Blog - Unity Behind Diversity

Searching for beauty in the dissonance

Tagged: stupid

Cleaning up HTML entities in MySpace blog RSS feeds (or how to eliminate squidginess)

I recently setup a Facebook musician page for Robyn Dell’Unto. We ran into one really annoying problem importing her blog posts from her MySpace blog. As Robyn described it,

my only issue with the notes is that they go all squidgy when there’s punctuation in the title. which, frankly, embarrasses me! I’m really embarrassed by squidgy punctuation!

By “squidgy,” she meant that the HTML entities were not displaying properly. Titles from imported posts displayed like this: “I’m doing stuff I swear.”


First, I thought it was a problem with Facebook Notes, but upon inspecting the MySpace RSS feed, I found that (aside from being woefully invalid — iTunes?) MySpace seems to have no freaking clue how to handle HTML entities properly. It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of MySpace. Why would I expect a valid feed? *sigh*

There were two really annoying things that MySpace was doing (aside from the whole iTunes thing):

  1. They double encode entities. Sure, it’s necessary that they turn each & into & in links, but not in text that they’ve already encoded!! This leads to the ’ “squidgies” in the titles
  2. There are a bunch of unicode characters that they don’t encode. For all the double encoding, other characters which ought to be encoded are missed entirely.

On top of that, I discovered that Facebook won’t display any of the unicode characters (I think?) even when they are represented by the proper HTML entities. They just display the entity code, causing the ’ “squidgies.”

Now, I’m no expert on character encoding and HTML entities, but I can do better than that. I’ve hacked together some PHP code to clean up the feed a bit before importing to Facebook, which has solved all of our problems so far. I realize I’m only addressing a limited subset of unicode character entities, but it’s working for our purposes for now.

View the code.

It’s nowhere near perfect, but it’s a definite improvement and it works so far. Hopefully this can be of assistance to someone else. Suggestions welcome!

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Techdirt: Rogers Looks For New Ways To Annoy Customers, Hijacks Failed DNS Lookups

I have a new post at Techdirt, from the nobody-likes-anti-features dept: Rogers Looks For New Ways To Annoy Customers, Hijacks Failed DNS Lookups.

Yeah, I’m just a little bit annoyed. I’m working on a post to detail how to circumvent it with OpenDNS, which is my short-term solution while I investigate other ISPs (not that there are many).

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Researchers demonstrate how RIAA/MPAA tactics can send DMCA takedown notices to laser printers

The problems with DMCA takedown notices have been clear for a while, but… laser printers?

From the New York Times (via Bruce Schneier):

A new study from the University of Washington suggests that media industry trade groups are using flawed tactics in their investigations of users who violate copyrights on peer-to-peer file sharing networks.

The researchers concluded that enforcement agencies are looking only at I.P. addresses of participants on these peer-to-peer networks, and not what files are actually downloaded or uploaded — a more resource-intensive process that would nevertheless yield more conclusive information.

In their report, the researchers also demonstrate a way to manipulate I.P. addresses so that another user appears responsible for the file-sharing.

An inanimate object could also get the blame. The researchers rigged the software agents to implicate three laserjet printers, which were then accused in takedown letters by the M.P.A.A. of downloading copies of “Iron Man” and the latest Indiana Jones film.

Ok. Deceased computer-less grandmothers, sure. But laser printers?

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Google is making Nick Carr and Matt Asay stupid

(Note: A revised version of this article has been posted on Techdirt.)

Matt Asay writes about Nick Carr’s article in the July issue of The Atlantic, “Is Google making us stupid?” I’m not so sure that you can make such a generalization, but the Internet certainly seems to be making Nick Carr and Matt Asay stupid.

There are some valid concerns nested in there, but the tone is attention seeking and hyperbolic. More importantly, Carr seems (note: haven’t been able to read the full article) to be jumping to the wrong conclusions, as appears to be typical. What really irks me is how people make the wrong distinctions with respect to digital technology. People tend to liken it to analog technologies when it’s dissimilar (e.g. people who believe DRM is possible), and treat it like something entirely different when it is similar (e.g. now).

How is Google’s or Wikipedia’s role of “brain extension” all that different from something like paper? Sure, it’s much more powerful and works on a completely different scale, but if the fear is that we aren’t exercising our brains enough because we rely on Google, how does the same concern not apply to paper? Paper plays a role of brain extension, whether it’s through notes we write for ourselves or books we reference from a library.

According to the Radar Online, Carr writes in the article:

[S]cholars examined computer logs documenting the behavior of visitors to two popular research sites, one operated by the British Library and one by a U.K. educational consortium, that provide access to journal articles, e-books, and other sources of written information. They found that people using the sites exhibited “a form of skimming activity,” hopping from one source to another and rarely returning to any source they’d already visited. They typically read no more than two pages of an article or book before they would “bounce” out to another site. Sometimes they’d save a long article, but there’s no evidence that they ever went back and actually read it.

