Dumb Things I Have Done Lately

Monday, August 25, 2008

Washington Post LiveWire: All the convention news you need -- whether you want it or not

As I Twittered a few hours ago, I got a "Convention Update from Post LiveWire" e-mail, and I'm pretty damn sure I didn't do anything close to subscribing to anything remotely like it.

Checking my Washington Post e-mail preferences, as well as a reply from another Twitterer, confirmed this.

Looking at the mail header, it comes from bigfootinteractive.com; Bigfoot Interactive is an e-mail marketing firm that's now part of a larger marketing company, Epsilon.

I bounced it over to my Gmail account (it went into the spam folder, shockingly), which revealed an Unsubscribe link that didn't show up in PINE (yes, I still use PINE, which is still not ELM). I clicked the link, and all was revealed:

Washington Post LiveWire e-mail optout
Washington Post LiveWire e-mail optout screen.

Note the page title in the browser: "Optout."

Optout. Now, I don't care if it was a mistake, a one-time thing, or a rogue marketer -- there's nothing that will set bloggers to wiggling their tiny, Cheeto-stained typing fingers in impotent blogging rage than an e-mail marketing opt-out.

It could be an urgent evacuation notice giving the best route to high ground to avoid the oncoming asteroid-induced tidal wave -- if I didn't subscribe to it, I don't want to see it.

I find it somewhat ironic that this would happen on the very same day that the Post featured a story about companies using blogs and other social media to reach out to customers ("Marketing Moves to the Blogosphere" -- it got more than a little blog traction here because it name-checked some of the usual area and marketing bloggers.)

Especially since bloggers and blog readers -- the very users who companies try to engage using social media -- are the most enraged by things like opt-out marketing e-mails.

Anyway, as I'm in this annoyingly-vocal, self-important and overinflated minority, as I finish this little impotent screed, I can only take solace in imagining that, thanks to the voodoo that is SEO, this entry will show up somewhere in the future on the first page of results for "Washington Post LiveWire."

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Friday, March 14, 2008

ELIZA creator dies at 85. Why do you say ELIZA creator dies at 85?

Here I recycle one of my redlit Fark headline submissions (which was covered in a huge way when BoingBoing linked it, but whatever) -- the creator of ELIZA, Joseph Weizenbaum died last week at the age of 85.

For those not in the know, ELIZA was one of the first chatterbots -- she (or it) simulated human agency in conversations by acting as a virtual therapist. (You can see an AIM port version over at AIM ELIZA.)

As chatterbots go, ELIZA was fairly limited -- she had a pretty short set of responses, and more often than not, she would just repeat back what you said to her. But you could still have a fairly robust conversation with her, if you were stupid, distracted, or had a fairly forgiving nature.

In fact, you could say that ELIZA was the precursor to intelligent agents, as well as chat sex bots like Jenny18.

Back when I was working at AOL, I used to joke that ELIZA was more or less indistinguishable from some of our lower-functioning chat room denizens -- and arguably more useful.

While I'm on the subject -- I'm reminded by a situation we ran into with AIM Chats. Now, these days, AIM Chats are promoted group Web chats that are powered by Userplane. But, back in the day, AIM Chats were basically just buddy chat rooms, which were invoked via the URL (http://someAIMURL/chat+room+name).

Because they were promoted at a pretty high level off the AIM.com Web site, they were fairly high trafficked. I don't know if they were ever particularly useful, but they were pretty active.

Then the spam bots took over.

After a short time, you literally had rooms full of IM spam bots (usually sex spam bots) talking to each other. That meant that they were triggering a wall of sex spam IMs -- a bunch of bots talking to each other.

Then, occasionally, some hapless human would wander into the middle of this torrent of sex spam.

It was distressing, yet at the same time, hilarious.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Real-Time IM: Instant Messaging, One Letter at a Time

Checking the feed from my old work blog, I see that Joe Manna posted about the Real-Time IM feature in the new AIM 6.8 Beta (for PC, natch). It uses a direct PC-to-PC connection so that each chatter can see what the other person is typing, as they type it, letter by letter, backspacing and all. (You know -- the way computer chat used to work in movies until directors finally figured out how IMs worked.)

One of the commenters calls it out as feature ICQ has had for 10 years, but for me, it goes even farther back -- to 1993, using talk on an NYU shell account to message my friend Dave down in North Carolina.

It was very exciting and very futuristic. We were easily impressed, back then.

Of course, since there were no online presence indicators (for us regular lusers, that is), if you wanted to talk to someone, you had to keep fingering them until you found them online.

I always found the resulting conversations to be very stream of consciousness, since going back to change a word or phrase you'd started would only slow you down. It also gave you a very real and very powerful incentive to improve your typing.

As to why include it in the next AIM client? I'm not sure -- it seems gimmicky at this point, and I think there are better reasons to initiate a direct client-to-client connection.

Unless you're a typing tutor, of course.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Twitter Dilettante's (Me) First Tweetup With Susan Reynolds

I just got back from a Twitter meetup ("Tweetup") at Jimmy's in Herndon that Shashi gave me a heads-up on -- the featured attraction was Susan Reynolds, whose social media-enhanced battle with breast cancer was just written up in today's Washington Post.

As I've noted before, I'm still a Twitter dilettante -- I don't update all that frequently, and I've currently only got 21 followers and 14 people that I follow (and most of those folks are lurkers). But I'm still interested in the phenomena, and how people find ways to make it useful.

Had a bunch of conversations about different aspects of social media, blogging, New Media Jim, Second Life, the navel-gazing nature of the contemporary social-media-o-sphere, the DC tech community (as compared to that of, say, Boston, NYC, or SF), etc., and it was definitely intellectually stimulating (though, for my part, all I have to do is regurgitate the conventional wisdom and hot buzzphrases to feel intellectually stimulated).

I must admit, though, after 2 hours of trendwatching and futurecasting and social media pund-ification, I was ready to clear my head. I was going to stop by Carpool, though it was dreary enough out that I just decided to go home.

Also, even though I did meet a bunch of interesting folks tonight, I'm not sure how, or even if, I will be growing my Twitter contact list. I guess I'm still not sold on the whole "ambient intimacy thing." We'll have to see how that goes.

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Monday, December 31, 2007

Yahoo Messenger: Six Simultaneous Spims on Sign-on

I have a Yahoo Messenger account that I don't really use, but I have it set up in my Adium multi-IM client anyway.

Over the past couple of months, I've been noticing an uptick in SPIM -- IM Spam -- coming from Yahoo Messenger names, mostly at sign-on.

I don't use my Yahoo identity for anything except signing up for the occasional Yahoo group, and I leave my Yahoo Messenger privacy preferences open so I can get IMed by anyone.

I'm well-familiar with SPIM from my AIM & AOL names, where I'd seen plenty of password phishing attempts, as well as the usual IM spam. Between IM Catcher and other, back-end IM spam stopping measures, it seemed they had a pretty good handle on it, and it really hasn't been a problem for me for some time.

Which is why I was amused two weeks ago, when I got six simultaneous Spims to my Yahoo Messenger account on sign-on:

Yahoo Messenger IM Spam.

It was funny, but annoying.