Attack of the 50-foot Wikipedians

Fact-fiddlers menace humanity

Letters You'll gather by our letters headline today that some of you have objected to our extensive coverage of Wikipedia explaining how - given time - it will undermine the very fabric of Western civilisation and reduce humanity to a few small groups of hunter-gatherers living in turf-rooved hovels as a result of its disastrous attempt to make all human knowledge available online.

Or something like that. First, though, let's have a quick butcher's at some other matters of import, kicking off with that old chestnut: IE versus Firefox:

IE safer than Firefox ? Come on, anyone with more than two brain cells is going to flip over this. I don't mean to say that Firefox is invulnerable, but as far as safety goes, IE is and will ever remain at the bottom of the list. The number of vulnerabilities is a criteria that must be taken into account, I agree. However, to reduce the safety evaluation to simply how many vulnerabilities there are, without taking into account the threat level of each on eof them, is hardly a professional or objective way of comparing issues. This so-called evaluation casts a pall of suspicion on Symantec's objectivity.


"Firefox has been subject to a number of flaws over the past year, including one that could leave its users more vulnerable to phishing scams. Meanwhile, a report published in September by Symantec rated Internet Explorer as safer than Firefox. The report found some 25 flaws in Mozilla's Firefox internet browser, almost double the number it discovered in IE."

A few weeks ago, Symantec admitted there testing was incorrect. They went on the record to say That MSIE had more flaws then Firefox. Do some research!


I can't believe how much malice you guys dish out to projects that do well. you really do rally the 'perceived' underdog don't you. well with an 80% strange hold IE does not need any ill facts such as 'Firefox has more flaws' to be popular; not only do we know that these flaws are fixed very quickly (often beating the reports in the 'news') but they are often far less critical. please report all facts, no omisions!

This anti popular stance is really not good for your health, try eating more fiber.

Martin Owens

The IE bug threatens Windows users, not PC users. My PC is very fine without any Microsoft software, and it's still a PC when running BSD or Linux.



Right-o. Duly noted.

"Microsoft has determined that an attacker who exploits this vulnerability would have no way to force users to visit a malicious website."

But they may be able to encourage/interest them to visit an enlightening site. mentor/enrapture/capture their Perceptions.

Hardly an attacker much more a MetaPhysician....a Binary Thinker/Linker/NetWorker



And if he can do that, you'd think that he should be working with Microsoft and all the other Browser chiefs.......for think of what could be done. :-)

Well, a pow wow for one thing.

Er, right. And we get stick for using words like "mobe"? Trust us, this'll be the first and only time you'll see "MetaPhysician" on El Reg - unless there's advertising revenue involved.

Now, last Friday's letters, containing as they did some debate regarding podcast licensing, provoked this analysis:

Your mailbag can often be entertaining and informative, but sometimes I'm afraid it looks to be developing into an exercise in Collective Intelligence.

Take today's as an example:

I refer you to the section on podcast licensing. Your reader comments, printed without any journalistic response, present a misleading slant on the matter.

"I would just like to point out that this license is esentially a complete waste of time as PPL do not offer a comparable license to cover the copyright in the sound recording," (Ben Robinson)

The PPL, a broadcast royalties collection agency, have nothing to do with podcasts. Despite the name, a podcast is not a broadcast. The delivery model is more like a CD or a DVD (buy when you want, use when you want) than a TV or radio programme (tune in when it's on or miss it). If I were to make a DVD film or documentary featuring someone else's tune, it would be MCPS that I would go to -- not PPL. It's exactly the same with a prerecorded audio program -- MCPS and PRS permission are quite clearly enough.

"I read your article on the new MCPS-PRS Podcasting agreement, but was wondering where the actual record labels are with all of this." (jeff)

The MCPS and PRS are agents of the rights holders -- they would not have announced this license without having discussed it with their clients and obtaining written consent.

"Do they really think they will be able to police this sort of thing? ... what happens to podcasts hosted outside the UK etc." (eddy)

Well that is an interesting legal question -- as I understand it the copyright law places liability on the act of distribution. Is uploading it to a site distribution? It sounds like it to me. I wouldn't like to try arguing against it in court, anyway.

I imagine catching podcasters will in many cases prove easier than taking down pirate radio stations or CD counterfeiting rings, so don't think it'll never happen!

Anyway, I'm sure a bunch of professional journalists know more about copyright law than a lowly support tech -- any chance of a follow-up article to counteract some of the FUD circling the blogs?

