Four short links: 29 Apr 2009

4chan, urban redesign, 3d printing, python

  1. Moot Wins, Time Inc. Loses — summary of how the 4chan group Anonymous rigged the voting in Time’s 100 Most Influential poll to not just put their man at the top, but also spell an in-joke with the initial letters of the first 21 people. Time tried weakly to prevent the vote-rigging, and ReCAPTCHA gave the Internet scalliwags their biggest setback, but check out how they automated as much as possible so that human effort was targeted most effectively. It’s the same mindset that build Google’s project management, ops, and dev systems. Notice how they tried to game ReCAPTCHA, a collective intelligence app whose users train the system to read OCRed words, by essentially outvoting genuine users so that every word was read as “penis”. Collective intelligence should never be the only security/discovery/etc. feature because such apps are often vulnerable to coordinated action.
  2. The old mint in downtown SF painted by 7 perfectly mapped HD projectors — looks absolutely spectacular. I love the combination of permanent and fleeting, architecture and infotexture. (via BoingBoing)
  3. 3-D Printing Hits Rock-bottom Prices With Homemade Ceramics Mix (Science Daily) — University of Washington researchers invent, and give away, a new 3D printer supply mix that costs under a dollar a pound (versus current commercial mixes of $30-50/pound).
  4. Haystack and Whoosh Notes (Richard Crowley) — notes on installing the search framework Haystack and the search back-end Whoosh, both pure Python. It’s a quick get-up-and-go so you can add quite sophisticated search to your Django apps. (via Simon Willison)
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  • Gregg

    They *tried* gaming reCAPTCHA by outvoting legitimate users, but they were not able to do so — see the post.

  • Those disclosures made by the reCaptcha folks about why the “penis” attack won’t work reveal sufficient information to launch an automated (little or no human reading or typing) attack that almost certainly will work. It stood to reason even without their disclosure. If Anonymous had had a little more time they could have done it.


  • Gregg: yup, that’s what I said: “Notice how they tried to game ReCAPTCHA”. That they weren’t successful is because ReCAPTCHA has other security and fraud-prevention systems. The original article said: “I asked Ben Maurer, chief engineer of reCAPTCHA about this ‘penis flood‘ attack, Ben says that they’ve anticipated this type of attack and they have numerous protections that will keep the penises from penetrating the reCAPTCHA barrier.”

    Sorry if I was ambiguous.

  • thanks for sharing.