Blogging for science

Scientists are studying ‘eight feet deep’ for signs of intelligent life.

As I have said here before, I like my little StatCounter feature not for its recording of page clicks (I’ve had it for three months and only 5,600 page visits!) It is what the tool tells me about visitors that I find the most valuable. I can tell — most of the time at least — from where a visitor hails. It lets me know if my friends are visiting, or it just confounds the hell out of me wondering who that is reading about Beaumont, Texas, from Belarus.

Over the last couple of days I noticed an unusual amount of activity coming from servers at the University of Washington in Seattle. When I say unusual, I mean a bunch of different posts are being looked at. And these visits appear to occur about once every two hours or so. When I dug a little deeper I noticed that these visits were generally less than five seconds. I finally realized that something is pretty weird here because I’m not going to have any fan/stalkers who stay less than five seconds. Or so I hope.

So I decided I would try to find out just what the heck was going on. I e-mailed the head of the Computer Science Department at University of Washington. And he put me in touch with a fellow overseeing some Web research named Dr. Steve Gribble. Steve e-mailed me back and explained that his students are trying to determine where evil content lurks on the Internet and why.

“In a nutshell, we’re studying Web content to try to analyze it for potentially malicious content, such as executables that contain spyware or Web pages that perform drive-by downloads,” Steve wrote. “To do the study, we’ve been crawling various regions of the Web (including blogs such as yours), and analyzing the content for known threats. Our goal is to figure out where in the Web the “bad stuff” is, and to analyze it to understand the diversity and nature of the threat.”

So far they are finding most sites (including mine) are safe, but adds: “there are clusters of bad things out there as well … “

It is nice to know that this blog is doing something other than just taking up cyberspace. Glad to be of help. Go Huskies! By the way, one of my favorite all-time headlines was for a basketball game between the University of Washington women and the women from Oregon. It said something like:

“Husky women stomp Lady Ducks”

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