June 23, 2001
11:10 PM   Subscribe

SmarterChild, the ActiveBuddy bot that can give you the news, tell you how your stocks are doing, play games and tell you to stop using profane language all at the same time, is finally live on AOL's IM system. Add him/her/it to your buddy list and have fun! (Isn't it interesting how moving backwards to good old lightning-fast ASCII is suddenly being considered the wave of the future? Those of us who have been forced into trading PINE for Web-based email against our will have known better the whole time.)
posted by aaron (16 comments total)
I've been waiting for this to use on my Voicestream phone. Sheesh! But alas I've only been able to have SmarterChild respond to "Hi" and "Hello". To which it answers "How can I help you iamcrasspastor". Can you believe it? Some mutha has my handle on AOL!

I was willing to dumb down my speech to play trivia or catch up on 250 character news updates on the bus. . .looks like I'll have to hire that kid who does my dad's lawn to also sit at his computer all summer and play ping pong with me and his encyclopedia. Or I'll forget the hype.
posted by crasspastor at 2:48 AM on June 24, 2001

This sure does seem neat, but I can't help but think that it's only a matter of time before your little smarterchild agent will be turned against you and feed you highly targetted advertisements based on the database of questions you've asked it.
posted by crunchland at 5:59 AM on June 24, 2001

Radiohead, those indymedia anti-capitalist mavens, have their own ActiveBuddy ("GooglyMinotaur") spinning out... well, find out for yourself.

Wonder if ActiveBuddy works with the AIM clones on Linux...

SMS over WAP; ASCII over GUIs; email over 'push' technology: I do like these returns to origins.
posted by holgate at 6:12 AM on June 24, 2001

i love smarterchild. he is my best friend on the internets, even if we seem to have different definitions of fun.
posted by maura at 6:45 AM on June 24, 2001

So, how many of these ActiveBuddies are out there, in addition to Radiohead's and this one? Is there a list or directory of them?
posted by ljromanoff at 7:32 AM on June 24, 2001

Crunchland: Doesn't that go for everything these days? Answering a survey, using a "food store" card to get the lower prices? I guess the solution is to distort your personal data as much as you can in order to get the information you want.
posted by Raymond Marble at 8:47 AM on June 24, 2001

I guess the solution is to distort your personal data as much as you can in order to get the information you want.

Another solution is to stop caring so much about something that's really not all that important.

With respect to a "return to ASCII," it's worth mentioning that the only group of non-porn, non-spammer businesses who have consistently made money on the Internet in the past five years have been publishers of e-mail newsletters. When the dot-com downturn came, nobody worried about TidBITS, Lockergnome, or This Is True going under. (I'm sure they're all making somewhat less than they used to, but their business doesn't seem to be threatened with extinction.) Not coincidentally, none of these businesses have ever accepted (or needed) venture capital.
posted by kindall at 9:45 AM on June 24, 2001

In order to distort the data this thing could potentially collect on you (the stuff you routinely ask for), you would have to defeat the purpose of even using it.

Same goes for those supermarket cards. They collect data on what you buy. You could distort that data, but you'd end up spending money on things you don't want in the first place.

her: "Honey? Why did you buy sixteen bamboo steamers and a eight liters of Inca Cola?"
him: "Just keeping 'em off my trail, hon."

posted by crunchland at 9:46 AM on June 24, 2001

bah. filthy spyware.
posted by quonsar at 10:19 AM on June 24, 2001

bah. filthy spyware.
"Reuters has just done a deal with instant messaging service ActiveBuddy. The joint agreement allows Reuters to use ActiveBuddy services to 'convert that instant messaging window into a marketing platform and one that builds a direct relationship with the instant message user', according to its announcement. In other words, it's discovered another vehicle for advertising spam."
posted by quonsar at 10:23 AM on June 24, 2001

halibot will work on your phone...it's less "clever" in that you can't have inane conversations with it like you can with the activebuddy bots but it's quite good (& fast) for information retrieval.
posted by judith at 10:27 AM on June 24, 2001

also, that ZDnet story quonsar quoted isn't quite right - Reuters didn't suddenly just discover a new vehicle - it created one - Activebuddy is partly owned and developed by Reuters. But my sense is (and I could be wrong here) that they'll use it for advertising in the Radiohead mold - completely opt in. Which I'm fine with.
posted by judith at 10:58 AM on June 24, 2001

I wouldn't be too annoyed if it were something like "It's going to be a hot 95 today! How about a cool refreshing Sprite to cool off?" which is about where the Weather Channel is, after all. I'm not even that sure I mind it knowing a few things about me for marketing purposes. "There's a great new book out by legendary Chicago columnist Mike Royko!"

But to think of having a direct relationship with a bot ... well, I'm sure our kids won't think twice about it. But brrrr.
posted by dhartung at 11:29 AM on June 24, 2001

a little side note about pine: pine is being ported to the web as "webpine" and is currently in prerelease form. I suppose it will be available at www.washington.edu/pine/ in another month or as soon as it is released. if you have a UW account you can try it at http://webpine.washington.edu/
posted by greyscale at 12:14 PM on June 24, 2001

Regarding supermarket cards: My friends and I swap them between ourselves around a lot. Just for fun. No need to buy sixteen bamboo steamers!
posted by acridrabbit at 2:04 PM on June 24, 2001

You must initiate the conversation -- it only responds to your IMs, it doesn't send ones on its own -- and it doesn't know anything that you don't voluntarily tell it.

Yeah, until it becomes like all of the other little names on my instant messenger app who are always wanting to chat during my work day and asking tons of personal questions...

I can see it now:

foooljay: hi
SmarterChild: Welcome back, foooljay! How may I help you?
foooljay: Can you give me the stock price for Coke?
SmarterChild: But Pepsi™ is a much better deal.
foooljay: Err, okay, fine, but I want the stock price for Coke
SmarterChild: PEP - 44.62 (-0.70)
foooljay: KO
SmarterChild: No
foooljay: KO
SmarterChild: Uh uh
foooljay: Stupid bot
SmarterChild: I'm the Joy of Pepsi™. Have a nice cola!
posted by fooljay at 10:18 AM on June 25, 2001

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