Let 1,000 comments bloom

Another open thread, since there should always be one.

Hank, FSN9 and others who missed out on yesterday’s pyrotechnics, please check out the post titled The Fantabulist and then comment over here if you’d like. Everyone else — let’s change the subject!! Thanks.

The Discussion: 60 Comments

Just found this via eswn – a photographic history of China. Absolutely stunning. Just go there. (Broadband recommended.)

July 12, 2005 @ 7:22 pm | Comment

Interesting. When did ESWN get blocked in China?

I haven’t been able to access it for a few days now.

July 12, 2005 @ 7:48 pm | Comment

The ESWN block seems sporadic (or only on certain articles). I am getting into it fine now.

July 12, 2005 @ 8:39 pm | Comment

I can’t believe I missed the fireworks. So MAJ turns out to be a mutliple personality plagariser.

Is someone going to volunteer to Google each new comment, to identify a potential breach? Does it bother anyone else that MAJ spent so much time and effort Googling for his/her prolific comments. That’s a lot of effort.

Best of all, the episode proves the power of this medium. It might have taken three months, but the fraud has been exposed comprehensively. Incredible.

July 12, 2005 @ 8:43 pm | Comment

I’m not sure it took three months to expose this. I think a lot of people just looked at the vast difference between his personal asides and his commentary, and assumed he was cutting and pasting. I can understand those who didn’t notice this and actually engaged the guy being angry about it.

July 12, 2005 @ 9:17 pm | Comment

Simon, I’m considering writing a ‘plargarism watch bot’ to google all comments I read, and flag duplicated material. Kinda like a Recognizer from Tron, set to flag things in Google.

I could do it as a Greasemonkey plugin, so it would run in the browser, and/or an MT plugin that would block anything that hits and is not in a blockquote tag. I think I’ll put in the automatic blockquote exclusion in any/all versions, come to think of it.

I’ll post when I have code in the current days open thread, if any other PKD’ers wanna try it out. Probably initially as a Greasemonkey plugin for Firefox. Email me at the address on this comment if you especially care to be an early tester.

Oh and Richard, nice to be back! (maj heavy posts kept me away for, oh, however long he’s been here!)

July 12, 2005 @ 9:54 pm | Comment


Since most people don’t use html tags in their comments, wouldn’t your blockquote filter still leave you with an awful lot of false hits?

July 12, 2005 @ 10:01 pm | Comment

Well, all I can say is “Good Riddance!”
I knew something was afloat, but I have to admire MAJ for having so much bloody damn time to write comments, regardless of the plagiarism. He must be a very lonely man in that ivory tower, and a very troubled one at that.

Anyway, I wish everyone here a good day, because tommorow, I’m returning to the states for some much needed R ‘n R!

July 12, 2005 @ 10:02 pm | Comment

Hank, I’m really happy you are heading home. You’ve certainly done your time, and how you survived out in the hinterlands where you were for years is utterly beyond me. Not many people could do that (and live to tell about it).

David, once you write that code let me know, although Jones/James/Guckert/Gannon has promised via email he and his personas will never post comments here again. And if anyone has high crediblity with me, it’s MAJ.

July 12, 2005 @ 10:26 pm | Comment

David, it sounds like you could have a product on your hands. I know many universities use such programs to check on cheating for students, so I’d be surprised if something similar didn’t already exist.

But there’s a problem as well…won’t the program simply prove that everything that we write has already been written? Cue “All You need is love” by The Beatles.

July 12, 2005 @ 10:26 pm | Comment

And Simon, I’m sorry you missed so much of yesterday’s “fun.” It might be the most bizarre blogging experience on record, and I’m sure some newspaper reporter somewhere would find it worthy of an article — maybe for Psychology Today.

July 12, 2005 @ 10:28 pm | Comment

Just stopping by to plug the new URL. ๐Ÿ™‚

July 12, 2005 @ 10:39 pm | Comment

Ha, and to think that I always thought that the occasional troll was all a blogger had to worry about.

