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Renowned reverse engineer Fravia says goodbye (fravia.com)
126 points by ilitirit on May 5, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 52 comments

I find it regrettable that Wikipedia, which has lengthy pages on cartoon and soap opera characters, feels the need to save bytes by deleting a page about a real person who publicly contributed knowledge to the community.

(Google cache still has it, as of today)

The standard for inclusion in Wikipedia isn't "contributions to the community", or else everybody who had ever worked on an open source project would have a Wikipedia article. Wikipedia articles aren't lifetime achievement awards.

The standard for inclusion is notability.

This argument is a tempest in a teacup. Either there are reliable independent sources establishing that Fravia is notable, or there aren't. If there are, you will have no real trouble getting and keeping an article. If there aren't, the article will be repeatedly deleted, by people who don't know anything about reverse engineering and thus won't care at all about your arguments.

When this exact topic came up yesterday, I spent 3-4 minutes looking for a reliable source that established notability for Fravia, and I came up blank. Who has written about him, outside of blogs? Surely, given how important he was to reverse engineering, somebody has mentioned him, or he's been published somewhere.

I half-regret bringing up the issue. I had wanted to know more, and was sad the info had been deleted.

The half I don't regret is that maybe someone here can contribute better to Wikipedia. Reverse engineering guys are mostly tight-lipped, but they're family ...

Why don't you recreate it? Wikipedia is supposed to be edited by everyone.

History page http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Fravia&action=...

... Protected Fravia: Repeatedly recreated ...

(wasn't me, by the way - I've only done occasional anonymous minor fixes and original source contribs)

P.S. I also looked for a place to protest the deletion, but couldn't find anything suitable.

P.P.S. Please do not upvote this and my grandparent comment. Thanks.

Wow. If you ever wanted evidence that Wikipedia isn't genuinely open to everyone, that would be it: an entry that is "protected" against too many people trying to create it.

The people who "protected" the page are site admins. To become an admin, the community votes you in. Anybody can request adminship. Everybody with a WP account can vote in the RfA.

Have you ever read a WP RfA? From the way you wrote this comment, I'm guessing you haven't. Wikipedia adminship is cliquish and obnoxious, but the process is relatively rigorous; WP users read through entire multi-year edit histories, dredging up "controversies" for public debate. If there's a cabal, it's an organic one.

Moreover, admins don't singlehandledly delete and protect pages. This page was "protected" because normal WP users effectively deleted it (replacing it with a redirect). There was a discussion about whether to do that, in which anyone with an interest in the article could have participated. There was a procedural shortcut here (since the page was redirected instead of deleted), but there was a procedure, and it was an open and transparent one.

At any step along the way from creation to protection, decisions could have been appealed to yet another open, transparent forum, where Fravia's proponents could have debated ad nauseum why WP needed an article about him. They have plenty of opportunities to present evidence for his notability and inclusion.

Pages get "protected" when people ignore those opportunities and procedures, and undo the work that the WP "fulltimers" do to maintain the encyclopedia.

Your comment is a caricature of what actually happens on WP. It also ignores the reality of a massive living document, exposed to the public at large in the top of most Google results and routinely highlighted in the mainstream media. If preventing an article from showcasing Fravia was a mistake, 1000 other cases this week of people attempting to SEO their products or write pages about their girlfriends weren't.

It's a tough row to hoe. How do you keep a crackpot with a couple of friends (or sockpuppets) from establishing an 'authoritative' beachhead ?

In this case, I think someone well-meaning tried to enforce the 'notoriety' policy. Now, it's a matter of judgement if a reverse engineer known to hundreds or thousands deserves a place along Donald Duck.

Personally, I don't see much harm in giving a Wikipedia page to anyone who ever lived.

You wouldn't lose an argument about whether WP should give articles to everyone --- it's not a crazy idea --- but you wouldn't win it, either: the WP community, guided by people who spend huge amounts of time working on the encyclopedia, has already decided that providing pages for non-notable people isn't part of WP's charter.

