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Social Technology is Full of Surprises

Posted February 18, 2009 12:00 AM by Sharkles

I love learning about new social technologies on the Web. Many have lost their appeal to me over time, but there are a few that I use daily. For example, I've been an avid user of AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) for about 10 years. During my time as a user, I have seen some interesting improvements, features, and add-ons. Just recently, however, I was thrown for a loop by my beloved AIM.

On a day like any other, I received an instant message (IM) from an unknown person by the name "InsightfulCoho". This random message was referred to me as "Kevin". When I asked who the sender was, the person seemed offended and said that I had IMed them. Irritated, I abandoned the conversation.

Then, a week or so later, I received another message from InsightfulCoho, asking "What does Iron Maiden mean?" Convinced that someone was playing a joke on me, I asked friends if they knew who InsightfulCoho was. What I learned was that InsightfulCoho is a "FishBot" – part of a system that connects two people via their AIM screen names.

Project Upstream: Connecting People

FishBots are spawned by an organization called Project Upstream. According to this group's website, it's "dedicated to promoting social ideals through the use of exciting new technology".

Screen names are gathered from websites like LiveJournal, deviantART, Twitter, Xanga, and Digg. Interested users may also opt-in from the Project Upstream website. A bot then sends messages to two people by using a randomly-generated screen name and forwards the messages back-and-forth to each person. So, when I was telling the first "InsightfulCoho" that I didn't know who he or she was, that person was just as confused as I. Both of us had assumed that the other one had been the person to initiate the conversation.

Fishy Business

There are a few different types of social media bots. All contain an adjective and one of the following words: salmon, trout, or coho. The concept of connecting random people via AIM isn't new. Previously, a bot called TheGreatHatsby had been connecting users until late 2007. TheGreatHatsby would initiate conversation by asking "I say, old bean, have you seen my hat?"

A website has been set-up for people who have experienced conversations via a FishBot and wish to share their stories. You can read their experiences here.

I'm not sure how I became involved with this FishBot. Perhaps it's because I've recently begun using Twitter. At first, I was frustrated and annoyed because I thought I was being pranked. Once I learned that "InsightfulCoho" was a bot, I almost opted-out of Project Upstream completely. But after thinking about it, I was more amused than annoyed. I didn't respond to the Iron Maiden question, but the next time I will. Who knows what may come of it!

Has anybody else had an unexpected or surprising experience with new technology?

Resources:

http://project-upstream.awardspace.com/

http://nixiepixel.com/blog/index.php/aim-fish-bot-help

http://community.livejournal.com/themissinghat/

http://innerworkingsofaspacecase.blogspot.com/2008/07/project-upstream.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TheGreatHatsby

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#1

Re: Social Technology is Full of Surprises

02/18/2009 4:48 AM

I'd get a hand full of fishbots and grill them lightly with some herbs and put 'em on a bit of toast with a drizzle of olive oil.
It's easy enough to waste time on a PC without nutters generating fishbots to wind you up... What a bonkers concept.

Del

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#2

Re: Social Technology is Full of Surprises

02/18/2009 7:49 AM

This is something I've never heard of, but an interesting concept if you have a screen name you don't mind sharing. I only get spam IMs (how this happens, I don't know) so I finally had to resort to making my buddy list private.

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Social Technology is Full of Surprises

02/18/2009 9:28 AM

Sharkles, glad you decided not to opt out, it is a pretty interesting concept, although to someone who doesn't know what's going on, I could see it being annoying.

Savvy - Stay out of those horse fetish sites!

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#4

Re: Social Technology is Full of Surprises

02/18/2009 9:43 AM

This reminds me of SmarterChild... oh the memories. It would never tell me if it was a boy or a girl! It would sidestep that question like a plague.

I don't know if I would approve of my aim being gathered from sites like Twitter, Xanga, etc. Then again, I suppose if you put your name out there, be prepared for some strange IMs. Then again, I would rest easy knowing it is a bot rather than thinking it was a random person. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, I think I would have gone crazy if I had no idea.

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#7
In reply to #4

Re: Social Technology is Full of Surprises

02/18/2009 10:00 AM

Oh, Smarterchild! I used to chat with that bot a lot actually (because I was young and bored mostly, I swear). It was the first AIM bot that I knew of that could tell me what movies were playing, the weather, anything really.

I didn't mean to be found by Project Upstream but since I use a variation of my twitter name for most of my social network accounts, I was asking for this in a way. Like Savvy mentioned, there is the option of having your buddy list private if you don't want to be bothered.

The bot experience is actually pretty funny to me after the fact. If you know what is happening it's a lot more helpful. Now I am actually wishing that I would get an IM referring to me as "old bean" or something crazy.

If you ever have some downtime, go opt-in and see who you get connected to. I would advise having a link to something about the project handy in case you get connected with someone who doesn't know what is going on. And, if anyone does actually do this, please come back and share your experience! I will make sure to do the same.

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#5

Re: Social Technology is Full of Surprises

02/18/2009 9:45 AM

I don't see why you'd ever opt out, I thought Sharks eat fish? Free Sushi!

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: Social Technology is Full of Surprises

02/18/2009 9:50 AM

Sushi freaks me out still. The most daring I am when it comes to sushi is a California roll, and I don't think that counts. I do love fish when it's cooked though!

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#8
In reply to #6

Re: Social Technology is Full of Surprises

02/18/2009 10:42 AM

"AHHHHHHHHHH! Not a vegetarian shark!!!!!!"

Hmmmm... doesn't have the same terror factor as it should have...

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#9
In reply to #8

Re: Social Technology is Full of Surprises

02/18/2009 10:45 AM

No way, I could never be a straight-vegetarian. I just prefer my food cooked

I am a fan of Jax Cheese Doodles though, so you should probably be concerned.

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#10

Re: Social Technology is Full of Surprises

02/18/2009 11:17 PM

Never heard of it, i only see strange messages sometimes that link to dubious sites

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#11

Re: Social Technology is Full of Surprises

02/19/2009 1:29 AM

I correspond with some nice Nigerian people, who are arranging the transfer of unpaid lottery winnings/secret government funds/special awards to my personal account.

They are also dedicated to promoting social ideals through the use of exciting new technology

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#12
In reply to #11

Re: Social Technology is Full of Surprises

02/19/2009 2:47 AM

To me they offered an ingeritance instead. It seems that a rich guy passed on (RIP) in a plane crash and I am next in line to collect, because my surname matches his...

Small world.

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#13

Re: Social Technology is Full of Surprises

04/06/2009 11:39 AM

A similar idea... Talk to Strangers: http://omegle.com/

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#14
In reply to #13

Re: Social Technology is Full of Surprises

04/06/2009 8:26 PM

I also know something like that, but they are always ladies with not much clothes

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Users who posted comments:

Anonymous Poster (1); coonj (2); Del the cat (1); Epke (2); ffej (1); Jaxy (2); Kaplin (1); SavvyExacta (1); Sharkles (3)

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