Techdirt

by Leigh Beadon




Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the a-better-sunday-read-than-the-times dept

The Sunday Times got hammered this week over its article that simply parroted the government's talking points, and its responses were less than stellar. After they attempted to shunt all the blame onto said government, rw won most insightful comment of the week by pointing out the other side of the complicity coin:

This is why governments want to define "Journalists" as only those working for major media outlets.

In second place, we've got a comment that brings up a point I've never really thought of (and one that I admit I'm not sure about, but need to consider more) from Lane D on the subject of biometrics:

This is just my opinion
But I wish people would stop thinking of biometrics as a replacement for passwords. Think of them as a replacement for your username, but not as a replacement for a password.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start with a comment from last week's Techdirt History post, which is technically outside the boundaries for this week, but comments on those posts rarely get a shot, so why not? After we pointed to an older post asking if intellectual property was fundamentally immoral, one anonymous commenter made a pretty excellent case for "yes":

Intellectual property must give people the brainpower of a bowl of lukewarm oatmeal.

It does. It's the word "property" that does it. It's like gold fever, but for imaginary property.

Is intellectual property immoral?

Yes it is. First of all, it misrepresents the Constitutional limits of a temporary monopoly privilege as a thing that can be owned, and should therefore be owned permanently like actual property.

Secondly, it creates a breed of froth-mouthed adherents who not only disregard everyone else's rights, they insist on getting laws passed that actively infringe upon them.

Thirdly, it facilitates theft from the public domain via expansion, locking up works that were formerly free to use.

Fourthly, it robs us of our cultural heritage by letting unprofitable works on celluloid film decay instead of enabling them to be copied and saved for future generations.

Seriously, don't get me started on how utterly offensive and morally bankrupt "intellectual property" is. You can call it intellectual output if you will but if I see anyone calling it property or describing the experience thereof as "consuming," believe me I will put you straight. Let's not be using words from the real thieves' lexicon.

/End rant

Next, we've got a comment on our cross-post from the new Copia Institute website about hacking policy through innovation, not lobbying. After one commenter suggested that was difficult verging on impossible, another anonymous commenter composed an excellent response:

The Internet upsets information monopolies. (Encyclopedias)

And yet Wikipedia has come to dominate without requiring any policy changes.

But I could also repeat: Netflix, Amazon Prime

Netflix has also come to dominate without requiring any policy changes.

Innovation like SpaceX threatens fat dinosaurs

SpaceX is doing just fine without any policy changes.

Of all the things you've mentioned, only Uber and Lyft are hindered by current regulations. Your examples most contradict your premise that "you must convince the ruling class to allow us mere peasants to create innovation."

Over on the funny side, first place comes from our post about Comcast's use of misleading polls in a misguided attempt to fix its horrible reputation. DannyB did a hilarious job of imagining what one of these polls might look like:

1. How many problems have you had with your Comcast service?
[x] Zero
[_] Less than one

2. Which of the following problems have you experienced with Comcast? (Please check all that apply.)
[_] Was unable to express in words how happy I was with Comcast service!
[_] Could not reach enough Comcast people to express my joy with Comcast service.
[_] The online payment system has a bug that will not allow me to pay more than the actual price for the service.

3. How would you rate your Comcast service?
[_] Fantastical
[_] Amazing
[_] Wonderful
[_] Marvelous
[_] Good

Thank you for your feedback. As a reward for sending us feedback, would you like to receive craptacular email offers from selected Comcast partners?
[_] Yes! Please fill my inbox to overflowing!
[_] No. (but fill my inbox anyway)

For second place, we head to a post we titled "Designer Knockoff Enthusiast Issues DMCA Notice Targeting Half The Internet, Fails To Remove A Single URL." Did you catch the error? No? Thankfully, one anonymous commenter did:

FYI, you have a typo in your headline. It should read:

DMCA Notice Enthusiast Issues Blog on Designer Knockoffs ...

For editor's choice, we return to the Sunday Times saga, where CNN asked the reporter some tough questions and got some unimpressive responses. Agonistes pointed out the other big story here:

Ubelieveable
I'm absolutely shocked that a CNN employee asked relevant and coherent questions of a guest.

(To be honest, I watch so little TV news these days that I don't even know if it's fair to target CNN specifically — but given the general feebleness of that entire journalistic medium at the moment, the sentiment seems right.)

