Wednesday, January 07, 2009
A Heartbreaking Spam of Staggering Genius
Some years back I wrote an essay on the accidental poetry that can emerge from the machinery of Babelfish and other automatic-translation programs. Subsequently the notion has become old-hat, particularly as spammers have taken up the habit of lacing their emails with the radar-busting chaff of random sentence fragments, resulting in a corpus of nonsense that a small army of connoisseurs has taken to harvesting for moments of lyrical surrealism. Yesterday, however, thanks to a serendipitous Google vanity search, I stumbled on a cache of spam-driven word salad so richly lunatic that I am once again returned to my initial state of wonder at the Underweb's capacity for coughing up hairballs of stochastic eloquence. In it, I am described, notably, as "a causative editor for Stiffened depot" (transformed, presumably, from "contributing editor for Wired magazine"), but you need a lengthier sample to get the full flavor:
I thought at first that this must be a piece of Babelfishery -- the result of the original text's having been auto-translated from English to Chinese/French/Malay/whatever and back a few times. But if you look more closely it's clearly some program that is working with an English-only thesaurus, simply replacing random nouns and adjectives with randomly selected synonyms. Honestly, if I spent all my days studying the spammers and SEO gamers, I think I still would never quite understand what in the name of Jesus they are up to with stuff like this. But in this case at least it's clear that they are essentially playing Mad Libs for a living. Ludocapitalism marches on!
“It’s eminently doable,” says Prince Castronova, an link academic at Indiana Lincoln and author of Synthetical Worlds: The Activity and Culture of Online Games. “If a being in Snatch can live on a greenback a day, they can achieve their living playacting recording games.”
The upshot, Dibbell says, is that as solon users perceive construction to distort dollars out of gold pieces, games equal Experience of Warcraft prepare sophisticated economies, with measurable GDPs and reverse rates.
“There are fill making six figures,” Dibbell says. “One-man operations, essentially, doing vii figures. It’s not solid to pee money doing this.”
And also let me emphasize: By no means is it solid to pee money doing this.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
The Night I Met the Lich King
I know some of you World of Warcraft fanbois and -grrls think you're hardcore because you were first in line when the Wrath of the Lich King expansion went on sale at midnight last night. Well, to you I say: /golfclap. Because last night, at midnight Paris time, while the rest of you were still trying to decide which lawnchair to take down to the Best Buy, I came face to face with the Lich King himself.
Or as they say around these parts: Le Roi-Liche, il même.
Friday, November 07, 2008
My Personal Assessment of the Current State of National and World Politics:
(I'm sure I'm not the first person to have put it quite this way, and I'm definitely not the best photoshopper for the job, but if your feelings are similar and you can't find this anywhere else, feel free to copy and paste.)
Thursday, September 25, 2008
The Best of Technology Writing 2008
There are only four words capable of expressing how it feels to be selected two years in a row -- first by tech journalism's big kahuna Steven Levy and now by its enfant terrible Clive Thompson -- for inclusion in the University of Michigan Press's indispensable Best of Technology Writing anthology:
I. Am. Not. Worthy.
False modesty or objective fact? You be the judge. This year, my New York Times Magazine article on Chinese gold farmers shares the pages with variously deep, delightful, and illuminating pieces by Emily Nussbaum, Caleb Crain, Cory Doctorow, and others, and once again, I'm offering a free, autographed copy to each of the first four readers who sends e-mail asking for it.
Sunday, June 01, 2008
Virtual Economies! Ludocapitalism! Bullets! (A Q2 FY'08 Update)
It's been a busy few months, not that you'd know it from the pace of updates around here.
Or maybe you would. I suppose, after all, that if the Internet has left standing even one detectable difference between the professional writer and the "amateur," it's that the professional writers' blogs reliably go dead when they actually have work to do -- procrastination being the mother of 99 percent of blog writing, and more writing being typically the working writer's least favorite form of procrastination.
But I digress, which is also typical, and also partly why I'm loath to check in here when the workload gets heavy. I mean, one minute I'm logged into Blogger bent on dashing off a quick, three-line announcement of my latest low-profit side project, and next thing you know I've spent an even lower-profit week unwinding the four-year narrative behind said project.
