Author Topic: Episode #656  (Read 8419 times)

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Offline CarbShark

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #15 on: February 04, 2018, 11:22:12 AM »
Brian did not get commissions other affiliates would have gotten. The cookies only paid out if the user went to eBay directly from the page with Dunning’s ad.


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Offline jsandlin

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #16 on: February 04, 2018, 02:15:46 PM »
Driverless cars are not like chauffeured cars. One, these chauffeured cars in the study were free to the riders. Two, the driver didn't just park nearby in all cases, like getting the child. They drove from home to the kid and brought them home, because the parents might need the ride, so keeping the car where the most riders were based was optimal. The economy of driverless cars will likely include a fairly sizable fleet of driverless taxis that park near each previous destination and pick up new fares nearby, reducing travel distances. You'll have your personal vehicle, but without the need to pay a driver, taxi fares will be lower, perhaps low enough to buy a monthly ride card, similar to what we can have now in public transit. So, with these possibilities not yet vetted, it is nearly impossible to estimate the real impact on real time traffic.

Next, battery waste. With the current trend in new purchases of personal electric cars, we'll be having that increase of battery waste whether the cars are driverless or not. We have to hope that the battery technology that will allow batteries to be recharged thousands or hundreds of thousands of times, which will potentially reduce the currently expected battery waste, will actually come to fruition.

There is a lot of talk of the driverless car becoming your living room and other medium duration habitats. Personally, I don't want to spend hours even in a really nice car or van. There is food to eat and ... facilities to visit... and also people to spend time with. We'll probably still try to keep our "drive time" down, even if you can be productive during the drive, you likely always be able to be more productive either at work or home and visiting other people, either coworkers or friends. A lot of companies that were using telecommuting have stopped because the long term benefits and challenges were not balanced in favor of productivity or cost benefit. There are industries where telecommuting still does make sense, but using a vehicle as that telecommuting environment means you need to have high quality comms, high quality video or voice calling and secure data access, from your vehicle to the world to enable telecommuting from your travel pod, and we just aren't there. So, I think the increase in time spent in the vehicle will be minimal.

So maybe there will be these huge downsides. Or maybe they aren't that huge and are offset by eliminating the downsides of our current travel modes.
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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #17 on: February 04, 2018, 02:17:18 PM »
Oh great. Are we banging on about Dunning again?

I might give this thread a miss.
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Offline Belgarath

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #18 on: February 04, 2018, 02:36:23 PM »
Brian did not get commissions other affiliates would have gotten. The cookies only paid out if the user went to eBay directly from the page with Dunning’s ad.


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Interesting, but that does not agree with the arstechnica article, nor does it agree with the indictment I read a few years back.

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Offline PatrickG

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Episode #656
« Reply #19 on: February 04, 2018, 02:39:35 PM »
The Dunning fraud case is fascinating. In the SGU Brian Dunning makes the case that he did nothing illegal, and that he was strong armed into an admission by a big company. He claims to comply with what eBay asked him to do and that they were A-OK with it the pixel gif: http://www.briandunning.com/message.html

The Federal Government disagrees.  Read the details here: http://wy3mg1xgify37n21x223cw7xl1.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/SENTENCING_MEMORANDUM_DUNNING.pdf

“Mr. Dunning used his technical expertise and programing skills to steal money from eBay. Mr. Dunning tricked eBay, through so-called “cookie stuffing,” into paying him for traffic to eBay’s website that, in fact, he had done nothing to deliver. This was no “smash and grab,” motivated by poverty, hunger, or substance abuse, but rather a clever, sophisticated calculated criminal scheme carried out over several years by a man who certainly had no pressing need for the money.”

I have not found any other sources to agree with Brian’s version (but many agree with the government’s case). From my experience doing online advertising it seems highly unlikely that Brian Dunning was not aware that he was - and the very least - abusing a loophole.
Ad imprints go at a rate of $0.20-$1 per 1000 impressions, depending on the competition. Ad clicks typically go for 1000x as much because the click-through rate is less that 0.1%. I paid between $0.40 and $3 per click. Actual conversions as a result of the click are even much lower.

The core idea of Dunning’s money making trick was to sell eBay an ad imprint as if it were a much more valuable ad click. The reward for the click was a cookie that would earn the site ‘affiliate’ commission if the person would layer use the same browser to buy stuff on eBay.

Even though the public never clicked on the ad, Dunning was paid commission whenever they would go to eBay later.
But it seems to be even more deceptive because Dunning’s  “WhoLinked” web app did not even show the eBay ad (see the Ars Technica article: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/04/how-kesslers-flying-circus-cookie-stuffed-its-way-to-5-2m-from-ebay/)

In short: eBay was paying Dunning for fraudulent advertising that never really happened. EBay would have had the same traffic without Dunning’s fake clicks. And Dunning must have known that.
eBay might have been a little dumb initially to let scammers get away with such trickery. Brian must also have known that the illustrious ‘mrs. K’ at eBay must have been utterly clueless to be OK with this cookie stuffing. He knew he wasn’t driving significant traffic to EBay that justifies millions in commissions.

This was not a victimless crime. EBay was defrauded for millions of dollars (which is why Brian served time). Also, it is likely that Brian’s ubiquitous cookies inhibited or overwrote the cookies of legitimate affiliates that did show prominent eBay ads.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2018, 02:52:04 PM by PatrickG »

Offline Belgarath

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #20 on: February 04, 2018, 02:45:46 PM »
This was not a victimless crime. EBay was defrauded for millions of dollars (which is why Brian served time). Also, it is likely that Brian’s ubiquitous cookies inhibited or overwrote the cookies of legitimate affiliates that did show prominent eBay ads.

