back to article Observer columnist in online porn mixup

You might think being a Sunday newspaper columnist is a pretty easy gig. Think again. They have to conjure provocative opinions on everything, on demand, often with only the weakest grasp of the facts. To highlight their plight, here we present Barbara Ellen's attempt in yesterday's Observer to wrestle copy from ICANN's …


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  1. Dave 142


    It's rare for Barbara Ellen to get anything right so it's not surprising.

  2. Bobby Omelette

    For fxxxs sake!

    What is the plural of Doofus ... Doofi? Doofusses?

    I'm so glad I'm not an interectual.

    1. Blue eyed boy

      @Doofi, doofuses

      Doofera (Latin 3rd declension neuter plural, cf. genus, genera).

      Mine's the one with the Shorter Latin Primer in the pocket.

  3. Pete 2 Silver badge

    you may laugh ...

    but this probably represents the upper-quartile's understanding of the internet, its naming and how it works. The other three-quarters think the internet is Google.

    Since the whole censorship and copyright and freedoms debates will/are being informed by the same people (ooops, I nearly called them "journalists") who write this stuff, the best we can hope for are some over-zealous laws, quickly slapped together to solve the problems caused by tabloid headlines. These same laws will probably catch more unintended victims that actual harm-doers and will then be vilified by the same trashy newspaper articles that forced their creation in the first place.

    In britain it's pretty much impossible to write a well-considered, emotionally uncharged and balanced piece of mass journalism about certain topics: drugs, children, terrorism and sex are the most frequently misrepresented (followed by europe, foreigners, green, non-green and small furry animals - esp. giant pandas, OK - and large furry animals). Until newspapers can get over their own taboos we stand no chance of making any sort of social progress and even less chance of some half-sensible legislation what does what it says on the tin.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Over 55's

      I tried several times to explain to my father in law that BT Yahoo was not the internet. When I changed his default home page from BT Yahoo to Google he flipped out and phoned me. "My internet is not working" he said. You can imagine how the phonecall trying to get him to install and use Skype went.

      The sooner anyone aged over 55 is dead the better.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Over 55's

        I don't understand why you want to impose anything on your father then not tell tell him. It sounds as if you changed his browser defaults then went away without telling him only for him to find out what you did when you weren't there. I get frustrated with my father but I wouldn't alter anything he didn't want altering just to suit me. If he's happy with the way he's doing things why do you feel the need to gain some feeling of superiority over him. What did he do to you as a child?

        Also, changing the home page to Google isn't exactly the height of internet sophistication. I would wager that most techies have about:blank as their home page.

        1. Citizen Kaned


          yup, and has been since i first used internet explorer (4?)

          1. Mike48US

            Me too

            Except my first browser was Mosaic... please tell me there are more here who remember it...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Ggogle or aren't the height of sophistication

          but they give me a quick check of whether I've got a connection when I start the browser, so I normally use one of them. for myself, Google for people I setup systems for. Most of them do think Google is the Internet. Which is at least a bit better than my mother who thinks it is AOL and can't find her way without it, no matter how hard I try to show her otherwise.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Looks about:blankly

          Dammit, so that's what I've been doing wrong all these years.

          Home page = El Reg.

      2. Maty


        This >55 spent a chunk of his weekend rebuilding the MBR of a 16-year-old's netbook. Don't think the younger generation know much about technology. They know how to use the stuff, but ask them how to defrag a hard disk, or tell the difference between a VGA and a DVI connector, and their little jaws drop with incomprehension.

        The over 55s will be dead in due course Sonny Jim, but don't take it out on us because you married into a family of techno-retards.

        1. Citizen Kaned

          but is that because....

          you have had many more years in IT than they?

          say you are 55, been into tech for 30 years....

          you get a new techie, who is 25, been into tech for 5 years.

          are you really 6x more knowledgable than him?

          and any techie that cant tell a dvi (i or d?) from a vga needs to go work for mcdonalds lol.

        2. Gordon Shumway

          A whole weekend

          spent on 512 bytes? Did you carve them in stone, but the finer parts of the calligraphy of those pesky `1's reeeally exercised your arthritis?