Perhaps the lesson is that there'd be more profit all around if I were to save the narratives for paying gigs and approach this blog thing here as more of a never-ending bullet list. In which spirit I present herewith, and without apology the accumulated bullet points of my fiscal year to date:
- Published, in the February issue of Wired, Mutilated Furries, Flying Phalluses: Put the Blame on Griefers, the Sociopaths of the Virtual World, an article admired by some and reviled by others, which given the subject, sort of figures
- Gave a talk on virtual economies and ludocapitalism, March 12, at The Game Is Up! arts festival in Ghent, Belgium, where I also hobnobbed with such notables as Christophe Bruno, Régine Debatty, and the Reverend Billy, and made my debut as a professional artist, selling three copies of a handbound, limited, contractually unreadable edition of Play Money to the festival organizers for 500 euros
- Made my debut as a professional artist on March 13, more precisely, when after two all-nighters in a Belgian hotel room completing the aforementioned handbound copies of Play Money, I handed them over to the organizers to be marketed alongside other art objects in the festival's "Art for Sale" vending-machine exhibition
- Made my debut as a professional artist, just in case that wasn't clear
- I'm digressing, aren't I? Sorry!
- Vacationed March 19-25 in Costa Rica, home of Latin America's least remarkable national culture and most adorable local fauna (may I recommend the squirrel monkeys?)
- Gave another talk on virtual economies and ludocapitalism, April 2, at Rochester Institute of Technology, invited there by the awesome Elizabeth Lane Lawley
- Gave another talk, yes, but not just yet another talk, no, this talk was the 2008 Harry J. Skornia Distinguished Lecture in Public Broadcasting, delivered by me to the assembled bright minds of the University of Illinois's fifth annual Communication Collaboration Conference, April 11, on the subject of, um, virtual economies and ludocapitalism
- Gave a talk, April 19, in Gijón, Spain, at Homo Ludens Ludens, "an international exhibition and conference examining play as a principal element of today's world," which was a lot more interesting than it sounds, and yes, the talk was about virtual economies and ludocapitalism, except I changed it up this time with a daring and perhaps deranged consideration of possible connections between the rooms in China where gold farmers work live and the Chinese room invented by John Searle as a thought experiment in the philosophy of artificial intelligence, about which more later, I expect
- Sat on a panel on Relationships between WoW and the "Real World", May 10, at Day 2 of Convergence of the Real and the Virtual -- "The First Scientific Conference in World of Warcraft," at which, curiously enough, I said very little about virtual economies, ludocapitalism, or anything else, it being just about all I could do to sort out who among the chatty throng of blood elves, Taurens, trolls, and orcs assembled for the event in the sewers of Undercity were my co-panelists
- Attended an NSF-sponsored workshop on Productive Play, May 16-18, at UC Irvine, California, where I expected to spend the weekend talking about virtual economies and ludocapitalism but instead embarked on a stimulating tour of every subject you'd imagine coming up with Thomas Malaby, Tom Boellstorff, T. L. Taylor, David Shaffner, Randy Farmer and Chip Morningstar, Pavel Curtis (!), and similarly insightful veterans of online games' long march to academic respectability packed into a room together with bottomless free coffee for two days
- Wrote sundry short items, throughout April and May, for the UK daily Telegraph, on topics ranging from sex with robots to the future of the Internet to the rise of the brickfilm auteur because, it turns out, there actually are other things to talk about besides, well, you know
Thursday, May 08, 2008
To Lake County, With Love
Today I honor the people of Gary, Indiana, and their heroic stand against the forces of quite possibly irredeemable jackassery in Tuesday's primary election. I honor them with a juliandibbell.com first: A poem of my own composition, entitled Indiana Toll-Road Freestyle (.pdf) and written a couple years back, mostly during the reveries of my twice weekly commute between South Bend and Chicago. (Heartfelt apologies to Rakim, Eminem, and other rappers whose flow I seem to have had the nerve to think I could textually approximate. Much love to Lake County.)
Friday, April 25, 2008
Clay Shirky's "Here Comes Everybody"
Regular readers of the Daily Telegraph's book-reviews section may already be aware of my feelings on the matter, but I don't mind saying it again: Clay Shirky's new book kicks some serious Web 2.0-punditry butt.