October 2007

Erik Wolpaw: Still Alive

An interview with the person responsible for Portal’s insanely good writing. (Also that Old Man Murray thing.)

Also, there is cake. Why’s that?

Well, there are lots of message games coming out now. Like they’ve got something really important to get off their chest about the war in Iraq or the player is forced to make some dicey underwater moral choices. Really, just a whole heck of a lot of stuff to think about. With that in mind, at the beginning of the Portal development process, we sat down as a group to decide what philosopher or school of philosophy our game would be based on. That was followed by about fifteen minutes of silence and then someone mentioned that a lot of people like cake.

Some Grudges Never Die

Seems someone still is sore about the last time he appeared in a beta.

From: General British
To: Rainz

Subject: Rematch

You may have killed me at the UO End of Beta event, however this was not a proper duel. You took me out when I wasn’t expecting it… I handed that to you. Now that I’m ready, I would like to see you try to bring me down again, Rainz. Come and get me.

**End of Line*

So if anyone knows where Rainz is after all these years, a certain sputnik-toting game designer/astronaut is calling you out. (Drop me an email if you know where Mr. Rainz has gone off to.)

We’re Losing The Spam War

This may not be the most popular blog on the Interwebs, but it’s one of the oldest. Thanks to that dubious distinction, I seem to be inflicted regularly with the leading edge of spammer technology.

It started with comment spam: someone posting links upon links upon links, usually of porn sites or ads for erectile dysfunction drugs or similarly snake-oily schemes. I’m not sure if there’s a person on the planet who would actually see a post like this and remove money from their wallet somehow, but someone must, because I still get those.


Then we have the next step up in spammer intelligence – instead of links, just page after page of search terms. I’m fairly certain this is used to game Google to present useless results for totally unrelated searches, but I’m not really sure how it works. Still, it must, because I still get those too.


Still, these are fairly easy for blog programs to detect and suppress. Which is a good thing, because I get about 400 of these a day. Four. Hundred. A day. And that’s on a slow day. Sometimes it goes up to four thousand. During that same time, since this is a relative backwater of the interwebs, I get maybe …ten? legitimate actual comments.

So, the spammers decided to escalate a bit, and try to conceal their payloads as those ten legitimate comments.


Now blog programs can still make an effort to detect these. The spambots used to post these usually use the same fractured English fragments, and of course they still have to include a link to whatever useless crap they’re trying to sell. So there’s still some hope of combating this, right?

Gentlemen and ladies, I present to you…. smartspam.


This is in response to the recent Youtube I posted of Sara Brightman singing about her disco love for starship troopers. The comment is actually on the topic posted. The best I can guess, someone is actually paying people (probably through a pay-per-click scheme) to leave somewhat relevant comments with the spam payload.

The result: Bayesian spam prevention, the best hope so far of limiting spam, is broken. Trying to filter this spam via the comment payload now runs a significant risk of blocking legitimate commenters. (Which is already happening – there’s one regular commenter whose comments are regularly blocked by the spam filter now.) You could try to block on the link payload… but that changes, and doesn’t use obvious key words any more.

Hell, in the past week or so I’ve gotten comments that I can’t even tell are spam or not.

We’re losing the war. And eventually the Internet will be nothing but bots selling Cialis Jessica Alba plane ticket porn to each other.

This, then, is the bright new future of new media.