17 thoughts on “Not Even A Real Links Post, Just A Link

  1. move to hawaii cost

    Wow that was strange. I just wrote an extremely long
    comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear.
    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Anyway, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

    1. Daniel H

      Most of my evidence suggests you aren’t a real person. For any real people reading this, though, I would suggest the Lazarus browser extension for Chrome or Firefox. It saves the contents of forms (locally, not to the cloud) so that you can recover longbreplies even if your original post gets eaten.

      1. lambdaphage

        Neat, I’d never heard of that extension.

        I guess sufficiently advanced spam is indistinguishable from a useful contribution.

    1. Rob

      Relative to the goal of moving the discussion forward and advancing thought about the problem, rather than defeating any particular opponent, that’s a clear victory.

        1. lambdaphage

          Suppose you just observed someone debating prediction markets with Andrew Nanospray, the Turing-positive Indonesian spambot. What is your posterior on the hypothesis that you are living not merely in a simulation, but in an actual William Gibson novel?

        2. AG

          Wow, I didn’t notice that was a spambot. Guess the best way to imitate humanity is to be a rude jerk.

        3. Douglas Knight

          Most of the spam on this blog is very ordinary: vague praise or specific questions about blogging, but not specific to the post. The ads for spellcasters aren’t ordinary, but they’re obviously spam. The best spam I’ve seen is copied from other blogs discussing the same topic. If it is a link, this can be done automatically. Since this blog is mainly not links, the strategy does not apply. I don’t know what algorithm generated this particular entry, but until I see a pattern, I am not impressed.

        4. Scott Alexander Post author

          I thought it might be a spambot, but I figured it couldn’t be because it knew I was talking about counting things as victories.

          I only just realized the algorithm could be to look for the last clause, grammatically rearrange it, and ask if it was serious. If so, nicely done.

          I think I might have to start a Spambot Hall Of Fame for this blog.

        5. Eli

          This wasn’t a very large update to my “I live in a godawful cyberpunk novel” hypothesis, but my belief was already quite high on that hypothesis.

        6. Vertebrat

          I only just realized the algorithm could be to look for the last clause, grammatically rearrange it, and ask if it was serious.

          Even simpler: look for posts containing common statements like “I’m counting it as a victory” and post prewritten responses.

        7. Rob

          Heh, point.

          Still I think it’s odd that everyone in this thread is assuming a dichotomy between “Contributing Human” and “Spamming Bot”. My leading hypothesis right now is “Spamming Human”. The response is very specific to the post, and might very well be a genuine criticism. I’d be fairly surprised if this were a bot. Regarding Scott’s suggestion that it’s rephrasing the last sentence as a question, ELIZA-style, and adding “Seriously?”, I’d say that’s unlikely:

          “I’m counting it as a victory.” becomes “You’re counting it as a victory?”, not “You count that as a victory?”. That kind of dynamic contextual rephrasing, changing tense and swapping ‘it’ for ‘that’, is well beyond the kind of thing I’d expect from a bot.

          Edit: The idea intrigues me though, I will probably form a mental habit of taking the last sentence of every blog post I read, converting the last sentence to a question and adding “seriously?”, and keep track of whether that sounds like a real comment. Assumptions about Gricean Maxims might do most of the heavy lifting.

        8. Nornagest

          That kind of dynamic contextual rephrasing, changing tense and swapping ‘it’ for ‘that’, is well beyond the kind of thing I’d expect from a bot.

          It’s tricky, but doable inside a couple thousand lines of code (plus however much you want to put into handling irregular verbs). The game I work on in my free time does that sort of thing routinely to make action text grammatically correct across observers.

          The only part that looks nonstandard to me is swapping “it” for “that”, and that might just be a general rule that swaps out the noun phrase in subject place — which in this case happens to be “it”.

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