Yahoo! Answers and the Deleted Answer, a resurgence of interest

Ok, there seems to be a renewal of interest over my posts regarding a deleted answer from Yahoo! Answers I blogged about over half a year ago.

As far as I can see this whole thing was a domino effect of:

  1. Someone didn’t like my answer and flagged it. Either someone with a high rank, or several people with medium ranks. Or it could have been the person who asked the question.
  2. Someone at Yahoo (who is probably ignorant about open source) made a quick decision and moved on.
  3. Someone got an e-mail reply from me regarding the letter saying my answer was deleted, but they didn’t respond immediately.
  4. Someone found out about my blog posts and contacted me, further explaining Yahoo’s reasoning.
  5. Someone got my official dispute and forwarded it onto the person in #4, who restated the same reasoning.
  6. Someone from #3 looked over the situation and decided to reverse the deduction of points.

All in all, do I think it’s a systematic bias against open source? No, I don’t see firm proof of this. Do I think it was malevolent / a conspiracy? No.

[edit] But, do I think that Yahoo’s without it’s biases? No, it’s guaranteed to have it’s priorities in some areas that would lend it to being biased. It’s logically impossible to not be biased in some way.

I think it was a culmination of a few people with not enough info and not enough time. It happens.

So why did I blog about this? Like I’ve said before, I wanted to see if this was a one-off or if it was a systematic policy that no one talked about. I also wanted to see if making a small fuss about something I disagree with would make a difference. It did, but not in the ways I was aiming for – I wanted to provoke a change in Yahoo, not be a tipping point for people to boycott Yahoo.

Don’t get me wrong, Yahoo’s got a lot of issues; for example their chat has a nasty habit of kicking people off for no reason or just not working properly. I personally object to the blending of the Yahoo and MSN chat networks, but they’re not my companies, not my choice. I’d just use Pidgin for this “problem”.

Looking back, I think the things that still annoy me are:

  1. The person who originally asked the question didn’t get to see my answer, even after the decision about it’s “violating the rules” was overturned
  2. I didn’t get an apology from anyone
  3. The person in #5 came across as quite abrupt and dismissive
  4. Nothing changed, except a few people’s perception of Yahoo

So what’s the result? A few people are ticked off at Yahoo, a few people are ticked off at me. People are now discussing whether open source should be censored, people are talking about whether open source is a viable replacement for Windows. I got my little bit of time in the spotlight.

Beyond that, I can’t see the ripples that my pebble caused in the lake of the world, but I flatter myself that the ripples will continue in their own way for a while.

On a tangent: a few people have said I’m too patient, too idealistic and too forgiving. What do you think?

Round Two: Appealing the revokation of Yahoo Answers points

A very helpful person posted a link in the comments that posted to a place where people can appeal “You have violated… and your post has been deleted” type occurances.

I wrote the following:

Please explain how I am in violation of the rules?
I put off the appeal until I had all the information to present in one submission.

Question:
“My company is getting rid of old PCs and I’m considering buying one. They have completely wiped out the hard drive, so there is no OS installed at all. Previously it had Windows Me or 2000 on it (not sure which). Is it going to be foolish of me to think I can buy Windows XP and install it myself? What kind of problems can I expect to run into?”

Answer:
“If you buy the XP disks you just get that – XP. No MS office, no other programs other than the very basics.
If you’re starting over anyways, grab a blank CD and use imgburn ( http://imgburn.com/ ) to burn an Ubuntu ( http://ubuntu.com/ ) or Kubuntu ( http://kubuntu.com/ ) .iso on there.
Put the burned CD in the CD tray and restart the computer. It doesn’t need a hard drive at all to run – it loads into the computer’s RAM (temporary memory).
K/ubuntu comes fully loaded and thousands of other programs are just a few clicks away – you just look them up in a built in installer, it grabs the stuff needed and installs it all. It’s free in both senses of the word – free of cost and free of obligations.”

Notes:
I believe my answer was relevant – it addressed the “problems s/he could expect to run into”, it even gave him/her details on how to get, burn and use a very easy way to test drive an OS that would solve his/her needs.
The other Answers people gave covered the “buying and installing of XP”

This is my first and only “violation” and I would like to avoid any future issues. Please explain how my answer is in error.
Thank you for your time,
Amanda

And left it to be replied to. I expected to get e-mail notices when someone replied to my thread. I didn’t get any official notices of any replies. (They should change that, hint hint Yahoo)

What I did get was this:

I posted this on the Message Board, but in case it’s deleted before you check there again, I thought I’d send you a copy.

Amanda,

I think you should pursue this further.

