A Kinder, Gentler Internet: Youtube Algorithm Screens Comments

youtube_commentsThere’s scarcely a soul among us who hasn’t watched a video on YouTube. But have you ever stuck around long enough to read the comments section? It’s like a leper colony for the mind, a vindication for misanthropes everywhere. And after many years of being at the forefront of rudeness, racism, and generalized dumbassery, the YouTube comment section is getting a clean up.

Whereas the old system worked by placing the latest comments at the top nearest the video, regardless of their relevance or lack of redeeming content. The new system will employ a series of algorithms to determine what each viewer will find most relevant. This includes comments from your friends, from the video creator, and from “popular personalities” (i.e. celebs of one type or another).

youtube_convoBut it doesn’t stop there. Currently, since comments are displayed as they come in, making the act of following a conversation difficult at best. But from now on, the site will feature threaded conversations, which is consistent with Google policy, the site’s now owners. As for private conversations, the new platform will be powered by Google+, allowing users the option of deciding who they want their posts and videos to be visible to.

Additionally, there will be a sort of cross-posting between YouTube and Google+. If you post a YouTube video on Google+ and some one comments on it there, the comment will show up on the video over at YouTube, too. Alternatively, they could choose to have their comment only show up on YouTube, or only show up on Google+. There’s a lot more control.

googleplus-conversation

But perhaps most importantly of all, there are new filters that will be in place. As it stands, YouTube commenters enjoy total anonymity, which allows them to post racist, sexist, homophobic and vitriolic comments without fear. And while content creators can choose to allow all or no comments, or manually approve each comment, this is completely impractical for videos that garner millions of views a week.

But now, YouTube is introducing filters that will make it easier. The new filters basically allow content creators to not only be able to assign people to an Approved list or a Blocked list (which will auto-approve or auto-reject comments, respectively), they will be able to add keywords to a Blacklist. This will flag comments that contain those words and send them into a special list which can be reviewed and approved/rejected later.

ConversationPrism_2880x1800The threaded comments feature and began to be put into effect a little over a week ago. Filters were made available at the same time for channel pages only, but in the months to come they’ll become available for every individual video, giving content creators and commenters more control over the conversations they participate in. Basically, it will still be YouTube, but with some Facebook-like privacy and content filters.

And while many might deplore these new rules as an example of heavy handed “internet censorship”, there are many more who believe this change is overdue in coming. And given that the control rests with the users, who have the ability to share or be private, and to filter specific kinds of content, the basic spirit of a democratic, open forum remains.

Source: gizmodo.com

Cyberwars: The Biggest Cyber Attack in History?

cyber_virusIt’s been declared: the largest cyber attack in the history of the internet is happening right now. But you can forget about the US and China, this one is going on between private organizations, both of whom . In short, the fight comes down to Cyberbunker – a decommissioned NATO bunker located just outside of Kloetinge in the Netherlands – and a non-profit anti-spam organization named Spamhaus.

But first, a little background information is required for those of us not well-versed in the comings and goings of cyberwarfare (I include myself in this mix). Cyberbunker, as its name suggests, is an internet service provider and data haven that hosts websites and data stores for various companies. Founded in 1998, it began with the mission of hosting companies and protecting their data-assets from intrusion and attack.

cyberbunkerSpamhaus, on the other hand, is a non-profit that tracks internet addresses that are sources of email spam, and adds their addresses to a blacklist. Companies that use this blacklist—which include pretty much every email provider and most internet service providers on the planet—automatically block those addresses. Hence, to be blacklisted by this organization is to have your bottom line seriously effected.

The conflict between these two belligerents began in 2011, when Spamhaus began targeting Cyberbunker through one of its clients – and internet service provider named A2B. At the time, Spamhaus was trying to convince said provider that Cyberbunker was a haven for spam email, which led A2B to drop them as a client. Shortly thereafter, Cyberbunker moved onto a new internet service provider, leaving Spamhaus free to blacklist them directly.

Spamhaus attack … did it affect you?When they did, Cyberbunker responded in a way that seemed to suggest they wanted to live up to the reputation Spamhaus was bestowing on them. This involved massive retaliation by launching a cyberattack of some 300 billion bits of data per second, designed to clog Spamhaus’s connection to the internet and shut down their infrastructure.

