Monday, January 24, 2011

The Enterprise - 27

Though we had no money coming in, the Product appeared to be resonating with a certain audience. At long last Tony, the operations guy out west, provided to us a simple reporting interface where we could track usage and even scrutinize individual user sessions.

The traffic growth was thrilling to observe. It burbled in the single and low double digits in the weeks around the soft launch - mostly reflecting the false activity of internal testing. Then it spiked one day - 347! Three hundred and forty-seven. Such a hopeful number. Expansive. A fat and happy number. Looking at it was like watching the sun burst through the clouds. It seemed to signify nothing less than the approbation of the cold and fickle world outside. From that momentous day on it kept rising in fits and starts, sometimes modestly, sometimes in bewildering leaps. Weekends seemed particularly busy, as were the hours from about 3 pm to dinnertime.

When you clicked the link for each day's total users you descended a level deeper to find transcripts of each session. There they all were, uniquely identified by long strings of random letters and numbers; mysterious, authentic, the surreptitious record of every interaction everyone had ever had with it. The Product. There were thousands of them, page after page after page. You had the feeling you'd stumbled upon a new world. Except it was your world all along.

I clicked a link. Here's what it showed:

Input: faggot
Output: Hello! I'm pleased to meet you. How may I help you?

Input: faggot
Output: That's a bad word. I know about sports! Ask me for the latest scores.

Input: faggot faggot faggot faggot faggot
Output: You really do have a foul mouth. Would you like to play a game?

Output: That's not a particularly nice thing to say.

I clicked another.

Input: sexy
Output: Hello! I'm pleased to meet you. How may I help you?

Input: ur sexy
Output: That's an interesting thing to say.

Input: thas cuz i m inrested in fukking u
Output: Me?

Input: fuckk my rear
Output: Your what?

Input: i wan u 2 stik ur metal cock n my ass
Output: You want me to what your what? I can show you news and weather.

Input: fuk me u HOTT ROBOT
Output: That's very flattering, but I'm not in the mood right now. Would you like to use my dictionary?

I looked over a few more. With few exceptions, the interactions tended to gravitate closely around either of two themes: highly profane abuse – often savagely racist and/or homophobic – and extremely explicit petitions for sex. In many cases both were present in a single interaction.

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