Category Archives: General

After nearly two years I’ve finally gotten around to releasing my PHP JavaScript parser, although documentation is still thin on the ground.

The library has been split in two:

  1. jTokenizer – A JavaScript tokenizer designed to mimic the PHP tokenizer.
  2. jParser – The fully blown JavaScript syntactical parser which generates a parse tree.

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– or – “Confessions of a Google Wave N00b”

After scrounging myself a B-list Google Wave preview, I’ve been playing around with it for a week or so. Rather than read more and think deeply about it, I thought I’d blurt out my half-formed opinions now. In fact, this is one of those posts I’ll probably regret in a year’s time. It might look as naive as some of my early thoughts on Twitter when I didn’t quite get it, but that’s blogging for you… so here goes.

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Two things happened today that inspired me to write this post tonight.

  1. A brief back-and-forth on Twitter with @kaigani where I outlandishly claimed that Facebook Connect is a phishing scam waiting to happen
  2. The warning of another Twitter scam that typically exploits the layman‘s inability to spot a fake URL.

Facebook and Twitter both offer authentication services arguably known as “single sign-on”. Facebook Connect is a proprietary system, and Twitter offers a system based on the OAuth standard. These services do something quite marvellous – They allow you to authenticate with a another website without the third party ever seeing your password. What’s makes it even more handy is that you’re probably already signed in to these popular services, so you may not need to enter your password at all. The problem is when you do.

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Last week a another change to Twitter caused me problems with my personal project TwitBlock. For the impatient, see my Google groups post about it. (It didn’t go down very well).

If you’re a Twitter user, you’re probably familiar with this image:


It is/was the default profile image for users that have not uploaded a custom avatar. You may also have noticed last week that Twitter has introduced a new version. Actually they they made seven of them in different colours:
default_profile_0_normal default_profile_1_normal default_profile_2_normal default_profile_3_normal default_profile_4_normal default_profile_5_normal default_profile_6_normal

At least I think they made seven; I can’t find any more, but I can’t find any official document stating how many are out there either.

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There is a kind of spambot that I call a Sleeper. It poses as a legitimate account by “stealing” arbitrary tweets from the public timeline and tweeting them as its own. As it follows people, a proportion will follow back. Eventually this account will have built a matureĀ  following and can “wake up”. i.e. it can start tweeting its cargo and even send DMs.

These bots are usually easy to spot because their tweets all show as being “From API”, meaning that the update wasn’t sent by a registered app using OAuth. If I was a spammer, I’d be wanting to fix that because it’s a dead give away. I’ve also seen other services such as HelloTxt being used by these bots, but just now I spotted something new. – Tweets from Tweetie.

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I made a major change to TwitBlock the other night. The change was made to protect people who are heavily blocked, but are not “spam”. Of course that depends on your definition. (A topic for another day)

Originally each block on account would yield 10 points. Then I became aware of just how murky this issue is. Barack Obama is blocked by many accounts (Republicans no doubt) plus some people with extreme right wing views were being blocked heavily. Then the complaints started. People whose businesses survive on a huge Twitter following accused me of destroying their reputations, and generating further blocks on their account by showing the number of existing blocks.

So now two things have changed for the time being:
1. Clicks on “not spam” are deducted from blocks;
2. Blocks are diluted by the size of a user’s following. 10 points are added for every 1%. So, if you’re blocked by 40 people, but are followed by 8,000 this will only yield 5 points.

Although this has stemmed the complaints, the scanner is less aggressive and lots of real spam accounts are not showing up with high enough scores. I am struggling to find the balance in the face of all of this and may have to tweak it again.