        3. left
          Thumb Up

          Reply to post: Yeah?

          I agree with you.


      3. Tim99 Silver badge

        Re: Over 55's

        You do know that much all of the stuff that makes your shiny Google & Skype stuff work was done by people over 55...

        Now go and play on Twitter (or Facebook or whatever you think is computing) with all of the other spoilt children - While we worry about Unix; and relational databases; and TCP/IP; and the World Wide Web; and C, C++ and Java - The trivial stuff that actual makes everything work.

        Sorry, my mistake, Tim Berners-Lee and James Gosling are only just 55.

        Sorry again - You may have touched a nerve - I probably spend too much time with people under the age of 35 who think that the internet is the big blue "e"; and wonder why they need a different account name and password to log onto their PC and Facebook; and think that Microsoft invented everything to do with computers.

        Uphill, In the snow, both ways.

      4. RTNavy


        Hey, I resemble that remark!

        I still remember when Compuserve and AOL via 300bps were the "internets" you young whipper snapper!

        1. Richard Laval

          memories ..

          Ah the simple pleasures of whistling down an acoustic coupler!!

      5. Anonymous Coward

        Ageist twat

        'I tried several times to explain to my father in law that BT Yahoo was not the internet. '

        Maybe should also tell the under 25s that facebook isn't the Internet either. And insults aren't purely the domain of the under 55s, you tosser!

      6. LinkOfHyrule


        "The sooner anyone aged over 55 is dead the better."

        You should of said "The sooner anyone who is as thick as shit is dead the better." And then looked up the number of that Swiss suicide clinic.

      7. John Dougald McCallum
        Thumb Down

        Over 55's

        Oy dipshit alot of people that use the internet quite cappably are a lot older than 55 just because your inlaws are thick it does not mean that we all are.

      8. Graham Lockley


        >The sooner anyone aged over 55 is dead the better

        I have a year to live then. Unfortunately I have e-mails dating back to 1998, can write web pages using note pad, I know where the HOSTS file is on my PC and can edit it etc. etc.

        I'm probably more IT literate than you but it doesn't matter because I will be dead in a year.


      9. SlabMan

        Vint Cerf

        Born 1943. Tim Berners-Lee - born 1955. Etc, etc.

        Over 55s - done a lot, know a lot.

        Anonymous coward - born yesterday, knows fuck all.

        Get back behind your Dixon's counter and sell some extended warranties.

      10. Wommit

        Re : Over 55s

        And if one of my kids changed my PC settings without my express permission I'd feed one of their kid sweets and chocolate until said grandchild was about to be gloriously sick. _THEN_ I'd give the kid back.

        Though as I'm the one who sets up _their_ machines I doubt that they'd dare mess one of mine about.

        Beer, it makes raising children bearable.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: you may laugh...

      I am laughing,

      >but this probably represents the upper-quartile's understanding of the internet, its naming and how it works. The other three-quarters think the internet is Google.

      Which group do you fit in? Or maybe your brain is so quick the internet expands for you and you can squeeze into a quarter in another dimension for really, really intelligent people who understand everything.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Get in where you fit in.

        My brain falls into the group that recognizes the person to whom you are responding is absolutely correct. Perhaps you fall in to that same upper-quartile.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Get in where you fit in

          It pains me to see that a lot of so called techies think that the internet can be divided into the elite upper quartile who don't know one end of a domain name from the other (hardly elitist) and those who think Google is the be all and end all of the internet. The latter appears to be supported by the "Over 55's" commentard.

    3. Mountford D

      The IT Crowd episode

      Wasn't there an episode from The IT Crowd where the guys convinces Jen that the entire internet is contained in a small black box and she in turn gives a presentation to high-powered nobs who ended up in awe of the box?

      A lot of similarities here methinks...

      PS. I have always maintained that the standard of education in the UK is on the downward slide but that's another topic.

    4. RTNavy

      I thought the Internet was AOL?

      At least they have Google as the current Internet Provider instead of America Online.....

  4. Anonymous Coward


    come on El Reg, will the targeted readers be able to tell the difference?