Jane F. says your post “was not an attempt to answer the question about installing a certain operating system” However, the actual question consisted of two parts. “Is it going to be foolish of me to think I can buy Windows XP and install it myself? What kind of problems can I expect to run into?”

In other words, the asker did not want to know just the specifics of the XP installation process, but rather wanted to know: should they buy and install XP? what problems will they have? The question is not focused solely on the install process itself, it’s really a question about the advantages and disadvantages of buying the XP operating system disks.

You answered that if a person buys Windows XP they only get the operating system, they don’t get MS office or programs other than the very basics. That would clearly be a problem for the average home user who will need a word processing program, at the very least. The only reasonable view is that this an answer to the question. Since only an “attempt” at an answer is necessary, this violation should be overturned.

I think you should ask Jane to reconsider, or find out what the next highest level of appeal is.

[Jean Clemens]

Needless to say, when I checked my thread (which I bookmarked), her answer was not there.

What was there was this:

As discussed earlier, while your post is on a related topic, it was not an attempt to answer the question about installing a certain operating system and was removed for this reason. If you’d like to share what you know on related topics rather than on this question, use the advanced search to find more questions you’re interested in.

Jane F.

So I returned to reading my Yahoo Mail in Thunderbird while mulling over what the answer was to my appeal. I then read an email from Yahoo returning my points, which I included in my reply to Jane F.:

So… to clarify Yahoo’s stance:
There is only one question per Question posted; regardless of other semi-statements ending in a question mark.

Answering any question asked except the main question will have the Answer removed, the points revoked and a negative mark on the Answerer’s record will be issued.

And yet… I’ve had my points returned:
Subject: Yahoo! Answers Points Restored (KMM52219628V58956L0KM)
Message: Hello,

We have reviewed your request, and have restored your points on Yahoo!
Answers. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Regards,
Carmen

Yahoo! Customer Care
http://www.yahoo.com/

I logged in today and got 32 points – 3 best answers and the revoked 2.

My next two questions are:
Why wasn’t the reinstatement of the points in question not stated in this thread?
Is there still a negative mark in my records?

It should be interesting if / when there is a reply. That I have all this documented in a place that Yahoo can’t go into and arbitrarily delete… puts my mind a bit more at ease.

Oh, and to those who have been in the appeal boards at least once:

Yes, I know there are times when the answer to an appeal is punative (the account is deleted). No worries… I have all my emails stored on my computer. My 360 blog will be backed up shortly.

No… I don’t trust these [profanity] the distance I could pick up Canada and throw it. I’ve seen too much to be that naive.

Yahoo + Open Source Censorship. Yahoo’s reason and the question in… question.

Ok, recap:

I’m a regular contributer to Yahoo! Answers. I’m at level 4 – that’s over 4000 points; they’re gained 2 and 10 at a time. For 31% of the answers I give, I’m awarded “Best Answer”.

So imagine my suprise when I get a “Violation Notice Email” from Yahoo saying:

“You have posted content to Yahoo! Answers in violation of our Community Guidelines or Terms of Service. As a result, your content has been deleted. Community Guidelines help to keep Yahoo! Answers a safe and useful community, so we appreciate your consideration of its rules.”

This is the “violating” Answer:

If you buy the XP disks you just get that – XP. No MS office, no other programs other than the very basics.

If you’re starting over anyways, grab a blank CD and use imgburn ( http://imgburn.com/ ) to burn an Ubuntu ( http://ubuntu.com/ ) or Kubuntu ( http://kubuntu.com/ ) .iso on there. Put the burned CD in the CD tray and restart the computer. It doesn’t need a hard drive at all to run – it loads into the computer’s RAM (temporary memory).

K/ubuntu comes fully loaded and thousands of other programs are just a few clicks away – you just look them up in a built in installer, it grabs the stuff needed and installs it all. It’s free in both senses of the word – free of cost and free of obligations.

Read the rest of this entry »

Yahoo Answers Censorship? Follow-up #3

{Multi-post navigation}
Yahoo! Answers is rejecting Open-Source options in answers (the original post that started it all)

Follow-up: Yahoo Answers censoring Open-source options (a response to the first site to pick up my story)

Yahoo + Open Source Censorship. A second follow-up (responses to comments)

Yahoo Answers Censorship? Follow-up #3 (more responses to comments)

Yahoo Answers + Open Source Censorship. Yahoo’s reason and the question in… question.
Summary: A full recap with Yahoo’s official reason and the question at the center of this issue.