Great news Hank. I certainly couldn’t have hacked it in the boonies for years on end. All that rubbish I usually spout about finding an “equilibrium” in one’s mind in order to cope with, and survive China refers to Beijing and Guangzhou only. I’m afraid I don’t have any answers for surviving the China boonies.

Anyway, enjoy home, especially the REAL food—know what I’m saying?

July 12, 2005 @ 10:42 pm | Comment

Thank you Richard, but I’ll go right back into it for another year after the four weeks in the states. The things I do for love and marriage…….

July 12, 2005 @ 10:45 pm | Comment

Thanks Martyn,
I especially enjoyed your comments about the MAJ episode.
There are no answers, but sex and booze helps a little. Well, that’s not right. The booze does help, though.

July 12, 2005 @ 10:48 pm | Comment

Hank, I didn’t realize you were going back. One day you’ll explain this to me. No way you can move to a coastal city??

July 12, 2005 @ 10:50 pm | Comment

Simon and Conrad: Well googling, for instance, and text (just the text) of comments in this thread in double quotes (yours is the one I tried, Simon) gives zero hits.

Of course the great maj used blended quotes, so my Recognizer will grab random bits of text from random places in each comment, and google the snippets. For each snippet that is a hit in google, it’ll google longer bits containing it, and highlight the entire ‘potentially plagarized’ bit. This’ll take some tuning on my end to get the algorithm right, to say the least.

By the ‘blockquote exception’ I mean to save time and cpu cycles (let alone bandwidth!) by not googling bits contained within properly matched pairs of blockquote tags, as they have attribution already (of at least a visual sort).

As PKD is providing the insiration (and the corpus of text to analyse in the work of maj, thanks!) it will of course work first and best here.

I’m currently ingesting the medically maximal amount of caffeine I can have, more soon!

July 12, 2005 @ 11:15 pm | Comment

Yeah, I’ve had some weird cyberspace experiences, but that one takes a prize…I want some empirical proof that MAJ exists and is really living in China! I’m not sure I even believe that (although didn’t someone check his IP addresses?).

Well, I’m way behind in blogging but have been having a tiring time myself in reality. Think I might take a nap (now that it’s 10:14 pm).

July 12, 2005 @ 11:16 pm | Comment

Sounds good David.

All this stuff going on recently reminded me of something I heard from my mate in HK a couple of years ago concerning the dreary AsiaXpat site.

Perhaps Simon or other HK bods might know more about this but I heard that some guy started posting on Ask an Xpat using multiple handles. I forget his main handle but his female handle was “Claudia”. Anyways, as per usual will these kind of people, it wasn’t long before he inevitably progressed from being a nuisance to being nasty, creepy and abusive.

AsiaXpat called the police in as HK has applicable laws for this sort of thing. They traced his IP signature to an office in Central District, AsiaXpat provided a thick pile of his printed-out comments and a uniformed officer went to speak to the company’s MD.

After the MD saw how many comments there were, mostly during office hours and saw how abusive they were the guy was sacked on the spot and told to clear his desk right there and then.

Just goes to show that we are all not as anonomous as some seem to think on these public websites and forums.

July 12, 2005 @ 11:55 pm | Comment

If anyone knows how to do this Internet tracking business, it’s China.

Or rather, the feckless bastards at Cisco, MS, etc who helped them do it.

July 13, 2005 @ 12:12 am | Comment

was MAJ anonymous? hasn’t Sam_S from the Shenzen Ren blog met up with him?

July 13, 2005 @ 12:13 am | Comment

About products for detecting plagiarism in the higher education sector – the following website has some useful info: http://www.teach-nology.com/highered/plagiarism/detecting/
But I’ll have to say that it is still a nuisance to have to detect plagiarism in the first place. It’s not a great feeling to find out that a student has been plagiarising. It’s an abuse of trust and even though the culprit is eventually caught and punished, it’ll still leave a bad taste in the mouth, so to speak.

July 13, 2005 @ 12:20 am | Comment

I’m glad my comments passed the Google test.

I’ve heard that Asia Xpat story but always thought it was apocryphal.

There’s an interesting question that rises with plagarisism, which I put to you all. Are there similarities with the DVD/software/music piracy that is so prolific in China?

