Using Captchas on cybertroopers and botnets

Last week I wrote about the ‘rigged’ EDGE poll, that the EDGE had to eventually take down because they suspected someone was trying to bias the results. It was later revealed that a handful of IP addresses were responsible fro the bulk of the votes–presumably the fake ones. An IP address defines a unique internet connection, but not necessarily a unique device. You can try this yourself at home, and connect your PC, Laptop, Tablet and phone to your Wi-Fi router and then go online to check your IP from each–all of your devices will have the same ‘external’ IP address.

So in theory, the IP address could have belonged to a shared cybercafe where everyone was logging in and voting on this obscure Poll–but that’s unlikely. What’s more likely is that a single PC loaded with a simple script was logging into multiple times to the EDGE and continuously voting. There’s no other way to get 6,000+ votes in a short space with a regular human being.

That of course, begs the question–how can you fix this. Well the answer to these automated scripts has been around for quite sometime now, its called a CAPTCHA and it looks like this:

What is CAPTCHA

You’ve seen this before, a Captcha is a simple test of human-ness,

A Captcha is a little bit of checking most websites do to make sure you’re a human. Now the reason they’re all jumbled up and ‘squigly’ is simply because the squigly-ness makes it impossible for a computer program to read. In fact no one has yet come up with a program that can read a Captcha, yet even my 6 year old niece can be able to identify most Captchas on the first try, which tells us a lot about the difference between man and machine.

As far as vote rigging prevention methods go, a Captcha is more like a long line at the polling center, rather than indelible ink. A Captcha doesn’t prevent anyone from double-voting but it does raise the effort required to place a vote to the point where one person submitting 6,000 votes would be practically impossible. It’s a ‘proof-of-work’ that basically charges the user for whatever transaction was being performed, in this case the user is charged the time and effort it would take to solve the Captcha before placing their vote. The fact that the transactions cost something, means that at some point it becomes economically infeasible to repeat the transaction over and over again–whether that transaction was a vote for an online poll, or a comment on a blog or even sending out an email. 

So the proof-of-work actually helps address the bot-nets or even cybertroopers, I wonder why the EDGE didn’t implement it?

Pitchin.my Crowdfunding success in Teach a Child to Read

A couple of months back, I wrote a short post about a Malaysian project that was successfully funded on kickstarter. Today, I can proudly say that Malaysians continue to surprise me in untold ways.

Pitchin.my is the Malaysian kickstarter, and recently it saw a successful funding of a project on it’s website–that literally brought tears to my eyes. The project entitled “Sponsor a Child to Read” was done by an English teacher from a rural school in Negeri Sembilan with a small-ish goal to raise a relatively small-ish USD3000 to provide books to 30 students with low literacy level from SMK Teriang Hilir. Let me tell you, there’s nothing small-ish about teaching 30 students.

Liew Suet Li, the English teacher who started the project, goes on to elaborate that: Continue reading

Crowdsourcing Week Singapore : Registration and Promo Code

Crowdsourcing Week Singapore Promotional code

Crowdsourcing has come to the Asia Pacific region–and it’s come in a big way. A couple of months back, I was contacted by the people organizing Crowdsourcing week in Singapore to attend the event, unfortunately due to personal commitments I was unable to make it–bummer!

Crowdsourcing week is a great idea that brings a whole bunch of great speakers including Jennifer Gustetic, an executive at the “Challenges and Prizes” program in NASA, Stephanie Grosser from USAID and Sean Moffit from Wikibrands. It’s also one of the first events on crowdsourcing that I know off occurring in the Asia Pacific region and if you’re in the neighbourhood I can almost guarantee it’ll be worth your time attending.

So if you’re interested in listening to topics like “Everyone can be rocket scientist: Prizes and Challenges at NASA” from someone working in NASA, or “Equity Crowdfunding: Next Big Thing” from someone working in the crowdfunding platform crowdcube.com, then head on over to registration page, and register yourself.

Oh, and by the way, if you think the tickets prices are a bit too expensive, try the promo code “KE3130” for a 15% discount for tickets to crowdsourcing week–on me!!

Or for further browsing, try checking out the Crowdsourcing week agenda here.

Have a good time folks–pity I can’t join.

Just as a shameless plug, you can check out my two post on the crowdsourcing week website below:

Using the Crowd to predict

When Crowdsourcing doesn’t work

 

Crowdfunding : Best of Kickstarter 2012

Number of Successful Kickstarter Projects in 2012

Crowdfunding is exploding, and kickstarter is exploding with it.

In 2012 alone, Kickstarter successfully helped start 18,109 projects, from pledges of nearly 300 million. That’s a lot of cash from just random strangers hoping to help someone else realize their dreams, or to help the public in general.

Noteworthy projects include an open-source geiger counter to detect radiation levels in Japan, a kickstarter initiative that released recordings of Classical music to the public domain and funding a Bus Stop in Georgia.