{The actual post}

  1. jj Says:
    June 22nd, 2007 at 8:49 am emaybe it’s a question about advertising… (Me)
    A vague possiblility, but unlikely. All programs are free to use and I get nothing out of it (financially)
  1. melchior Says:
    June 22nd, 2007 at 8:50 am e
    Looks like a number of people (possibly Microsoft employees or otherwise shills) clicked the “report abuse” link. The comment deletion system may have be automated or the moderator wasn’t feeling particularly liberated. Granted, there’s room for the censorship argument, but there’s always the possibility that some pro-Microsoft guy got a posse together to report the comment to death.(Devil’s advocate suggestions brought to you by Hanlon’s razor: “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”)(Me)
    That quote always makes me laugh… and think of the gov’t.
    I think it was a combo of some people reporting the comment and the reviewer not being that well educated (or maybe just tired?)… The part that ended up frustrating me the most was the lack of any human response when I tried to contact them.
  2. Michael Wexler Says:
    June 22nd, 2007 at 9:11 am e
    John D hit it on the head. You weren’t on topic. The person clearly wanted to get back to where they were. Your suggestion was really not helpful. You could have acheived your desired result with more info and then slipped in your Ubuntu plug:
    “One option is to either reinstall windows, or install on anothr “part” of your hard drive. There are many sources for XP (or Vista) these days if you need to buy it again, but they do cost money. Each software product that you don’t have disks for would have to be purchased, including MS Office. While one can sometimes buy these things used on eBay, MS does not support this and frowns upon it. If you don’t necessarily need windows itself, you can copy your files to a floppy, cd, or flash drive and then try one of the free Linux systems like Ubuntu which provides an office solution and can read most of your files and documents.”I don’t think they would have killed that one… yet it gets your point across. I don’t think Y! has anything against open source (they use tons of it in house) but they are clearly cracking down on comments which aren’t really on topic.(Me)
    As far as I was and am concerned, the other posters covered this quite well… why repeat it?
    That’s why I pointed out what I considered the others missed – that Windows doesn’t have everything included like some people think, and that IF she was going to wipe her computer anyways (have you seen an installation of Windows that didn’t? I haven’t.) she might as well try something low cost.
    Besides… you don’t have to install Ubuntu to use it. *wink*
  3. Read the rest of this entry »

Yahoo + Open Source Censorship. A second follow-up.

{Multi-post navigation}
Yahoo! Answers is rejecting Open-Source options in answers (the original post that started it all)

Follow-up: Yahoo Answers censoring Open-source options (a response to the first site to pick up my story)

Yahoo + Open Source Censorship. A second follow-up (responses to comments)

Yahoo Answers Censorship? Follow-up #3 (more responses to comments)

Yahoo Answers + Open Source Censorship. Yahoo’s reason and the question in… question.
Summary: A full recap with Yahoo’s official reason and the question at the center of this issue.

{The actual post}

  1. Malician Says:
    June 22nd, 2007 at 1:37 am e
    Well – I hate to allege shady dealings with Microsoft, though Yahoo has tight dealings with them. Normally, I could see Yahoo annoyed at what might look as a recommendation for another product – but Linux Live CDs are free, and – it’s not like you can get a free Windows Live CD, is it?I don’t see what serious qualm they could possibly have.(Me)
    I don’t know what the issue was either – her computer was toast. She was asking where she could get a restore CD or how much XP CD’s / DVD’s were. Hence my wording – “If you’re going to wipe it anyways…”
  2. Niklas Says:
    June 22nd, 2007 at 3:46 am e
    Now I’m 100% sure that I’ll never use any Yahoo services (not because I do anyway). This just isn’t democratic. What about freedom of speech?! Even though I’m not the big open source fan, I think this is very wrong and shouldn’t have happened. But normal people can’t do anything about it, but stop using Yahoo’s services(Me)
    I think what happened was that some MS fans didn’t like my suggestions and flagged me. It happens…
  3. Read the rest of this entry »

Ten Ways Bush Resembles History’s Tyrants

by Sherwood Ross | May 12 2007 – 9:48am |  permalink
article tools: email | print | read more Sherwood Ross
As public sentiment begins to build for impeachment, it might be illuminating to examine the many ways President Bush operates in a manner reminiscent of history’s tyrants. Here are 10 areas that come readily to mind.

First, tyrants tend to see themselves, as Hitler did, at the head of some kind of “master race.” President Bush and his backers would deny it, but their drive for a “New American Century” betrays them. They’re world-beaters, and won’t sign the global warming treaty or any other cooperative document. Republicans at their last Convention jeered the very mention of the words “United Nations.” Those who see it differently get slandered. Recall how Bush’s hatchet men impugned Senator Kerry’s Vietnam War record. This was reminiscent of Nazi claims Germany’s Jewish veterans of the Great War did not deserve their medals. Another manifestation is Neocons would reduce gay and lesbian Americans to second-class citizenship status. Bush’s backers are convinced of their superiority at home and globally.

