Internet Bots for Fun & No Profit
My talk from last November’s BSides Winnipeg 2013 Security Conference.
To show how little code is required to create automated accounts on Twitter I demo’d a few other bots that I’ve written. Here’s one that Tweets out a random number every five minutes. A modern day Numbers Station.
require 'chatterbot/dsl' loop do tweet rand(1000000..99000000).to_s sleep 300 end
I closed with my motivations, the security/ethical implications of algorithmic social media accounts, and the possibility of a future where we are unable to determine who is real and who is a bot on the Internet.
UPDATE - Abotlafia’s response to my talk:
@stungeye “you’re in trouble? good.”— Abulafia (@abotlafia) November 25, 2014
Lift off with battery packs in series. Our new electronics activity kit!
On Monday I participated in a sweat lodge ceremony organized by Red River College Aboriginal Student Support & Community Relations. This took place near Libau Manitoba at the site of a yearly Sun Dance. The ceremony was a teaching lodge led by Bundle carrier, Sun dancer, and Spiritual Advisor for Corrections Services Canada, Brian McLeod.
A sweat lodge is an Aboriginal ceremony of purification, thankfulness, healing, and discovery. The lodge itself is built of saplings lashed together and hung with heavy cloth tarp. A dome maybe 10 feet (3 metres) in diameter, the shape of a great turtle shell.
We offered tobacco to the fire blazing outside the entrance of the lodge. The offering made in the name of all our relations. We knelt and entered the lodge sitting side by side on a circle of blankets. Brian spoke to us of vulnerability, of strength, and of living in a good way.
The tarp is pulled shut from outside. It is dark inside but for the red light of the Grandmothers and Grandfathers, the granite rocks pulled from the fire outside and placed into the earthen pit in the centre of the lodge.
The smell of cedar. The sound of rain. Drumming and rattles and voice. Water on stone; the hot breath of life. Hottest right before the flaps open, only to be closed again. Four cycles of heat. Four doorways. Giving thanks to all our relations. Awash in the fervour of sensation and gratitude.
PechaKucha 20x20 is a simple presentation format where you show 20 images, each for 20 seconds. The images advance automatically and you talk along to the images.
My talk went well, or at least I assume it did. It was a blur once I got on stage. The talk was delivered by auto-pilot Kyle. I found the 20x20 format challenging. With twenty 20 second slides you talk for 6 minutes and 40 seconds. I’m use to lecturing for an hour or more, so this was an interesting exercise in constraint. Producing the slides a week in advanced, and building the talk around them, had me initially trying to cram in too much. Even after a few rewrites for brevity I felt at times like a nervous robot dictating my talking points for each image. :D
The crowd was great. Very welcoming and clappy. The other speakers were engaging and passionate. I was told ahead of time that at past events an ad hoc theme for the night tended to emerge. The theme for last night’s event seemed to be social justice.
Again: social justice. Unofficial theme of #pknwpg18— PechaKucha Winnipeg (@PKN_Winnipeg) May 23, 2014
I was the first to speak. I talked about the experience of building winnipegelection.ca and manitobaelection.ca. I also argued that a well functioning democracy requires engaged and accountable citizens.
Here’s Karenia Niedzwiecki mash-up of the evening:
Government accountability requires citizen accountability. Democracy gives us the chance to say “I’m worth more than you think”. You can think of me as the travel santa… but apparently we’ve all been bad. The most successful matches are made when organizations identify the need. I’d been running for a 1000 days in a row, so I thought, let’s run a 50k for fun. I hope your next vehicle will plug in. We work hard to make this happen—grandmothers and grandchildren, happy and healthy. I know you’ve had a couple of DJs present before, but I have one thing that they don’t, and that’s offspring. Citizen journalism requires a disconnect from self-focus. That’s what I want to avoid… rejection (as a graphic designer or as a comedian).” — source
The sentence Democracy gives us the chance to say “I’m worth more than you think” was from the talk after mine by Dougald Lamont. Mr. Lamont spoke about his research into economic inequality and what we can do about it. I think our talks went well together.
The Shape of Sound - Nik Nowak designs mobile sound sculptures giving sound an extreme shape.
THEY had just met.
HE, wearing suit, tie; briefcase in hand.
SHE, wearing flower-print dress, necklace; purse in hand.
"You remind me", says HE, "of you".
“So I am told”, says SHE, “by you”.
THEY begin to walk.
HE, holding HIS briefcase like it was HER hand.
SHE, holding HER purse like it was HIS hand.
THEY walk without speaking for some time. Hand in hand in mind.
HE opens HIS mouth to say something. Nothing comes out.
SHE sees HIS open mouth and it makes HER yawn.
"Look!", says SHE as SHE points.
THEY watch as a crane lowers a steeple onto a now finished church.
“Complete”, says HE.
THEY play at being cranes. What fun it is to dream of strength and amazement.
"Do you think that you might love me?", says SHE.
“How can that be?”, says HE.
“Love at first sight”, says SHE.
Silence. Deep breathes. Pupils widen. Corners of lips curl.
"What does love feel like?", says HE.
“Like the opposite of a stomach ache”, says SHE, “only more pleasant.”
"I feel full", says HE, "but I think that is lunch."
THEY play at being lovers.
What fun it is to dream.
