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Yahoo Faces Questions After Discovery Of Comment Replication 97

Posted by Soulskill
from the never-attribute-to-malice dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Someone noticed that certain Associated Press stories on Yahoo seem to be appending old comments to new stories in a way that was highly misleading (suggesting new stories had a lot more interest than they really did). The initial theory was that this was some sort of nefarious scam, potentially by Yahoo and the AP. However, Mike Masnick at Techdirt dug into the details and found evidence that it's more about incompetence in the way Yahoo built its comment system, combined with the way that the AP pushes and rotates its articles to partner sites."
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Yahoo Faces Questions After Discovery Of Comment Replication

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  • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Friday June 04, 2010 @05:38PM (#32464118) Journal

    Never attribute to nefarious scams that which can be adequately explained by incompetence?

    Or something like that anyways

    • by SilverHatHacker (1381259) on Friday June 04, 2010 @05:39PM (#32464142)
      You pulled this exact post, word for word, out of my head, at the exact instant I thought of it. You've got to teach me how to do that!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Never attribute to nefarious scams that which can be adequately explained by incompetence

      if this sentiment was universal, all truly nefarious people would simply hide behind the protection of incompetence.

      i'm attributing this to orchestrated incompetence.

      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        all truly nefarious people would simply hide behind the protection of incompetence.

        There you go, trying to bring George Bush into this discussion.

        Shame on you liberals.

      • by Gilmoure (18428)

        I don't make enough money and my parents aren't rich enough for incompetence to be a plus for me.

        If I screw up, I end up paying.

    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by Kingrames (858416)
      How about "only a sith deals in absolutes"?

      but seriously, we heard "never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by stupidity" record numbers of times over eight years. That statement doesn't hold any water anymore. It's an excuse to be as malicious as possible and to never be held accountable for anything you do, especially if it was intentional. After all, no matter what happens, you can always claim you're older and wiser AFTER THE FACT.
      • How about "only a sith deals in absolutes"?

        That sounds like the sort of absolute statement a Sith would make.

        Or perhaps it's not just the Sith who deal in absolutes after all.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Hanlon's Razor [wikipedia.org]
    • Hmmm I read the parent before. I think Slashdot is appending old comments to new stories. It's no doubt some sort of a nefarious plot to make the stories seem as though there is more interest in them.

    • by marcello_dl (667940) on Friday June 04, 2010 @06:01PM (#32464406) Homepage Journal

      "Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence."
      (attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte, born 1769 - likely competently poisoned to death in 1812)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napoleon_I#Cause_of_death [wikipedia.org]

      • by jeepien (848819)

        "Napoleon Bonaparte, born 1769 - likely competently poisoned to death in 1812

        ...not to mention maliciously.

    • On some movies, like the DVD of a certain franchise, Amazon now includes reviews from all the other seasons or even completely different titles, going so far as to calculate the star ratings based on these seperate products.

      This doesn't seem to be across the board and may be up to the individual seller of the product, but it has turned movies that were rated 2 stars 2 years later into 5 star products -- without having an additional actual reviews pertinent to the title added, rather than reviews of better m

    • by CaroKann (795685)
      I've always thought this happened by design. Although, I've never been sure exactly what the design was.

      Perhaps it's an attempt to keep a conversation about a particular topic going through multiple headlines and stories. New stories are being written all of the time, usually with just a paragraph or two that are different from the old story.

      Perhaps it was an attempt to cut down on the number of stupid posts. After all, who reads the end of a comment thread that contains 99,601 comments [yahoo.com]. Surely pe
    • Am I the only one here that finds "dissidentvoice" likely to be a batshit insane conspiracy theorist? I know he was right about the comments system being broken, but you know the saying about broken clocks...
    • by lonecrow (931585)

      "incompetence before conspiracy" is how I have naming the rule. It has applications all over the place from 9/11 some World Bank actions and others.

      However, I am not sure if I would apply it to the latest financial meltdown. It smelled a little to much like disgruntled employees pilfering as much as they can on the way out the door.

  • Sloppy programming (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dgatwood (11270) on Friday June 04, 2010 @05:38PM (#32464122) Journal

    Well, in this case, they're treating the last path part as a unique identifier, which it obviously is not. I read the article half expecting it to be an integer overflow bug....