  5. Chris Hatfield

    Barbara Ellen, you silly girl!

    The Gaurdian does sometimes do EXCELLENT articles such as this article about Dumb & Dumber who are now on the Health Select Committtee -

    Clearly, they shoudl fire Barbara because she's stupid.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Stupid she may be, but can she spell?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Is this

        to imply that he misspelled "Grauniad"?

        1. Ismael

          He also misspeled


  6. Dazed and Confused

    knowing things

    It might be excusable for the journo to know bog all about the internet and even bog all about porn, but you would expect that even if they don't know which one is a prefix and which one is a suffix that they could at least tell the two apart.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Even if the columnist didn't know

      Perhaps the sub-editors should, and could have sent it back to be corrected before the cheque went in the post.

      Though I believe the role of sub editor has been trimmed from many British papers, because they cost money.

  7. Just Thinking

    Read the whole article

    It gets worse. Totally clueless. Not even in an amusing way.

  8. Greg J Preece

    Nothing to do with censorship?

    If she doesn't even know how the address works, I doubt she understands how it could be used for censorship.

    1. James 139


      Like most cluetards, they post before they think.

      Perhaps people should start campaigning for more TLDs, .whine, .rant, .drivel and .clueless spring to mind.

  9. Frozen Ghost
    Paris Hilton


    Why would any porn company be unhappy about having a whole new address space to buy into with almost no competition from any other companies?

    I can't see them ever forcing certain types of companies to have xxx on the end in the same way all the other top-level domains are not used by the correct companies most of the time.

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge

      er ....

      that's *exactly* what the pornmeisters are worried about. And once they are coralled into .xxx domains, it's the work of a second for a country to block that entire domain.

      He's a similar suggestion .... you know how currently we use .gov for government associated websites ? Why not have .anarchy as a domain for all viewpoints that oppose the government ?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Then may I propose the .nrk suffix?

        AC, natch...

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Anarchy? Certainly not

      2. Anonymous Coward

        re: er ...

        Not exactly trivial to block at the domain level - use any other DNS server (or even your own) or IP address and suddenly the ISP/country is doing rDNS queries for every connection..

      3. Ken Hagan Gold badge


        "once they are coralled into .xxx domains, it's the work of a second for a country to block that entire domain."

        ...and the work of another second for users to type in the actual IP address and thereby bypass the censorship. The .xxx proposal is protection against *accidentally* landing on porn. To make it even vaguely secure against *deliberate* attempts to reach these sites you'd have to perform a reverse DNS lookup on every TCP connection attempt. To make that even remotely efficient, you'd need to cache the lookups, which is no different from having a long list of barred IP addresses, which is what these countries presumably have right now.

        Only a young child or a politician will be thwarted by censorship at this level. However, that's the benefit. In the case of young children, I don't actually hear anyone campaigning for their rights to access smut. In the case of the latter, perhaps that's the best solution: give them a fig-leaf so that they can go back to their constituents and say "Porn has been banished from the interweb! Praise $(diety)!".

    2. Anonymous Coward

      >Frozen Ghost, 28th June 2010 14:10 GMT

      because they could very easily be blocked from networks (or countries) that don't allow pr0n. Right now, you can't block ".com" (which is where they reside), you have to instead depends on a published list of known pr0n sites and block each one*. If you force the pr0n industry to use the top domain ".xxx" then they will lose a good partition of their customers.

      * or force your network through opendns, which is what I did in my office. All non-encrypted DNS requests are forwarded to opendns.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Rule 34

    Any Rule 34 on Barbara Ellen?

  11. Jolyon Ralph

    xxx prefix

    Excellent idea.

    In fact, it should be mandatory, change www to xxx on any website to get a NSFW version of the site. I think El Reg could indeed take a lead here (to index your NSFW stories?)


    1. max allan


      Come on Reg, get your XXX variant in gear ASAP. You could replace the tired old vulture head with some other dangly bit maybe...

      1. LinkOfHyrule

        Sucking the **** that feeds IT?

  12. Anonymous Coward

    There's a good reason...

