Amusing spam of the week


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I like the way that my recounting of a harrowing incident of a neighbor’s mental breakdown can seem like it might be voyeur/incest porn, with terms like “window”, “screaming”, “fucking”, and “mom”.

By the way, I ran into Rob the other night on my street; he thought maybe I was Japanese and asked if I could translate something for him. He seems more or less well-adjusted now. There’s a pretty harsh scar on his arm, though.

Running your own auction

When I decided to auction the Unauthorized iPod U2 vs. Negativland Special Edition on my own web site, one of my concerns was how I was going to take bids from strangers and ensure that those strangers wouldn’t back out if they won. After all, you don’t want to muddy up your 15 minutes of fame just ‘cause some high school kid feels like playing around. On the other hand, you also don’t want a system that’s so cumbersome that potential bidders give up out of exasperation. So here, for posterity’s sake, are my thoughts about running an auction on your own website.

Largely, this is a problem of fixing the identities of people you’ve never met and only know through an email address. If you knew who your bidder was, you’d be able to take their bid with some confidence, particularly since you could publically give them negative feedback if things didn’t work out. eBay and other similar sites have their own reputation metrics to help both sellers and bidders, but obviously this only works for closed systems. Outside of those closed systems, you could solve this if you had a working form of what’s called “federated identity”, but that’s a genuinely difficult problem that hasn’t been solved yet. There are corporate solutions, but most of them seem to rely on a single server (or set of servers) that would hold the emails and passwords of every single person on the web, which isn’t that reassuring given the blemished track record of such databases so far.

Of course, there are intriguing proposals that are less centralized and less driven by corporate needs. (Many of them are discussed on the excellent Decentralization list.) To this amateur, LidMesh seems like a solid idea, and there’s always the web of trust.

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