Closer to home, my friend Dev didn’t manage to kickstart his idea of Onlyheart (although he’s launching it now without kickstarter funding), I helped Igor successfully fund Iggyfied and a Malaysian Author successfully kickstarted his book–and it’s now on sale in MPH.

What do you think of Kickstarter? Have any ideas that need funding?

*Cards against Humanity also deserves a mention

Using the Crowds to Predict : Crowdsourcing week article

A couple of days ago, I was invited to blog about crowdsourcing trends for a big event happening in Singapore on the 3rd to 7th of June. It’s called Crowdsourcingweek and if you’re interested in learning more about crowdsourcing there’s a whole boat-load of interesting speakers and events going on–so I definitely encourage you to attend.

The article was about crowd-predicting and how Francis Galton first discovered how crowds could predict (quite accurately) even though the individual members of those crowds had wildly different answers.

Check out the article here.

For more info on crowdsourcingweek, check out their website here.

Iggyfied successfully kickstarted

IggyfiedA couple of months back, I wrote about I was helping kickstart the brilliant guitarist Igor Presynakov. I was getting a bit worried that this was yet another kickstarter failure, as I had just receive a couple of updates and nothing much else.

But then things got interesting, 2 weeks before Christmas I got a surprise package in the mail, and it was a beautifully packaged crisp IGGYFIED CD. I felt really good supporting a great musician and getting my name on a CD, this also happened to be my very first autographed CD, so all in all it was a good move.

Malaysian kickstarter success story

Just the other day, I walked into an MPH bookstore and saw something that looked oddly familiar. It was a book titled “When I was a kid” and I couldn’t help but think I’ve seen this somewhere. It took me a while, but suddenly it hit me–this was the book from kickstarter.

A couple of months back, I wrote a post for a kickstarter initiative by a friend of mine, in that same post, I touched on some other kickstarter initiative from Malaysians. One of those initiatives was by a guy name boey who wanted to write a rather interesting book based on his life. I remember thinking it to be a really unique style of story telling, and I was really thrilled to see it on shelves in Malaysia–but not just because I’m a book lover.

This was proof that crowdfunding works–sometimes, and that it can work in Malaysia–sometimes, but it can work. I must admit, kickstarter is getting some bad flak at the moment. Take the pebble for example, millions of dollars were raised for it on kickstarter, only for it to be hit by delays. My own experience with Igor was hit by multiple delays and till today I don’t have a CD with name on it–yet!

Kickstarter has come out with some mechanisms to protect investors but insist their merely a store and hold no liability or responsibility for failed projects. What people fail to understand is that when you fund something on the internet, it’s just like funding something elsewhere–there is always a chance things don’t work out. Just because it happens on kickstarter is no guarantee it’ll succeed, and people who don’t appreciate this shouldn’t be funding projects online.

Anyhow, congratulations to Boey, it’s nice to see a success story and it’s even nicer when that success story happens in your own backyard. You can purchase the book at MPH online, or simply click the picture below:

When I was a Kid by Boey

Kickstarter Malaysia: A collection of Malaysian Kickstarter Projects

Kickstarter is a great crowdfunding platform for budding entrepreneurs, musicians and inventors to get their creations from inside their heads into peoples hands. I personally have funded my favorite youtube guitarist on kickstarter and I should be receiving an album anytime soon–with my name in the credits. How cool is it to get your name printed in the credits of an actual physical CD album–it’s amazingly cool.

Initially I thought kickstarter was this once off thing, but over time, the great successes of kickstarter continue to pile up, a couple of months back we had the pebble watch–a e-ink display watch that connected to your iOS or Android phone for display and control.  Now we have Ouya an Android based console hoping to compete with the Playstation and XBOX but on a RM300 price-point. This are way cool products, that anyone with even a slight inclination to tech would love to have.

If you’re not techy, let me appeal to your business side. Pebble raised more than $10 Million US Dollars!! Ouya is currently trailing it with $5Million.

In fact, Pebble was so successful, the team behind it had to stop accepting backers because they were not sure they could manufacture that many pebbles. Try getting $10 Million of VC funding.

How about kickstarter in Malaysia?

For a long time, I’d thought kickstarter was only an American concept, that only Americans were profiteering from the crowdfunding phenomenon. However, a week ago a friend of mine actually decided to take his idea to kickstarter. Dev was just a regular guy hoping to take his idea from his head to the hands of other people, and he convinced me that kickstarter was the way to go.

So I did a bit of searching I noticed a couple of Kickstarter projects from Malaysia, and it was awesome.

As far as I can tell, the highest funded project by a Malaysian on Kickstarter was Ultra Fashion, who raised nearly $10,000 US dollars for their unique fashion line. However other notable mentions include Hujan Panas--a film by a Malaysian film maker and When I was a Kid–the childhood stories of a Malaysian. These are all really cool projects, that may have otherwise not been funded, and you could be forgiven for jumping to conclusion that Americans are funding the Malaysian art scene more than Malaysians themselves.