    I don't buy either paper!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So what, might have been a typo.

    Your all gonna shoot her down for a slight of hand?

    That's really weak, remember that, 'cause others will judge you on it.

    Users don't care about how the tinternet works, they just want it to work when they are shopping or shit. For gods sake most people in this country cant tie their own shoe laces, never mind expecting them to know this.

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: So what, might have been a typo.

      You mean 'sleight'. But that's not actually what is meant by 'sleight of hand'.

      What is it around here today? It's like the 'Random' Prize for New Most Blitheringly Misused Word or something.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Re: So what, might have been a typo.

        Never mind that. What about

        "they just want it to work when they are shopping or shit"

        Shouldn't it be

        "they just want it to work when they are shopping for shit"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Or both?

          And it never struck me before (despite having shopped online first thing in the AM myself...probably), this could become part of the routine on getting up of a morning. Shopping for shit, a shit, shave and a shower!

          I'm sure Microsoft could get involved at some stage.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        They're a total load of fuckbiscuits here today, aren't they!

      3. Kevin Reader
        Paris Hilton

        Go Sarah, Go Sarah....

        That's is all.

        Paris - cos at the moment there's no "Sarah Tape", and you can count on the fingers of one hand the commentards who don't hope for that fate full day.

    2. Cameron Colley

      @So what, might have been a typo.

      Which part is the typo? The part where she thinks that xxx is replacing www or the part where she correctly says that xxx will be a suffix then says it goes at the beginning?

    3. Mr Young

      That's absolutely correct! How did you know!

      One of my shoelaces broke today then I couldn't tie it. I gave up at that point and pulled a sickie instead

    4. Charley 1

      Making things up is perfectly acceptable.

      >"For gods sake most people in this country cant tie their own shoe laces, never mind expecting them to know this."

      And if they read the paper this appeared in, they never will.

      I suppose that it's perfectly acceptable for newspapers to make things up if they don't understand them.

      Problem is, you let something like this pass, what else do you let pass? Invading $country was to find WMDs? Stop Al Quaeda? Bring democracy to the Freedom loving peoples of the Middle East? Pinch a shedload of oil?

      Seen it happen before.

    5. Charley 1


      Posts by Obviously!

      All because the average user has no idea what they are doing..... → #

      Posted Tuesday 29th June 2010 10:44 GMT

      >In Notorious Kraken botnet rises from the ashes

      >Sorry its not good enough to cry that tech should be available to all.

      >If you dont have the faintest idea, you shouldnt be allowed to surf.

      >We don't let drivers without a licence on our roads!

      But it's Ok to write articles about it?

  14. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Acute hormonal imbalance

    Someone please prescribe her watching more porn and also having sex occasionally.

  15. madferret

    Dumb and dumber

    "This article referred to www. and the notional xxx. as suffixes. It should have been prefix. This has been corrected."

    Great journalism - get readers to spot the mistake then correct it with another mistake! It would never happen on El Reg.

    Long live Grauniad, we need a laugh from time to time.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Better Pic?

    On the subject of porn, do you have any better pictures of Barbara Ellen?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Some commentards with don't read beyond the first paragraph of the story or possibly just skip straight to the comments page without reading the story at all.

    What's amusing about this story is not so much the original column's confusion of suffix and prefix or TLD and host name, but the fact that some idiot sub ed made things worse by publishing a supposed correction. It's bad enough that the original wasn't proof read, but you would think the person posting up the correction would have thought to proof read it more carefully - or if they didn't understand the difference between suffix and prefix, TLD and host you'd hope they would be smart enough to get somebody who did understand to proof read it for them.

    You know that rule that runs "any internet post correcting the grammar or spelling of a previous post will always contain at least one error of spelling or grammar that is worse than the original error". Clearly it applies even more to online journalism.

    1. Tom 13

      Why read the articles?

      The comments are more fun.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    "Put porn where it belongs, in a guetto"

    What's her deal?If she doesn't like it, she doesn't have to put people off!

  19. VeganVegan


    the regular URL and the inaddr?

