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When I See This in the Comment Thread ....

From someone named "Cheap Jordan Shoes":

This is a great piece. Very thought provoking. I like the sort of ending that leaves it opn to personal input. Makes it work for just about everyone I think. Nicely done! I'll subscribe.

Then I think of this XKCD comic. Suspicion (hotlink).

troll_dc2 (mail):
Wait. You're a law professor. You aren't supposed to have a sense of humor or even notice anything not connected directly to the law.
9.7.2009 4:03pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Why give the spammer such attention?
9.7.2009 4:03pm
Definitely Not Cheap Jordan Shoes:
This is a great piece. Very thought provoking. I like the sort of ending that leaves it opn to personal input. Makes it work for just about everyone I think. Nicely done! I'll subscribe.
9.7.2009 4:12pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
Soronel, the spammer doesn't know. Those spamming comments are automated.

They're getting more sophisticated, though. Althouse had one for a while that would repeat a sentence in an earlier comment. I've had spam emails that read like total mush, or that had paragraphs from novels copy-pasted in the middle. It's almost like an alien life form inhabiting the internet, trying various strategies to communicate without really understanding what language is. At some point it will figure it out and we'll all be getting emails from it that make sense. I wish I was a writer, I'd write that story.
9.7.2009 4:15pm
martinned (mail) (www):

Why give the spammer such attention?

It's a necessary sacrifice. Without it, he would have no excuse for plugging xkcd. And there should always be more plugging of xkcd. Today, for example, they managed to combine Harriet the Spy and Michael Bay into a single comic.
9.7.2009 4:17pm
martinned (mail) (www):
@Laura: Yes, that's what this particular xkcd comic is about.
9.7.2009 4:18pm
JK:
As low as this stuff is, I have to admit that I think it would be a lot of fun to try to come up with effective algorithms for blog comment product placement. Stroking the blogger's ego is no doubt a good starting point, but I bet you could do a lot regarding mimicking words in the posts and other comments as well as picking the right product to push (in a google adds sort of way).
9.7.2009 4:19pm
rc:
I wonder how much spam and porn actually drive innovation and technology?

I mean, many people have suggested the porn is a driving force for improved communication- from the Gutenberg press onward.

But what about the economic draw of creating AI spambots?

Will Skynet be developed, not through the military-industrial complex, but throgh corporations wanting to get rid of their India call centers?
9.7.2009 4:27pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
JK, you'd have to write it in such a way that the spamming comment not only repeats key words, but also seems to engage the conversation. We humans (wetware, as Calvin in "I, Robot" put it) are a bit too sophisticated to be taken in otherwise.

It's like commenters linking to their blogs. There are commenters who've been around a while, and others know them, so to speak, well enough to know whether or not they'd be interested in reading their thoughts. Others who haven't been around enough to have some kind of established persona aren't going to have their blog post read unless they give some indication that it will be worthwhile. "Great post! My thoughts about blah blah here!" won't cut it.
9.7.2009 4:29pm
ShelbyC:
Of course, Ceap Jordan Shoes is really Randall Munroe. His ruse to generate plugs worked like a charm. Buhwah-ha-ha.
9.7.2009 4:33pm
Just Dropping By (mail):
The thing that strikes me as being odd is that it's specifically Chinese shoe sellers who seem to be primary source of spam on the VC.
9.7.2009 4:37pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
XKCD has some serious nerd cachet, and increasingly our economy is fashioning them into the ones who matter. Probably only a matter of time before RM becomes a Davos Man or is invited to give a talk at TED. I wonder what ancillary or pecuniary benefits he's been garnering as he's become more acclaimed.
9.7.2009 4:38pm
neurodoc:
Forgive me for the somewhat OT - is it possible to "subscribe" to VC comment threads so one doesn't have to keep checking back to see if there have been additional comments? If so, how does one go about it?
9.7.2009 4:39pm
Cornellian (mail):
When I see the reference to Cheap Jordan Shoes I think of that brilliant Flight of the Conchords episode with the song about child labor.
9.7.2009 4:39pm
martinned (mail) (www):

I mean, many people have suggested the porn is a driving force for improved communication- from the Gutenberg press onward.

There's an amazing monologue in the last season of Coupling (UK), where all technological innovation since the invention of fire is explained by "men's desire to get a better look at [women's] bottoms."
9.7.2009 4:40pm
xkcd: Overrated:
9.7.2009 4:42pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
Well, I hope it doesn't hurt the VCers to find out that their new BFF is two-timing them, but:

Ben Rockwood

Science magazine

The American Scene

zap to it

and

Democracy Arsenal

have been romanced by this spambot as well ... interestingly, it's not always shoes, might be watches or jeans.
9.7.2009 4:44pm
PC:
xkcd is overrated.

