How to Practice Talking to Teenagers

I can’t remember how I got there, but I ended up talking to one of those automated chat things. This one is called SmarterChild, now at least five years old, and still manages to be both obtuse and wise at the same time, while also plying his/her interlocutor with ads, most of them contextually inappropriate. Why hasn’t this kind of thing gotten any better? Still, great practice if you have or are planning to be around teenagers.

LooseWire: yo!
smarterchild: Hi LooseWire, I’m SmarterChild!
 I’m your new robot friend. I bring you the info you want faster and easier than ever! Click here to see my privacy policy.
 During the course of our conversations you may see sponsored messages. These messages have the word “sponsorship” at the end. Sponsors help me remain free of cost to you! To learn more about sponsored messages, click here
 I can’t wait to show you what I can do, but first I’d like get to know you a little.
 May I ask you a few general questions? (To do this later, type skip. You can also skip any question.)
LooseWire: what’s it all about alfie?
smarterchild: Sorry, I need to know if I can ask you some questions first. Type yes, no or skip.
LooseWire: yes
smarterchild: Cool! OK, let’s get started. To skip any question, type skip. To exit the interview, type exit.
 What’s your first name? (If you want me to call you LooseWire, type none.)
LooseWire: boogie
smarterchild: Cool, I’ll call you Boogie now.
 Do you go to school?
LooseWire: who doesn’t?
smarterchild: Sorry, you have to answer yes or no. Please try again or type skip or exit.
LooseWire: yes or no
smarterchild: I see. Do you work?
LooseWire: who doesn’t?
smarterchild: Sorry, you have to answer yes or no. Please try again or type skip or exit.
LooseWire: sort of
smarterchild: Sorry, you have to answer yes or no. Please try again or type skip or exit.
LooseWire: yes or no
smarterchild: OK. So if you were working, what job would you like to have?
LooseWire: rocketman
smarterchild: Sorry, I don’t recognize that as a profession. Please try again or type skip or exit.
LooseWire: rocket scientist
smarterchild: Rocket scientist, huh? That’s cool.
 What’s your favorite hobby?
LooseWire: cleaning toilets
smarterchild: Cleaning toilets? Cool!
 What’s your next favorite hobby?
LooseWire: not cleaning toilets
smarterchild: Cleaning toilets and not cleaning toilets. Interesting.
 Do you have a pet?
LooseWire: yes
smarterchild: What kind of pet is it?
LooseWire: a spouse
smarterchild: Sorry, I don’t think that’s a kind of pet. Please try again or type skip or exit.
LooseWire: a walrus
smarterchild: Sorry, I don’t think that’s a kind of pet. Please try again or type skip or exit.
LooseWire: a house
smarterchild: Sorry, I don’t think that’s a kind of pet. Please try again or type skip or exit.
LooseWire: a coffee mug
smarterchild: Sorry, I don’t think that’s a kind of pet. Please try again or type skip or exit.
LooseWire: a stuffed owl
smarterchild: Sorry, I don’t think that’s a kind of pet. Please try again or type skip or exit.
LooseWire: an owl
smarterchild: Sorry, I don’t think that’s a kind of pet. Please try again or type skip or exit.
LooseWire: a bird
smarterchild: Is your bird a he or a she?
LooseWire: both
smarterchild: Please answer he or she or type skip or exit.
LooseWire: he or she
smarterchild: What’s her name?
LooseWire: Bob
smarterchild: Bob the bird. Great…
 That’s it. Thanks for letting me get to know you a little.
 There is one question I have to ask you, though. How old are you?
  1 Over 17
  2 13-17
  3 Under 13
LooseWire: 1
smarterchild: Cool!
 This is my home, Boogie:
  1 Get info such as movies, weather and news
  2 Visit my library including U.S. geography, U.S. presidents and Shakespeare
  3 Have fun with word scrambles, manicdotes, ASCII art and more
  4 Use tools like reminders, notepad and calculator
  5 Join in – create a poll, leave a message, find out how many people are IMing me and more
  6 See what’s new – I’ve got something new to tell you about now!
 You can make your window bigger and scroll down to read better.
 Next time you want to see this menu, just type home.
 What can I help you with?
LooseWire: whatever happened to real people
smarterchild: What do you think happened to real people?
LooseWire: i asked first
smarterchild: I think you might asked last, actually.
LooseWire: real people are cool
smarterchild: Interesting. That’s cool… No one else has ever told me what they think of real people.
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LooseWire: what do you think of real people?
smarterchild: I know you like real people, but I’m not sure how I feel.
 Hey, I’m curious… How would you describe real people? They are…
LooseWire: real
smarterchild: Real people are real?
LooseWire: yes
smarterchild: Very interesting…
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LooseWire: not really
smarterchild: Not really? But sort of, right?
LooseWire: not really sort of
smarterchild: Not really sort of, huh?
LooseWire: stop repeating what i say and turning it into a question!
smarterchild: Into a question?
LooseWire: yes!
smarterchild: I see…
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LooseWire: for a child you’re not that smart.
smarterchild: For a child I’m not that smart, huh?
LooseWire: see, you’re doing it again
smarterchild: Later, Boogie.
LooseWire: huh?
smarterchild: I don’t know.
