Category Archives: Sheer, mind-bending stupidity

The EU’s proposed “link tax”: a modest proposal

Despite the disastrous effects of the same policy in Spain, the European Union is flirting with the idea of a link tax. This autumn’s proposals for copyright reform in Europe might contain all sorts of good things — not least, Hargreaves-like rules for content-mining — there is also the real possibility that they will also propose requiring payment for linking to content.


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When good standards go bad

Years ago, I was on the editorial board for versions 1.1 and 1.2 an informal standard called SRU. It defined a way to do IR queries over HTTP with XML payloads: you’d send a URL like, and it would send back an XML document describing the search result — hit count, that kind of thing — and containing payload records.


Since the payload records themselves were also in XML, it was often convenient to just embed them right in the response, where they could be extracted by XSLT or similar. Continue reading

Dear America: you are insane

US schools weigh bulletproof uniforms: ‘It’s no different than a seatbelt in a car’.

That is all.


The freedom to post pictures of burning poppies

Kent Police force has posted this press release:

Man due to be interviewed in connection with Facebook posting

A man is due to be interviewed by police this morning following reports that a picture of a burning poppy had been posted on a social media website.

Officers were contacted at around 4pm yesterday, Sunday, 11 November 2012 and alerted to the picture, which was reportedly accompanied by an offensive comment.

Following an investigation by Kent Police a 19-year-old, Canterbury man was arrested on suspicion of an offence under the malicious communications act. He is currently in custody.

Posted on: 11 November 2012

More than a million British soliders gave their lives in World Wars I and II to preserve a free nation.

I do not believe the free nation they had in mind was one in which you can be arrested for posting a picture of a burning poppy.

Stupidest fact about XML

The following is not a valid XML 1.0 document:


Try it yourself in your favourite XML parser!

(This blog-post was meant to be a tweet, but after two attempts, I couldn’t make Twitter render it right.)

Dear dessert-marketing corporations: please do not attempt philosophy

On my flight to Boston the other week, I was given a dessert (to be fair, a pretty good chocolate mousse) in a pot whose packaging was so startlingly inane that I had to save it for later derision. Here it is:

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Oppose SOPA, PIPA and the RWA

Today is a big day for the Internet.  Nearly everyone reading this site will be aware of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), two appallingly ill-conceived pieces of legislation under consideration in the US but with profound ramifications for the whole world.  Written at the behest of big copyright holders by people with no understanding of how the Internet works either mechanically or culturally, they would be absolutely disastrous if passed.

In response to this, many high-profile web-sites are demonstrating the results such laws would have by going dark for the day.  They include Reddit and, most importantly, Wikipedia.  (Also, the entire Cheezburger network and many, many others.)  We can only hope that this distributed demonstration results not just in SOPA and PIPA being rejected, but in an emphatic smackdown that makes it impossible for similarly dumb legislation to get mind-space in the future.

But there is another threat also making its way through the US Congress — less publicised but also hugely important.

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Well, that about wraps it up for copyright

I just read this article on TechDirt: EU Officially Seizes The Public Domain, Retroactively Extends Copyright.  As the article says, “This is nothing short of governments and the entertainment industry seizing works from the public domain”.  Let’s be clear: it’s theft.  It’s a matter of big companies (and it should surprise no-one that record labels have lobbied aggressively for this) stealing content that belongs to you and me, and taking it for themselves.

In fact, let’s call it exactly what it is: piracy.

And the shocking thing is, this piracy is not a crime.  It’s legally sanctioned.

But that doesn’t make it right.

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Whose account? TalkTalk gets confused

It’s that time of month when, instead of emailing me my phone bill, TalkTalk emails me to say that my phone bill is ready and would I please come to their crappy web-site and log in and download it.  (I’ve written to them to complain about this.  Would you be very shocked it I told you that they never replied?)

Today, the login took a bit longer than usual, which have me time to spot this piece of brain-damage on the pointless interstitial page:

Too perplexed by the whole “Your Account” / “My Account” thing, TalkTalk have clearly just thrown up their hands and decided to throw in all the possessive adjectives they can think of.  “Your My Account” indeed!


Dumbed down

I was picking up some groceries in Lidl this evening when this advertisement in their hand-out caught my eye.

Seriously, Lidl?  Do we really need to be told that a Stainless Steel Pedestal Barcecue is “Ideal for BBQs”?

Yes, apparently we can’t be expected to figure this out for ourselves.