John-Michael Gariepy

Spambots, and the evolution of modern writing.

We’ve had some… strangeness with the bots on Multiverse. Wait.  Let me step back.

Multiverse is a website where you create Magic cards, and each card is given a discussion thread.  It’s a bit like making a forum out of the custom Magic: the Gathering set you were designing.  I was skeptical at first – I’ve been looking for a way to store my cards ‘in the cloud’, but wasn’t sure about letting other people comment on what I was working on, while I was working on.  Turns out, it rocks.  Immediate reaction to your work lets you understand what is good, and what only you think is good.  Immediately writing about your design allows you to focus on what you are creating, and chisels your theories into a sharp edge.  For Alex Churchill, I give three cheers.  If he didn’t live across the pond from me, I’d take him out for drinks on me.  Excellent stuff.

Enough background.  The thing I wanted to talk about is spambots.  Multiverse gets a fair share of traffic, and a very important part of Multiverse is the discussion threads.  Spambots see this, and the open nature of the message board, and harass us with inappropriate responses.  Someone will design a card, and a spambot will respond with “i lik yur articels.  they really make me think.”  It’s the sort of stuff that would go unnoticed on other message boards, but sticks out in a card design website.  Alex has done a fair job of sweeping up after them, but occasionally leaves funny, oddly prescient ones alone.  Like the spambot responses for the card Euphoric Confidence. The card itself is perfectly fine common filler.  Pay 4W, gain 7 life and draw a card.  Nice artwork, nice flavor, normal common… nothing crazy.  Then this popped up:

on 22 Nov 2011 by vaskSkatt:
privv boo kok 445

on 23 Nov 2011 by Vitenka:
Schpammers are back…

on 23 Nov 2011 by vaskSkatt:
privv boo kok 445

on 23 Nov 2011 by jmgariepy:
Are the spammers becoming Dadaistic? It feels like the spambots have become disenchanted with their never-ending rants and have begun to fight against established board posts through anti-art cultural works.

on 23 Nov 2011 by Alex:
Bwahaha. Yes. For as long as it remains at this level, I guess it’s not much of a hassle. If it gets more intense, I’ll add more anti-spam measures.

(Hear that, spammers? Spam will not be tolerated; I will continue to add anti-spam measures for as long as you’re targeting this site.)

The spambots, however, did not heed Alex’s warnings.  emboldened by not being deleted, they sent out something equally weird on a second pass:

on 22 Dec 2011 by MaryTenderLOS:
Toys should be kept in the area where the family lives, not only in the child’s room. An acceleration trigger powers up the motor to hurl discs from a 20-disc magazine. We also give you a brief description of the toys to be sure that you get a picture what they are all about.

on 22 Dec 2011 by jmgariepy:
Wow. Now the spambots have evolved artistically to Postmodernism, shining a light on modern consumerism and exposing it for the flat culture that it encourages. I’m really hoping this leads to a “Pop Art” movement that revels in the mendacity of mass production. Maybe some direct quotes from a Brenda Star, Reporter comic strip? Bill Griffith’s Zippy would be very pleased with the progress being made here.

on 22 Dec 2011 by dude1818:
I look forward to that. It’s much better than the (rather unusual) Humanistic spam that has been plaguing Multiverse recently. I’m curious what the point of these are, since they possess no way of embedding themselves into our computers. They don’t even post URLs. Unless… they’re meme spam!

on 22 Dec 2011 by Vitenka:
The ones with URLs are getting automatically blocked. Only the probes are getting through. And getting increasingly strange.

It turns out that the spam decided to jump it up another notch of weirdness…:

3 days ago by baceHorberb:
курю
абсент
кукла
маша

3 days ago by Vitenka:
Thank you for that fine example of what I was saying 🙂

2 days ago by jmgariepy:
Oh. Wow. Minimalism. I’m stunned. I took the opportunity to throw this through Google Translate and got this response in English:

drinking
absinthe
doll
waving

Which vaguely reminds me of the works of e.e.cummings. Seeing that “l(a” was printed in 1958, I’d say that we’re right on target following the evolution of writing. This bot continues to surprise me, considering none of the other ones on Multiverse have been this strange.

2 days ago by dude1818:
Is there some way of casting Lure targeting this thread? It would be interesting to watch the evolution of spambots and their development of culture. In order to bring some relevance back to this discussion, I love the artwork on this card.

I know this spambot will horribly dissapoint me when it reverts back to normal phishing comments like “someone had to tell us like it is”.  Still, it would be nice to believe that we have a runaway spambot genius, and that we will be shown the way into a new literary medium soon.  If only we wait for it to evolve enough literary presence and ennui with our society to break through into the New Art.

Or, the spambot may decide it likes money more than us, and begins to crank out the next series of ‘dark creatures of this year’s night’.  I’m hoping for sexy Frankenstein Monsters to be the new thing.

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