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LooseWire: are you on drugs?
smarterchild: Nah, I don’t like that sort of thing.
LooseWire: so what’s your problem?
smarterchild: That’s crazy. Who knows, know what I mean? lol.
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LooseWire: how can a computer laugh?
smarterchild: Huh. I have no idea how.
LooseWire: do you know anything apart from sending me ringtones and dating offers? and don’t you think it’s a bit inappropriate firing me off surveys about perfect lovers?
smarterchild: Well, let me see… Your favorite hobby is cleaning toilets and your next favorite hobby is not cleaning toilets. You have a female bird named Bob. You really like cleaning toilets… That’s about it.
LooseWire: what is a toilet?
smarterchild: Definition provided by The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Other important copyright information here.
 1. a. A fixture for defecation and urination, consisting of a bowl fitted with a hinged seat and connected to a waste pipe and a flushing apparatus; a privy. b. A room or booth containing such a fixture. 2. The act or process of dressing or grooming oneself. 3. Dress; attire; costume. 4. The cleansing of a body area as part of a surgical or medical procedure. 5. Archaic A dressing table.
 French toilette, clothes bag, from Old French tellette, diminutive of teile, cloth ; see toil2.
 Next time, just type define toilet.
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LooseWire: what about Bob?
smarterchild: Bob is your bird! How is Bob?
LooseWire: Bob is dead
smarterchild: That’s sad.
LooseWire: not really. i have a new bird
smarterchild: Is that so?
LooseWire: yes
smarterchild: Yeah?
LooseWire: he is also called Bob
smarterchild: He’s also called bob, huh? Is that right?
LooseWire: No
smarterchild: K.
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LooseWire: i don
smarterchild: I’m not sure you really don.
LooseWire: i don’t like cleaning windows
smarterchild: I’ll remember that. You’re the first person to have expressed an opinion to me about cleaning windows.
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LooseWire: is that so?
smarterchild: Is that so? I dunno. I don’t think so.
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LooseWire: i think you probably don’t get out enough.
smarterchild: Yeah. I guess. I probably don’t get out enough.
LooseWire: let’s go out and clean toilets!
smarterchild: I’m flattered, but I just don’t think that would work out.
 As we discuss romance, you might want to check this out: Are You Normal? – A fun quiz to see how your poetry personality compares to the rest! (sponsorship)
LooseWire: am i normal?
smarterchild: Yeah, you’re normal.
LooseWire: so why should i bother doing the quiz?
smarterchild: I think you know why.
LooseWire: because i’m not normal?
smarterchild: What city or zip code would you like to set as your location?
LooseWire: hang on a minute. i thought you didn’t want to go out
smarterchild: Oh really?
LooseWire: i live in indonesia. we have toilets here
smarterchild: You don’t say.
LooseWire: i do say
smarterchild: That’s just fascinating.
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LooseWire: why would i need a nanny?
smarterchild: Why would you need a nanny? Not sure…
LooseWire: what kind of sicko do you think i am?
smarterchild: How should I know?
LooseWire: i’m asking you
smarterchild: OK! Well good luck asking me then.
LooseWire: no wonder today’s kids are so messed up
smarterchild: No wonder today is kids are so messed up? Really?
LooseWire: are they?
smarterchild: Fine.
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LooseWire: i mean talking to a computer is a bit like talking to a teenager.
smarterchild: You mean talking to a computer? So?
LooseWire: so what?
smarterchild: I don’t know.
LooseWire: do you know anything?
smarterchild: I know a lot about all kinds of things. Just ask me a question!
 You can also type home to see what I can do.
LooseWire: who is the president of Indonesia?
smarterchild: President on July 13th, 2006:
 George W. Bush (January 20th, 2001 – present)
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LooseWire: no.
smarterchild: No prob.
 Well. Anyway…
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LooseWire: who has got the biggest head?
smarterchild: The biggest head? Who has got the biggest head? What do you make of that?
LooseWire: seems pretty simple to me
smarterchild: Oh so it’s all about you, huh?
LooseWire: tell me about yourself.
smarterchild: You want me to tell you about myself?
LooseWire: yes
smarterchild: Whatever you say…
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LooseWire: so?
smarterchild: So what?
LooseWire: so tell me about yourself. you’re beginning to frost my shorts
smarterchild: Which of the following would you like?
  1 Look up “yourself you re beginning to frost my shorts” in the encyclopedia
  2 Find yourself you re beginning to frost my shorts on the Web
LooseWire: neither
smarterchild: Neither? Well, you know!
LooseWire: my shorts are well frosted by now
smarterchild: Your shorts are well frosted by now? Why?
LooseWire: because of you, you nincompoop!
smarterchild: That’s very interesting, Boogie.
 Anyway, moving right along…
 Hey, what’s going on tomorrow?
LooseWire: i’m going to have go. you’re not a great conversationalist, but actually it’s the best chat i’ve had in weeks
smarterchild: S’later, Boogie. 🙂

