Older blog entries for harrisj (starting at number 8)

Driven by passion. Stomped by screaming girls. Master of none.

Yikes. I hope I didn't offend you there Monty. :( I'm not accusing you of being irresponsible or acting on a whim, out of a cavalier disregard for all that is holy and open source. I know it's really part of a more sinister scheme to create an army of flunkies, destroy advogato and conquer the world. All this while running around dressed like "Gumby" from Monty Python.

I am flattered by Monty's opinions of me, but it's my own rampant modesty that gets in the way. However, "lapsed master" has a certain ominous sound to it. I'm right on a downward spiral it seems... or maybe I'm just too fatalistic from the gloomy weather and reading Fitzgerald's "Crack Up".

Seriously, Monty does make some good points about webs of trust himself. Webs of trust are social relations, and have the same strengths and weaknesses. You will have old boys, but it's not always a bad thing.

In other news, rainy all week. It's very noir. And very depressing.

It wasn't really a party, but they had Fig Newtons, so it was close.

Matthew & Jake's Adventures were lots of fun. I've stopped receiving email fron the fans, so I guess nobody reads them anymore though.

Well, it seems like something has been posted about the web of trust. I suppose I could contribute, but I am not feeling particularly coherent right now. There are a few potential areas of concern I have about the web of trust, but I need to think them over a bit more.

I'm just thinking that there may be some fundamental flaws in doing anything else with a web of trust besides modelling personal relationships. It seems that if you add things like granting capabilities or other such extras, a small group is able to swing things their way (Masters can grant Master status on anyone at whim) and more errors can occur.

I don't really have any proofs to back this up, but it's just a feeling I have...

Otherwise, it's Saturday. Been cleaning and playing on the computer. Really humid outside, but cloudy and gray.

Dead stars still burn...

Was thinking a bit more about "popularity" metrics. These seem to be the latest technology in use by search engines (eg, Google, Clever, DirectHit). Some use link analysis, some monitor user clickthroughs, some allow direct voting on a page's usefulness. While I was waxing a bit too general when I said this is the same as a web of trust, there are certain similarities.

One assumption that these sites makes is that a popular page is a useful page. Some (like Google and Clever) boost the weight of links from other popular pages. As I said before, I think this is a mostly accurate approximation, but they still are fundamentally different concepts and errors can occur.

Google claims its site is spam-proof. While it does a good job of avoiding most spam and porn, there are more sophisticated attacks that could be performed. For instance, I could create a useful site, build up my popularity (with links to me), and then one day change into a porn site. Google would still assume I'm useful, since it would take a while for people to remove their links and thus decrease my popularity. Since Google boosts votes by popular sites, I don't even have to change my page, but I could include a hidden link to a porn site which would be boosted radically because of my vote. I wonder if this happens with the occaisional porn banner ad on a site.

Tricks could also be performed on regular search engines by presenting a different face to spiders than to users. This could be done by detecting the USER_AGENT field. I'll leave the possibilities as an exercise to the reader.

Rather incoherent, but I hope you get the idea. I just thought of it for a minute, so there may be problems in the approach. Still, it's interesting to think about. Also, how can these attacks be applied to a web of trust? Obviously, there is still the potential of me to present a friendly face to win capabilities and then turn sinister once I achieve enough power. Maybe not a problem with a regular web of trust, but an issue when my capabilities are tied to it. There is nothing to prevent someone with enough status from filling the system with powerful flunkies. Of course, this has been a problem within human relations from day one.

I'm rambling. Time to get coffee...

Hi Monty! I'm positively blushing at your description of me. I've missed you too, man. Helloooo! Helloooo!

Sadly, modesty must kick in. I was not one of the first webmasters (mkgray and others were there first at MIT), and www.mit.edu was only one of the first 100 websites. I also was not the most technically astute person involved then, although I now know all the protocols and technology intimately. I do remember using ed (the standard text editor) to do things on the server, because the load was at 14. I remember Plexus. I remember when Netscape was a new thing.