Regards, Níall Tracey

PS. You realise that if you print this letter, you will be actively engaging in collective intelligence, don't you...?

Blast! We've been trying to avoid that particular pitfall for years.

Ok, brace yourselves for the Wiki backlash, or at least a representative sample of same. This just in to the big cheese in the Vulture Central editorial soviet:

Since you presumably control the content of the front page of The Register (of which I am a regular reader), I would like to pass on a (hopefully) polite request that Andrew Orlowski's strange personal vendetta against Wikipedia be kept off your front page for a while to cool down.

- yes, I think we all thoroughly understand now that Wikipedia is flawed and often inaccurate. I think some of Mr. Orlowski's early articles in this ongoing feud were quite helpful in pointing this out to Wiki's adoring public. But it's a relatively tired topic, especially since Wikipedia is quite upfront about what it actually is: a patched together selection of freely contributed fact/opinion.

- yes, Nature's study of Wiki's accuracy vs. Britannica warrants a news article.

- but why must news about Wikipedia always be conveyed in the form of an editorial article from Mr. Orlowksi? And two of them in 2 days (March 23rd and 25th). The tone is highly personal, wanders into apparently ad hominem attacks against Nature magazine and is never less than entirely uncritical of the point of view of Britannica.

I'm not against the Encyclopedia Britannica myself. I'm sure they have reasonable complaints, but the presentation of the material is one-sided, and after a couple of years of this behaviour, tiresome. Just to clarify, I've never personally never contributed to Wiki in any way and have no connection to it or it's organisation.

Thanks for taking the time to read this: I do not expect or wish to see this quoted (in any part) on your site and don't particularly expect a response. In every other respect, I believe Mr. Orlowski to be a perfectly fine journalist (since I live in SF myself, I tend to notice his byline on many good stories), but I feel the tone fo the Wiki-wars could really use taking down a peg.

Name supplied.

It's time to get this straight once and for all: you might think bird flu, AIDS and global warming are conspiring to kick mankind's butt, but the combined effects of pandemic and melting ice caps are as trifles compared to the potential catastrophe awaiting us if the Wikipedia menace is not addressed as a matter of international urgency.

Accordingly, and before we are swamped with life-threatening factual errors, we call on all right-minded and suitably enraged citizens to gather after dark in the town square bearing agricultural implements and flaming torches to thereafter drive the Wikis into the countryside with shouts of "Kill the monster! Kill!"

Alternatively, turn off your computer, go down the pub and forget the whole thing.

A clarification: boffins have bred a omega-3-packed porker. This could be a good thing, because pregnant women are advised to lay off fish which may contain mercury, and could get their laughing gear round a heart-friendly bacon sarnie instead:

fish contain methylmercury. It is water soluble. Fish oil does not contain mercury.

Is fish oil clean? No it is likely to contain PCBs, Dioxins and other such naturally occuring and industrial contaniments and waste/by-products.

Most producers clean the oil they are bringing to market, this removes most of the contaniments.

link re: Methylmercury

link to fish oil production:

PDF article on high vitamin Cod Liver Oil, has a reasonably detailed description of how the fish oils are cleansed.

Thanks for taking the time to produce articles like "Boffins breed omega-3-packed porkers" I rely on the Reg for my industry updates, however, there is significant value in the "side bar" information you are providing, it truly gives greater value to my visits to "The Reg"

Thanks, Garth.

Hold on, we said that women are "told to avoid excessive amounts of fish which may be high in mercury. Oily fish are dieticians' traditional recommended source of omega-3s". Seems clear enough: avoid the fish. We'll take your word about the oil, though.

If I was going to write a book about a devastating substance that scientists introduced into the ecosystem for our 'benefit' which then went on to destroy the earth, and I needed to come up with a suitably doom-impending name for it, wouldn't 'Omega-3' totally fit the bill?

You have been warned...

Dunno, what about the "Omega-3 Methylmercury Doomsday Oil". It has a nice ring about it.

Blue Peter badges have popped up on eBay. The BBC is not happy. Nor is this bloke:

I'd like to know on what basis ebay are pulling these auctions for BP badges. Are they illegal like drugs or body parts? What right does the BBC have to ask them nay demand that they be removed???

If I buy a CD, I can decide to re-sell it on ebay. Why can't I do the same thing with a BP badge, sure the buyer could then use it for free admission to some shite tourist hole, but I cannot, I sold it, so what the fuck does it matter???

I am extremely infuriated with both the BBC and EBAY...

