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* Posts by SDoradus

104 posts • joined 15 Jul 2010

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Evil mining firms? Please. Obeying profit motive is KINDER to the environment

SDoradus

Re: environmental cost

As a tech for a university geology department I collected and analysed the environmental impact of gold mines, and it's funny how people miss the way big mining now has to 'remediate' the land they tear up to the point that the wetland wildlife gets vast areas of prime breeding ground, for example (although the small undercapitalized one-man or family outfits are altogether another matter).

And it's true that lots of places bear names testifying to ancient industrial importance, like (as you mention) the "Erzgebirge, or Krusny Hory" or perhaps Jarnberaland in Sweden, nicely illustrating the point that progression in tech results in new resources being exploitable. It's a bit like a mining version of Moore's law.

The funny thing about this series of disputes is that I agree with nearly all the hard facts and soft attitudes you allude to, even to the point of despising the lack of breadth in 'greenie' thought. (Not all greenies are so easily duped, though; the notorious Farley Mowat went to Russia to collect millions of copyright Roubles owing from his books - in the sixties - and wrote a book about the experience. In it he noted how on one flight he looked out his aircraft window and saw the vast blight on the landscape created by centrally-planned exploitation. This made his hosts very uncomfortable. Even Marx appreciated the productive power of capitalism's market rule, but no-one in the USSR realized that there's also a market in consumer appreciation of ecological improvement.)

And yet you're surely wrong about the long-term prospects for industrial civilization, just as Moore's law is running into trouble. Sooner or later there are hard limits and we will run out of the luck or ingenuity needed to bypass them; for your argument addresses only one of the sides of the squeeze, the supply side, which is improving steadily but is still a long way from matching the exponential increase in demand.

An exponential demand will always, sooner or later, be capped by a linear increase in supply. It might be at nine billion people. It might be at six hundred million. It might be at a trillion, or when the entire mass of the Earth is converted into people. Mathematically though, it will happen, and by the nature of exponential versus linear, the details hardly matter to the timing of the crunch.

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Drag queens: Oh, don't be so bitchy, Facebook! Let us use our stage names

SDoradus

Re: unfair, hurtful, discriminatory and an invasion of privacy

Indeed. Which is why am not now, nor have I ever been, a facebook user. Much to the annoyance of my daughters. Still, I would appear to be in the minority.

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Limits to Growth is a pile of steaming doggy-doo based on total cobblers

SDoradus

Re: You can't beat theromodynamics

You have a point about needing justification for numbers.

The UN has set itself the goal of containing ocean temperature rises to 2 degrees by around 2060, already far too high. Furthermore, "Rising greenhouse gas emissions this decade meant the 2 degree goal was “extremely difficult, arguably impossible, raising the likelihood of global temperature rises of 3 or 4 degrees C within this century.” That will cause chaos.

(Cf. http://coastalcare.org/2010/11/expected-consequences-of-a-4-degrees-celsius-global-temperature-rise/)

I'd observe that getting rid of heat into space by radiation is calculated following the black-body radiation curve for the amount of heat which can be dumped.

That's easily calculated for a given temperature difference between night-side Earth surface and the colour temperature of deep space. Nonetheless, when you perform the calculation you quickly realize that exponential growth (2-4% p.a.) implies black-body equilibrium at around six degrees celsius higher than at epoch 2000 in only a few decades.

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SDoradus

Re: cannot reasonably or intelligently argue that either will not happen.

"We will continue to defeat your pessimism on production. The only real question is do we blow ourselves up."

Whatever new rabbits are pulled out of the hat by human ingenuity, this remains a finite planet, and sooner or later planet-bound solutions will run out.

Malthus' thesis was the flash of inspiration for Charles Darwin in his theory of evolution by natural selection. It's fascinating that (by no coincidence) it was also the flash of inspiration behind Alfred Russell Wallace's independently derived theory along the same lines.

The reason people persist in thinking Malthus an 'old fart' for arguing that the linear increase in resource availability will always be beaten by the exponential growth of population is that so far the brainpower of humans has opened new resource frontiers.

