Spam filtration

The problem that has caused comments from regular readers to be treated as spam should now be resolved.

For the information of other MT and Akismet users, it relates to how MT handles multiple spam tests. MT-Akismet assigns a score of +/-6 to each comment, then the e-mail and URL fields are checked against past comments in order to establish trust. You used to get a score of +1 for previous publication of your e-mail and +1 for a URL.

The problem arose at the next step, where the total score is averaged across the three tests. MT doesn’t include zero scores in this, so the following bug results: if you get one point for each of the trust checks, and six from Akismet, your average score is +2.67, which is below the trigger level. If, however, you had never commented before, rather than divide the 6 points from Akismet across the three tests, MT disregards the zero scores, so you get a final score of +6 and instant publication.

The workaround is to increase the scores for links and e-mail to 2.


It says something about AFOE charter member and – to use a NASA title – principal investigator Edward Hugh that, when Nosemonkey recently did a roundup of new European blogs, the top one on the list had already been roped in to EdWorld, as a contributor to Demography Matters and Global Economy Matters.

You will be assimilated.

Eurodemocracy and E-democracy

Nosemonkey suggests that the cross-European effort to make data on the CAP’s beneficiaries available might be an example of how a European demos could function. There’s more detail at Martin Stabe’s, and the searchable database is at

I’m quite keen on this. Not so much because I’m sympathetic to the whole “lacking a European demos” debate – personally, I think it’s over-schematic and essentially useless – but because it’s an opening for a different kind of debate. Look at national demoses (I invite any classicists on board to correct this backformation) – do you really want another, bigger one? Even at the European national level, it’s a scene of highly formalised, big-media dominated, fact-light jousting. Look at the nearest ones in scale to a putative Euro-democracy: the US, with its sterile two-party dynamic and addiction to campaign funding, China and Russia (nuff said), India, with epic fractionalisation, corruption, and sporadic violence. Urgh.

But something like this, or for that matter MySociety’s various projects in the UK, offers the possibility of a more fact-driven debate, a reduced reliance on political parties, and greater oversight of the grey zone where the EU institutions and nonofficial bodies like the various cross-European business and labour groups and standardisation conferences intersect.

After all, why should (as Andrew Grice of the Independent suggested yesterday) the Liberal Democrats complain that other parties are stealing their ideas and putting them – gasp! – into practice. Only if you insist on the party as a tribe and a vehicle for self-advancement should this matter. A highly anti-liberal view, in my opinion.

Fine Brussels-based blog Kosmopolit is heading in the same direction, with a critique of Ségoléne Royal and referendums.

Brio and Open-Source Hardware

Intellectual property rights in technology. Great, aren’t they? Consider Brio, the middle-class fave range of wooden toys, whose manufacturers have neatly locked out competitors who want to make toys that will go with theirs by using couplings and fasteners that are proprietary and non-standard.

Elsewhere, on the NANOG (North American Network Operators’ Group) list, they discussed the thorny problem of cooling increasingly powerful servers and routers, and arrived at some consensus around using much more water cooling. Paul Vixie argued that in the future, rackmount equipment would have standard connectors for cool water in and warm water out, as it already has standard power connectors, USB ports, and RJ-45 Ethernet ports.

Cool idea! Naturally, there are already racks with water connectors, but inevitably they are proprietary and incompatible. Amusingly, someone pointed out that standard connectors and flexible pipes exist in the beer trade, which is a start. But what does intellectual property actually bring society? I know the standard arguments about the necessity of rewarding invention, but it’s very noticeable that a lot of innovation happens in the open-source world and in what you might call the non-patent space, among academic researchers and the like.

When Bell Labs invented the transistor, they didn’t try to enforce patents on it. Instead they published all their results in peer-reviewed journals and organised technical conferences to spread the knowledge. Perhaps the optimal solution isn’t to look for a total solution, but just to start pushing back the limits of the IP-sphere and see what happens, tolerating any anomalies? Again, seeing that the EU’s misbegotten software patents directive is now dead, this is something we could get started..

Centipedes of the 21st Century

Bruce Sterling gives the canonical definition of a “centipede,” a new approach to political scandalmongering, probably coming soon to a polity near you. Unless you’re in India, Greece, Poland, Indonesia, South Africa, the UK or the USA, in which they’ve already arrived.

