SIR – As I read Mr Parker’s ‘Confessions of a supermarket self service scammer’, it reminded of a technique some of my contemporaries at the University of St Andrews employed to overcome the time limits on the standard loan books at the poorly-stocked university library. Shortly after the self-service library kiosks were installed, students realised the potential for deviousness. They would scan the barcode of one book but not degauss its spine, but rather the book which they wished to ‘borrow’ on ‘extended loan’ shall we call it. The books would be placed in their bag and they would walk out and set off the alarms. The self-service kiosks were notoriously unreliable then and importantly not in the line of sight of the librarians at the main desk, so their suspicions would not be aroused. The student would had un-degaussed book to the librarian, who would check the book had be checked out, which it had, degauss the spine and then wish the student a good day.
SIR – [I] would like to have commented about how I reinvented the toilet – no splashback or skidmarks – SHARE IT – MAKE IT HAPPEN etc see attached picture
– Thomas Phanton
SIR – As a dedicated Wikipedia editor, I’d like to thank you for your insightful defense of the encyclopedia. There seems to be a legion of Wiki-haters each willing to try to sell the idea that WP is a worthless piece of crap but who, when you dig behind their protests, it becomes apparent that by far the majority of them are folks who feel — usually without justification — that they have had their ox gored in one way or another. What the haters fail to realize is just how successful WP is: It’s the English-speaking world’s quick go-to guide on just about any subject. And it didn’t get to be that by being the kind of unreliable cesspool that the haters want it to be. Is it perfect? No, far from it, either procedurally or substantially. But it works — unlike other endeavors such as Citizendium created to improve on Wikipedia’s faults — and we’re continually working to make it better.
SIR – Great article. As someone who’s been editing since Wikipedia was knee-high to a grasshopper, I’ve seen all of its foibles and weaknesses and have seen the process in action, and my conclusion is that it works, and quite well, thank you very much. It’s my first go-to site for many, many topics, and even if I hit Google search first, it often leads me directly to WP, and I find what I need. It’s a rare day when I don’t look up several things on WP. I’ve bookmarked your article for future reference and have reposted the link on Facebook.
– Ellen Finch
SIR – Amazing article! It’s the first time I’ve read anything that sheds any light on this type of ridiculous gaming. Thank you for writing such a great piece.
– kind ion
Infinity and beyond
SIR – First we have to get into space in large numbers. We can only send 10 to 20 people into space on large rockets using solid boosters and hydrogen/Oxygen combustion. This is not very efficient. We can wait for the cartoon rockets (e.g. StarTrek) or use the current Hydrogen/Oxygen rockets in a different configuration: H2 for lift (balloon), at apex, add oxygen from on-board cylinders to a small rocket engine for boost out of the atmosphere, then use the empty balloon shell as a solar sail.
– Bob Freeman