Laurie --

Steady on, old chap...

The obvious flaw in the 'economics' of the Blue Peter badge is that they stop being useful once the recipient reaches 16. At that point, the owner might as well try to make a bit of wonga out of it, student overdrafts being what they are. If the badges were good for the recipient's lifetime, or provided a discount of some kind, then trade would probably drop off. If a person's lifetime were covered, then there's no drawbacks for those providing the free services - if the badge is being used by a new owner, then it can't be being used by the olde owner, so the vendor has lost nothing. How hard can these things be to forge anyway??

Colin Jackson

Maybe Auntie can use some of our license fee to replace all existing BP badges with RFID badges which store biometric data, thus avoiding fraudulant usage?? a bonus would be that all BP winners would gain free entry into the US, if the right data was held of course.

just a thought

Andy Barr

Like it. Do you also get discounts at WalMart, if you let them scan your badge?

At last! A cast iron case supporting the need for ID cards. I knew if we waited long enough, a reason would emerge.


Exactly. Charles Clarke is doubtless assembling a taskforce to present the case for ID cards as a way of preventing Blue Peter badge fraud. Forward with Democracy!

Enough almost-plausible correspondence: on with the usual frivolity. A sculpture of Britney Spears on all fours, dropping a sprog? It's enough to put you off your bacon sarnie and fish oil:

Not wanting to put a downer on this artistic endeavour, but I read (MSN, NBC etc) that Britney was "too posh to push" and elected to have a c-section rather than push it out as depicted in the sculpture!

I suspect what actually happened is the artist created a mediocre sculpture of an unknown woman giving birth, someone said "hey, that looks a bit like Britney" and KERRRRCHINNNNG, our budding Michelangelo decided to cash in!!!

Or am I being cynical?

Tim Hodgson

Not at all. The thought had occurred to us, but we let you lot make the accusations - for legal reasons, you understand.

I think the thing that really 'sets it off' is the fact that she appears to be looking for lice/ticks in the bear's head.... to stave off boredom presumably.

Evidently the sculptor has never actually witnessed childbirth - either that or he was inspired by the many paintings of St Sebastian smiling whilst riddled with arrows (he was supposedly handsome and would not have appeared that way if writhing in agony...)


Pro-life promoted with depiction of a dead bear?


Steve Evans

Well yeah - the bear didn't die in vain, you see...

Hopeless journalism, just hopeless. I would expect any technical web site to have actual technical content and specs, not just this nonsense. Instead of an obvious puff-piece driven by an excuse to show a female mammary, you could have spent time on more valuable technical issues of value to your readers, such as:

- Do Hollywood maternity hospitals typically feature bears' heads? - If so, how are they sterilised? - Of what material is the sculpture made? Is it conductive? - Is this a beta sculpture or is this the version that will actually ship? - What's the patent situation? Is the sculpture GPLed? Which version?

C'mon, why waste your readers' time?

DV Henkel-Wallace

Good points, well expressed. We apologise and will in future endeavour to provide the properly-researched technical background.

To wrap this nonsense up, the shock revelation that lots of Brits make phone calls in the buff:

This is why video phones are a bad idea..... I'll often talk to my customers when still in bed in the morning, or walking around partially dressed.... If I had a video phone, I would have to spend all day in a suit just in case a customer called.... :)



Well, it depends on the "customer", doesn't it?

The British eccentricity I find particularly peculiar is this utter fascination with nekkidness. Is there some frightening or dangerous difference to the British body we continentals should be aware of? While I myself have yet to experience the British body I know several people who already did, both here on the continent and on scene, and they failed to mention any differences. Continental lasses with prolonged exposure to the British body and/or Britain showed no change either, so apparently whatever it is is neither contagious nor related to radiation or chemicals only present on the Isle.


Oliver mate: nakedness is dirty and sinful, as every Brit knows. And as for showing your body to a foreigner, well, people have been thrown in the village stocks for less.

Perhaps it's not so uncommon. We do it here in the Antipodes too.

Especially when some plonker phones one's publicly known business mobe as soon as the sun comes up (long before business hours commence) and one is either on their way into or out of the shower... or some other kind of fool doesn't know what time it is on this side of the world (Germany, do you hear me?) and phones aforementioned mobe while one is putting it away with the missus. Ahem.

Please don't use my name if you do publish this. :) My clients would be well narked to know they're getting naked negotiations. :D

Name withheld due to nakedness

You can make of that what you will. More nonsense on Friday. ®

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