They have arguments for that, and they are sensible arguments.

For instance, if you provide articles for everyone who ever lived, someone needs to police those articles. If you don't police the articles, you end up with tens of thousands of pages making specious claims about people, some of which may be damaging to the subject of the article, others of which may be damaging to the fields those people represent, all under the aegis of one of the most important sites on the Internet.

Also, WP is by design not a primary source. Original research isn't allowed on WP. It's not WP's job to validate and referee research, to provide political analysis, or to promote people and companies. But the overwhelming majority of the content you'd get in articles about non-notable people would be inherently original research.

By restricting the WP to summaries of independent reliable sourcing on notable people, the problem of maintaining an entire encyclopedia as a volunteer effort is at least tractable. I think veteran Wikipedians could probably win the argument that eliminating those standards altogether could make maintaining WP intractable.

Also, remember that the article we're discussing here really sucked. Fravia might be important, but whoever wrote that article did him a disservice if he was.

Thanks for summarizing the cons. Yep, there's enough on the plate for now. But we'll probably get a 'Biopedia' in some form or another sometime. Then we can debate if animals should be included ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bucephalus ;-)

Personally, I don't see much harm in giving a Wikipedia page to anyone who ever lived.

I feel the same way.

Actually, a nice and polite plea was enough to get it unlocked.

Thank Reddit for this one.



Absolutely! And genuine, valuable information is censored by the "admins" (and from observing some of those people, I have concluded that quite a few of them are hardly literate - NOT qualified to make decisions of the magnitude that they make) and the damage this causes is proportional to the amount of accurate information available on the web on a topic, the less useful info there is, the more egregious the damage . . .

This is an inflammatory and unsupported argument, unbecoming of Hacker News. I'll argue that you appear not to understand how WP works (individual admins can't "censor" anything, decisions to remove content can be made by any user, not just admins, and there are numerous procedural protectiosn along the way), and that you've chosen to frame your argument in terms of personal attacks rather than meaningful assertions about how the encyclopedia works.

Where am I wrong? If I'm not, why should you be taken seriously about this subject?

remembering some of your early comments as i do, i find it amusing that you would call someone else's argument "inflammatory!"

but i have to admit, you've done a really good job of curbing your own inflammatory language. i find your comments much easier to read as a result. if only we could all be so flexible in the face of unexpected challenges.

Oh PLEASE. Inflammatory? the fact that YOU find it inflammatory is meaningless within the context of this discussion. Don't talk to me about admins not censoring content, I had MULTIPLE VALID RELEVANT NON COMMERCIAL LINKS deleted for (paraphrasing) not being a regular, that is EXACTLY what the admin conveyed to me when I called him on it, that part of his decision was based on the fact that I had never contributed anything, which is absolutely ludicrous. As to unsupported, go see for yourself! A user should not need to "understand how WP works" other than the obvious rules, such as no spam, no porn, no irrelevant content, etc, those are obvious, all those other little hoops, whatever they are I am not even interested, that you imply exist only serve to raise the bar for something that is supposedly there to be edited by anyone. Procedural protections? what are you talking about? What happened with my submissions was ALL the result of an arbitrary and completely unjustified decision by an admin.

Replying to your post as I have done has been a waste of time, I know exactly what I experienced there (I was SHOCKED when it happened) and discussing it here in great detail (as in, go to the admin's discussion page, and look for the exchange we had then, to copy and paste here) is absolutely meaningless, a waste of time, Wikipedia as it exists now is a complete waste of time, it's a complete failure, and it constitutes negative value, as I outlined in a previous post about this. I could give a hoot whether you take me seriously on this subject, it means nothing to me, I was replying to pg's comment.

Edit: since when do YOU decide what is becoming or unbecoming here?

It's an uncommonly warm and fine spring day around here, I think I'll take a walk outside in the sun. I find it soothing.

I also apologize for dragging in this topic. Mind if I take it out now and hang it to dry ?

I don't mind it in the very least, matter of fact, thank you.