July 13, 2005 @ 12:29 am | Comment

“It might be the most bizarre blogging experience on record, and I’m sure some newspaper reporter somewhere would find it worthy of an article — maybe for Psychology Today.”

Perhaps the illustrious Dr. Anne Myers could write it up.

July 13, 2005 @ 12:58 am | Comment

Simon: I’m inclined to see piracy for profit and individual plagiarism differently. Although there is clearly some plagiarism for personal profit (Jayson Blair) there is also, it would seem, a fair amount for simple, personal aggrandizement (MAJ).

Perhaps if Chinese artists were “remaking” foreign pop-songs without attribution it might be along similar lines. Can anyone think of examples? (I’m not talking about covers or tributes here, but creative rips. Those old and brain-damaged enough may care to recall Kingdom Come’s dismal ripoff of Zep’s Kashmir as an example.)

July 13, 2005 @ 1:44 am | Comment


A US Court ruled that ex-Beetle George Harrison plagerized his song “My Sweet Lord” from the Chiffon’s “He’s So Fine” and ordered him to pay US $587,000.


July 13, 2005 @ 1:54 am | Comment

Yeah, KLS, and he bought the beer! There’s a photo of him somewhere back in my archives.

Hank, lookout! All the open space over there will suck the air right out of your lungs. You find yourself falling forward, because there are no crowds to prop you up. The sunshine, unfiltered by smog, will sear your eyeballs. Better spend the first day or two indoors.

July 13, 2005 @ 1:55 am | Comment

Oh, George. How my illusions shatter. (Although I always thought his solo stuff was dull as old dirt.)

I also know a lot of western examples have revolved around the more literal act of using uncleared samples in hip hop and electronica. (Record companies have since sorted this one out.)

Any Chinese examples?

July 13, 2005 @ 2:00 am | Comment

I suppose the difference is in the case of MAJ he/she/it was duping us as well as ripping off the original writers’ copyrights, whereas in the case of the pirates the two parties to the transaction know they’re dealing in copies even if it’s at the expense of the copyright holder.

Will, try this: http://www.ccnmtl.columbia.edu/projects/law/library/song.html

July 13, 2005 @ 2:04 am | Comment

That’s actually a really good point, Simon, and it places MAJ much more squarely in the Jayson Blair/garden variety plagiarizm camp where work is passed off as original on an unsuspecting audience. (And it’s more offensive in that it was done in the context of a semi-personal debate – to our faces, as it were.)

July 13, 2005 @ 2:16 am | Comment

I’ve seen the analogy made between a blog’s comments section and sitting in someone’s living room talking about a topic. In which case we’ve been living with a ventriloquist.

July 13, 2005 @ 2:35 am | Comment

I guess MAJ can always find an excuse by claiming that he’s just exploring the boundary of communication in hyperspace. But I have to say that the plagiarism part really sux. I felt that I’d wasted my time reading his writing. And I only started yesterday. I could imagine how you guy would have felt.

July 13, 2005 @ 2:36 am | Comment

Quick progress note, I’ve got a Recognizer done so far that flags things that are plagarized (changes the background for the paragraph to red), and prints a “Warning, the above paragraph may contain plagarized text” snippet underneath it.
It will ultimately contain a link to the google search that returned hits, and recognize plagarism in a more sophisticated way that merely scanning for the text string ‘maj’, which is what it’s earliest incarnation does so far! ๐Ÿ™‚

But scaffolding is up, and now we start raising the rest of the building!

July 13, 2005 @ 2:50 am | Comment

Fat Cat, I have to say that I have no time for the “exploring the boundaries of communication” excuse and all the “research” hyperbole. I can recognize face-saving twaddle when I see it. The sux is right-on. I think most of use felt we’d wasted our time.

The funny thing is the entire situation was completely salvageable even after MAJ was called out the first time – an apology and an admission of a bad habit was all it would have taken.

It’s funny, I think a lot of us participate in these forums because we like debate and like “having our ideas challenged”. The whole political spectrum is pretty well represented here. But what it good is it seeking to have your ideas challenged if they’re not your ideas and you refuse to ever concede an argument?

