Hacking Hacker News

Recently I have been following the disaster known as Paul Christoforo of Ocean Marketing. He flamed a customer of the Avenger PS3 controller. Then he got into it with Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade, who managed to turn the masses of the Internet on him. Even though Christoforo messed up, I thought the mob mentality that followed on the net was overkill. Apparently that is an unpopular opinion to have. My comments on Hacker News got downvoted a lot.

I don't post of Hacker News too often. In the past year I probably commented on two posts. However I got a lot of downvotes this latest go around. The result is that my Hacker News karma is low. I think if your karma goes low enough, they ban you automatically. WTF? Now I want to brainstorm a way to hack my karma up into the positive region. While I am at it, I might as well try to raise my karma up high enough to downvote others (you cannot downvote if your karma is too low).

So how does one carry out such a hack? Well I could work within the system. I could try to post some hot new topic that appeals to a lot of reader. Then they could vote me up. Weak. I could find a way to trick the system. Create some Hacker News accounts. Ensure the system would not detect this. Essentially vote myself up to many karma points.

The real win would be to find out how karma is stored. Then I would need to figure out a way to go in and just change my number. Is this thing stored in a relational database? Or perhaps it is in some NoSQL database. What O/S is hosting this database? How can I get in? This is a fun problem to think about. Got any idea?

Customer Service Battle

I been reading this hilarious email exchange regarding an Avenger PS3 controller. I saw the emails over at Penny Arcade. The company was represented by Ocean Marketing. There is a small discussion about it over on Hacker News as well.

Here is the synopsis: Customer pre-orders a control paying full price. The product does not ship on time. He contacts customer support via email. The response gets the customer salty. Then the customer support dude goes to town on the customer. I actually love the put downs.

Here are some gems the customer support guys sends to the customer: "Grow up you look like a complete child bro", "You just got told bitch", and "We just have to put you in the corner with your im stupid hat on". These were all from just one email. LMAO!

The Cipher Challenge

I was reading a post on Hacker News from a company that is hiring. They were pretty smart about it. They did not give out their name or URL. Instead they made you work for it. The ciper text "xfbhlqtlj" was provided. You were told to decipher it using Vigenère decryption.

Oh yeah. You were also told to use the number 61803398874 from their URL. What? Anyone know what the heck Vigenère decryption is? Sure. Wikipedia does. This is a Caesar ciper with a varying shift. The number provided tells you how many characters each letter in the cipher text needs to be shifted.

I tried shifting them to the right. No luck. The result was mumbo jumbo. But when I shifted the letters to the "left" in the alphabet, I got their name. Bamm. Nice way to make me work for the URL. Too bad I am not in the running for any of their positions or their location.

Not sure why a C and python program would come up with different result while decrypting the text.

Moving Cash Around with Paypal

This week there was a massive PR campaign launched againt Paypal. Here is how it went down. Somebody set up a toy campaign for some poor kids. They funded it with Paypal payments from donors. The funds were collected via Paypal. The problem was that the organizers were not charitable foundations. But they still used a Donate button on their web sites. This is against Paypal's TOS.

Paypal detected the violation and froze the account and payments. The organizer was left with a lot of toys purchased, but not funds to pay for them. The organizer started up a grass roots protest using readers of her blog. The users were outraged. Some of them had been donors. Paypal was made to look like a big Scrooge with kids getting cheated out of their gifts.

In the end, Paypal relented. They unfroze the account. Initially Paypal stated that they had to freeze the account because this is how the bad guys transfer funds via Paypal. They set up fake donation schemes to their money. This organizer figured out how to get a giant corp like Paypal to submit to their will. Make Paypal look like a bad guy. Get a lot of people outraged. Engage the media. Giant corp pwned. Brilliant.