies, smarter software and hacks, if it becomes possible to pass the Word Verification step by automating it, what will be the future course of action of the Anti-spam regime.

The day is not far as there are many software available that can identify the written alphabet in lot twisted forms. I give the deadline of three years from now. That is, by 2008, the World Wide Web will again become vulnerable to massive spamming because people will be able to move past the Word Verification.

Fortunately for the e-mail community, a solution is already available-The Address Guard (TM by Yahoo!). In a jist, it will allow you to create disposable email addressed that you can give to people you are not sure are trust-worthy. If you start receiving spam from them, you can delete them and as a feedback mechanism know who had sold them, preventing future mistakes. Although this service still requires payment, as soon as one of the service providers will start giving it for free, others will be forced to follow.

The blog service providers will soon be forced to offer tools similar to those already mentioned in order to keep their users happy. As blogging is still in its infancy, it will be easier to enforce radical changes without hurting anyone. I feel that by 2007 the features to block bloggers, posts with certain words will become available. But as we have seen in nature that even after years of advancement, there are evils still incurable; Spammers and Sploggers will be around till eternity.

With the new generation of mobile phones coming, even the GSM/CDMA service providers will have to give an option to maintain block sender list, etc. to prevent harassment and ensure customer satisfaction.

Trivia: courtesy Yahoo! Anti-Spam Resource Center

Why is junk email called spam? The history of spam…

Unsolicited email earned the name "spam" because it resembled a Monty Python skit where a chorus of Vikings drowned out other sounds by singing "spam, spam, spam."

Early digital marketing pioneers contend that spam is actually an acronym for Simultaneously Posted Advertising Message.

The first spam email may have been sent in 1978 by a Digital Equipment Corporation salesperson to announce a product presentation. Source: The New York Times, February 9, 2003.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Being the Black Sheep

I read a few very interesting articles today. The first one was a blog by Don Blohowiak about the people's mentality to make them look different. It was said that many of the law and order problem arise because some people want to look different. I am not talking about Salman Khans and Amisha Patel sorts, but those among the commoners who proclaim that "Rules are meant to be broken". By breaking rules they simply want to be different from the crowd. Just after I read this blog, I stumbled upon another one by Ian that went...

"This was a great reminder for me that too often our conflicts and mis-communications are about holding our position and being right. Wouldn't it be better to seek out the point of divergence or confusion and work on that?"

Although they look quite different in message, I got a line of thought on people's mentality. Here's how I perceive it.

Man is a social animal. This explains the "Herd" mentality that people develop over the years. This is seen abundantly in Indian context. People vote for people of their own caste no matter how worthless they may be and how worthy the opponent be. This "ghettoism" has plagued our society for a long time since for thousands of years, there was discrimination on the basis of caste in the society. People believe that of all people, the one that belong to their caste will hold them for the longest time. The caste offers them something equivalent to a Social Security Number. Instead of being a person, they are reduced to just "Baniya" or "Aiyer". But the story starts here. Now that they are reduced to a tag, they find it difficult to stand out. And not just in caste system, this thing is applicable everywhere.

After finding security in rules, people want to be famous. And they do it by being the "black sheep" of the herd. As is aptly put in one Hindi saying "Badnaam honge to kya naam nahi hoga", which when translated to English means "By getting a bad name, aren't we getting a name". This satisfies their ego. After joining a school (read: "Institution run by rules"), although people will always cheer for their team, they will also plant crackers in the toilets. The former gives them security and the latter, identity.

Now comes the importance of the second blog I read. We will find that there are always people who will never leave their point and keep on arguing even if they realize that they are wrong. This is because by conceding they are wrong, they run the risk of not being taken seriously. "Would people care for a person who goes wrong every time". This even holds good for boys who don't cry. To always appear right seems to be the key hold the head high.

Another aspect of this social behavior is the "Pull-Down Mentality". Seems like a big coincidence, I had written about it at length in one of my other blogs today itself. I will take the relevant sections from it to ease the reading.

The two things I hate most about the student culture I have seen are GPLs and forced treats. For those not into any Indian Colleges, GPL refers to the practice of kicking the butt of a person using all the force you can gather, doing it in a group big enough so that by the time you are finished giving GPLs, the guy on the receiving side (howsoever sturdy and with cushioned buttocks) is also finished. GPLs are usually given to people who have recently got a reason to be happy, like a birthday or an appointment/promotion. No sooner than a person has got a reason to be happy, is he reduced to a limping and weaning lump.

Of similar nature are the treats that I see around. Treats are usually asked when a person gets success in doing something big, which usually amounts to money. So no sooner does the person gets the money, he is hounded to part with it by giving lavish treats at the place the receiving group finds suitable. So the happiness comes at a cost. This aptly looks to me as the pull down mentality of the masses.

"If you don't get success, scare the others from success by punishing them for it."

Though working on an unconscious level, this mentality has telling effects on the way people behave. "Jealousy" is the word I feel apt to describe this phenomenon. That's why we will always have Teacher's chamchas (feet-lickers) telling them who put the crackers in, and Shiv-sainiks who will never allow youths to celebrate Valentine's Day. At this point of time, many of you will be pointing a finger at me that Shiv Sainiks aren't showcasing jealousy by burning down Archie's Galleries. But I will beg to differ. Most of them are not jealous of youths celebrating. They are jealous of America's progress. They perceive Valentine's Day as an American Festival, something whose celebration undermines the pride of being and Indian. Inferiority complex is the twin sister of jealousy.

People will always try to kill the black sheep.

To be a hero.

To be the whitest sheep.