David: Can you build a greasemonkey plugin that red-flags pretentiousness as well? Also, I’d like one that flags dudes posing as girls, if you can work out the code.

July 13, 2005 @ 3:05 am | Comment

Hmm. Reading that back, there’s a lot of “funny” in there. Better work that into your filter too, David.

July 13, 2005 @ 3:06 am | Comment

Great. I should know better than to read anything will has hashed out when taking a drink of something.

July 13, 2005 @ 3:12 am | Comment

Gordon, you, of all people here, should know that I am always taking a drink of something. That’s how I survive the PR biz. (Try to write a press release sober and see how far you get.) That explains a great deal of the funniness. And the Mizspellinks.

Of course, since Danwei’s post yesterday, I have switched from Yanjing to Baijiu, which has dggraded the qaltyy of mt wrk.

July 13, 2005 @ 3:22 am | Comment

Who’s to say Baijiu doesn’t have formaldehyde as well?

July 13, 2005 @ 3:31 am | Comment

Who’s to say Baijiu isn’t a derrivative of formaldehyde? That’s some nasty stuff. If the Chinese want to make a great contribution to the world…keep that stuff off the international market.

Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it anywhere else but China.

I’m going to take a couple of bottles home for a couple of friends. Of course, they probably won’t be feel very thankful once they pop the top and catch a whiff.

July 13, 2005 @ 3:36 am | Comment

There’s a place down the street from my house that produces baijiu and you can smell it from a block away.

I stuck my head in the door one day to have a peek and all I could see was row after row of what looked like huge compost piles.

Imagine that.

July 13, 2005 @ 3:37 am | Comment

Hey, here’s a fun project: If every reader of this blog types in “fantabulist” on Google, then clicks through to Peking Duck, it will push him to the top of the Google rankings, making richard and he-who-has–a-creator famous at the same time. At least for that one word.

July 13, 2005 @ 3:42 am | Comment

My buddy always says that baijiu is “slightly refined sewage” Maybe he’s on to something.

July 13, 2005 @ 3:42 am | Comment

Sam, he already has spots #2 and 3 for that on Google.

July 13, 2005 @ 3:45 am | Comment

Simon, it contains far worse than formaldehyde. Considering that you can drop as little as 2.6 yuan for a plastic bag of 600ml of 80 proof hooch (and this is in pricey Beijing – god knows what you can get it for in the provinces) it’s probably distilled from roadkill or mine tailings. I shared one at a party once. It’s like the Capri Sun from hell. (For readers who have not been to China, the bag’o’baijiu is modelled by my friend Tom in this photo.)

July 13, 2005 @ 3:50 am | Comment

I was just in Laos and on a pleasant trip up the Mekong we stopped off at the obligatory fleece the tourists village. Now I’ve tried baijiu, but let me tell you, “Laotian whiskey”, as they call it, has it beat. Naturally they put scorpions, snakes and worse in the “men’s” whiskey to really test your manhood. The ingredients seem to be not just roadkill and mine tailings, but all mixed with a stick in a rusted oil drum over a slow simmering fire that’s been burning since 1964.

I declined to buy a bottle at the princely sum of US$1 for 1.5 litres. The scorpion was free.

July 13, 2005 @ 3:58 am | Comment

I’ve tried baijiu, but let me tell you, “Laotian whiskey”, as they call it, has it beat. Naturally they put scorpions, snakes and worse in the “men’s” whiskey to really test your manhood.

Don’t get to feeling too special there Simon. Baijiu comes in a wide assortment of ‘flavors’.

When I was living in Hangzhou last year some friends and I decided to try a few glasses of Baijiu from this Hui restaurant that contained a giant snake of some sort in the main container. The price per glass was 95ล’ยณ. Still tasted like shit.

My wife has told me some horror tales about the different species that are sometimes included in the baijiu making process. No thanks. I’d rather drink Mad dog 20/20 than that horse piss.

July 13, 2005 @ 4:06 am | Comment

After all that, formaldehyde in beer doesn’t sound so bad. Nor does anti-freeze in wine, for that matter.

