December 6, 2023

iLoo: Joke, Blunder, or Both?

Business Week reports on the saga of iLoo, the Internet-enabled portable toilet announced last week by a British subsidiary of Microsoft. Microsoft is now claiming that this was just an April Fools’ joke, despite a body of evidence to the contrary.

The ordinary custom is to announce April Fools’ jokes on April 1. This one was announced on May 2. I know missed deadlines are a way of life in the software industry, but this is ridiculous.

You really should read the whole article. But if you can’t, here’s the end:

[An MSN UK spokesman] said that MSN UK, however, has engaged in pranks before. He noted that the group once announced that it had wired up a park bench for Internet access. He then corrected himself, stating that the bench, in fact, was a real demonstration.

Why I Wike the Web

Evewy so often you discovew an onwine sewvice that you nevew knew you needed. My discovewy today is the Diawectizew, which twanswates any web page into one of eight mostwy humowous diawects. Oh, dat scwewy wabbit!

To wead the west of Fweedom to Tinkew in Ewmew Fudd diawect, cwick hewe.

My Worst Fears, Confirmed

Cory Doctorow points to a new tool, GetContentSize, that evaluates what portion of a Web site is content, as opposed to formatting and other junk. When applied to this site, here is GetContentSize’s report:

Total page size: 32939 bytes (not including images, attached scripts or style sheets)


UPDATE (1:00 PM): Adrian Holovaty, the author of GetContentSize, writes that he has fixed the bug that caused this site to be labeled as content-free. Now the site rates as 38.7% text content. Now that it’s fixed, GetContentSize looks pretty useful in diagnosing sites that have too much baggage and too little content.

A Stroll Through the Logs

The website statistics program I use (webalizer) lets me see what search strings people are using when they find this site via the usual search engines. November’s report is amusing.

The most common search string that led to the site is “tinker.” No surprise there. Number two, though, was “fart noises.” (That matches a Fritz’s Hit List entry, in case you’re wondering.)

This raises important questions that merit future research. Is this site known primarily for its material on fart noises? Or are there lots of people out there searching for “fart noises” and then stumbling onto this site? Readers are invited to submit explanations.

(“Fart noises” ranked highly in October, too, behind only “tinker,” “freedom to tinker,” and “fritz’s hit list”.)

Also interesting is the fact that more people found this site by searching for “ed felton” (with my last name spelled incorrectly) than for “ed felten” (the correct spelling). The misspelling appears nowhere on this site, so it must be that people link to the site using the misspelled name, or that some search engines are smart enough to correct for the misspelling.

In a related story, click here for an explanation of how Eugene Volokh’s serious, non-porn site was a search result for “kazakh girls nude”.

Have You Seen This Man?

Washington, DC police today intensified their search for missing reporter and columnist Declan McCullagh, as evidence of his disappearance mounted. Police spokesman Harvey Hoax explained, “We believed initially that Declan was submitting his columns from an unknown location, but further examination of the columns revealed that they must have been written by someone else.”

According to sources, this week’s column was the key tip-off. Investigators have concluded that the column was partially written by Declan before his disappearance, and then completed by an unknown person. Police believe that the paragraph calling the DMCA an “egregious law” that is “probably unconstitutional” and “should be unceremoniously tossed out by the courts” was indeed written by Declan, as it is consistent with his often-stated views. However, later paragraphs characterizing the DMCA as no big deal appear to have been written by an unknown person.

Police now suspect that last week’s column, urging technologists not to be politically aware, was most likely written by the same unknown person. “Declan has devoted much of his career to bridging the gap between politics and technology, and he is widely respected for it,” said an anonymous source. “Clearly the column was written by someone else. That person probably knows where Declan is being held.”

When asked who might have altered Declan’s columns, RIAA Chairman Hilary Rosen quickly swiveled her computer monitor out of view and stammered, “Uh, no comment.”

Anyone with information about Declan’s whereabouts, or the authorship of his last two columns, is urged to contact the Washington police.

[Note to the humor-impaired: It’s a joke, for God’s sake.]

[Note2: Missing-Declan idea stolen shamelessly from Slashdot poster “idonotexist” and expanded upon here.]