Some people would disagree.
9.7.2009 4:57pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):

Forgive me for the somewhat OT - is it possible to "subscribe" to VC comment threads so one doesn't have to keep checking back to see if there have been additional comments? If so, how does one go about it?

I am not very knowledgeable, but I doubt it. Usually such things are done by RSS feed or automated emails, and there would be an apparent implement on this page if it were available. I believe the Powerblogs software that our host EV uses is rather old, but I do hope the feature you're asking for is added when we transition.

PS: If Prof. Volokh reads this, I beg him to take pains to preserve whichever font and font size he uses for these comment sections during same transition. I've come to realize that yet another reason I love this visiting this blog is how easy it is to abstract information from the text rather than straining to do so like you might elsewhere in fancier digs.
9.7.2009 5:00pm
Free Pr0n (www):
This is a great piece. I wonder how much spam and porn actually drive innovation and technology? Makes it work for just about everyone I think.
9.7.2009 5:01pm
rc:
martinned "re: all technological innovation since the invention of fire is explained by "men's desire to get a better look at [women's] bottoms.""

Ha! Sounds about right. Prolly meshes with the recent post re: men getting stupid around petty women.

These are more or less entries from the Annals of the Obvious, I think.

The best thing is that theories like these are backed up by cold, hard fact. Something about the quantity of spam and pr0n as a share of total web traffic.

Boobs and bucks. I mean, why else does a man become a lawyer?
9.7.2009 5:33pm
Fub:
rc wrote at 9.7.2009 4:27pm:
I wonder how much spam and porn actually drive innovation and technology?

I mean, many people have suggested the porn is a driving force for improved communication- from the Gutenberg press onward.

But what about the economic draw of creating AI spambots?
Some spambots (whether email, usenet or blog comment spam) have a very different kind of economic draw I think.

This is just a speculative example: Porn may have driven software development for server load leveling necessitated by by heavy traffic for websites. That sort of software has application generally at any heavily trafficked website. Its economic returns can be enjoyed by all other heavily trafficked sites that use the technology.

But spambots of most any flavor, whether to webcrawl and harvest email addresses and URLs, or to blast spam, are hardly sophisticated or broadly applicable in that sense. In fact, some SMTP defenses against email spambots are to invoke certain less commonly used commands within the SMTP protocols, to which the spambots respond by ending the transaction prematurely. There is little economic use except spam for an program that sends email that way.

Legitimate bulk emailers (such as for double opt-in recipient lists for widely circulated newsletters, catalogs, etc.) do not typically use software cobbled together for spamming.

Spammers often use surreptitiously installed botnets, which are sophisticated but are far less useful for legitimate and non-surreptitious work (such as SETI at Home, or Folding at Home). Spambot technology is sophisticated in ways that only spammers, spies and secret police would find useful.

There is a market among spammers for such malware. While the malware is sometimes sophisticated in defeating various OS's security, its main positive contribution to legitimate purposes is that it evokes responses of bug fixes and security hole closings by security researchers and OS developers. That's more or less the same as burglars inspiring better designed locks and doors. It's no more a net economic or technical benefit than Bastiat's broken windows.
9.7.2009 5:33pm
martinned (mail) (www):
@rc: I have that monologue on my computer here. It used to be on Youtube, but I don't think they have it anymore.

The start goes something like this: "When man invented fire, did he think 'Hey, now we can cook our food!'? No! He said, 'Now we can look at women's bottoms in the dark!'"
9.7.2009 5:37pm
troll_dc2 (mail):
@ Cato:



I am not very knowledgeable, but I doubt it. Usually such things are done by RSS feed or automated emails, and there would be an apparent implement on this page if it were available. I believe the Powerblogs software that our host EV uses is rather old, but I do hope the feature you're asking for is added when we transition.

PS: If Prof. Volokh reads this, I beg him to take pains to preserve whichever font and font size he uses for these comment sections during same transition. I've come to realize that yet another reason I love this visiting this blog is how easy it is to abstract information from the text rather than straining to do so like you might elsewhere in fancier digs.



Is this site going to change? When is it going to happen? Was there some sort of notice about this?
9.7.2009 5:46pm
DE:
Laura:

It's almost like an alien life form inhabiting the internet, trying various strategies to communicate without really understanding what language is. At some point it will figure it out and we'll all be getting emails from it that make sense. I wish I was a writer, I'd write that story


Here's something close: On the Interpretation of Spam. As a teaser, the final line is:
"The noise dreams of signal," Discount Jesus agrees. "They are yin and yang, and each contains the other."