July 13, 2005 @ 4:08 am | Comment

Will, I’ve come to the conclusion that baijiu is just that, hooch! (with a Chinese twist).

To my knowledge it’s not government regulated and the number of back alley shops brewing it for the local restaurants are limitless.

July 13, 2005 @ 4:09 am | Comment

You’re a sissy-boy if you don’t eat the scorpion.

Ah, the great liquors of Asia…

I had snake wine in Vietnam, which tasted like, well, herbs more than snake. I didn’t feel conspicuously more manly afterward. But I was a little ill. (But it might have been from the mediocre snake curry I was also eating.)

I don’t think I had Lao whiskey – I had lao-lao rice wine, but it was okay. I also had some dreadful herbal fire-hooch offered to me by my Lao boatman, who just loved the stuff. His son was mentally retarded (really) and I have often wondered if there was a connection.

I had arrack palm wine served to me by crazy divemasters in Indonesia. That indroduced me to where the idea of “amok” might come from.

But none of it was as bad as the JP4 in that plastic envelope I got from the CRC market in Beijing.

July 13, 2005 @ 4:10 am | Comment

I forgot to mention kava, that polynesian poison that resulted in my worst hangover ever.

Obviously Asia is leading the world in moonshine.

July 13, 2005 @ 4:18 am | Comment

Honestly, my worst hangover ever was from a nasty Smirnoff and Hennessy bender in California. I spent the entire next day on my bed wearing sunglasses while I watched war movies on Cinemax with the television muted.

July 13, 2005 @ 4:31 am | Comment

Ignore this next post, it is a Recognizer test!

July 13, 2005 @ 4:55 am | Comment


July 13, 2005 @ 4:56 am | Comment

Will asked:
“Perhaps if Chinese artists were “remaking” foreign pop-songs without attribution it might be along similar lines. Can anyone think of examples? (I’m not talking about covers or tributes here, but creative rips.”

I recently read a print magazine article about several HK pop stars being busted for using music written by others without attribution. I believe they were using songs that had been written, but not recorded, by western bands. One of the stars was Wang Lihom.

I’m sorry I cannot recall the source, perhaps that’s enough info for you to google (or even better, vivisimo.com) the details.

Hope that is of some use!

Thanks all, for the info on baijiu. Now, how about huangjiu? Is that as bad? Are the ingredients as suspect? I don’t really drink (have always preferred smoking), but occasionally I’ll have a glass of huangjiu with a Chinese pal.

Hope I’m not drinking distilled civet catgut!

July 13, 2005 @ 5:01 am | Comment

Hm, I wonder what Da Shan drank the moment before his face petrified?

July 13, 2005 @ 5:07 am | Comment

I have a working script that runs in your browser and detects plagarised paragraphs in MT comments now, but it makes so many google queries that they shut me out when I run it! They slow down response time and/or make you pass a Turing Test (type the word in the graphic box) to access them again!

Off to wire it up to another search engine!

July 13, 2005 @ 5:13 am | Comment

Wow, yahoo search blocks me out with a quickness too!!

What, can’t they or google keep up with my poor ancient whimpy mac’s tossing a search per paragraph at them??

Now if they had open public api’s that didn’t require $$$, I could just ask them directly how many hits there are for a query, rather than make it and suck back the whole html page and yank out what I need.

Oh no, they gotta make life tough on developers!!! ๐Ÿ™

More when it goes down.

Tucson, AZ

PS Yes, I’ve been up all night coding this thing! ๐Ÿ™‚

July 13, 2005 @ 5:27 am | Comment

nice page.
but that’s a grammatically wrong sentence in chinese btw.

July 13, 2005 @ 8:45 am | Comment

Please don’t spoil my illusions – surely the top end Yanjing Pijiu is free of formaldehyde! I really like the stuff and they are starting to export it here…

Worst hangover…ummm….oh. never mind. rather not think about that, thanks.

July 13, 2005 @ 10:26 am | Comment

Ignore but don’t remove

July 13, 2005 @ 5:38 pm | Comment

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