Finally, we've got a comment in response to the news that the European Human Rights court declared sites liable for user comments. Jigsy offered up the only thing that can safely be said about this bad decision:

[ This comment cannot be viewed due to disapproval by the European Human Rights Court. Sorry about that. :/ ]

That's all for this week, folks!


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  • identicon
    Saribro, 21 Jun 2015 @ 4:11pm

    Biometrics

    I found the most succinct explanation of why biometrics are a bad idea for passwords in an Ars Technica article comment once:
    http://arstechnica.com/civis/viewtopic.php?p=28201939#p28201939

    Biometrics are fine as replacements for usernames, not passwords. They're good for identification, and useless for authentication.

    Usernames should be unique to each user, never change, and can be public. Biometrics are all three.

    Passwords should be unique to each user, should be changeable, and can't be public. Biometrics are only the first.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 21 Jun 2015 @ 6:57pm

      Re: Biometrics

      Well put. This is precisely right.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2015 @ 8:02pm

      Re: Biometrics

      Yeah, that makes sense to me. But couldn't you also just go a step higher and say that the entire purpose of a username/password combination is to ensure that a certain person is the one accessing something, and biometrics are capable of that by themselves?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        MrTroy (profile), 21 Jun 2015 @ 11:24pm

        Re: Re: Biometrics

        ...and biometrics are capable of that by themselves?

        Maybe. But probably not.

        As soon as you are trying to use biometrics in a digital form, you are subject to replay attacks. See also https://www.schneier.com/essays/archives/1999/08/biometrics_uses_and.html (still relevant after 16 years!) for other reasons why biometrics make poor passwords.

        Biometrics are only effective as both username and password in situations where you don't really need passwords at all. eg- logging on to a multi-user home computer - but not for getting access to sensitive files (eg- password safe), or at least not by itself.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 1:50am

          Re: Re: Re: Biometrics

          Isn't it theoretically possible to use the biometric data as a salted hash mask for encypting the passphrase?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            MrTroy (profile), 22 Jun 2015 @ 3:24am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Biometrics

            Definitely possible, yes. And that's a better way to use the biometric data than directly as a password, but I'm not sure that I can see a benefit over just using a random salt

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Richard (profile), 22 Jun 2015 @ 4:51am

      Re: Biometrics

      I think you over generalise.
      Not all biometrics are the same.

      In particular the live signature biometric.

      (Where you sign your name on a pad and it records not just the signature - but how you did it)

      This is unique, changeable and the signing process can't be public - although the result can be.

      On a trip to Norway last week I saw a terminal. that was enabled for this process - so it does exist.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        MrTroy (profile), 22 Jun 2015 @ 5:58pm

        Re: Re: Biometrics

        Signatures are an interesting biometric, but it's interesting to consider why/how/if they work. Those terminals don't verify your password, they simply record it - just as if you were signing a receipt. The purpose of the recorded signature is as a counter to if you were to dispute the transaction.

        I remember having to sign out of a hospital after a surgery on my right shoulder. I'm right handed, but the nerve block on my right arm hadn't worn off yet, so I had to sign with my left hand. It obviously looked nothing like my normal signature, yet it was completely acceptable. So what was the point? I might as well have asked the staff member to sign on my behalf, and yet that immediately suggests ways that it can be abused. So why do we accept signatures at all, considering that very few signatures are performed live?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jake, 21 Jun 2015 @ 4:35pm

    Uber

    Of all the things you've mentioned, only Uber and Lyft are hindered by current regulations. Your examples most contradict your premise that "you must convince the ruling class to allow us mere peasants to create innovation."


    Anyone calling Uber and Lyft "innovative" is referred to the concept of a minicab, as explained by Wikipedia here. The business model's existed since the Sixties, Uber just do it over the Internet.

    Anyone remember a time when Techdirt used to loudly call bullshit on companies claiming that automatically made their product something new and radically innovative?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Killercool (profile), 21 Jun 2015 @ 6:12pm

      Re: Uber

      Innovation /= invention.

      Invention is creating something new. Innovation is creating something that people want.

      Someone else invented the smartphone, or at least it's component parts. Apple innovated by releasing the iPhone.

      Someone else invented the minicab and the internet. Uber and Lyft innovated by combining them in a way that people want.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Mike Masnick (profile), 21 Jun 2015 @ 10:30pm

        Re: Re: Uber

        Innovation /= invention.


