Category Archives: Internet

Killing Usenet trolls

I’m still quite a heavy user of Usenet, despite the influx of spammers and its constantly predicted death. One of the bigger problems these days, however, isn’t so much spammers as trolls and off-topic posters – typically school children (please, parents, confine your children to Myspace).

Spammers, at least, tend to post over a wide range of groups and hence can be killed off in one hit – and nobody tends to reply to their posts. Trolls, on the other hand, usually get a number of replies, which creates huge threads that hide legitimate topics. Worse are the off-topic political posters, who post to a number of only vaguely-related groups at the same time.

You can’t simply kill-file the original poster, because many other people reply, often even misguided regular posters. Kill-filing the whole thread on Subject header is also futile, because the trolls will soon start a new topic.

The best way I’ve found to handle these situations is to automatically kill threads started by known trolls. Unfortunately, no newsreader that I’ve seen seems to handle this situation, so I’ve written a script to take care of it for me. It’s a little situation specific, however – it relies on having a local spool (I use leafnode to suck down articles from remote news servers) and using nn. It’s written in perl, so it shouldn’t be hard to modify it to talk remotely, and to use other newsreaders’ kill file formats.

Internet shopping

Could someone explain to me why I would pay $29.67 + shipping for a CD (unless I buy a second item at the same time), when it’s highly likely that I can buy the same CD for $24 at JB Hifi next time I pass their store?

I thought the idea of buying online was that it was meant to be cheaper, because the stores were able to do without all the shopfront staff, and could streamline all their warehouse operations. Without a significant monetary saving, internet purchases have little benefit.

They certainly aren’t more convenient – you either have to coordinate your movements to be sure that you’re home when a courier arrives or risk having to visit a post-office during business hours (and it’s amazing how difficult that is, if you work 9-6); there is generally a few weeks lead time (add that to the books getting lost in transit, as happened to me with Amazon when I was in Amsterdam)… and then, there’s always the issue of wondering just how they store your credit card number.