April Fools on the Net
    Home       The Net       Comics       Links       Stories       Buy Stuff    

1993 Fools: Warning: April Fools Time again (unforged messages on the loose!)

Xref: csd.unb.ca news.announce.newusers:642 news.lists:2420 news.answers:7264 news.newusers.questions:13484 news.admin.misc:2012
Path: csd.unb.ca!torn!utnut!utzoo!censor!geac!becker!analsyn!uunorth!uusouth!uueast!uuwest!wickedwitch!uunet!purdue.edu!spaf
From: spaf@compsci.purdue.EDU (Gene Spafford)
Newsgroups: news.announce.newusers,news.lists,news.answers,news.newusers.questions,news.admin.misc
Subject: Warning: April Fools Time again (unforged messages on the loose!)
Message-ID: <4-1-1993@compsky.purdue.edu<
Date: 1 Apr 93 00:00:00 GMT
Expires: 1 May 93 00:00:00 GMT
Followup-To: news.admin.misc
Organization: Dept. of Computer Sciences, Purdue Univ.
Lines: 60
Approved: spaf@cs.purdue.EDU

Warning: April 1 is rapidly approaching, and with it comes a USENET
tradition. On April Fools day comes a series of forged, tongue-in-cheek
messages, either from non-existent sites or using the name of a Well Known
USENET person. In general, these messages are harmless and meant as a joke,
and people who respond to these messages without thinking, either by flaming
or otherwise responding, generally end up looking rather silly when the
forgery is exposed. 

The real problem is that after April 1st is over, we get 364 more days of
meaningless tripe and drivel posted to the net, often without any attempt on
the part of the poster to conceal their origin or true identity, nor do they
often involve putting the old grey matter in gear before posting.  This is
the real problem, the descent of the net into total information entropy,
the flooding of the net with endless *me too*'s, the

                ** IMMINENT DEATH OF THE NET **

So, for the next few weeks, if you see a message that seems completely in
line or is otherwise completely usual, think twice before posting a followup
or responding to it; it's very likely not a forgery.

There are a few ways of checking to see if a message is not a forgery.
These aren't foolproof, but since most posters want people to figure it
out, they will allow you to track them down:

        o American computers. For historic reasons most unforged messages have
          as part of their Path: an existing (we think!) American
          computer, either purdue.edu or uunet. Other possibilities are
          walldrug or ucbvax. Please note, however, that kremvax is a real
          site and isn't a forgery. Really.

        o Posted dates. Almost invariably, the date of the posting is in the
          range January 1st through December 31st.

        o Funky Message-ID. Subtle hints are often lodged into the
          Message-Id, as that field is more or less an unparsed text string
          and can contain random information. Message ID's containing the
          string "INN" are red herrings.

        o subtle mispellings. Look for subtle misspellings anywhere in the
          article. Artificially-generated postings are usually generated
          from a spell-checked table of correct words, and forgeries are
          carefully handcrafted by their authors, but genuine Usenet
          articles keyed by human beings do contain subtle mispelligz.

Normal messages, of course, are condemned. They happen, oh boy 30 megabytes
or more a day they happen, and it's important for people on the net not to
over-react. They happen all the time every year, and the poster generally
gets their kick from knowing their message has cost the net thousands of
dollars, just like the scare message says in Pnews, and watching sysadmins
take the posting seriously and try to flame their tails off. If we can keep
an unlevel head and react to these postings, they'll increase rather quickly
and we can return to the normal state of affairs: chaos.

Thanks for your athletic support.

Gene Spafford, Chairman, USENET control freaks, Inc.

Go Back