        Right. This. I was just about to write almost exactly your comment and I see you already did it for me. Thanks!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Michael, 22 Jun 2015 @ 3:28am

          Re: Re: Re: Uber

          You could have re-written it better, just to make the point.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Jake, 22 Jun 2015 @ 6:44am

          Re: Re: Re: Uber

          Point taken. I still think Uber get more credit than they really deserve for disrupting the existing market with their business model, though. Especially the corners they cut on driver background or vehicle roadworthiness checks!

          And I'll be sorely disappointed if you fail to jump all over them should they try and patent it!

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Richard (profile), 22 Jun 2015 @ 5:16am

        Re: Re: Uber

        Innovation is creating something that people want.


        This is a recent re-definition of the word that is not universally accepted.

        In any old dictionary the two words mean the same


        The meaning you are referring to was invented originally by Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter - and may have become commonly understood amongst econiomists - but to the rest of the world innovation and invention are differentiated by the fact that invention requires some kind of effort whereas an innovation can be any arbitrary change in an established pattern. Most dictionaries still agree with me on this point.

        In short the use of the word innovation in this sense is itself an innovation - but not one that I (and many other people) want.

        I agree totally with the sentiment that you are trying to convey, that there is an important difference between creating something new and creating something new AND useful/desirable but I think it is simply confusing to try to hijack the English language to the cause.

        Please try and find a word that really already means what you want and stop confusing people and creating false conflict with economists jargon.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Leigh Beadon (profile), 22 Jun 2015 @ 7:37am

          Re: Re: Re: Uber

          You honestly view that as "hijacking" the english language?

          This is how English works. Words adapt over time. Nuances emerge between words that were once synonymous, or disappear between words that were once distinct. And the innovation/invention distinction is a very useful one that a lot of people are very familiar with, and one which is becoming increasingly more mainstream as the world of technology and economics from which it emerges becomes increasingly mainstream.

          There is almost no such thing as a word whose definition is "universally accepted"

          And hey, if you want to go even further, the Latin root inventio means a finding or discovery, while innovatio means to renew, restore or change. So aren't the people who believe they have the same meaning the ones getting it wrong?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 12:49pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Uber

            Weird thing, it's starting to seem like there's a range of nuanced (but distinct) concepts between 'invention' and 'innovation'. Someone needs to innovent some neologisms to fill the gaps.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Richard (profile), 23 Jun 2015 @ 3:03am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Uber

            And the innovation/invention distinction is a very useful one that a lot of people are very familiar with, and one which is becoming increasingly more mainstream as the world of technology and economics from which it emerges becomes increasingly mainstream.

            Yes - but it only works when you are preaching to the converted - because those who don't accept your point won't accept your meaning of the word.

            The problem I have is that although I totally agree with the underlying point you are trying to make I think it is foolish to hang the argument on a meaning of a word that is not generally accepted. That way you antagonise not just the people who disagree with your point - but also those who agree with your point but are unaware of or dislike your use of words. How can that be a good strategy?

            And hey, if you want to go even further, the Latin root inventio means a finding or discovery, while innovatio means to renew, restore or change.

            Yes that is true - although many dictionaries seem to make them the same.

            In any case the difference is not your difference. I would say that the difference is that an invention is a change that required some effort to make and gives a positive technical improvement whereas an innovation is simply any change large or trivial, good or bad. This is quite close to the reverse of your version.


            Also the medieval meaning where innovation==heresy is a really inconvenient for your point, in fact it plays into the hands of your opponents, and the legacy of that meaning still persists in many minds and will continue to do so because old documents that use the word that way.

            In every field outside of economics/business the extra baggage of your interpretation of the word is meaningless and so the word will continue to be used simply to denote any change no matter how mainstream the technical/business world becomes.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 21 Jun 2015 @ 4:53pm

    On Al Jazeera This Week ...

    ... The Listening Post covers the Sunday Times hatchet job on Snowden. They take the trouble to get a number of different viewpoints, including one guy from the spook community who is quite clearly combative and defensive about the whole thing. But nevertheless, nothing can cover up the journalistic shortcomings of the newspaper story.

    You can watch it here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2015 @ 6:50pm

    Lets not forget how much Google innovated. Megaupload also innovated and was hindered by corrupt government.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    charliebrown (profile), 21 Jun 2015 @ 8:16pm

    Amazon Is Hindered By The Government

    I live outside of the US/UK. Australia. I cannot buy any electronics items from them. This includes video games and blank cassettes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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