But brain power is itself a finite capability. Sooner or later it too will be defeated by exponential growth. Notice this geographical variation, from <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_growth>

Population growth 1990–2008 (%)

Africa 55

Middle East 51%

Asia 35%

Latin America 30%

OECD North America 24%

OECD Europe 9%

OECD Pacific 8%

Former Soviet Union −1%

Non-OECD Europe −11%

Notice how Mr Worstall's UK and Europe as a whole are quite low-growth areas. Do you really think a woman in Niger, who may expect to have eight children just so one or two of them might survive to take the place of a non existent social security, will have the same opinion of Malthus' prediction as an European armchair commentator?

Perhaps more importantly, notice how the high-growth areas are also the high-population areas. And the mediterranean areas think they have a problem with illegal immigration now?

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SDoradus

I'll back the beast with two backs

The only production we will continue to defeat pessimism on is reproduction,

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SDoradus

Re: @ Identity

"Malthus is dead. So is his theory of population explosions and famine... ALL data point to declining birthrates across the world."

Nonsense, except for Malthus being dead. Only those places passing through a demographic transition, like Europe and Russia, have even or negative replacement rates.

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SDoradus

Re: Parameter error

The UN's range of estimates goes from an optimistic 7 billion to a pessimistic 600 billion. 49 billion is actually quite a reasonable prospect. Regardless, there is an estimate out there that the planet can support 1.5 billion at a first-world standard of living. Whatever your estimate, it's far, far, far too high for a fair future.

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SDoradus

No.

"Limits to Growth is a pile of steaming doggy-doo based on total cobblers..."?

No.

Whatever the defects of the initial conditions supplied to the system of differential equations by which they predicted collapse - and I don't agree with all your analysis of that, either - the planet is still about to face a crunch between the immovable object of finite resources and the irresistible force of population increase.

The first won't change short of space really being a new frontier - not bloody likely - and the second won't change till a great dying. Just when is a matter for debate. Say 2042. I won't be around to see it, thank a merciful providence. My (two) children might be.

So might you.

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Ferraris, Zondas and ... er, a bike with a 500hp V10 under the saddle

SDoradus

Viper-engined bike is not so strange

Jay Leno was interviewed in connection with his motorcycle collection. His favorite was the Y2K gas-turbine powered 325hp machine made by MTT, which last I checked was the world's most powerful production motorcycle and actually - as the TV show demonstrated - quite rideable. But hey it actually had fewer moving parts I guess, so was indeed simpler than the V10, and probably lighter too.

Even so, the Viper-engined is far from the worst-looking or worst idea along those lines. Old fogeys might remember another TV show forty years ago in which an idiot aircraft mechanic shoehorned a V12 Rolls-Royce Merlin inside a mini and periodically ran it up and down the runway of his airport. The engine occupied the entire interior of the mini. He had to sit on a seat cantilevered out the rear window and steer (!) it via an elongated steering wheel column also poking out the rear window.

Slightly more practical variants of Merlin or Meteor-powered ground vehicles included "The Beast" which was an awesome looking long-bonnet custom car which at one point was in the Guinness Book of Records as fastest road-legal vehicle. If I recall correctly, the first version was totalled and a second variant built. It was held to be an excellent autobahn vehicle.

This has been going on for a long time. Back in the sixties there was a V8-powered drag bike which had a helicopter direct-drive linkage for a transmission...

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OH SNAP: Getty Images sues Microsoft over Bing pics widget

SDoradus

The Elephant in the room

Are the Getty images slavish reproductions of a 2-D original? If they are, Microsoft could probably win the case (courtesy Feist, and also Bridgman v Corel). But I gather that Microsoft would prefer to lose rather than be tainted as a copyright disrespector.

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Nvidia blasts sueballs at Qualcomm, Samsung – wants Galaxy kit banned

SDoradus

Where's Radeon?

I'm surprised nVidia didn't mention the makers (ATI/AMD) of Radeon chipsets in the lawsuit.

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SDoradus

Patents aren't supposed to foreclose on every possible way of achieving a function. But I can think of some cases where they did, and were permitted to by the courts (one that springs to mind is a clip for tying grapevines to supports). Similarly, copyright isn't supposed to cover every possible expression of an idea; the key principle there is originality, and it's hard to imagine an original expression covering every expression of what's communicated. But something close to that has happened before - a particular case involving the layout of a betting form springs to mind there, too.