If I become too emotional about this point with Wikipedia, it is because the geek/nerd/techie/propellerhead/[INSERT TERM FOR US] in me is just OUTRAGED at what I witnessed firsthand at wikipedia.

Note to self: avoid wikipedia related discussions, and try to stick to Slashdot from now on.

The discussion was here:


AfDs can be contested by doing a deletion review. In this case, based in the comments in the AfD I assume there wouldn't be an objection to writing a new sourced article. It was probably protected because the same content was being readded, not because the article itself should not be recreated.

Note that the outcome of the AfD was not followed; the content does not seem to have been merged into the original article. Creating a paragraph in the article on reverse engineering on the guy seemed to be the original intent.

I think the Talk page is the appropriate place (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Fravia), but I honestly don't know. I'd suggest first proving he meets the criteria here:


Just a note: The page was unprotected about an hour ago. I don't know anything about the guy, but to anyone who does, edit away! http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Fravia&action=...

No need to use google cache when wikipedia keeps the history of the page: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Fravia&oldid=2...

!#@!@^% deletionists are ruining Wikipedia. They'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes.

One wonders if the user who deleted the article was sufficiently jealous of Fravia's reputation that s/he would rather delete the article than improve it. Though poorly sourced, the deleted material hardly qualifies as 'fanboyism'.

What the hell? They deleted his page? The man's papers and his +HCU crowd trained a whole generation!

Respectfully: says who? I'm a professional reverse engineer and heard about Fravia for the first time yesterday, on Hacker News. I know brl is also a pro, and he obviously holds Fravia in some esteem, so I don't doubt he's important --- but again, says who? You need sourcing to put something on Wikipedia.

"Reverse engineering" is in this case an euphemism for cracking, in the sense of unprotecting programs. Of course there are also others meanings, like reconstructing the lost code of a program from binaries or looking at its functionality.

Fravia had a radical point of view about cracking and compiled practical information, including how to search for anything in the web, that he loved. There aren't any "papers" that can be cited.

There are thus two reasons why it's difficult to establish his notability. One, that he was in an underground (not to say illegal) field. The other that it happened in the web, I don't say that Wikipedia should do anything, I couldn't care less, But, as a matter of fact, he was indeed well known ten years ago.

Everything on WP is supposed to be verifiable. It's an ironclad rule. That's not to say it's consistently applied, but it does mean anybody can select a piece of unverifiable content on the WP and zap it if it isn't sourced.

So if it's hard to establish notability in a verifiable way because he's underground and online, it's probably not worth the trouble to fight to keep the article in the WP; it's not appropriate for the encyclopedia.

I think that's OK and even consistent with Fravia's character. Why should there be _one_ site with all the relevent information?

OTOH, I wonder what will happen when more and more people, events and... stuff will be relevant only online in blogs, forums and not necesarily press sites. Do you think Wikipedia will change its ways?

I realize that this is semi-tautological, but if something has no mainstream media coverage it really isn't notable. Heck, even most things covered by MSM don't seem notable to me. (Example seen on TV today: Ferrari spins out of control in NYC! So what.)

If it's covered in the MSM (or even in a very reputable blog), it's at least verifiable. Which is why Pokemon characters and Teletubbies can have articles, but psuedonymous Italian hackers have a hard time.

I assume you're young, and if you're a "professional" RE, well that's not exactly what fravia was about.

these people was reversing "the reality" before reversing could be considered a profession at all, from 9 to 18? 401K?

best regards


Professional REs have been around for awhile if you look in the right places.

Nevertheless, I'd say he's young too if he doesn't know who +Fravia is. Kee-raist.

Who did you learn from?

I find it strange how the imminent demise of another makes me reflect upon myself: I found myself wondering what I would write in the same situation, and then realizing that this is a fate that I cannot escape.

