Saturday, May 27th, 2006

Green students and spam

Saturday, May 27th, 2006 09:38 am
hummingwolf: animation of green and gold fractal, number of iterations increasing with time (Iterations in green and gold)
This was in the [livejournal.com profile] bruce_schneier feed, but since I haven't been paying much attention to my RSS feeds lately, I actually got the link via [livejournal.com profile] supergee:
How to cheat good
8. Edit > Paste Special > Unformatted Text

This is my Number 1 piece of advice, even if it is numbered eight. When you copy things from the web into Word, ignoring #3 above, don’t just “Edit > Paste” it into your document. When I am reading a document in black, Times New Roman, 12pt, and it suddenly changes to blue, Helvetica, 10pt (yes, really), I’m going to guess that something odd may be going on. This seems to happen in about 1% of student work turned in, and periodically makes me feel like becoming a hermit.

Yes, our modern college students actually need to learn how to cheat well. I suppose this always was true, but in a world where nobody ever needs to look at the papers they produce it becomes more vital than ever to pay attention to minor details. Sure, students could always try to do a little bit of writing for themselves, but whoever has time to do that?

(Aside from the quote, you know I'm writing this post by myself; even though I've barely typed anything yet, there are already three sentences in "X, but Y" form. It may seem sad that my thought processes regularly fall into the same pattern, but that just shows I have a balanced Libran mind. (No, I don't believe in astrology, but I love it anyway.))

(Overuse of parentheses is also a clue, but I've gotten much better about that over the years. No, really.)

Ahem. Here's another link which I, perhaps irrationally, suspect is related to the previous one. The Evolution of Spam-Consciousness
Is the internet itself trying to communicate with us?

If it were, how would we be able to detect it? First of all, we’d have to look at how it learned, how it became conscious. Presumably it would have (or will, or is) learned by watching us. It will have been analyzing our patterns of interaction, our blog posts, our photos, our search engine queries, our emails, our instant messages to one another, our e-commerce transactions. Surely, within that vast sphere of data, it will have noticed certain topical trends: a seeming obsession with sex, the ridiculous over-the-top attempts to sell products to each other. You get the idea. As an impartial developing intelligence observing the patterns of our interactions, it might make sense to not only believe these things are of supreme importance, but to try to reach us via these very same channels.

From this admittedly absurd hypothesis, we become able to formulate the question, with a possible straight face, of: how many of the spam emails you get each day are from a developing internet consciousness, a ConsciousNet as it were?

Speaking of computers learning from our blog posts, have any of you found your LJ entries posted in weird automated blogs you never imagined existed? I've recently seen posts harvested because I mentioned eating Nestle candy (it was a Nestle Tollhouse Brownie candy bar that day, though I have also recently eaten Nestle Crunch with Caramel), because I mentioned watching a bird (that robin whose nest in the tree outside was invaded by a crow), or because I was listening to Ancient Beatbox (collected by a site which supposedly has instructions on how to build a catapult, with related blogs on how to paint flowers, how to start a daycare centers (plural?!), "how can i connect my switch to the internet" (because we all know switches are so much harder to connect than bottoms are), and how to beatbox (which, strangely, has nothing on it about the Ancient Beatbox album and all the lovely hurdy-gurdy playing)).

Yes, the preceding paragraph was a blatant attempt to find out how many bots I can get to link to a single post. While I'm here: get a university diploma in learning how to change a guitar string while playing poker 7-card stud in our online casino and listening to your free iPod as you lose weight fast! Since your Viagra isn't here yet, perhaps I may interest you in a home equity loan? Or maybe you would like to start your own home-based business, so watch our sales training video today!

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