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SDoradus

Re: Thumbs up for nVidia

Exactly. I've actually been expecting this for some time.

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Govt waves stick at pirate-friendly Google search

SDoradus

Re: Man Up and Admit It

"That's what not paying for something with a price tag is, theft." One of the cases I had to deal with in second year law involved a stolen car which the owner then saw on a used car lot, with of course a price tag.. He still had a spare key, got in, and drove it away. In another similar case the rightful owner demanded it back - the used car dealer refused and was done for "detinue". You, my friend, really need to study up on your definitions. Theft is NOT taking something with a price tag. Many are those who attempt to copyright something not actually theirs and charge for it.

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SDoradus

Re: "Copyright infringement is theft, pure and simple"

I think in the UK that's 'conversion' (taking without consent but returning the car).

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SDoradus

Re: "Copyright infringement is theft, pure and simple"

The fun part is when the UK tries to issue freezing orders in the US and runs up against what my law lecturer calls the 'dead hand of originalism', a/k/a the provisions of the US constitution actually being enforced.

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SDoradus

Re: "Copyright infringement is theft, pure and simple"

"permanently removing the value" - might be true but while that may be theft of value (which a court would not, I think, approve) it is not theft of the item itself. Basic logic failure.

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SDoradus

Re: "Copyright infringement is theft, pure and simple"

You must be kidding. Taking a car "with permission" and returning it isn't even conversion, let alone theft.

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SDoradus

Re: "Copyright infringement is theft, pure and simple"

Funny thing is that photographing paintings worth hundreds of millions is not even copyright infringement as was decided in Bridgeman v Corel by Justice Kaplan in the teeth of opposition even from such luminaries as Patry. And that held good in the US as well as the UK.. That's why the museum is reduced to a miserable "terms and conditions" violation, which is basically being naughty for buying admission and not observing the rules of the contract. Tut, tut.. Slap on the wrist, I wonder? But in any event, not theft.

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SDoradus

Precisely. And making a copy does not permanently deprive the owner. Which is why copyright infringement is NOT theft by the legal definition. The minister's definition is irrelevant. Only the one used by a judge counts, even in Scotland.

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SDoradus
FAIL

But only the legal definition counts

Hah. Of course 'theft' can have more than one definition. But this is the "Law" section of El Reg and under the law the only definition which counts is the legal one. And under that law, making a copy but leaving the original with the rightsholder is an infringement, but not theft.

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Good luck with Project Wing, Google. This drone moonshot is NEVER going to happen

SDoradus

Never is a long time

""This isn’t a moonshot – it’s madness" - ho, ho.

I love it when pundits say something like a 'moonshot'' will "never happen". And then it does. Google is expert at making an array of bureaucrats suddenly see things its way. We shall see!

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'I think photographers get TOO MUCH copyright for their work'

SDoradus

Re: Plenty of people disagree with copyright

An order of magnitude less than a couple of thousand years.

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SDoradus

You didn't actually answer the guy's question. Straw man criticism or not, it deserved an answer. One review article referencing many studies purporting to establish that strong IP promotes invention is here:

<http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2014/05/02/the-economic-case-for-strong-protection-for-intellectual-property/id=49376/>

A certain amount of skepticism is in order respecting such studies, since rights-holders (and the important ones are hardly the most creative) have an economic incentive to make people think their way. "Cui bono"/"To whom the profit" is a maxim to bear in mind. For that reason, studies tending to show the opposite are fewer on the ground, but for those interested here are two which at least attempt not to prejudge the issue:

A civilized discussion on Patents <http://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/6647/do-patents-boost-innovation>

As to Copyright: For those who prefer to believe that if you did not found your business someone else would have done something similar, a report advocating the reverse proposition can be found here:

<https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090617/1138185267.shtml>

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SDoradus

There were many who wrote, drew, and photographed 'for the love of the craft' before copyright protected them, and still managed to pay the bills. It may be that the creator deserves payment. What usually happens is that some non-creator buys the rights and takes advantage to a far greater extent than your grocery bill.