    • by Lazlo Woodbine (54822) on Friday June 04, 2010 @05:54PM (#32464340)
      It's pretty common in newspapers (and AP) to recycle slugs. A slug is the internal identifier that's used for a story since the title is often the last thing written. The slug is typically only unique for a specific day. Also, Yahoo is fairly incompetent when it comes to technology for a company its size.
      • by Bakkster (1529253)

        Also, Yahoo is fairly incompetent when it comes to technology for a company its size.

        Thank you Captain Obvious ;)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Pollardito (781263)
        It's unique for a specific day, but it also isn't. As they add more detail to a story, a new story comes across with the same slug (or even slightly changed). They're matching comments to slugs instead of to some sort of a story ID, because they want the comments to stay on the story as it's revised. Imagine a story on the World Trade Center attacks coming through 10+ times as more and more detail filters in, and every time a new version comes through all the comments get wiped.

        Unfortunately it looks l
        • by Velex (120469)

          some sort of a story ID, because they want the comments to stay on the story as it's revised. Imagine a story on the World Trade Center attacks coming through 10+ times as more and more detail filters in

          The solution to that is to also store revisions, e.g. revision_id 2, 3, and 6 belong to story_id 4.

  • In other words, Nothing To See Here, Slow News Day, and so on... NEXT!
    • In other words, Nothing To See Here, Slow News Day, and so on... NEXT!

      Hmmm... apparently /. also suffers from this symptom of comment duplication... :-P

  • by Itninja (937614) on Friday June 04, 2010 @05:43PM (#32464182) Homepage
    Kind of OT, but Yahoo Answers comment system is wonked out too. My favorite part is how I can edit my answer after it's been modded up (or down). I can say something like 'To fix your WAP you need to reset to factory defaults and reconfigure', and get modded very high. Questions come in very fast and most are off the main page withing a few minutes, so I can go back 10 minutes later and change my answer to something like 'Call the company at 202-456-1414 and complain. they will give you the runaround, but the secret word is 'potus'. Demand to talk to potus and you will be fine.'
    • by nurb432 (527695) on Friday June 04, 2010 @05:50PM (#32464260) Homepage Journal

      So you are the bastard that got the black vans to my house when i had that wireless problem !!!!! potus my ass!!!

    • by MrEricSir (398214)

      They need to do WAP instain mother>

  • What you see is not information, it's not even data, it's "news" and rarely related to anything important in the real world.
    • by game kid (805301)
      But I saw it in the ticker thingy at the bottom! I swear Obama is having an affair with Katy Perry!
  • Department of Redundancy Department?
  • I don't know who the drunks are that write and edit the Yahoo and CNN "news" stories, but they usually have more spelling and grammar errors than a 2nd grade book report.
    • "I don't know who the drunks are who write and edit" (fixed that for you)

      Oh the irony of a grammar complaint coming from one who fails to live by his own rules.
  • by blair1q (305137) on Friday June 04, 2010 @06:14PM (#32464520) Journal

    Kinda lame, but useful
    Still lame, not as useful
    Somewhat better presented, less useful compared to competitors
    Kinda flashy and a little more useful than before
    Crufty and deliberately defeatured
    Kinda buggy and simplistic compared to competitors
    Definitely suffering bit-rot, not any more useful
    Total crap with pockets of new development of script-kiddie webdev showoff crap that makes it no more useful and often worse than useless

    • ever since i saw the headline, i been wondering who the fuck uses yahoo anymore?
      even hotmail is better than yahoo mail.
      google news is much much better than yahoo news.
      yahoo search??? what yahoo search?
  • You'd think an Internet company that has been around as long as Yahoo! would understand how to code a proper CMS by now. IMO this is just further evidence that they will be joining the likes of Netscape and AOL in the dustbin of Internet has-beens sooner rather than later...
    • by toadlife (301863)

      You would think...

      Up until a few months ago, the site ZDNet had a bug in their comments that allowed the first person who made a comment under a story or blog to change the headline displayed over the comments section by modifying the querystring.

      For example under a story called "Flaw found in Internet Explorer" the link to post a comment would look like this....

      http://zdnet.com/blogs?foo=4343?title=Flaw+Found+in+Internet+Explorer [zdnet.com]

      The first person to post a comment could change the querystring like so...

      http [zdnet.com]

  • Because the comments of new stories on Yahoo are all the same to start with!

