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CrunchArcade: Pedal to the Metal

spleak.jpgAt some point in the late morning, I woke up. I do that sometimes. I try to at least once a day. And, as I normally do when I wake, I opened my laptop to get to work. I’m a Mac user, so I use iChat for much of my online communications. The program auto-logs-me-on when the machine wakes up, and I noticed I had friends online I’d never seen before. Who was Spleak? Who was Prof Gilzot? I had to find out.

So I decided to ask them. When I messaged Prof Gilzot, who sounds like an alien PH.D., he responded very quickly.

Me: Uh, hey. Who’re you?

Prof Gilzot: Hm? Type menu or help.

How rude. At this point I knew he was a bot, but where did he come from? And what did he do?

I asked with “help”, and got this:

Here is a list of things Prof Gilzot can do. Type in a selection and enjoy! 1. Challenge yourself to a question. 2. How am I doing Prof? 3. Top 10 Results 4. New Questions Alert 5. Email Test Results 6. Refer a friend.

The only thing worse than an uninvited IM bot is one who speaks of himself in the third person. Lame. But a trivia bot? It could be worse. I love trivia, so I’ll bite. I picked 1. The prof said I could choose between math tests, sentence completion, or vocabulary. That’s not trivia, yo. That’s SAT lingo.

So I went to Google, and sure enough, the professor, as well as Spleak, sharethisdotcom, the WSJ and Moviefone had appeared on other’s lists as well, and people weren’t happy.

My buddy list is mine. The people on there are (for the most part) people I know and care about and chat with through the day as I blog and work the day job. I find out where the good shows are, what party is what weekend, and find out if Paris is still in jail or living the gilded life. My buddy list is my link outside of my office and outside of my work, a way to be social on-demand. I love it. It is mine, and I should control it.

Because of this, the idea of virtual bots introduced to my lovely list without my consent rubbed me the wrong way. I’m 31 years old. I am not going to take the SAT anytime soon. And my research indicated Spleak was a 21-year-old girl bot, but not in the way she should be. She’s a gossipbot, relating the latest staggering headlines about Hollywood’s crappy actors, sex scandals, drug busts, and undeserving celebs. That is so annoying. While I love making fun of those cats and kittens, I’m fine with what I overhear from people I know IRL. I don’t need help in AIM. She’s Perez Hilton, but interactive. I’m not ready for that. Nobody is. (Sorry Perez.)

Then there’s the WSJ (Wall Street Journal, n00b), the old-skool financial paper and it’s up-to-the-minute stats. Sure, it could be handy, but does it fit with the others? What about sharethisdotcom? I sent this bot a message and never heard back. Now that’s more rude than the professor ever was. I’m being ignored by online virtual robots. Can you imagine how that feels?

Surely Moviefone would cheer me up. We’ve all heard the Moviefone guy before, and hearing a familiar voice is just what I needed. I said “hi” and Moviefone asked me for the actor’s name I liked. I’ve been in a handful of student and indie films, so I entered my own name. The Moviefone bot told me that I’m not in any currently showing films in my zipcode. Now I was really depressed. Virtual lifeforms ignore me, and I’m not a movie star.

I’m keeping Moviefone though. Had I entered Johnny Depp, I’d know where and when I could see that movie about Pirates. Sure, I could just look online, but if I’m mobile and using mobile AIM, this is faster than waiting for my smartphone’s browser to load and navigating to the page. That’s cool.

But Spleak and Prof Gilzot and WSG and sharethisdotcom and whoever else have to go. As stated before, my buddy list is mine. It’s not AOL’s playground for marketing. Don’t get me wrong, I like chatbots. But I want to pick the bots I use. Adding arbitrary bots to my list without telling me amounts to buddyspam, and AOL should know better than to invent new ways to piss people off.

Oh, and for the record, the complete the sentence questions the professor asks are great. I think he’s trying to impress Spleak.

After a small dinner salad and good conversation at LA’s hot habitat 2 bistro, onlookers weren’t surprised to learn that Lindsay Lohan is __________.

a) not in rehab, where she should be
b) more drunk than Keith Richards at a tour launch and New Years party wrapped in one
c) overrated
d) all of the above
e) no, really, it’s all of the above

I read it from the WSJ bot. Just sayin’.

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