AccordionGuy and the New Girl

And I thought my identity theft incident was creepy. It pales in comparison with this story. Joey “Accordion Guy” deVilla starts going out with a cute girl. He is so happy that he writes an entry “Ten Cool Things About the New Girl” on his blog. Then, a concerned reader contacts him to say that the New Girl isn’t who she says she is….

The story Whistleblower told me meshed with New Girl’s, but in all the wrong ways. Whistleblower, it turned out, knew New Girl from the days when they both lived in another city. While in that other city, New Girl was taking courses towards getting a high school equivalency diploma. She didn’t complete them.

Then Whistleblower followed with a series of identity theft stories. New Girl would steal online photos of various gothgirls and claim to be them in various chat rooms, chatting up gothguys and in some cases convincing them to fly up to meet her. One poor guy came incredibly close to doing so until the person whom she was posing as managed to warn him.

Then there’s this little matter:

Whistleblower: Has she shown you photos of a niece and nephew?

Me: Yeah, I’ve seen them. Cute kids.

Whistleblower: They’re not her niece and nephew, they’re her son and daughter.

Me: (sounds of choking on Guinness)

Read the whole story, because it gets even worse than that. Incidents like this show that real life can still go head to head with fiction and win. (As if reality show viewer ratings hadn’t convinced you already.) People really are that messed up.

On the other hand, as one of Joey’s friends said, “Dude, you were saved by your blog!” For every nut, there’s a raisin.

I think the incident says more about human nature than it does about the nature of weblogging and modern communications technology, but it does make you think about the place blogs currently have in the “global village,” and where they may go in the future. (via BoingBoing)

Password protecting Alex’s pages

I’m back to thinking about password-protecting Alex’s web pages here on Sunpig, and all of the images that go with them. Last week, there were two more sites that had linked to photos of him. One of them was fairly innocuous–the “Evil Alex” photo had cropped up on a bulletin board in response to a call for pictures of evil babies. The other site was another bulletin board, but it was in Arabic, so I have no idea what it was about. (Nearby pages on that board didn’t feature anything sinister, though.)

Having Alex’s pictures being linked to on these sites isn’t nearly as worrying as what happened back in January, but I’m still not exactly happy about it. I’m delighted to have people come across my own blog on Google. I post stuff here that people other than my family and friends may be interested in. But Alex’s pages are really only on the web so that people close to us can find out how he is getting on.

I’ve tried using a robots.txt file to stop search engines from indexing those pages (I assume that’s how most people would come across them), but that doesn’t seem to be working. So I think the time has come to lock them down. If you don’t know us, then you’re about as welcome on Alex’s pages as any stranger who sticks his face up against our living room window. If that sounds unfriendly, then sorry, but deal with it. I’m closing the curtains.

Mondrian Machine

The Mondrian Machine (via forty.something) is more than just a cool web toy that allows you to create your own neoplasticist art. It is also an interesting illustration of the capabilities of Opera 7‘s new DHTML engine. The toy works by using JavaScript to alter the structure of the web page after it has been rendered to your screen. Opera 6 can’t handle this, but Opera 7 just breezes through it without a problem. Sweet.

On a completely different note, “Mondrian” is the English spelling of the artist’s surname (“Mondriaan”). When an English speaker pronounces “Mondrian” the “a” is long. If a Dutch speaker pronounces that spelling, the “a” is short, and it would sound something like “Mondree-uhn”. The long “a” sound in Dutch is represented by the digraph “aa”. To illustrate this, check Google. When you search for “Mondriaan”, most of the top search results (18,800 pages in total) are in Dutch. If you search on “Mondrian”, you get predominantly English pages (103,000 of them).

What baffles me, though, is why his first name doesn’t seem to have undergone a similar anglicization. A typical English speaker hearing a Dutch speaker pronounce “Piet” would spell it “Pete”. So why hasn’t he become “Pete Mondrian”?

Linguistic drift. Gotta love it.

Trade it on Trodo!

John Rhodes of Webword has just launched the secret project he has working on and enigmatically referring to for the last few months. Trodo is an on-line trading community, where people can hook up and swap books, CDs, DVDs, and other stuff.

Note that it’s swap, not sell. Unlike Ebay, you’re not trying to maximize your profits from the items you list. One book gains you one “credit” for another book. When you sign up, you have to list at least three items you’re willing to trade, and this gives you an initial three credits. With these credits you can then request items from other users.

The economics of this credit system are very interesting. You might think that it would be easily abused. Because each book (or video, or DVD) is worth exactly the same as any other (1 credit), what is there to stop someone from only listing old, decrepit pulp paperback novels, but only requesting shiny new computer books? Well, the credit system itself acts as a brake on this kind of behaviour, because apart from your initial three signup credits, you only get more credits when someone requests one of your items, and you fulfil that request.

If you list nothing but rubbish, no-one will request your items, so you won’t be able to request other people’s “good” stuff. You therefore have an incentive to list items that other will find attractive enough to request from you.

There are many other interesting aspects to the system. Why don’t you hop on over there and take a look?