I like to watch Steve Jobs' Stanford commencement speech, every now and again, to remind me of that fact:


Transcribed: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html

> imminent demise

Just in case some people don't know, Fravia passed away 2 days ago (2009/05/03)

> Yet my most cherished advice to all friends is the following: learn to enjoy your contingent present, don't be obsessed by the future. Carpe diem, and enjoy the current emotions: a starry sky, a fresh wind, the shells on the seashore, your love at your side in the night, a long talk in the evening twilight with a friend, the smile of your kids. Substituting that with a TV -or a computer screen- is a very poor bargain... that is one of the few things I am now pretty sure of.

Gobsmacked by this. I've been starting to apply Stoicism towards my life and I'm speechless.

Stoicism: This has been posted on News.YC before but this might impact you:


Redirecting Fravia page to reverse engineering is unacceptable.

He had been an expert in software reversing (which is related to software reverse engineering) and in the last 10 years devoted a considerable amount of efforts to the field Internet Information Searching.

I was a personal friend of mr Ravia, and knew him for more than 10 years. He was able to build a considerable community of experts in the field around him. The article will definitely be improved now, after is untimely death.

Revert back the redirect.

Regards, Marco Guardigli Technical Director TomWare Group

fravia's writings were a big part of my motivation to learn how computers work when I was just a fledgling programmer.

So long and thanks for all the info!

I remember when I was a kid and didn't have a very reliable internet connection I mirrored fravia.org to make sure that I could read it when I wanted to. I was fascinated with all his writings on reverse engineering and learned a lot from him...

So thanks to Fravia and sorry to see him go...

I discovered his material at a very young age as well and found it absolutely fascinating. I learned an awful lot thanks to his writing...

Is there anywhere we could properly express thanks/condolences to the family? (If not... Is that a YC startup?) :)

Wow, I just got heavy nostalgia after going through the mirrors of his site.

His pages on reverse-engineering were my earliest findings on the internet. When it used to take days to download a 20mb file.

goodbye fravia. We will miss you. I will catch you in the next life and use what you taught us to not get lost in this one.

I managed to find some more information sources about fravia (pictures of him and RMS, and a blog entry by Tommaso Dorigo, a scientist and a friend of him, and updated my own version of WP page (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Fravia&oldid=2...) . I also refined language separated facts from opinions and tried to be more objective, but it is not easy. WP Admin Matt_Crypto re-trashed again the page while I was working on it, giving a very poor explanation. I think that a better page will never come out if they dont allow community to work on it. I am available to critics and I am not hiding my identity. I am a middle age respected professional working and consulting internationally. I owe a lot to mr. Fravia, for what I learned from him since 1996. By the way I was hacking and cracking since the eighties.

Given the inadequate page on WP while he was alive, I felt the need and urge of updating it, then this hell begun. I am registered in WP since 2005, and seldom made some little contributes.

Seems that many of you benefited from Fravia's writings.

Yesterday, at Fravia's final burial, i was blowing a dandelion in the wind. Tiny seeds flowing in the sky in the beautiful green valley. Those flying little seeds were like the many teaching he left inside many of us. a suitable picture could be this: http://photos.jibble.org/albums/Dandelions/dandelion_seeds_b...

Please help me in fixing this Fravia Wikipedia Entry. I simply think he deserves it.

--Marco Guardigli

as i understand it, the issue with the wikipedia article was that it [the article] was badly put together, and had no citations.

rather than reverting the changes, try creating a better article from scratch. (of course, its locked until the 12th to prevent a flood of people trying to revert it, but just wait until the 13th)

Ahhh fravia.com...

One of the first things I found when joing the brave new world with my 28.8. The first thing i found on that new "www" thing that made me realize its potential, back in the bad old days when searching/finding anything on it was a bit of a black art. We'll miss you.

"So long, and thanks for all the fish."

there are a series of videos of him speaking available at the internet archive: http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=fravia

I am jahan_26. I'm really sad that you're gone. I'm gonna to follow your way and make your name big. R.I.P

May $DEITY present Fravia with all the bounties $AFTERLIFE may offer him. You will be missed.

fravia, ORC+, +HCU I guess that was my awakening in critical thinking. forever grateful...

Such sensationalist headlines should not be encouraged on HN.

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