    Half will directly hold the current sitting President responsible for the article's topic. Some will hold the political party with majority in Congress (yes, this includes articles about Acts of God -- see articles about Hurrican Katrina blaming the Right Wing). Then there will be all the responses to the first two groups that instead blame the other party or previous President. There will be a few that comment on terrorism. And the

    • by gront (594175)
      Don't forget all the cranks and crazies. Yahoo's news comment system is a complete waste of time and I have no idea why they have it. They got rid of it for a while, then brought it back. Without any sort of moderation or sanity checking, it's like listening to talk radio without call screening.
      • by SeaFox (739806)

        Well, you can "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" comments now like on YouTube, and ones that score low enough (the threshold seems pretty damn low) will be hidden by default. So there is actually a possibility that the old crew of outright racist and vulgar comments will be actually suppressed a bit (that was why Yahoo pulled the comment plug to begin with, it was during that scare about lawsuits on sites that allowed hate speech to be published in reader comments). But the general quacks will still get the atte

    • by TimSSG (1068536)
      You are correct; it really explains why it took so long to notice the problem.

      Tim S.
  • <tinfoilhat>
    Getting a cue right from The underhanded C contest
    </tinfoilhat>
  • Has Yahoo stumbled upon the Holy Grail of dupes? Have they unwittingly produced the mother of all duping systems? We must know, is there anything slashdot can learn from this to ensure more efficiently duped articles? Why stop at duped stories when we can have duped comments?! This would save so much time.

    Has Yahoo stumbled upon the Holy Grail of dupes? Have they unwittingly produced the mother of all duping systems? We must know, is there anything slashdot can learn from this to ensure more efficiently

    • Has Yahoo stumbled upon the Holy Grail of dupes? Have they unwittingly produced the mother of all duping systems? We must know, is there anything slashdot can learn from this to ensure more efficiently duped articles? Why stop at duped stories when we can have duped comments?! This would save so much time.

    • This is an easy call for a redundancy mod.
  • adjective
    (typically of an action or activity) wicked or criminal

    adjective
    flagrantly wicked or impious

    Ever since it was used in Raiders of the Lost Ark it seems.

    So, did Yahoo have a wicked or criminal scam, or was was it something less. Maybe just a scam?

  • You just need to take a look at Yahoo's comment system to see how much incredibly worse things can be.

    I'm not even talking about the quality of the comments themselves, which make your average Slashdot troll look like a PhD in comparison.

    Still, though, I think comment systems in general need lots of improvement. One idea I have is weighted tags: allow tags to be added to comments, along with +/- buttons to allow others to alter the weight of the tags. Then, design the display system to let you filter or a

    • actually there is no room for discussion on a news website. if you want discussion, go to a blog or a forum.
      • actually there is no room for discussion on a news website. if you want discussion, go to a blog or a forum.

        Well, to be technical, Yahoo! really isn't a news site. They are more of a web portal, and I'm sure if you pressed them, they would say the purpose of their existence is to entertain visitors with interesting content, not be a news organization. I mean, it's not like this is cnn.com... if comments keep people entertained (read some of them, they ARE entertaining) and coming back to the site then they

        • a true news outlet would not have any inferences or opinions of the journalist. it would just state the facts. once i was watching bbc and one of their people was interviewing one of the wto protesters. he asked him what do the protesters want. the man was truly baffled. he gave some bullshit gibberish as answer and went away. now it was clear that atleast this man did not have any agenda and was just there to have some fun. but the bbc people did not make any comment on it. they allow the viewer to make th
  • I've found that yahoo routinely changes the links to their articles. After sharing on one facebook I clicked it to show it to someone else on MSN the next day and found that the story at the page was drastically different than the one that I had posted. in fact it was an entirely different article.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gront (594175)
      Different content on the same subject or a completely different subject? Often the AP or whoever is doing the article will update and change it around a bit over time, especially on breaking news. Sometimes it is difficult to determine how and when it was changed, sometimes they tell you.
      • by crossmr (957846)

        This was an entirely different article. Several other sites still had the article, searching the text I had quoted on FB for it I found hundreds of copies. Yahoo just up and changed it though with no notice that I could find.

    • by SeaFox (739806)

      What I hate is they don't have permanent links to articles. Or they don't archive their news stories, one of the two. If I find an article I like I can't really bookmark it. If I try to come back to it months later I'm simply told the article doesn't exist.

      Meanwhile, I have bookmarks to articles on Wired's website from a decade ago that still load correctly.

  • I always figured it was on purpose, the better to keep conversations about the same topic together. Seemed a bit ham-handed but I figured they had a reason. I mean there's no way they could not have known about it is there? All you would have to do would be to glance at one of the major stories and it would be obvious that the comments do not pertain to it directly and are old with thousands of responses.

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