Might sound like a tiff between two internet companies and nothing more. But in truth, this attack was so big that it began affecting service for regular people like you and me who happen to rely on some of the internet connections the attack is commandeering. In short, millions were effected by this “largest attack in internet history”, as their internet slowed down and even shorted out. Some even went as far as to say that it “almost broke the internet”.

internetBut for many others, this attack went unnoticed. In fact, according to an article by Gizmodo, most people were relatively unaffected. While some companies, like Netlix, reported sluggish streaming, they did not go down, mega net-enterprises such as Amazon reported nothing unusual, and organizations that monitor the health of the web “showed zero evidence of this Dutch conflict spilling over into our online backyards”.

In short, the attack was a major one and it had a profound impact on those sites it was directed at, and the collateral damage was noticeable. But aside from that, nothing major happened and this tiff remains a war between an organization known for spamming and one known for targeting them. And it shows no signs of slowing down or stopping anytime soon.

computer-virus.istockAccording to Patrick Gilmore, chief architect at the internet hosting service Akamai who was interviewed by the New York Times, the bottom line for CyberBunker is that “they think they should be allowed to spam.” CyberBunker is explicit on its homepage that it will host anything but child pornography and “anything related to terrorism.”

So while this latest incident did not cause “Infopocalype”, it does raise some interest questions. For one, how hard is it to wage a full-scale cyberwarfare in this day and age? Apparently, it is rather easy to create massive networks of “zombie PCs and use them to carry out related attacks, not to mention cheap since the hardware and software is hardly sophisticated.

cyber-war-1024x843And as it stands, numerous groups, including military hackers, are engaged in a back and forth with government and industrial giants that involves stealing information and spying on their activities. If things were to escalate, would it not be very easy for hackers or national cyberwarfare rings – especially ones operating out of China, Israel, Iran, Russia or the US – to try and shut down their enemies infrastructure by launching terabytes of useless data at them?

Oh, I shudder to think! An entire nation brought to its heels by adds for Russian brides, discount watches and cheap Viagra! But for the moment, it seems this latest apocalyptic prediction has proven to be just as flaccid as the others. Oh well, another day, another dollar…

Sources: qz.com, gaurdian.co.uk, gizmodo.com

Dealing with Spam

No-SpamI’ll say it right off the bat, I hate spam. No, let me express that properly: I HATE SPAM! And not the cheap, spiced ham that comes in a can. No, that at least has some comedic value, and the Monty Python troop made such good fun of it that the name has a permanent place in my heart. No, I refer of course to the useless adverts and unwanted solicitations that appear in your comments section whenever you log on to your website to see who’s stopping by.

Seeing as how feedback, especially the kind that lets you know you are reaching people, is so encouraging, is it not the most annoying thing in the world to find yourself beset by these uncaring, fishing, and indifferent messages? Sure, we all have been forced to accept that such garbage is simply the price we pay for using an unregulated internet, where its an open sea and you can expect to find your share of trolls, scammers, pirates and thieves. But lately, it’s becoming a total nuisance for me!

In fact, it’s gotten so bad that I’ve actually had to delete a post just so I would stop getting the free flow of useless comments that its come to attract. It was named “Anatomy of the Xenomorph”, and it contained a simple video clip that explains how the Alien costume designers have tinkered with the concept over the years. Don’t ask me why, but something in this article sends up the green flag for people looking to sell me Gucci, Cartier, glasses, handbags, running shoes, sexcam membership, free credit checks, and no credit check loans.

Because of this, it no longer appears on this site, mainly because I sank it in the hopes that it would take the rats down with it. Weeks of this stuff and I still wonder why these buggers were targeting it specifically. I’m sure many of you have seen the stuff I am referring to,  either on your own site or one you cruise by regularly, so tell me is these ring any bells…

One of the most recurring are ones that come with the name “lista de emails”, and they usually contain some nonsense message that lauds your post in such generalized terms so as not to give away the fact that they don’t have the slightest idea what you wrote in it. Others are less subtle, advertising their product directly in the message, cramming a whole of lot poorly formatted verbiage about deals and discounts and even services you can use to improve your website.

Seriously, do these sound familiar? Is it not just me getting hit up by these desperate bungholes? If so, what are you doing to dissuade these people? More than once, I’ve actually approved a comment from a repeat offender just so I could write back and tell them to F off! And now, I’ve deleted a post so they wouldn’t find that open door when next they come around. Do I need to modify my spam filter settings? Because seriously, far too much garbage is getting through here.

Oh, and if any spammers happen to be reading this, do NOT take this opportunity to solicit me, post how much you love my site with an advert link, or tell me I need to upgrade to some service of yours. Seriously deadbeats, back yer sh*t up! Not interested, don’t care, and trying to run a serious, refuse-free site here. So look for a sucker somewhere else!