Sometimes you hear an echo, your own words coming back to you.

Sometimes the echo is a bit distorted, not exactly what you said.

Sometimes it’s coming from someone else, and is malicious.

Yes, there are all sorts of spiritual applications that can be made here – see Casting Crowns’ Voice of Truth for a practical application.

This post is about the technical side of things.

I rely on a tech site called Stack Overflow.  High quality, low noise – it’s a wonderful resource, and their sister sites cover everything from Android to photography to Biblical hermeneutics to poker. What’s not to like?

I even used Stack Overflow to get my most recent job.  I had to pass a technical test consisting of eight questions.  I included the source of my answers as proof of goodness, and also to share where I found stuff.  The answer to the first question came from Stack Overflow.

So I like them.  I share them with people.  I’m even a little protective of them.

Last week, I was big-time protective.

Background: there is a technology known as screen scraping.  This pulls information off a web site or another application, and presents it in a different format.  Companies often use this to update old mainframe applications and present them in a GUI.  Sometimes it’s done well, and looks very Windows-y.  Sometimes it’s done cheaply, like we saw at the hardware store when we had to buy a dryer a few weeks ago.  That was a classic “green screen” plopped into a Windows frame.

Sometimes, though, screen scraping is done with bad intentions.  I was researching a problem for work, and found an answer here.  It looks like this at the top:

StackOverflow1

There’s a question, some explanation, and an update from the original author.

One of my other Google answers was from another site.  That one looked similar.

StackOverflow2

In fact, it looked too similar.  Not identical, which would have made the copy easy to find.  The thieves had changed a few of the words – Easiest to Simplest.  want to wish.  “in front of” to “before”.  answers to solutions.  A simple dictionary lookup, probably.

It sure wasn’t a smart dictionary lookup, which would have caught that “answers” was being used as a verb, not a noun.  You can provide answers and solutions.  You can’t “solution” a question, though.

I sent an email to the fine folks at Stack Overflow, with details about the malevolent screen scraper.  I got back a very nice reply:

StackOverflow3

I don’t know if I’ll ever hear the resolution to ticket 201303081754.  Doesn’t matter.

I came down on the side of truth and justice, which is worth doing even if I don’t get a T-shirt.

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