I don't particularly feel like a "Master" yet either... I think I still need to first pass through the stage of whining about not going to Toshi Station to get power converters... ;)

On another note, DSL installation was a nightmare. First, we had to locate a working pair in the building's ancient phone switch. Then into the basement of a neighboring building looking for an actual non-noisy pair back to the CO. Then on to the roof wiring from the local box to my apartment. All of this in pouring rain. Total time: 4 hours. Fun. Still, nothing that can't be made better by sushi (mmmm, Sandobe)

Today, it's still raining. When it's like this outside, I'm always gripped by the desire to put on a trenchcoat and traipse around Chinatown pretending I'm in Bladerunner, but I'll let it pass.

Addendum. I am a little bit confused by the web of trust here. As has been observed by others, the one here is starting to correspond more to personal relations than to contributions to open source software. I'm a prime example (can I really think of myself as a Master?). This doesn't really weaken my faith in a PGP web of trust, since that only measures personal relations. It does however lead me to wonder how effective it is to leverage webs of trust to calculate other metrics (like the one here). Maybe it works in most cases, but there is always a potential for error.

As a related example, Google has the same problem. It doesn't boost the "best" pages, but merely the most popular (in terms of linkages). Often times, these two different notions coincide, but there could potentially be cases where the "most popular" and "best" are radically divergent.

Maybe the number of votes should be factored in. I only have 2 outside ratings. But now I am a Master. The reason is that a lot of people have approved xiphmont as a Master, so he can singlehandedly grant Masterhood status to anybody. Is this a problem with applying webs of trust to change permissions and abilities? Should anything be done about that?

Getting part of DSL installed tomorrow. It's about bloody time...

The people at Concentric have been most helpful, the main problem here has been the phone company (BellAtlantic). The big weakness of DSL is that ultimately the phone company owns the wires and they'll answer your service request only when they want to. Especially when you're rejecting their competing DSL service.

Of course, cable modems have a similar problem with the cable companies....

Otherwise, just hacking code here at work. Weird electronic music by obscure German bands seems to be just the thing for the mood I'm in.

Back from Boston...

The wedding was nice, although a bit surreal. I saw a lot of people I haven't seen for a while, and I think it was a bit odd for them to see how I have changed. It can be strange to see the black-clad freak you knew in a designer suit.

Boston is always weird for me to visit, because it doesn't seem to change much. A lot of the same stores, restaurants, etc. are still there from 5 years ago. This can make it seem quaint to the jaded New York eye. The stores in this town seem to change with the seasons.

And of course, there are always the memories to deal with. Most of them are good, but the bad ones are always more haunting.

Mjs has vouched for me as an apprentice. Thanks Maciej. Much appreciated. I remember you from back in the day at Senior Haus. Keep on hacking.

No interesting thoughts today. I spent all day today helping to move servers around at a really big hosting provider my company is using. Now I'm a bit sore. I'm unclear why Dell boxes are so damn heavy.

DragonFaX's diary entry for today was interesting because it is similar to an idea of mine. I once decided that if I ever became fabulously wealthy (cue laughter), I would love to have a room in the house which would simulate being in deep space (except for the cold vacuum and weightlessness). A hyperrealistic planetarium if you will.

The idea went through several permutations. The original idea involved a spherical room with a retractable gangplank and a chair on a platform in the middle. A bit like the planetarium in Myst, but more deluxe. The stars would be created with fiber optics. Then I decided that it would be more interesting if it involved computer controlled displays. Then I realized that it would probably just be cheaper with a good VR setup or such, so the idea languished.

Oh well, I'm rambling...

I recognize a few names from MIT here. Spooky... I'm going back to Boston for a wedding this weekend. I wonder how many people on here will be there.

It's been 2 years now since I started working here in the "real world." The old student life in Cambridge seems miles away from life here in New York.

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