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SDoradus

Correlation is not causality

While it is true that "The acceleration in technology over the past 300 years has coincided with the introduction of formalized IP and has been notably more advanced in countries with IP law," this correlation does not establish a causal link between IP and economic health of a nation. Such studies as have been done tend to disprove such causal links except in the case of pharmaceuticals. My impression is rather that those nations who industrialized rapidly did so because of comparatively liberal copyright and patent regimes (the US patent office required a working copy for any patent application till the end of the last century, for example, which stopped excessively broad claims dead). The current situation where rich nations have burdensome IP rules results from profit-seeking by entities which are usually not themselves terribly creative.

You also assert that "a state without money could manage without IP, but that would require its citizens to be pretty darn amazing people, practical applications of this idea have seen many starve." We currently have a situation in China where the regime is turning from ignoring or subverting other peoples' intellectual property to profiting from their own, which means actually beginning to enforce the rules they signed up to in order to benefit from eg WTO membership. This predatory behaviour is entirely to be expected from a rational government. I would expect in two or three decades, when their demographics have changed their phenomenal workforce, that the Chinese will be complaining about piracy in nations poorer than themselves.

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SDoradus

Re: Copyright

"I challenge anyone who has their work taken without authorization not to get at least a bit angry."

You may well be a little angry, but so might the person you accuse of 'theft', especially since making a copy is not stealing under the law.

Authorization didn't exist in a lot of early societies. The idea that ideas or expression could be 'owned' is not a cultural universal. In those societies the notion that people needed authorization to use what you wrote, spoke, or invented would have been offensive to the point of combat.

Copyright dates from around 1714 in UK statutes and the idea of 'owning' expression is a lot older (cf. Colmcille) but it is not universally approved of even by creative individuals. Expect opposition.

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Cracking copyright law: How a simian selfie stunt could make a monkey out of Wikipedia

SDoradus

There's so much wrong with this it's hard to know where to begin. The monkey never agreed to any form of contract and was neither an employee of nor an agent of the photographer, legally speaking. Therefore the 'work for hire' doctrine does not apply.

Furthermore, the word 'theft' is often bandied about by rights activists. The reason the courts do not call duplication of an image 'theft' (rather, it's at most an unlicensed copy) is that with theft there must be an intent to permanently deprive the true owner of the image. If the owner still has the original, there can be no theft, as has been held many times in the courts.

Of course, with the current trend to severe sentences for unlicensed copying, the offender may wish he had been charged with theft.

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My big reveal as macro-economics analyst: It's a load of COBBLERS

SDoradus

Ah! Room for a tech angle here?

Korolev and von Braun made a rocket engine the same way? Not bloody likely.

Actually von Braun (via Rocketdyne) were able to solve the combustion instability problems of large-nozzle engines but Korolev (via Glushko) never did, hence the difference in design philosophy (they used multiple small nozzles, which made for reliability problems).

On the other hand the Russians pioneered bleeding off some exhaust to power pump turbines (a so called 'staged combustion cycle') which meant another 15%, a sheer efficiency gain.

So there!

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Boffins spot weirder quantum capers as neutrons take the high road, spin takes the low

SDoradus

Re: Hmph!

Rather than simply downvote you like all the others, I have to ask: what makes you think the neutron is an "extremely difficult-to-detect particle"? It might have no net charge, but it certainly has a magnetic dipole moment. Which is why the experiment can be done at all, of course.

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Kiwi Rocket Lab to build SUPER-CHEAP sat launchers (anyone know 30 rocket scientists?)

SDoradus

Re: favourable launch location in NZ

Sorry, no, that's wrong, the place of launch would be about 37 degrees south and that inclination for technical reasons is excellent for the angle of orbit required in this application.

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Boffins publish SciFi story to announce exoplanet find

SDoradus

Why did they bother? It's been done before with reference to Kapteyn's star originating in the Omega Centauri satellite galaxy nucleus, specifically the central intermediate mass black hole. The novel was "Singularity", published two years ago by a fairly prolific author (William Keith).

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Five-year-old discovers Xbox password bug, hacks dad's Live account

SDoradus

Re: NSA Recruitment guy

May we expect emigration to China?

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US judge tells Marvell to pay Carnegie Mellon Uni $1.5bn in patent fallout

SDoradus

Since end of C19 SCOTUS has not heard all cases

You have no recourse. This means, since the Supremes are the final word on constitutional interpretation, that not all constitutional questions get decided except in the very limited areas where their jurisdiction is original, not appellate.