Only Heart on Kickstarter

Of course I’d also need to promote the Only Heart idea, partly because I believe in it, and partly because Dev asked me to 🙂

Dev is a straight out dreamer, every group has one, he’s the guy who thinks up of crazy shit and then refuses to believe anyone who tells him his ideas aren’t good. Dev has always stood by his ideas and that is something to be respected. More importantly, this is one of Devs better ideas.

Only heart is something that can only be bought once. You heard me right, once you buy one, you’re not getting another–EVER!

It’s a pretty simple concept, Only Heart uses your name and few particulars to uniquely identify who you are. Once they’ve sold you the Only Heart (which is a silver heart shaped pendant), that’s the last only heart you’ll ever get–hence the name Only Heart.

Why only once?

Simple, Dev plans to make it so that once you give someone an only heart it symbolizes more than the $99 USD you plunked down for it. It symbolizes that you chose to buy your one Only Heart for that one special person in your life you think deserved it.

It’s quite a cool concept, but one that requires a minimum order on the Silver Hearts and a IT system to enforce the concept of one person per one Only Heart. All of that stuff required money, to the tune of about Rm30,000 and Dev needed the money so he turned to Kickstarter for help.

To be honest it’s not going so well for Dev, so he’ll really appreciate it if you backed him up a bit (backing starts from as low as a dollar), plus this isn’t something you take a VC to get funded anyway.

What’s the future of Crowdfunding in Malaysia

A couple of months back, Amanz.my broke a story of a kickstarter clone launching in Malaysia, they then begin to criticize the bad design of the blog, claiming it to be unprofessional.

Fortunately, Pitchin has improved over time, but the success rates of the site is still in question. I’m not sure how long before crowdfunding becomes a mainstream way of raising capital for cool projects, but at least in Malaysia we’re heading in the right direction.

What about Dev?

Dev required about RM30,000 of capital to start with, at present he’s about 15% of the way. With just 18 days to go, it’s a 50-50 chance he’ll make it. That being said, even if Only Heart doesn’t get funded, I’m sure Dev will find someway to get his idea out, and the publicity from Kickstarter would be a nice to have at that point.

 

Is MAS updating it’s own Wikipedia page?

9M-MPL Boeing 747-400 MASContinuing my series on bigdata and Google bigquery, I’ve decided to share a rather interesting snippet of information regarding our very own Malaysian Airlines and their wikipedia page.

First, just to illustrate how important Wikipedia is in general, the Malaysian Airlines Wikipedia page gets roughly 30,000 hits per month. That’s just one page of Wikipedia getting more hits than my entire website, I can’t tell you how frustrated that makes me.

Having a negative sounding Wikipedia page is pretty bad for business, particularly if 30,000 potential customers view it every month. That’s a web page that needs some serious attention if you’re the marketing manager of Malaysian Airlines.

Unfortunately for MAS (and every business organization there is), Wikipedia has a policy about updating your own Wikipedia page–you’re not allowed to do it. Wikipedia has to keep to it’s original intention of being an online repository of information that is fair, balanced and neutral. Having marketing gurus or corporate big wigs updating their own Wikipedia entry isn’t exactly in the best intentions of anyone, however Wikipedia doesn’t strictly enforce the policy and leave it up to the crowd.

Fortunately, the crowd have responded, sites like WikiScanner allow users to see which IP addresses updated which Wikipedia articles. Some have gone to the extent of correlating those IP addresses to the owners and determining if companies are updating their own Wikipedia pages against the general guidelines. Let’s see if Malaysian Airlines can join that group of companies who’ve been slapped on the wrist for changing the Wikipedia pages of their organizations. Continue reading

Wikipedia from a Malaysian perspective

Wikipedia is quite possibly the greatest repository of information mankind has ever seen. It’s built around an amazing concept of allowing anyone the ability to create, document and moderate information in real-time, and so far the concept has proven successful–some may even argue that it’s too successful.

For the past two days, I’ve been writing about Bigquery and Big Data in general, and for the most part I’ve been using the freely available wikipedia dataset in Bigquery to perform some queries and analysis. The results were so interesting, that they warrant a post on their own–and this is that post!

For instance, I was curious who Aiman Abmajid was. For those who aren’t following the blog, Aiman is the undisputed King of Wikipedia in Malaysia. Aiman has single-handedly helped update Malaysian articles on Wikipedia a mind-blowing 13 THOUSAND times–and that’s just the English articles. Almost 6 times more than his closest Malaysian rival.

I was intrigued as to who he was and why was he updating so many Wikipedia entries (some more than 900 times per article), and more I dug the more intriguing it got.

A quick Google search, brought me his Wikipedia which led me to the following: Continue reading