Second, tyrants tend to be congenital, brazen liars. Bush lied about Iraq’s threat to America just as Hitler lied when he claimed Poland attacked Germany first in 1939. The UN told Bush there was no WMD in Iraq, yet Bush said there was and made war. He knew better. As many as 600,000 Iraqi civilians are dead, 2-million have fled, and a nation is being destroyed before our eyes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Australia hands over man to US courts

Australia hands over man to US courts

Kenneth Nguyen
May 7, 2007

Hew Raymond Griffiths has been extradited to the US following copyright infringement piracy and consiracy charges.Hew Raymond Griffiths has been extradited to the US following copyright infringement piracy and consiracy charges.
Photo: Richard Gosling

BEFORE he was extradited to the United States, Hew Griffiths, from Berkeley Vale in NSW, had never even set foot in America. But he had pirated software produced by American companies.

Now, having been given up to the US by former justice minister Chris Ellison, Griffiths, 44, is in a Virginia cell, facing up to 10 years in an American prison after a guilty plea late last month.

Griffiths’ case — involving one of the first extraditions for intellectual property crime — has been a triumph for US authorities, demonstrating their ability to enforce US laws protecting US companies against Australians in Australia, with the co-operation of the Australian Government.

“Our agents and prosecutors are working tirelessly to nab intellectual property thieves, even where their crimes transcend international borders,” US Attorney Chuck Rosenberg said.

In some corners of the Australian legal community, however, there is concern about Griffiths’ case. In a recent article for the Australian Law Journal, NSW Chief Judge in Equity, Peter Young, wrote: “International copyright violations are a great problem. However, there is also the consideration that a country must protect its nationals from being removed from their homeland to a foreign country merely because the commercial interests of that foreign country are claimed to have been affected by the person’s behaviour in Australia and the foreign country can exercise influence over Australia.”

Griffiths, a Briton, has lived in Australia since the age of seven. From his home base on the central coast of NSW, he served as the leader of a group named Drink Or Die, which “cracked” copy-protected software and media products and distributed them free of cost. Often seen with long hair and bare feet, Griffiths did not make money from his activities, and lived with his father in a modest house.

But Drink or Die’s activities did cost American companies money — an estimated $US50 million ($A60 million), if legal sales were substituted for illegal downloads undertaken through Drink or Die. It also raised the ire of US authorities.

In 2003, the US Department of Justice charged Griffiths with violating the copyright laws of the US, and requested his extradition from Australia. Senator Ellison signed a notice for Griffiths’ arrest and Australian Federal Police arrested him at his home.

Griffiths fought the prospect of extradition through the courts for three years, in which time he was denied bail and detained in prison. He indicated that he would be willing to plead guilty to a breach of Australian copyright law, which meant he could serve time in Australia.

Last year, Griffiths ran out of avenues for appeal in Australia. His fate lay in the hands of Senator Ellison, who had the power to refuse Griffiths’ extradition. But in December, Senator Ellison issued a warrant for extradition — a decision welcomed by the US Government. Griffiths’ extradition in February is believed to be the first out of Australia for a breach of intellectual property law.

“This extradition represents the (US) Department of Justice’s commitment to protect intellectual property rights from those who violate our laws from the other side of the globe,” US Assistant Attorney-General Alice Fisher said.

But Justice Young described as “bizarre” the fact that “people are being extradited to the US to face criminal charges when they have never been to the US and the alleged act occurred wholly outside the US”.

Griffiths appears to have been singled out by US authorities. British-based members of Drink or Die were reportedly tried in Britain. Last month, in news that slipped the local media’s radar, Hew Griffiths pleaded guilty in a US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, to criminal copyright infringement offences. According to US authorities, Griffiths admitted to overseeing all the illegal operations of the now-disbanded Drink Or Die.

On top of a possible 10-year jail term, Griffiths could be fined $US500,000. (By way of comparison, the average sentence for rape in Victoria is six years and 10 months.)

Any Australian who has pirated software worth more than $US1000 could be subject to the same extradition process as Griffiths was. “Should not the Commonwealth Parliament do more to protect Australians from this procedure?” Justice Young asked in his article. Others, however, argue that extradition is necessary to prevent internet crimes that transcend borders.

Griffiths will be sentenced on June 22.

http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2007/05/06/1178390140855.html