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PM and XML (ab)use?

by Masem (Monsignor)
on Apr 25, 2001 at 19:08 UTC ( [id://75485] : monkdiscuss . print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Beatnik has posted a couple of scripts recently that take advantage of the XML nature of PerlMonks; one which was questionable, but the recent one with mailing the newest nodes is a very good idea. Keep in mind, I've nothing against Beatnik, only that he's brough up some ideas that I have that edge on the ethical use of PM.

One of those ideas is to extend the functionality of the Monestary by the use of personal scripts to implement functionality that I would not expect vroom to add or to be useful to th entire community. For example, one thing I'd like to see, but probably not shared by most, is a way to place 'temporary' votes on items that you see during the day, then decide before the vote count is reset which ones you actually want to cast.

The concept would be a combined cron/CGI job; the cron job periodically downloads the newest nodes and stores them, the CGI would present the newest nodes with 6 voting buttons; "absolutely ++" "maybe ++" "no opinion", "maybe --", and "definitely --", with a default "+=0". The absolute options would indicate votes that you definitely want to place, while you're not sure about the maybes as you'd want to see if there are other worthy nodes before you place these. Once every 24hrs, the cron script would then place all absolute votes that you've indicated, and clear out the newest nodes and the like.

Obviously, this idea is definitely not a good thing for implementing into the PM code itself as it would confuse the voting process, which is why I'd do it as my own scripting. And given what Beatnik has demonstrated, implementing this type of functionality isn't really a problem.

The ethical part now comes into play that I can now effectively get most of the benefit of PM without visiting any of the HTML pages (and the banner ad). Now, if it was just me that was to use this script, I wouldn't have a big issue because I can drop coinage in the Offering Plate to what I feel is appropriate. But given the utility of such a script, I'd want to offer that to others to use, and there's the problem as there would be those that would grab PM's content without repaying the favor of vroom's kindness; one could easily modify such a script (as well as Beatnik's) to archive PM as well, possibly for non-personal uses as well.

So the ethical question that it comes down to is : with XML-enabled sites like PM, is it reasonable to expect that those with sufficient knowledge might abuse the XML functionality to avoid direct interaction with the site and any possible ad-bannering that funds it, and in such cases, is this ethical on the part of the bypasser? I'm more interested in PM's case, but also wondering for other sites, in general.

Dr. Michael K. Neylon - || "You've left the lens cap of your mind on again, Pinky" - The Brain

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: PM and XML (ab)use?
by mirod (Canon) on Apr 25, 2001 at 19:29 UTC

    XML makes it easier and more accurate (not to mention way cooler ;--) but bypassing the "official" way to navigate sites started a long time ago, with deep linking and ads filtering, not to mention extracting Dilbert strips in bulk {grin}.

    I think the fact that PM is XML based is excellent, and we should all go crazy experimenting with it,.

    What we can gain from playing with the site is really important:

    • we can of course all get better at processing XML with Perl
    • so we can showcase what you can do with XML in Perl (remember that for most people XML = Java)
    • we can demonstrate the importance of using XML and how it enables the creator of a site to offload adding new features to users

    Basically Perl Monks is like a playground where we can all experiment on how to best use XML. Sites that delivers an XML version and that we care about are not that common, so really we should keep on building funky XML thingies, (and use the Offering Plate!)

Re: PM and XML (ab)use?
by footpad (Abbot) on Apr 25, 2001 at 19:32 UTC

    I think there will always be people who abuse the generosity of others. However, I also believe that one of the ideals of the Open Source movement is that there are more ethical people in the profession than there are abusers. That the advantages of sharing knowledge outweigh the risks.

    There are communities where specific information is guarded and protected for some nebulous competitive advantage. I would hate to see PM turn into one of those.

    Also, there are other ways to contribute. Buy Stuff, for example. Heck, I've even been using the [isbn://] tag in private /msg's to myself when buying non-Perl tech books for that very reason. Why? Because I believe that's the ethical thing to do and it's something I can do.

    There are certainly other ways to contribute and the beauty of an effective online community is that individuals find ways to help. For example, it would be just as easy to write a BannerBot that logged into PM every fifteen minutes and clicked whatever banner was displayed. (I don't know if Fearless gets a click-through kickback, but it would certainly look like the advertisers were getting hits.)

    In short, keep sharing.


Re: PM and XML (ab)use?
by OeufMayo (Curate) on Apr 25, 2001 at 19:34 UTC

    So the ethical question that it comes down to is : with XML-enabled sites like PM, is it reasonable to expect that those with sufficient knowledge might abuse the XML functionality to avoid direct interaction with the site...

    I don't think XML has anything to do with it. Try applying s/XML/LWP/g on your article and will still make sense. My point is that as long as there will be machine-operated protocols, you could (and some will) bypass the usual way to operate it and provide some kind of automations .

    The astute reader will note that in order to use LWP, one has to first understand how it works, hence understand Perl and therefore hang out at Perlmonks with his browser for a while!

    Now, while I could make this little bot for my own purposes, I'd really prefer wasting my time in the CB. What would I do all day long, if I had an auto-CB-reply, auto-vote, auto-whatever-you-want-to-do-at-Perlmonks bot to dall those things for me?

    my $OeufMayo = new PerlMonger::Paris({http => ''});</kbd>
Re: PM and XML (ab)use?
by Beatnik (Parson) on Apr 25, 2001 at 19:58 UTC
    Not in my own defense but merely as a note:
    you can build a nuclear reactor from parts you buy in a hardware store and you can kill someone with a kitchen knife.
    That doesnt mean you should !!
    Like mentioned before it's called use and abuse. I'm sure someone out there took a perfectly innocent script from the monestary (or from any place for that matter) and did something bad with it.
    I can only hope my code won't be abused, but I doubt that's the case. If every piece of code written can be abused, should programmers stop writing code?
    If the information on a site isnt in XML, it will probably be in plain HTML... someone who really wants data, will get it... whatever the format.

    To conclude (and in my defense):
    No, I did not and probably never will write code with intent for abusing the monestary
    No, I didn't think it all over before posting
    No, I don't regret posting it, since it brought along this very healthy discussion
    No, it doesn't stop me from writing PM related scripts.
    No, I am not visiting the monestary any less since I wrote those non browser PM scripts, in fact it has the opposite effect.

    Yes, sensitive code should be discussed in CB or #perlmonks before posting. I actually mentioned Vote Bot on #perlmonks and posted the code online somewhere before posting it in CUFP.
    Yes, I learned a great deal by implementing XML::Parser (and numerous other modules on the side). That's what the monestary is all about.
    Yes, I expect people to learn from my code (how crappy it may be). Again, that's what the monestary is all about.
    Yes, I am considering putting a "for educational purposes only" notice on all code I post, since it might be a way to stop downvoting.

    Added: No, I don't hold a grudge against any monk in this issue (or any issue for that matter)

    On the banners issue : lynx, bannerfilters ???

    ... Quidquid perl dictum sit, altum viditur.
(dws)Re: PM and XML (ab)use?
by dws (Chancellor) on Apr 25, 2001 at 21:23 UTC
    [Paraphrased] Is it an abuse of XML sites to bypass the ad-bannering that funds them?

    Whether bypassing ad banners (e.g., by direct XML access) is "abuse" depends entirely on site policy. If a site exposes a public XML (or RSS, or whatever) interface, but not does qualify their use by a stated policy, then it's "anything goes".

    If a site depends on ad banner money for revenue, and exposes direct XML access, and doesn't clearly state limitations on that access, then they're abusing themselves.

    If you feel guilty about bypassing Monastery ad banners, there's always the Offering Plate.