Beatnik has posted a couple of scripts recently that take advantage of the XML nature of PerlMonks; one which was questionable, but the recent one with mailing the newest nodes is a very good idea. Keep in mind, I've nothing against Beatnik, only that he's brough up some ideas that I have that edge on the ethical use of PM.

One of those ideas is to extend the functionality of the Monestary by the use of personal scripts to implement functionality that I would not expect vroom to add or to be useful to th entire community. For example, one thing I'd like to see, but probably not shared by most, is a way to place 'temporary' votes on items that you see during the day, then decide before the vote count is reset which ones you actually want to cast.

The concept would be a combined cron/CGI job; the cron job periodically downloads the newest nodes and stores them, the CGI would present the newest nodes with 6 voting buttons; "absolutely ++" "maybe ++" "no opinion", "maybe --", and "definitely --", with a default "+=0". The absolute options would indicate votes that you definitely want to place, while you're not sure about the maybes as you'd want to see if there are other worthy nodes before you place these. Once every 24hrs, the cron script would then place all absolute votes that you've indicated, and clear out the newest nodes and the like.

Obviously, this idea is definitely not a good thing for implementing into the PM code itself as it would confuse the voting process, which is why I'd do it as my own scripting. And given what Beatnik has demonstrated, implementing this type of functionality isn't really a problem.

The ethical part now comes into play that I can now effectively get most of the benefit of PM without visiting any of the HTML pages (and the banner ad). Now, if it was just me that was to use this script, I wouldn't have a big issue because I can drop coinage in the Offering Plate to what I feel is appropriate. But given the utility of such a script, I'd want to offer that to others to use, and there's the problem as there would be those that would grab PM's content without repaying the favor of vroom's kindness; one could easily modify such a script (as well as Beatnik's) to archive PM as well, possibly for non-personal uses as well.

So the ethical question that it comes down to is : with XML-enabled sites like PM, is it reasonable to expect that those with sufficient knowledge might abuse the XML functionality to avoid direct interaction with the site and any possible ad-bannering that funds it, and in such cases, is this ethical on the part of the bypasser? I'm more interested in PM's case, but also wondering for other sites, in general.

Dr. Michael K. Neylon - || "You've left the lens cap of your mind on again, Pinky" - The Brain