(For an alternate interpretation of spam from the same source, try Training.)
9.7.2009 5:53pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
Thanks, DE!
9.7.2009 6:00pm
ShelbyC:

Usually such things are done by RSS feed or automated emails


Doesn't this site support both?
9.7.2009 6:06pm
great unknown (mail):
With his two articles today - this and the one at 5:21 - Kenneth Anderson has justified his existence in this continuum. Nicely done! I'll subscribe.
9.7.2009 6:20pm
great unknown (mail):
I just realized something: "Nicely done! I'll subscribe," may just become a new meme.
9.7.2009 6:22pm
markm (mail):
Spam is hardly technically sophisticated, even if it now occasionally cuts and pastes from a previous post. Compare it to the program Eliza from 25 or 30 years ago, which could run in a TRS-80 (8 bit CPU and 48K of RAM), and which could almost pass a Turing test.
9.7.2009 6:35pm
Fub:
markm wrote at 9.7.2009 6:35pm:
Spam is hardly technically sophisticated, even if it now occasionally cuts and pastes from a previous post. Compare it to the program Eliza from 25 or 30 years ago, which could run in a TRS-80 (8 bit CPU and 48K of RAM), and which could almost pass a Turing test.
Racter, a later and more sophisticated chatbot than Eliza, will run on Windoze boxen. You can download Racter here. Just text search for "racter" on the page. But I don't think either Racter or Eliza ever came close to passing a Turing test, even though Racter did author The Policeman's Beard is Half Constructed.
9.7.2009 6:53pm
DiversityHire (mail):
When I See This in the Comment Thread ....

I thought it was going to say:

That's When I Reach for My Revolver
9.7.2009 7:01pm
SuperSkeptic (mail):
The only problem with cheap jordan shoes made by the Chinese is that you can usually only get them up to size 9 or 10.
9.7.2009 7:03pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):

Is this site going to change? When is it going to happen? Was there some sort of notice about this?

Not yet, but EV put up a bleg some months ago asking for recommendations for new blogging software to replace the aging Powerblogs solution the VC currently uses. See here.
9.7.2009 7:44pm
neurodoc:
Thanks, Cato the Elder. I know nothing about blogging software, so couldn't recommend to EV any "to replace the aging Powerblogs solution the VC currently uses." I would, though, suggest some "enhancements" of the sort one finds elsewhere:

- like to see that subscription feature, so wouldn't have to expend so much effort to keep up with threads of interest, especially as time passes and they drop farther and farther back in order.

- like to see posts numbered, so as to facilitate references to particular posts.

- make it possible for me to post links. (For reasons I can figure out, I have never been able to post links, though I think I am going about it correctly.)

- DON'T change look, though, since I like the "cleanness."
9.7.2009 7:54pm
martinned (mail) (www):

make it possible for me to post links. (For reasons I can figure out, I have never been able to post links, though I think I am going about it correctly.)

Here's how I explained it to someone in the Lockerbie thread recently:


You copy the URL you want to link to, you select the piece of text you want to use, and you click on Link just above the area you're typing in. That calls up a popup, which you may or may not get to see, depending on what browser you're using and what popup blockers you have in place. If you see it, just past the URL in the window and click OK. If the popup does not appear, the relevant html code ([a rel="nofollow" rel="nofollow" href=""]text[/a]) will have appeared in the text area. In that case, you can just paste the URL between the "" in the code.

(It's not difficult.)
9.7.2009 8:04pm
martinned (mail) (www):
Hey, something happened to my version of the html code for a link. Replacing the smaller than and larger as signs with [ and ], respectively and omitting an actual url to link to, it looks as follows:


[a rel="nofollow" href=""]text[/a].
9.7.2009 8:09pm
martinned (mail) (www):
Cool! It again inserted the rel="nofollow" code automatically.
9.7.2009 8:10pm
rc:
FUB: "There is little economic use except spam for an program that sends email that way."

The economic use is to keep the software companies honest, for them to take SOME efforts to make rubust code.

FUB: "It's no more a net economic or technical benefit than Bastiat's broken windows."

But what if Bastiat's village started with paper windows? Or if they were replaced with bulletproof windows?

Another example: the human immune system fends off millions of annoying bugs, and that makes the body stronger to defend against lethal bugs.