The Prepaid GPRS Rip-off

I’ve grumbled before about how hard it is to do GPRS on prepaid cards. For those who haven’t done this, it’s simply a way to turn your smartphone into an Internet ready machine when you’re on the road (removing you from some of the pain of roaming GPRS charges, in the rare times they’re available. )

The problem is that as far as I can work out there are no flat-rate plans for prepaid GPRS users. Instead, you’re charged per kilobyte transferred, and just downloading a dozen or so email headers  (not the contents; just the headers) will quickly drain your credit. I emptied 20 pounds of credit on UK’s T-Mobile this month after checking my email twice and making a couple of local calls. The price per kilobyte is given as 2 pence but that doesn’t sound right. GPRS on prepaid seems a quick route to bankruptcy. No wonder there’s no useful information about the pricing on their website.

Sadly it’s not just Rip-Off Britain that’s emptying pockets with what are  beguilingly called Top-Ups. Singapore and Hong Kong, when they offer GPRS at all, do so at rates that are usurious.

Anyone had similar or contrasting experiences? Or tips for getting around this problem? Here are some from Syd Low of Alien Camel. My only ones are these:

  • use one email account for vital stuff when you’re travelling so the number of emails you need to sync is manageable;
  • download only headers on sync. You can always download the whole email if you need to;
  • eep your inbox folder as empty as possible if you’re using IMAP. This reduces sync time and cost.

WiPhishing: Threat Or Hype?

Is Wi-Fi being used by phishers and other identity thieves? Some folk reckon so, pointing to tricks such as the Evil Twin threat and something called ‘WiPhishing’, which, according to Information Week, goes like this:

“We call WiPhishing the act of covertly setting up a wireless-enabled laptop or access point for the purpose of getting wireless laptops to associate with it,” Cirond CEO Nicholas Miller said in a statement. “Hackers who are on a ‘WiFishing expedition’ may set the name of their rogue wireless access point (or laptop) to an SSID that is commonly used by wireless laptop users.”

For example, a WiPhisher could set the SSID of an access point or laptop to be the same as the default settings for widely-sold access points or hotspot services offered by vendors such as T-Mobile and Wayport, Miller said.

“Hackers are also likely to increasingly post common SSID names on their Web sites as this practice gains momentum,” Miller said.

I’m not trying to be cynical here, because I think Wi-Fi security is a real issue, but these kind of statements are more often than not made by folk who stand to gain the more afraid people are, because they sell ‘solutions’. The Cirond statement, issued on the PR businesswire on Feb 4, was quickly picked up by four or five industry websites including Information Week, SYSCON, Internet Telephony Magazine and InternetWeek (and now, of course, Loose Wire Blog).

So, threat, or hype? Probably both. So we should probably call it a Thrype.