Basically, a centipede is an attempt to drive a politician from power by creating a moral panic. “Centipedes are a cheap, highly effective, low-risk, highly-mediated method of political destabilization. Centipedes are new phenomena because the barriers-to-entry in media have crashed. This means that subversive efforts formerly isolated and punished as libel, slander and whispering campaigns can swiftly take on avalanche proportions. While pretending to be about spontaneous indignation and moral values, centipedes are coolly calculated and all about power. … I named them ‘centipedes’ because they are segmented, covert, and poisonous.”

He also details their common characteristics. They’ll probably be increasingly recognizable.

A 21st Century Kind of Question

At his delightful blog, Timothy Burke takes up whether qualitative research about virtual worlds is best served by the methods of anthropology or history.

Douglas Thomas just pointed out that when we talk about qualitative methods in virtual world research, we always tend to define that as ethnography, when there are other kinds of qualitative methods that are potentially important, including history.
I think that’s right, and it struck me how odd it is that I, as a historian, generally talk about virtual worlds methodology in terms of my habitual dissatisfaction with the tendency of anthropology to visit its own ethical obsessions on all discussions of ethnography as a method. I don’t talk about historical narratives or events in virtual worlds, even though what I think is most interesting about virtual worlds is that they are historical, processual, dynamic, iterative. …
I had a discussion earlier today about a parallel problem in simulations of emergent phenomena, which also seem deeply historical and processual by their nature.

Read it all. Stretch yr brain.

200 Gigabits a Second

Todd Underwood of Internet consultants Renesys has an interesting post for the day AMSIX, the Amsterdam Internet Exchange, set the world record for Internet traffic through a single facility. At 2110 CET on Monday, the world’s biggest IX saw more than 200 gigabits a second of netty goodness hurtling through its multiple 10GB Ethernet switches. That’s a whole lotta traffic. And love, this being Amsterdam.

But what especially interests me about it is that somehow, everyone does these things differently. In North America, public IXen don’t really count for much—even the mighty Equinix sees only half AMSIX’s traffic across all its exchanges. Traditionally, ISPs and telcos have preferred to set up private interconnections, or else pay a private exchange operator like Equinix. In Europe, though, public exchanges run by their users as co-operatives, where everyone connects to shared high-capacity Ethernet switches, have been a vital part of the Internet infrastructure from the word go, with LINX in Tookey Street, London SE1 being the first. Over the years, they have grown spectacularly and continue to do so—a year ago, AMS-IX was doing half the traffic it is now, LINX has doubled since January, and DECIX in Frankfurt is up 150 per cent this year.

There’s obviously a political/cultural analogy here. The Americans prefer to set up their own private wires, and the Europeans prefer sharing a really big Ethernet ring, operated as a non-profit organisation. And the South Koreans have arrived at a sort of hybrid solution, doing private interconnection in a very big way but within a shared facility. But there doesn’t seem to be any great difference in the results.

Geek culture bleg: If multiple Linux boxes are boxen, multiple muxes are muxen, more than one VAX used to be VAXen, why aren’t more than one switch switchen?

And speaking of Bulgaria

The Foreign Minister of Bulgaria, Ivailo Kalfin, has just started a blog.

What I find interesting here is the “about” section:

With this weblog I would like to enter a discussion about some of the issues that are on the top of the agenda of Bulgaria’s foreign policy, the developments in the European Union, the major challenges of today’s world. I really appreciate the opportunity to use the democratic web space for such a discussion. I expect various comments. My intention is to write as often as possible. The languages? Your choice using English, French, Spanish, Russian or Bulgarian. Please be generous if you find any typing or grammar mistake, especially if this is not in my mother tongue. Nobody’s perfect…

I find that rather sweet.

Foreign Minister Kalfin is 42 years old; he’s an economist who identifies as a Social Democrat; he has a Masters degree from Loughborough University in Leicestershire.

— Bleg: are there any other European Ministers with blogs? And if so, are any of them remotely worth reading? I would expect any such blogs to be rather bland and feeble, but Europe is a big place. Are there any surprises out there?