I think we all owe 'cheap jordan shoes' a hearty thank-you for contributing to the vast tapestry of the internet.

rc: "thanks!"
'cheap jordan shoes': "beep boop bop"
9.7.2009 8:51pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
You forced me to comment here. You have a beautiful wife that has given you 18+ years of her life. She seems to be s woman to be proud of. Nothing wrong the PDA. Happy Anniversary!
9.7.2009 9:15pm
krs:
It's not this guy's fault his parents named him "cheap jordan shoes." He probably gets picked on at school and spends a lot of time on the internet. Then he reaches out to tell you that he liked your blog, and you publicly riducule him. How cruel.
9.7.2009 9:24pm
yankee (mail):
krs wins the thread.
9.7.2009 9:45pm
rc:
yankee "krs wins the thread"

seconded.
9.7.2009 10:13pm
markm (mail):
Fub: You haven't seen my wife "talking" to Eliza. Even though she knew it was a computer, she reacted as if she was talking to a friend. On the other hand, when I ran the program, I analyzed how it transformed my statements and fed them back to me, then started constructing sentences that it would mangle ridiculously. That is, with an intelligent tester who knew he was doing a Turing test, it flopped, but it certainly was capable of fooling someone who had no reason to suspect the other party was a computer, for a while.

Writing spam comments that aren't instantly recognizable is a much easier test. Spameliza would not have to keep a conversation going. It would not have to try to respond even when it couldn't parse your sentence. It would simply wait for something that parsed clearly and was a good fit to one of it's methods of forming a response. Nor does the response need to seem intelligent to pass, even on the VC, but it does need to be mostly grammatical and intelligible. Instead, we get spam that's half gibberish and the other half obvious product plugs. Why generate spam posts or e-mails that all experienced internet users will reject after reading a few words, when the technology to momentarily pass as human is out there? (I'm glad spammers are so far behind the curve, so I can instantly spot them, but why?)

An engine like Eliza doesn't solve all the spammers' problems - it's pretty much impossible to work in a plug for Nike shoes (say) into any VC post without the reader realizing it's spam - but an advertisement that you read as far as the product name might be effective, while one that you didn't read certainly wasn't.

On the other hand, how do I know that any of you guys aren't higher-class spambots? Or prove that I'm not one?
9.7.2009 10:42pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
If spambots are able to post like this, I'm pulling the plug and heading for the hills.

Your Spameliza may pass for a real commenter, especially if the posts are brief, but they'll still have to beguile people into clicking on links.

neurodoc, "- make it possible for me to post links. (For reasons I can figure out, I have never been able to post links, though I think I am going about it correctly.)"

My thoughts here, ha ha.
9.8.2009 12:22am
Fub:
Laura(southernxyl) wrote at 9.8.2009 12:22am:
If spambots are able to post like this, I'm pulling the plug and heading for the hills.

Your Spameliza may pass for a real commenter, especially if the posts are brief, but they'll still have to beguile people into clicking on links.
I consulted Claude, the version of Racter who writes my comments. I told him what you told me. Here's the dialog:

Me: If spambots are able to post like this, I'm pulling the plug.

Claude: If you insist. And it wouldn't take a genius to figure that out. People say stockbrokers won't grow up. But I bet they could, if they tried.

Me: They'll still have to beguile people into clicking on links.

Claude: You might be right, but I doubt it. Do you know what else? Hmmm...Fub? Fub? ... Weren't you a brother back in Tallahassee?

Then I asked the big question:

Me: How does Air Jordan Shoes do it?

Claude: Your guess is as good as mine, Fub. To clothe teachers, a pair of shoes must be engaging.

So, there you have it.
9.8.2009 1:42am
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
Okay.

I've known people who talk like that.

You win.
9.8.2009 7:40am
Fub:
Laura(southernxyl) wrote at 9.8.2009 7:40am:
You win.
Wow! Thanks! Where do I send my bank account information and shoe size to collect the prize?
9.8.2009 11:09am
Toby:

This is a great piece. I wonder how much spam and porn actually drive innovation and technology? Makes it work for just about everyone I think.

- Cave Art? check.
- Greek Statuary? check.
- Oil Paint? check.

and, of course, as mentioned above, fire.
9.8.2009 11:36am
Stevie Miller (mail):
Since you closed comments on the other post... you know, there's this thing called a phone. Works great to wish your Better Half a happy 18th anniversary.

(You're the new guy here. It's not 50, or even 25. Maybe watch the protocol -- we don't care about your kids swim team, or your beautiful wife. Don't start up this kind of nonsense on the Volokh law blog. Thankfully, it's stuck pretty much to law and substance: if your fellow posters won't say it, I will --- you're out of line posting pictures and love mush to the wife on your 18th. Keep it personal please, and pick up a phone instead of showing off. Thanks!)
9.8.2009 12:50pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Stevie Miller, get a life.
9.8.2009 3:24pm
neurodoc:
Stevie Miller, get a life.
Or maybe what he lacks is a wife. What Stevie clearly doesn't lack is the chutzpah to join this thread for the sole purpose of tell this VC poster what is/isn't an acceptable post, with the key criterion being what he cares about.
9.8.2009 5:49pm

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