Sunday, December 31, 2006

Football Leagues, Bugs and Fine Ethics:

The Dangerous Logic Blog posted a story about a woman who found out how sleazy her guy was, because of a bug in Mozilla FireFox that exposed to her all the websites he was visiting. She dumped him and filed the bug report to Firefox. Dangerous Logic called those actions a "head scratcher" but they made sense to me. I think a good series of priorities is:

  • Take advantage of the bug.

  • Report the bug, make the world a better place.

  • If the bug's not fixed, take advantage of it big time.


  • Now let me tell you a story about how I practiced what I've just preached. I once became addicted to a PDA program in which you build football teams and play against other teams. No, it's not that one. But this game did have a remarkably compatible PC version, and there were leagues of real people building teams and playing seasons against each other. I was invited to join them, but I know a REAL, REAL timewaster when I see one, so I did not join. If I had though ...

    The great thing about this game was that you actually 'built' your team players, and then 'built' offensive and defensive plays for them, with remarkable variety and options. And you could download many championship teams and try your luck against them. One conceit of this game is that most of your defensive plays have a 'strong' side and a 'weak' side, rather than a 'right' and a 'left'. If the offense lines up with more receivers on one side, then that's the 'strong' side, and your defense's strong side better have an extra defender to cover that extra receiver.

    After you build your teams and plays, you play out a game on your pda, where minimal graphics show you what's happening. And that's how, one day, I watched one of my 'strong' defenses lining up wrong. After some experiments, I realized that it's not trivial for a computer program to decide which side is the strong side, and I could trick the game into making an incorrect decision whenever I wanted to. So what did I do? (Hint, see the above list.)

  • I used the bug to build a few offenses that were really, really good, beating all the teams I could download.

  • I Reported the bug to the developer. He was shocked. He told me that the pc version had the same bug, which meant all those people playing league football with his program had a chance to take advantage of that bug too.

  • He did NOT make a new release fixing the bug, at least for the next eighteen months. IF, and I say, IF, I had joined one of these leagues, you can bet my team would have taken advantage of the bug.

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