Blogger / Gmail Account Disabled?

I’m not sure what happened, but apparently my second blog under my Second Life name has been disabled. It’s odd because I’ve only made one post on the blog and I don’t think I’ve used the gmail (if it has a gmail account?).

I’ve sent in a “what the!?” email (kidding, it’s a request for clarification / dispute) and I’m hoping this will get resolved quickly.

Although… I do have my worries… there have been some pretty nasty tales about posts and accounts disappearing from Google’s Blogger site with no way to get them back.

All I wanted to do was update my blog with some more tips… *sighs*

Cannabis: Why it won’t be legalized any time soon.

There are two main reasons why cannabis won’t be legalized within the next few years:

1.) The justice system feeds people to the jails, and the latter is a very profitable business; arresting and jailing people is an industry.

Legalizing cannabis would severely cut into this industry and big industries inevitably have lobbyists; they use them like a well refined weapon against the slow moving wave of government change.

2.) The other reason cannabis won’t be legalized any time soon is the pervasive attitude from those in power. This is not limited to lower levels of gov’t, it goes all the way to the top: Obama.

It greatly disturbed me that he laughed off the #1 ranked question in his own online polls in 3 different sections: legalizing cannabis to help the economy. That Obama would treat conservative protesters (remember the town hall meetings during the election run) with more respect than thousands to millions of online people voicing their views.

To be blunt: I expected better from him.

I also fear he’s getting the Bush effect: being surrounded by people with biases that aren’t balanced and not seeing how he’s being herded away from his original intentions.

Yahoo! and Open Source … and Richard Stallman?

I nearly fainted and then turned bright red when I got this email:

Hello –

I’m assisting Richard M Stallman of the GNU project. He has asked me to find the email address of the author of
https://amandakerik.wordpress.com/2007/06/25/yahoo-open-source-censorship-an-actual-response/
.
Because there was no address posted on the blog itself, I looked on the web and found this address (my email address here) in an Ubuntu forum post. Are you the author of the blog?

If you are not the author, I apologize for taking your time.

Regards,
Michael Hannon

Ok, perhaps a bit of background… I know who Richard Stallman is, I read a very interesting ebook about him and I’ve admired him ever since. (it’s odd that I didn’t blog about that, but I must have been busy) The very, very short version? He started the GNU project. That’s huge!

I did a bit of checking, and this looks legit, so it should be interesting to see where this goes!

I replied with the very short:

Hi Michael, yep, I’m the author of that post. What are you looking for?
Amanda

To which I got a quick reply of:

Hi –

Thanks!

I was just asked to find your address; I think RMS wants to know more about what happened when your post was deleted. He’ll probably be in touch in the next few days.

Regards,
Michael Hannon

I… well, at the risk of sounding like a teenager… I think this is sooo fucking cool!

[Edit] Ok, update time:

This is the email I got from RMS (Richard M. Stallman):

I saw your blog about the censored Yahoo post, and I get the
impression that you appreciate the freedom aspect of free software.
Would you perhaps like to support the free software movement publicly?

Well, as my friends know, I tend to get ticked off at limits, so duh I’m a supporter of free and open source software.

I replied with:

Quite true, what did you have in mind? Most of the people I talk to on a regular basis (both online and locally) have been persuaded to switch to various open source programs; usually Firefox and GNU/Linux.
I’m wondering about the scope / scale of what you have in mind,
Amanda

The message I got back was an auto-reply (I’ll include it if anyone’s interested), then:

The easiest thing that you could do, that would help us substantially,
is simply to say “free software”. Often our movement is hidden and
forgotten behind the very different idea of “open source”.

See http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html
for more explanation of the difference.

It’s useful occasionally to add a little text to clarify that it’s
free as in freedom, not gratis. For instance, to say “free
(freedom-respecting) software”, “free/libre software”, etc. You might
do this for the first mention of “free software” in any article or
message.

If you want to help more, you could do things such as join the FSF,
start a GNU/Linux User Group, start a Free Software Activist Group,
organize anti-DRM protests for DefectiveByDesign.org, become a free
software movement speaker, etc.

Up until this point I had read about the free software / open source debate, but didn’t really grasp the difference. I had assumed that they had a huge amount of overlap (they do, right now), and it was a purple / indigo kind of debate.

After reading the linked article, I see the difference, and I’ll more than willingly go on record to state I’m in favour of free (freedom respecting) software.

Here’s the difference: It’s possible to create an open source version of a limiting technology (activex, drm, etc), but it’s against what free (freedom respecting) software is focused on.

The similarities between the two camps are too numerous to list at the moment, but the underlying values are different. Open source is, as RMS says in his article, purely practical. There are no values, no right or wrong, in open source. The focus is to get software that works. Right, wrong or sideways, if it works, anyone can look at the source, contribute to it, etc it’s open source.

Free (freedom respecting) software ventures into the “is this a good idea” or “is this limiting” areas – to some it’s essentially “is this being written for the right reasons”.

I believe in the radical (apparently) idea that each person is responsible for his / her actions, and that putting limits that are illegal to break only stops the people who have good intentions from doing it – and just succeeds in taking away their rights. People who are determined to do what they want, will do it.

This is why DRM on music is very short sighted – it only limits those who don’t have the interest to get around it, which admittedly is a lot of people. It doesn’t stop the official target – people that want to go around DRM will. But then we get into the next question: is DRM really for the people who “steal” music?

I see us being marched towards a Microsoft version of music – you don’t ever get to buy it, you rent it. You “license” it. You get to “rent” a song for each type of media player you want to play it on, which always has a “renewal” date – when you pay again to be able to play the same music as before. You don’t pay? You lose the music.

Am I the only person who sees something wrong with this? (They’re already doing it by the way, it’s just not systematic right now.)

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 »