One that I've never told to anyone before, but that simply Must Be Shared After All These Years.
Many many many years ago, I worked on a large software project with some friends, including and . The software was for A Big Bank, and part of the project required writing out a custom CD-ROM for each of their big corporate customers every month. The CD was basically a website that included a whole bunch of account transaction information, and served as a kind of local, static supplement to the fancy webapp that we built for them.
So, if a customer requested (and paid for, of course) a monthly summary of their transactions, we'd build a full static website in a RAM disk, create a disk image from that RAM disk, and then shoot the disk image over to the CD burner.
Now, The Big Bank purchased some fancy schmancy CD burners that we could send our disk image to, along with a little file full of metadata. The CD burner would notice the metadata file, pull a blank CD out of the hopper containing a hundred or so blanks, burn the image to it, and then print a lovely label right onto the disk.
Well, that's what it was supposed to do.
In testing, I found that it just flat out wouldn't print some of my test disk images. I debugged and debugged and debugged and finally figured out that the CD burner, which could burn CDs with up to 640MB of data, failed on very small images. Any image smaller than 640KB, to be precise. We contacted the manufacturer of the CD burners, and they weren't much help. The software running the station was proprietary, so we couldn't really debug it, and The Big Bank was bearing down on us with a tight deadline. So we thought about how we could fix it as quickly as possible because we were already running a little bit behind. Since the CD burner wasn't part of our system, and we couldn't debug it, I gave the bank a choice:
- I could start charging them hourly to debug it and push back the deadline a week or two or three
- I could just stuff a 640KB file onto every image before I started writing the files out onto it.
As you might guess, they chose the latter.
So now the big question: what to put in the file? I mean, we could just fill it full of ones and zeroes, or garbage from /dev/random, but that seemed uninteresting. I mean, we had a chance to send something out to basically every corporate customer of The Big Bank, so what could we send?
We sent them Pi. Exactly 640kb of pi. We checked the pi file into our version control system and it was built right into our app that we delivered to them. And that's how Pi wound up on thousands and thousands of CDs in the hands of who knows how many companies. Or so I thought.
Right after we shipped, I was catching up on code reviews (we didn't know better back then) and saw that someone (Who Shall Remain Nameless) had committed a change to the pi file just hours before we shipped. I found that to be more than a bit odd, so I opened the message to look at the diff, which showed that only one line, near the middle of the file, had changed:
+ 01372056002 Lee Harvey Oswald Acted Alone 4463577152589
And that is part of the, ahem, corrupted, version of Pi that shipped on every CD-ROM that our product created.
This role will "serve as the primary advisor to the Director of NSA for ensuring that privacy is protected and civil liberties are maintained by all of NSA's missions, programs, policies and technologies. This new position is focused on the future, designed to directly enhance decision making and to ensure that CL/P protections continue to be baked into NSA's future operations, technologies, tradecraft, and policies. The NSA CLPO will consult regularly with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence CLPO, privacy and civil liberties officials from the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice, as well as other U.S. government, private sector, public advocacy groups and foreign partners."
#privacy #surveillance #humanrights #civilliberties #jobs
So when I saw the following quote being attributed to I knew something funny was going on:
"What is more pleasant than the benevolent notice other people take of us, what is more agreeable than their compassionate empathy? What inspires us more than addressing ears flushed with excitement, what captivates us more than exercising our own power of fascination? What is more thrilling than an entire hall of expectant eyes, what more overwhelming than applause surging up to us? What, lastly, equals the enchantment sparked off by the delighted attention we receive from those who profoundly delight ourselves? - Attention by other people is the most irresistible of drugs. To receive it outshines receiving any other kind of income. This is why glory surpasses power and why wealth is overshadowed by prominence."
It sounds rather old-fashioned and the vocabulary used sounds more European than American. So, of course, I tracked it down to the original source. The chain looks like this:
- cites Caterina as the source here: http://thomashawk.com/2005/10/flickr-caterina-fake-anil-dash-wealth.html
- Caterina's URL for that post is a 404: http://caterina.net/archive/000863.html
- Luckily the Internet Archive has a copy: http://web.archive.org/web/20110723040656/http://caterina.net/archive/000863.html so we can see it in the context of her dialogue with
- This leads to the post where she correctly cites the author: http://web.archive.org/web/20101120175827/http://caterina.net/archive/000834.html
- Her original source is this translation of Georg Franck's book The Attention Economy: http://www.heise.de/tp/artikel/5/5567/1.html
All of this leads to the realisation that Georg Franck: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_Franck and his book: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%96konomie_der_Aufmerksamkeit are only covered on the German language Wikipedia. That's why Franck's work from 1998 only merits a footnote in the English language Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attention_economy
/cc since he's interested in the attention economy
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