For the rest, since the late 1800s SCOTUS has operated on a certiorari system. They only hear around one hundred cases per annum.

Of course, this means in effect that the Supreme Court is not the Supreme Court for most cases. If they deny certiorari, which happens in nearly all cases, the last judgment appealed from will stand.

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No, Minister. You CAN'T de-Kindle your eBooks!

SDoradus

Re: Unconstitutional

You're not wrong in the sense that the UK is held to have a constitution. But the word is also used in the sense of a founding or 'basic' law which can not be arbitrarily changed by the legislature. That is not the case for the UK constitution.

But it is not written down any one place, some of it is not written down at all, and all of it is subject to revision in the ordinary way by statute or legal interpretation. It shares these characteristics with some other realms, for example NZ where the (so-called) Bill of Rights Act cannot override statute. Furthermore, the entrenching provisions are not themselves entrenched.

This is not the case for the US where originalism and strict constructionism are live doctrines. While the US (still) determines the interpretation of such IP laws, through multilateral treaties and otherwise, the impact on actual US citizens living within its borders is lessened by the constitutional protections which are much stronger than UK or EU law.

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Cable thieves hang up on BT, cause MAJOR outage

SDoradus

Re: Damn thieves

From forty years gone I recall the safety chart in my Physics class noting that only 0.1A across the body will kill you.

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TV scraper Aereo pulled off air in six US states after tellyco court injunction victory

SDoradus

Wait for SCOTUS

I'll just wait for the Supremes on this one. I'm not too impressed with Kimball's idea of what's reasonable here, but let SCOTUS make the decision. That's their job; they and their country will have to live with the consequences.

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Volunteers slam plans to turn Bletchley Park into 'geeky Disneyland'

SDoradus

Re: Polish cryptographers!!

And Marian Rejewski never did get properly honoured for it ... by his own country.

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Stephen Fry rewrites computer history again: This time it's serious

SDoradus

If it helps, the LibreOffice spell checker for US English gets it precisely the wrong way around (as of v4.1.4).

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SDoradus

Re: What's the problem? Linux cloned Unix, Android cloned Java.

Linux is a clone of Unix only in the sense that it is POSIX-compliant. The actual OS is a creative work of Linus Torvalds in the first instance, not owing anything to any previous OS.

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SDoradus
FAIL

Re: About time

I've downvoted you because I cannot find in Uncle Ron's post a statement to the effect that IBM wrote Windows NT.

The truth of the statement that the QDOS author (Tim Paterson) " [took] 'a ride on' Kildall's operating system, appropriated the 'look and feel' of [Kildall's] CP/M operating system, and copied much of his operating system interface from CP/M" was the subjective of a defamation action by Paterson against the author (Evans) who wrote that (and in so doing merely recapitulated others' observations).

Briefly, Judge Zilly dismissed the defamation lawsuit because in US law truth is an absolute affirmative defence and indeed, Evans' statements were provably true; and Paterson's were not.

In particular, the judge found that (and I quote from the 2007 El Reg article here) " Paterson copied CP/M's API, including the first 36 functions and the parameter passing mechanism, although Paterson renamed several of these. Kildall's "Read Sequential" function became "Sequential Read", for example, while "Read Random" became "Random Read"."

It might be good to observe also that amateur opinions on this can be quite perceptive. A million amateurs scanning court records and SEC filings can generate a pretty good history, and the collective nature of the effort reduces bias markedly. In fact, owing to the confidential nature of most commercial legal settlements, the amateur opinions are often the only ones which come close to reality.

A good example is the archives at the (now inactive) site, www.groklaw.net. The search link is fourth from top left. Type in "Kildall".

For those interested in the now-dead Kildall's impact and legacy, at good potted history from his point of view is at: http://www.digitalresearch.biz/DR/Gary/newsx011.html.

El Reg has numerous articles on this. One is at http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/07/30/msdos_paternity_suit_resolved/, and Groklaw also posted an archive of the crucial court rulings in Patterson v Little Brown.

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SDoradus

Re: About time

The plagiarism in question would not have survived a lawsuit back then, either. The difference is that MS was by then huge and could afford the crippling legal fees - DR could not, so the case settled on terms which remain confidential. However, some idea of the size might be gained by the $120 million dollar settlement involving MS' ripping off Stac Electronics for the code used in the defragmenter.

