science fiction

Writers’ Bloc at Eastercon 2014: Planet Scotland

Some of our comrades will be appearing at the 65th Eastercon, Satellite 4, this weekend.
On Friday night, Hannu Rajaniemi will be a victim guest of Horrorshow, a late night talk show hosted by Andrew J. Wilson. (22:00 – 23:30 in Castle 1)

On Sunday evening, we’ll embark for Planet Scotland, live performances of the best new Scottish SF and fantasy featuring established and up-and-coming talent from the Word Dogs and Writers’ Bloc spoken-word performance groups including Hal Duncan, Phil Raines, and Bloc comrades Mark Harding, Stuart Wallace, and Halsted M. Bernard. The event will be hosted by Andrew J. Wilson and Neil Williamson. (20:00 – 22:00 in Castle 1)

Planet Scotland


‘Spambot Heartbreak’ in Take Tea With Turing App

Spambot Heartbreak’ is my attempt to put together the sort of conversation that’ll be happening a million times a day in the near future. Or is happening right now, but we just don’t know about it.

I haven’t picked on spam as a topic because it’s ever done me any favours. Actually, I’ve picked it because we take so much trouble to avoid it. In Ken MacLeod’s phrase, it’s the ‘dark matter of the internet.’ It’s estimated that 40% of social networking profiles are spam, while electronic spam makes up 2% of blog comments, and a whopping 70 to 90% of emails. Almost all of this traffic is produced by spambots.

We don’t notice most of this stuff because it’s dealt with by spam filters, performing reverse versions of the Turing Test. Instead of a human trying to spot a machine, spam filters are machines trying to spot other machines. (How often has an email of yours been identified as produced by a spambot? What does that say about your emails?)

I wrote above, that ‘Spambot Heartbreak’ was ‘put together’. This is true. I’ve used real spam messages taken from blog comments and I’ve assembled sentences by mixing up phrases from songs and film titles. (An interesting thought is how different is this to how we normally churn out sentences.)

If wasn’t afraid of being annoying, I’d type selected lines from ‘Spambot Heartbreak’ onto somebody’s blog and see if I could get the spam filter to think I was a machine. (A sort of UnTuring Test.)

My personal preference is for spam to come blinking into the sunlight. The sooner it gets its act together, becomes interactive, drops the malicious stuff, and becomes a useful personal shopping assistant the better. I’m a lazy person. I can’t wait to have an understanding spambot to advise me. I’d get fond of it.

I hope the designers of this advanced spam will be sensitive about how they treat their creations. Otherwise… Well, wouldn’t it only be a matter of time before we got Spam Rights Activists? Humans, like you or me, writing to protest on behalf of our spambot friends, flooding with internet with emails

It’s on iTunes here for all the apple people…

Take Tea with Turing

Take Tea With Turing

I’ve got something billed as an ‘animation’ in the Take Tea With Turing App that’s being released into the wild on 23-November as part of the Turing centenial. I’d like to make something clear immediately to all animators — technically, it’s an animation, in reality it’s some words that move up a screen.  Just to make that plain…

There’s some really interesting contributors — proper, leading edge researchers in informatics and linguistics, Gavin from Writers’ Bloc, various authors with distinguished CVs and a composer. The launch do on the 23rd will be well cool… Hope the music gets performed!