Stephen Baker

The Numerati
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Splogs master Mad-Libs

July 21, 2008Final Jeopardy

Remember Mad-libs, those word games where you fill in random adjectives, adverbs and nouns and then read them in a ridiculous text? Well, from what Jeff Jarvis is reporting, the spam-bloggers, or sploggers, are teaching that same skill to computers. He reports that a blog post of his was altered for a splog, presumably to get past spam filters. It reproduced his post, but substituted "inaugural touch dances" for "opening tap dances."

It's pretty crude, actually, about on the level of some of the automatic translation software on the Net. But still, the idea that they teach machines to edit our words is impressive. And some of the edits aren't half-bad. The machine turned "annual confab" into "period schmooze." (I'd drop "period," but "schmooze" is worthy.) If you look at the splogs as a relentless publishing force, engineering billions and billions of posts to create millions of survivors, some emerging through this Darwinian process might turn out to be brilliant. Some of my old Mad-libs were. At least, that's how I remember them.

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