    Perhaps we should give them credit for a deeper misunderstanding?

  20. Nat Pryce
    Paris Hilton

    One way to counteract the censorship of .xxx

    Anyone with a normal website on a .com,, .org or whatever domain change it to use .xxx. Then it no longer becomes a porn-only domain.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Very true

      As long as they're not super expensive I fully expect to see all kinds of "vanity" .xxx domains turning up. Why? because porn is funny. I mean who wouldn't want to have an email address ending in .xxx? (Provide you had a more presentable address for formal communication as well.)

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Forget about Barbara Allen - more important EU stuff needs investigating!

    or, "Son of Straight Banana".

    What about the "EU mandates that eggs must be sold by weight" excitement?



    (for example)

    No, I didn't dream of including a link to anything with Daily Mail in it...

  22. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Well at least it's cheaper!

    Since is just a line in DNS this would be a simple change to make everywhere - you know, I think The Grauniad is onto something here - no new registrar - in fact nothing to do except change the DNS records ...

  23. Anonymous Coward

    barbary ellen

    is into ghetto porn = poor filipinas getting it on with the wealthy journalista?

    still her command of i t matches reg readers command of current affairs?

  24. Tom 35 Silver badge

    I think it should be...

    Once you add their "correction".

  25. Lotus 80

    Spreading the blame

    This kind of factual clusterfuck isn't just the fault of the writer, even though she is clearly a pompous, uninformed dimwit. Editors are supposed to fact check and edit the material before publication, and the fact that nobody caught something as obvious as this is scarier than the error itself.

    Either a) The Grauniad/Observer have fired their last remaining editors and they're now posting/printing raw copy, or b) the few editors they have left are too young to be conversant with correct English or the basic rules of journalism (you know, getting your facts right and other such tedious details).

    But maybe things will pan out in the end for the media sector. Let's all hope that once every magazine and newspaper on the planet is exclusively served up as an iPad-only edition, the Jobs reality-distortion field will make the need for facts a thing of the past, and we'll all be happy.

  26. Pablo
    Paris Hilton

    It's "fixed" again

    It now says "...where addresses will have the suffix xxx (similar to the prefix www)." I've got to hand it to them, that's the *least* wrong version so far. But the fact remains that xxx is not in any way equivalent to www.

  27. Nuke

    West Midlands Polite Force

    Reminds me of when a Birmingham newspaper referred to "The West Midlands Polite Force".

    Next day they issued a correction : said they were sorry for the typo and that they should have said "The West Midlands Police Farce"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      West Midlands Polite Force

      Yeah, they're always polite on those TV "documentaries". That must mean that they're polite all the time.

  28. Jamie Kitson

    Can't believe they still employ her

  29. Graham Marsden

    Ah, it's another of those irregular definitions of "Freedom of Expression"...

    Barbara Ellen says "When did porn (watching strangers shagging) become a basic human right?" perhaps it is really that that she thinks that because *she* doesn't like it, nobody should be allowed to see it, in other words "Freedom of Expression" really means "Freedom to look at things that Barbara Ellen likes, but not otherwise"

  30. Anonymous Coward

    News media

    One of the prime reasons I never read anything other than the free Metro these days! Almost all papers are full of shite. Supposed to be "news"-paper, that neing the case, tell me what's been happening, not what you and you middle-England, middle-class twatty mates talked about over dinner last night!

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Changed again. Still not right.

    "...where addresses will have the suffix xxx (similar to the prefix www)"

    Can someone explain her how the tubes work?

  32. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

    What they should do...

    ..Publish a retraction:

    "Sorry, this story was complete rubbish. The journalist in question has had it mentioned to her that she should do something called 'research'. The sub-editor responsible for proof-reading her work has been fired. Normal service will be resumed shortly. In the mean time, here is a picture of some kittens doing something funny."

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Barbara Ellen

    Amusing article yet I really don't care what Barbara Ellen writes. At least, she presumably looks better than the average Reg hack.

    1. Alan Ferris

      "....presumably looks better than the average Reg hack"

      I presume that you exclude the moderatrix from this.

      I'm sure she's far above average

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