Thus my contention that other advertisers lost money and this is not a 'victimless' crime.

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Offline Belgarath

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #21 on: February 04, 2018, 02:47:17 PM »
One thing I want to add here:

I listen to his podcast and find it interesting and useful information.  He generally (with a few nits) does a good job presenting a skeptical topic in a short easy to understand format.

I just wish that he hadn't done this.

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Offline Eternally Learning

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #22 on: February 04, 2018, 02:56:02 PM »
It's been a while since I looked into Dunning's mess, but IIRC, his position was not that he did nothing illegal, ut rather that eBay wanted and encouraged him to do it so that he (and I believe others too) would show that their affiliate program was successful. I thought his moral out was that he was only taking money from eBay and that eBay wanted him to do it. I don't believe he jad any direct evidence to back that claim up though, and I think the fact that he overrode other legitimate affiliates' cookies in favor of his own, makes it much less victimless.

I really don't understand why the SGU is wading into his mess and giving him a platform to speak from.  I have to be honest, between this, their choice in lawyers, and the Joshie Berger fiasco, I'm starting to question the SGU's judgement. Especially considering they have yet to respond meaningfully to any of the criticism about those things that I've seen. I'm willing to believe that there is another side to all of these things, but none has been presented to us.

Offline fuzzyMarmot

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #23 on: February 04, 2018, 03:54:44 PM »
EL said it perfectly. The SGU has shown some questionable judgement, and even more troubling, they seem reluctant to publicly explain their decisions.

Offline ClauClauClaudia

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #24 on: February 04, 2018, 04:34:39 PM »
I had a whole thing to say, but EL summed it up beautifully.

I last listened to Skeptoid over a decade ago, because there was just an off note for me in Dunning's personality, combined with one too many episodes with what felt like motivated reasoning. But I was unaware of this fracas till today. Thanks to those who linked Rebecca Watson's article up thread... both the article and the comments were worth reading.

I feel like the SGU are at their weakest in interviews, probably substantially because they can't prep for everything that may come up. But here they either didn't prepare or chose not to comment in any depth on a serious matter they absolutely knew would be discussed, basically letting Dunning plug his new project consequence-free.

I don't like it.

« Last Edit: February 09, 2018, 03:17:02 PM by ClauClauClaudia »

Online Harry Black

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #25 on: February 04, 2018, 04:47:20 PM »
As far as Im concerned Dunning has done his time and should be free to get on with his life and career.

If he ever does an episode about cookie stuffing then I will throw a side eye, but I dont think his crime really relates to the kind of basic skepticism his brand has always been about.
I think its fine for the SGU to let him move on from a mistake.

Steve has commented on Joshie in the thread we have here but my concern over Randazza remains, as does the previous association with Shermer and the rush to get Dawkims on stage while Rebeccas seat was still warm (considering he tried to actively harm her career by pushing event hosts to drop her if they wanted him on stage).

I think they need to rethink some policies but Im fine with Brian.

Offline Eternally Learning

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #26 on: February 04, 2018, 05:06:37 PM »
If Brian was not trying to pretend like he did nothing wrong, I'd be far more forgiving. As it stands, I think there is an inherent optics problem with the SGU supporting a person who is unrepentantly convicted of felony fraud. If the SGU were just an entertainment podcast, I'd be fine. If the individual Rogues decided to support him in their personal time, I'd be fine.  I just don't like the idea of them throwing their professional weight around to drive their viewers to his work where I'd imagine he's again asking for money.

Offline fuzzyMarmot

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #27 on: February 04, 2018, 06:41:14 PM »
EL said it perfectly. The SGU has shown some questionable judgement, and even more troubling, they seem reluctant to publicly explain their decisions.

Just as a postscript, I think the SGU did a good job with the questions they asked during the Dunning interview. They were very transparent and direct, which is a refreshing change from how they dealt with Randazza, Klein, and other controversial figures (and how they have neglected to address the problems with Joshie, Shermer, and Dawkins).

The choice to have Dunning on in the first place still puzzles me for a couple of reasons. For one, he is completely unrepentant and seems set on spinning the story to make himself look like the victim. It is hard to accept someone as rehabilitated if they don't first admit their mistakes.

Second, is there a shortage of great scientists out there to interview? There are THOUSANDS of amazing scientists, professors, and science communicators out there who would make outstanding interview subjects. Why spend so much time on people who have super-shady backgrounds and little direct science experience ? I don't get it.

Offline MTBox

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #28 on: February 04, 2018, 08:16:37 PM »
I found the interview background interesting but bloated. I got the impression they felt they had to provide background to make listeners comfortable with the support of Science Friction, as a pro-active heading off of the questions for why you would cover or support Science Friction at all. As its own topic, the wire fraud it isn't timely and wasn't treated well. As background for, "Here is something he is doing that we Do sort of Support," that background was misplaced.

Offline GodSlayer

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Re: Episode #656
« Reply #29 on: February 04, 2018, 09:37:25 PM »
Come on Steve,

The victim in the Dunning fiasco is that many other affiliates who should have gotten a commission didn't.

assuming people used affiliates...
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