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Culture

Cybersitter's dirty mouth wipes out Web site

Just because life is moving online doesn't mean human nature will change.

    Mao vs. Chiang Kai-Shek. Ali vs. Foreman. Kramer vs. Kramer. Salon vs. Slate. Just because life is moving online doesn't mean human nature will change. In fact, the relative anonymity of email allows vituperative tempers to flare, with normally contrite writers sounding off with fury and signifying nothing.

    One of the Internet's emerging rivalries is between Solid Oak Software, makers of the Cybersitter filtering software, and Peacefire, a teen-run Web site fighting censorship and, more specifically, blocking software. The folks who run the two organizations have traded barbs ever since Peacefire's Bennett Haselton learned that Cybersitter nixed his organization's Web site. The press, including my esteemed colleagues, picked up on the controversy. Toward the end of 1996, Solid Oak CEO Brian Milburn was blasted by muckraker Brock Meeks, a Hunter S. Thompsonesque Net columnist, and responded in kind with language that wouldn't make it past his own product:

    "I thought I would let you know that your anal fascination with the activities of myself and our company is one of the highest compliments I have ever received!"

    Milburn also told Meeks: "You take yourself too seriously. You are but a trickle of piss in the river of life."

    How Zen! But that's old news. In the latest skirmish, Haselton gleefully posted Milburn's scat-singing on the Peacefire Web site. The move recently backfired when Haselton realized that yet another filtering product, Bess: The Internet Retriever, has found the excretory exclamations objectionable and put the kibosh on his site. One way or another, Haselton's enemy has come back to pester him. He has since removed the "trickle of piss" comment, by the way.

    Another chap has taken it upon himself to rid the Web of the letter "W." Well, not quite, but Dave Yost is mad as hell and won't take the dub-dub-dub anymore. He wants to replace the "www" in everyone's URL with "web," which rolls off the tongue much more mellifluously. Before you call him a nutter, say "wuh-wuh-wuh" ten times fast. Go on, I'll wait.

    Convinced, smarty-pants? Now if we can just convince Yost to slim down the name of his crusade, "The Campaign To Replace 'double-you double-you double-you dot' With 'web dot.'"

    All my Skinfolk wrote to chastise me about last week's mention that up in Redmond, Washington, "NT" officially stands for nothing. Yes, yes, as you all reminded me, it started out as "New Technology," but I've asked several Softies and they insist it doesn't officially have a name. Many of you finger-wagglers pointed out that W(indows)NT is a quick one-letter transposition away from VMS, the operating system that NT guru Dave Cutler helped create when he was at Digital Equipment. But this is all yesterday's lunch meat. How about something fresher, maybe something from the spam grill?

    I had my fill of spammuendo last week. I got email the other day from a company claiming to have a Win95 cancelbot that works with your mail or newsreader client to eliminate spam before it reaches you. Fighting fire with fire? Perhaps. The company claims to be "hell-bent" on eliminating spam, but it seems a little nervous about getting the boot from its ISP. If that happens, it promises to post in the newsgroups, in the binaries...in other words, to create the type of advertispam Usenetters hate.

    To sew things up, bank tellers in Silicon Valley have told my agents that all's well that ends well for ex-Exponentialistas. I reported a few weeks back that many ex-Expoers were stiffed when the company went belly-up. But it seems they've been paid in full for their troubles, apparently because an anonymous purchaser snapped up Expo's patents. How much would you pay for my intellectual property? If you don't email me your rumors, I too will be forced to liquidate.