David Blunkett resigns

Within the last thirty minutes, David Blunkett (wikipedia, BBC), the Home Secretary has resigned.

Blunkett is an MP for Sheffield, which is where I live, and is the main driving force behind introducing ID cards to Britain (wikipedia, BBC: iCan, BBC: ID cards at-a-glance).

I’m absolutely no fan of ID cards at all, and I can’t deny that when I heard he’d resigned (publishing an autobiography slating the rest of the Cabinet can’t have helped) I jumped out of my seat and punched the air, but the Government will still try and push them through, especially now they have the backing of the Conservatives, but I think they’ll be lucky to get it cleared by 2012 unless Charles Clarke (the guy who its currently mooted will take over) decides to really push it as hard as he can.

Also check out the relevant article on David Blunkett is an arse and watch out for the reaction from Big Blunkett.

From the more technical perspective, Wikipedia had updated their page on Blunkett within minutes of the announcement. I look forward to reading the updated version of the Encyclopedia Brittanica later 😉


I’ve always known that wikispam exists, just like comment spam exists, but up until now I’ve never run into much of either (all praise the Blogger walled-garden!). In the last few days however, I’ve been learning a little bit about Groovy, where most of their documentation resides in a MoinMoin wiki (there is also some duplication in their Confluence wiki, but the MoinMoin one seems to have more content overall), and it suffers badly from wikispam. By looking at recent changes it’s easy to see that there are a good number of people who do their best to clean it up (for my part, I do what I can), but there’s only so fast a human can act when they’re working against (what looks like) a bot.

screenshot of wiki changes by a spambot

From 7.30am to 9.30am someone, or some bot is just following every single link on the wiki and replacing the content of the page it finds with links to all sorts of junk, presumably to try and improve their PageRank. Of course what this means practically, is that while the wiki is defaced, no-one can learn anything about Groovy (assuming they’d want to), and of course it’s not an isolated incident, it happens to all kinds of wikis across the internet, denying access to their content (of course, if the content is that important then you could ask “what’s it doing on a wiki anyway?” but that’s beside the point). It’s a complete mess of a situation where you want to grant free access to legitimate users but also need to deny access to these spambots (it’s also an old subject which I’m regretting getting into, but that’s life :).

Step up to the plate, WikiMinion (via Abject Learning) which is a Bot by RichardP which cleans wiki spam. Very good it looks too.

The code uses two approaches for identifying edits made by spammers – examining external links and examining source IP addresses. In both approaches if a clean version can be identified the page is reverted back to it. Likewise, if all versions of a page appear to created by a spammer, the page is marked for deletion.

To my simple mind, that seems like an excellent first-step tool for maintaining existing wikis. Maybe the next step should be to incorporate this kind of thing into wiki software itself so that the changes by spambots can’t be made in the first place. It would remove having to set up authentication for a wiki (which would kind of defeat the point) whilst inconveniencing the fewest number of people (I guess there would be IP clashes when the spambot learns it has to spoof the IP of someone who has already made a successful changes). The Meatball Wiki also has a list of other possible solutions and in fact it turns out there’s plenty of discussion on the MoinMoin site itself about how to combat spam. If only I’d read that before starting to write this, eh? 🙂

New design

I finally got around to spending ten minutes to create a new design for this site that I might not hate quite as much as the last one. The HTML is slightly better, the CSS is just as bad, and links are painfully non-obvious, which I’ll need to fix. An added bonus is that I’ve broken all the links in my sidebar – hooray for progress!

And I’ve just noticed my layout breaks in 800×600! Woo! I rock so hard 🙂

MSN Spaces launched

Microsoft launched Spaces today.

Dear God it’s shit. I don’t really have much more to say on the matter, so I’ll just quote one of my workmates who also signed up to see what it was like: diabolical.

I realise that this post will make you go to spaces to sign up and see what it’s like – really, don’t. You’ll just be wasting your life.

Oh, and although it’s functionally better in IE than in Firefox (drog and drop parts of a page Sharepoint-stylee and the post creator/editor actually works), the visual style keeps breaking badly in IE, whereas at least in Firefox all of the page actually appears each time you view it.

The MSN Messenger integration looks like it might be nice, but they’ve not released it yet and I don’t use Messenger anyway. Ho hum.

Search your gmail in Firefox

I’ve only recently made the move from Firefox 0.9.x to 1.0 (I was waiting for all the extensions I use to finally get updated) and although I mainly do my searching using keywords, I’m really enjoying the search toolbar. It’s incredibly intuitive, and although I’m both very used to, and very quick at using keywords to perform all my searches I find myself using the search toolbar time and time again, it’s clearly a very intuitive widget, and massively extensible to boot.

It’s not actually listed on the mycroft website, but as well as Amazon, Wikipedia, IMDB and all the other search engines that can be plugged into it, there’s also one for letting you search your gmail (the ‘install’ link on the site doesn’t work though, but you can click this link to install the gmail search engine).

It’s actually quite useful being able to search your mail from your browser, especially when it lets you perform complex queries like I wrote about before.

What using the gmail search toolbar looks like

What’s also nice is that if you don’t type anything and just hit enter it takes you straight to your inbox. Must save me literally seconds every day 🙂