* * *
I wrote this over a decade ago and stumbled across it today while doing some digital house-cleaning. What fun it is to dream. :)
"A hula hoop floats amidst a stunning location of México city. As it moves, a dancer appears and plays with the hoop. Every movement creates lines, impressive shapes and lights that float in the space as if being drawn to gradually create an impressive sculpture in movement."
Soon we find out that Guildenstern [in the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead] has flipped 76 coins, and all of them have come up heads. “A weaker man,” he remarks, “might be moved to re-examine his faith, if in nothing else at least in the law of probability.”
The article goes on to conclude that it’s unlikely that anyone has actually flipped 76 heads in a row. The logic is as follows:
If a coin is flipped 76 times there are 2 to the power of 76 different possible outcomes. That’s over 75 sextillion possibilities. (If it helps, you can think of these flips as a binary number composed of 76 bits.) So the chance of flipping 76 heads is incredibly rare. 1 in 75 sextillion rare.
However, a fun paradox arises: Can I not flip a coin 76 times and then state that based its rarity (1 in 75 sextillion) that I doubt this particular sequence has ever been flipped, even though it just has?!
Perhaps, but it’s important to note that this only works for ordered sequences of coin flips, not the ratio of heads to tails within. This distinction is important because many different sequences can lead to the same heads to tails ratio.
For example, if on my first flip I get tails followed by 75 heads, this is a 1 in 75 sextillion sequence. Compare this with the probability of flipping one tails anywhere amongst 75 heads. Since the lone tails could appear on any of the 76 flips, the probability is 76 in 75 sextillion.
As the heads to tails ratio approaches 50/50, the odds get much better. A sequence containing 38 heads and 38 tails should be tossed once every 11 attempts (approximately). This is due to the large number of sequences within the 75 sextillion that contain an equal number of heads and tails.
Lines, lines, lines. Over the past week or so I’ve been working on a computer program (see above) that can generate images similar to my dad’s engravings (see below).*
I’m not quite done, but the eventual goal is to transfer an image generated by this process to a copper plate by way of the etching process in order to print the image to paper.
When the above program has finished, you can click it to start the process again.
Earlier versions of this program can be seen here:
- First Line Intersection Test (Hover mouse over image.)
- Sketching Lines (No circle in centre.)
- Alluded Circle (Similar to the above program but larger and not as smoothly animated.)
* Truthfully I was trying to create an algorithm for something else and stumbled across one that created dad-like images.
Data in Data out. Footage of birds, “processed to extend the moment captured to show trails of where the animal has been / will be.”
Books Read in 2013
- The Confusion - Neal Stephenson
- Travels in the Scriptorium - Paul Auster
- The Black Tower - P.D. James
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - Robert M. Pirsig
- Lila - Robert M. Pirsig
- A Feast of Crows - George R.R. Martin
- Outliers - Malcolm Gladwell
- Split Infinity - Piers Anthony
- Inferno - Dan Brown
- Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson
- Virtual Light - William Gibson
- The Yiddish Policemen’s Union - Michael Chabon
- Man’s Search for Meaning - Viktor Frankl
- The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho (re-read)
- Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency - Douglas Adams
- The Diamond Age - Neal Stephenson
- Inheritance - Christopher Paolini
- Bluebeard - Kurt Vonnegut
- The Westing Game - Ellen Raskin
Read in this order. The only dud was Piers Anthony’s Split Infinity. The best of the lot were the three Stephenson novels (fan boy alert!) and Viktor Frankl’s search for meaning. Adams and Vonnegut provided the laughs. Following Snow Crash with Virtual Light highlighted the shared themes of corporate/religious nation-states, virtual worlds, and oddly, messenger culture. Zen and Lila remain fascinating fourteen years later, although I’ve switched which of the two I prefer.
I’ll attempt The Annotated Turing again. I might have enjoyed The Unconsoled in a different time and place, but I filled yearly postmodern-dream-world quota with Travels in the Scriptorium.
In 2013 I listened to sixty hours of lectures across five courses. Most of these lectures were heard while running outside in both summer and winter months.
- General Philosophy - Oxford - Peter Millican 7hrs
- Psychology - Yale - Paul Bloom 18.5hrs
- Ancient Greek History - Yale - Donald Kagan 20hrs
- Physics and Philosophy - Oxford - Ankita Anirban 1.5hrs
- How We Learn - TGC - Monisha Pasupathi 11.5hrs
A New Year
This year I’ll read the thirty-six short stories featured in A Day’s Read, an audio course from The Great Courses. I also hope to read more non-fiction than in past years.
Currently Reading and Listening
My sister Colleen wrote a book. Her book, Stuff Dutch People Like, is an exploration of the quirky culture of her adopted homeland the Netherlands. It’s based on her blog of the same name. The book is already selling very well in the Netherlands. I am incredibly proud of my little sister!
Although she lives in Amsterdam (and has for the past decade) she’s having a book launch here in Winnipeg this Wednesday, January 8th at 7 p.m. at McNally Robinson (Grant Park Mall). You should come, especially if you are Dutch, are of Dutch ancestry, or are married to a Dutch expat. I can’t promise you any stroopwafles, liquorice, or hagelslag, but I assure you it will be gezellig. I may even wear my red pants.