I’m sorry, but how is this “chilling” (as the Radar comments)? I don’t understand why this is a problem. I skim a ton of stuff online and often make quick judgments as to whether or not its worth my time. There’s a lot of crap in the long tail. But there are also a lot of worthwhile things. Skimming is human filtering, it’s a necessary and useful part of processing the vast amount of information available online. I’m not going to read everything I find on the web. Most articles I will scan quickly, but there are many other things that I read in detail and at length.

What’s wrong with skimming?

And then there’s Matt’s attack on Twitter…

Speaking of Twitter, am I the only one who views it as further evidence of a soundbite culture that struggles even to think beyond 140-character blips?

Come on! It’s a medium! What about the famous quote? “I’ve written you a long letter because I haven’t had time to write a short one.” (paraphrased – usually attribute to Mark Twain, but it appears it may be Blaise Pascal). It’s harder to be concise. Regardless, Twitter is a medium, it’s micro-blogging. Just because you make use of a different medium doesn’t mean that it controls your thinking or prevents you from using other mediums. Did telegrams make people stupid? I use the Internet to update my Facebook status and to write 2500 word emails to stay in touch with close friends.

Twitter doesn’t make people stupid.

Nor does Google or Wikipedia or anything else. People are just stupid irrespective of technology. Myself included. I don’t do stupid things because of technology, I do stupid things because sometimes I do stupid things. We may see stupidity manifested in different ways on different mediums, but I have a hard time believing that the medium is to blame.

I’ll be watching for the article in its entirety when it comes online…

Update: The article is online. I was expecting a little more evidence, less storytelling and speculation. To Carr’s credit, he does acknowledge the counterexample of paper. Though, he doesn’t explain why skimming is problematic, aside from worrying that we’re becoming “mere decoders of information,” like computers. Did paper cause people to become mere transmitters of information? We aren’t deprived of our ability to reflect or think deeply by using Google’s search engine or by skimming through blog posts.

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Abstinence education is terrifying

Apparently, some people find it terrifying if their kids get some common sense advice about sex. As evidenced by Virginia Foxx’s pointed question, some people are against promoting restraint or abstinence no matter what the facts are. Quite frankly, that “freaks me out”.

This is the “sneaky” and offensive video:

*sigh* Pregnancy is not a disease…

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Smearing Lawrence Lessig and Free Culture

What good thing could come of an intellectually dishonest smear campaign against Lawrence Lessig? Mike Masnick absolutely ripping it to shreds.

As a general comment, these defenders of “intellectual property” don’t seem to understand that granting artificial monopolies involves more government intervention, not less. Free culture is not communism. Also, these guys consistently fail to recognize the differences between tangible and intellectual property.

Read more about this from Lessig’s blog as well.

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Sony BMG sued for using unauthorized software

I’m pretty sure this isn’t an April Fool’s joke, because I’ve found it here, here and here (dated in March) and its even mentioned on PointDev’s website. Sony BMG has been accused of violating PointDev’s software copyright by installing unauthorized versions of its Windows administration tools on its computer systems in France.

This comes from the same company that installed rootkits on its own customer’s computers. The latest allegations are pretty ironic, considering their strong stance on “piracy” when it comes to music.

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Bob Lefsetz credits MTV for Barrack Obama’s success

Bob Lefsetz thinks that MTV is responsible for Barrack Obama’s success.

Maybe “thinks” is the wrong word.

The outlet has featured a rainbow of human beings. Of all ethnicities. Not only black, but brown and multiracial… I won’t say those under thirty five are without prejudice. But I will say we have the music industry to thank for this revolution of hope that Barack Obama is leading.

Stop… stomping… on my brain…

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Record industry worse off than anyone could imagine

This found via Michael Geist and Bob Lefsetz:

“There’s no one in the record industry that’s a technologist,” Morris explains. “That’s a misconception writers make all the time, that the record industry missed this. They didn’t. They just didn’t know what to do. It’s like if you were suddenly asked to operate on your dog to remove his kidney. What would you do?”

Personally, I would hire a vet. But to Morris, even that wasn’t an option. “We didn’t know who to hire,” he says, becoming more agitated. “I wouldn’t be able to recognize a good technology person — anyone with a good bullshit story would have gotten past me.”

Doug Morris the CEO of Universal Music. God help us all. I don’t even know where to begin, but I like how the article ended:

We give this industry six months to live.

It gets even worse. From TechDirt:

To make matters even worse, Morris is so clueless that he chooses the worst possible analogy to explain his position. Lots of entertainment industry execs have thrown up their hands and ignorantly stated that “you can’t make money from free.” That’s wrong, of course, but Morris takes it one step further up the ridiculous scale, with the following example: “If you had Coca-Cola coming through the faucet in your kitchen, how much would you be willing to pay for Coca-Cola? There you go. That’s what happened to the record business.” Hmm… and what is coming out of your faucet in your kitchen? That’s right… water. And how much are people willing to pay for water? That’s right, billions. In fact, it’s a larger market than (oops) recorded music. Can someone please explain how Morris keeps his job?

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