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SDoradus

Re: About time

Regarding the LISA and its GUI; the LISA purchased by our maths dept. was usually running not its own GUI but the Mac emulation. LISA was in fact the usual development environment for early Macs. It's worth bearing in mind that the GUI differences were profoundly affected by the Mac having only 70% of the hardware of a LISA (at around one fifteenth the price). In particular, LISA had a fantastic (for the era) megabyte of RAM compared to the original Mac's 128k.

I'm not 26. I'm more than twice that age. I do still recall opening the case of my 512k Mac - I think I was the first to own one in Engineering School - and finding a bunch of signatures there, of the Mac development division. Steve Jobs was there, so was Woz: his role clearly was not at an end with LISA. It might have been a committee, but I doubt it's a good word for it. Creative team would be better.

Similar considerations apply to Gates and Jobs both being at Xerox PARC that day. Jobs made something of it; Gates did not; and Xerox couldn't market a paper bag.

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SDoradus
Thumb Up

Re: If memory serves...

Specifically, they were both on the board of the United Way charity umbrella group.

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Google Glass driver told she CAN wear techno-specs while on the road

SDoradus

Re: What bollocks

It's a mistake to treat Glass legally as though it's a mobile phone. There's no technical reason Glass or similar competing products have to be connected to the cloud to operate. Video recording data could be dumped to local storage via bluetooth, for example. Under such circumstances getting a subpoena for the device's cloud data context will yield nothing.

More importantly, even if the device is on and recording, that doesn't mean it will be distracting the driver. If just a video is being made it's not different from a motorcycle or car helmetcam or dashcam, legally speaking, except for one thing; the data context would count as a business record for the purpose of the hearsay rule. In other words it could be produced in court by the defendant, not the police, to prove that her usage was innocent (and, if she was recording video including the speedometer, that she was not speeding).

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SDoradus

Re: Clearly the cop was corrupt

He's safe. German autobahnen don't have speed limits in the UK sense.

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SDoradus

Re: What bollocks

No. The point is that in common-law systems it is assumed that laws need to be re-interpreted in the light of new developments. That's why case law is allowed to set 'precedent' which can overturn earlier 'precedent' or statutory interpretation.

As for Glass being distracting, 'connecting with the world' doesn't just mean giving the wearer real-time information about the world. It can also mean streaming to others or recording, neither of which involve distracting the wearer.

The real reason police would be unhappy for things like Glass to become common is that it would give the world information about police misconduct. It's only a matter of time before a Glass recording is used to prove that the police version of events during an arrest is false. It could, for example, have been used to disprove the allegation that the wearer was going 85mph in a 60mph zone.

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Chinese Moon rover, lander duo wake up after two-week snooze

SDoradus

Re: Real Engineers did that.....

Too easy. Slugs and kilos, maybe. <http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/mechanics/slug.html>

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Top patent troll sues US regulators for interfering with its business

SDoradus

Re: We got one of their demand letters...

I would agree, but do wonder: did your scanners have a button which scanned and automatically instructed Win XP's default email program (over USB!) to email a copy? Mine does. I've never used it in anger, but I pressed it once by accident. Does the mere existence of such a button render the owner liable?

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Google stabs Wikipedia in the front

SDoradus

Not necessarily cause and effect

The decline in page views is not necessarily to do with Google.

It's far more likely to be a consequence of a much broader decline in number of articles and editors since 2007, when rules intended to combat trolls and vandalism effectively ensured that the only people able to create and edit articles were nerdy white men.

This has been widely publicized, in the Daily Mail, Guardian, the Atlantic, Technology Review, among others. See for example the link to the Daily Dot provided by Mr Orlowski. Besides the page views, it also has the relevant graphs for number of editors and articles. Interestingly, the graph for number of page views goes no further back than 2008.

The Dot does say that this is the first time page views has declined since 2008, implying that there was a drop in 2007. Actually there seems to have been a year-long drop from mid-2010 to mid-2011 as well. Both would be expected if the new rules were causing a drop in usability.

Conclusion: I'd be less inclined to blame Google and more to blame the editor culture in Wikipedia.

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