I hope one thing from the future will become popular in 2009: cognitive filtering. If the Internet was Dr. Dorian from the hit tv show “Scrubs”, I would be Dr. Cox with his list of things he cares very little about.
I got this idea from a science fiction book. In John C. Wright’s Golden Age Trilogy the singularity happened and people can upgrade and back up their wetware in any way they can afford. They still had the same problem that Henry Kuttner described in his short story “Year Day” – an overbearing amount of very innovative ads that masquerade as information and other spam. The trick in Golden Age was cognitive filtering: configurable software that removed any manifestations of anything an owner considered unpleasant: ads, sounds, pictures, symbols, and even people.
I like Twitter, and I like Robert Scoble. But I am tired of Robert’s relentless posts about friendfeed (sometimes I’m not even sure if he works with me at Fast Company or at friendfeed). Filtering this out would not be too hard – I could just ignore any post that has “friendfeed” in it. In fact, a Bayesian filter for Google reader, Facebook, and Twitter after a bit of training could do this automatically: I’d just flag posts that annoy me and the filter would analyze the words in the post, figure out which ones occur together more frequently in the posts that annoy me and hide future annoying posts based on that.
To take this a bit further, I would also like a Bayesian filter that would find me good posts from the firehydrant rss flow based on the ones I already like. There seem to be a few of these out there, but I find it hard leaving Google Reader.
These days a controversial company RevieMe.com became downright unethical – they make it abundantly clear that they became a link purchasing company. On the other hand Phone Spam Filter is a site I don’t mind sharing Google juice with, so it’s a quick and fun way to add a 50 bucks to my Kindle fund. Here’s my review:
The goal of this site is pretty simple: Phone Spam Filter is asking you to snitch on telemarketers. You search for a phone number that you received a marketing call from and then complain about it. Besides getting a little relief from venting at the phone spammers, you get a bit of satisfaction from knowing that you added them to a blacklist. Nothing good can come out of this for the dinner-interrupting bastards. Meanwhile it’s a good place to find out if mysterious phone numbers that show up on your phone are from run of the mill telemarketers or not.
The even cooler thing is that they have an API that can help you block calls from this blacklist if you have an Asterisk PBX or are willing to install some Windows software and have a modem connected to a phone line. While Asterisk is pretty awesome, running Windows and having a modem connected to a phone line is a horrible idea these days – there are dozens of viruses that want nothing more than make a few 1-900 phonecalls. In the future Phone Spam Filter guys are hoping to add integration with VOIP providers.
The Phonespamfilter technology is not as cool as JWZ-endorsed audio-cock technology (“their computer’s speakers should create some sort of cock-shaped soundwave and plunge it repeatedly through their skulls”), but I guess it’s a start.
I’ve been using CAPTCHA — Completely Automated Public Turing Test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”, that little graphic showing a string of numbers that needs to be typed in to submit a comment to this blog. Guess what – I see furious reloads of the comment page generated by spambots, yet 0 comment spam. Zero! I changed the script that generates my CAPTCHA so that it would make it easier for people. It’s weak enough that an automated solution might solve it, but I am yet to see a spammer sophisticated enough. There are enough unprotected blogs out there to make this sort of effort useless.
I guess soon enough we will see some kind of a spam Cold War when companies like Google will start using CAPTCHA as a method for email SPAM protection. We need to take our email back – now most of the time I don’t even feel like writing to people – there’s a very good chance that my email will get lost and ignored (well, that might also be that the people I write ignore my emails on their merits, but I like to stay optimistic). What’s funny, is that like with Cold War arms race, we might get some fringe benefits in the field of Artificial Intelligence. I say, bring it on.
Immediately after landing in Manhattan, the delegation form Lawn Jockey planet demanded to see our leader.
Interesting, this ubiquitous lawn ornament seems to have an interesting history. It’s also interesting how almost all Jockos I’ve ever seen in New York (including in this stunning collection) were white. And I’ve seen a lot of them when I had a job delivering ad papers in many neighborhoods of Brooklyn. (Yes, I delivered paper spam).