jwz code response February 27, 2010 2:52 AM   Subscribe

In response to my question about the code on the front page of jwz.org, jwz has sent me the following email.

Hey there,

In the last dozen years, there have been maybe five people who have figured out The Secret, and a maybe another ten who have gotten as far as hattifattener has.

However, until now, ALL of those people have had the good taste to not SPOIL IT FOR EVERYBODY by posting the answer somewhere that is easily Googleable.

I think that the fact that you guys have posted this out in the open like that is very sad and joy-killing.

I would appreciate it if you would delete the post, in the interest of leaving a little mystery in the world, and not ruining what has been a really cool gag for more than a decade. Obviously I can't insist upon that, but I really think that it would be the right thing to do, so I'm asking.

I would have posted this to MeFi but apparently it wants to charge me money to sign up. If you wanted to post this there on my behalf, that would be cool.
I don't want to express any particular opinion on his wishes, but if the consensus is that the question should be deleted, then so be it.
posted by Mwongozi to Etiquette/Policy at 2:52 AM (117 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: not at all psyched about this but poster's request is poster's request. -- jessamyn



Deleting seems like a relatively painless way to keep everyone happy. That's better some deletions, which only make everyone mad.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:58 AM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I will sponsor JWZ's metafilter account if no one else will (if he even wants one).
posted by gac at 3:21 AM on February 27, 2010


Give me a break. If you put a puzzle on the publicly-accessible internet, it is unreasonable to expect people to not want to solve it, and having a group work on that puzzle and post their progress towards a solution is only natural. It just seems like the site owner's "don't spoil it for everyone" is more like "don't spoil it for me."
posted by MegoSteve at 3:25 AM on February 27, 2010 [35 favorites]


i'm totally in favor of deleting it. i think it's fun to think of something that isn't easily google-able. and it's not like the thread disappears. the progress made so far will still be there, taunting mefites who know about it to go one step further.
posted by nadawi at 3:27 AM on February 27, 2010


Concur, delete it.
posted by DreamerFi at 3:40 AM on February 27, 2010


Yeah, I'd also recommend you ask for it to be deleted. I'd never realized that hex dump on jwz.org meant anything. It's a pretty neat puzzle, and I'm all for having more little mysteries in the world. I don't think there's anything wrong with asking MeFi to solve it, but it'd be nice if the answer wasn't just a Google search away. Which is exactly what deletion achieves.
posted by serathen at 3:56 AM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Of course it may be that this Meta post is just as easily findable in a search, in which case it wouldn't help much.
posted by serathen at 3:58 AM on February 27, 2010


Well, just deleting the link from this post would work I guess.
posted by serathen at 4:01 AM on February 27, 2010


I like puzzles, and I think the joy of them is in the solving, but when I don't have the skill or inclination to solve a very hard puzzle, I still enjoy seeing how someone else did it.

It sounds like it's already an incredibly rare occurrence for anyone to actually work all the way through to completing this one.
Having the answer, or even just some clues somewhere, seems like it's going to spoil the puzzle for at most half a dozen people a decade if they're also the sort to give in and go look at a solution. On the other hand, it means that hundreds of people like me who are just curious will get a little happiness out of just finding out about it.

Probably the nicest thing to do would be to just delete the question. But I think that pragmatically, the puzzle has had its run, and more aggregate joy would come from having a few spoilers available.
posted by lucidium at 4:19 AM on February 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Anyone who Googles the answer wouldn't have taken the time to solve it in the first place.
posted by mpbx at 4:28 AM on February 27, 2010 [10 favorites]


I vote for keeping it up. It's an obscure secret with almost no payoff for the effort put in. From what I can gather from the answers, it sounds like everyone's work has been rewarded with a few seconds of low-quality, barely audible music. It's not a classic mystery for the ages; it's a years-old puzzle on the internet and it's only a matter of time before it's entirely forgotten anyway.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 4:31 AM on February 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Delete it. The nature of this puzzle is different from figuring out that the Eagles are going to play at a private party. The honor of figuring it out belongs to only a few. Do your own homework.

Come on people, is jwz. Show some respect.
posted by ellenaim at 4:35 AM on February 27, 2010


I have no idea who JWZ is, and I abhor mystery meat navigation, so I say it should stay. I mean, he'ss whining about this? How did Kit Williams feel when someone cheated to find his golden hare?

Not that my opinion really matters.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:52 AM on February 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't actually have any idea who or what jwz.org is, but I think Metafilter is a community, and the community doing something together, whether it's solving a pointless internet puzzle or taking down an idiot who is astroturfing his charity site, is good and worth preserving.

Whether the value of preserving Metafilter's community activities is worth more than the value of keeping this particular puzzle unspoilered isn't something I particularly have an opinion on, but I don't think the thread should be deleted reflexively as if it completely doesn't matter. Those types of puzzle solving adventures feature prominently in our collective history.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:01 AM on February 27, 2010 [8 favorites]


jwz was one of the key programmers at Netscape a long time ago. I gather he now mainly owns a night club. Smart guy who seems a bit idiosyncratic.
I don't have anything approaching the skills to solve the puzzle, but know enough to grok the explanation in the thread and appreciate that it is a tricky puzzle. Delete it or not, its not a huge deal.
posted by bystander at 5:15 AM on February 27, 2010


I abhor mystery meat navigation

Me too, but I wouldn't call "email, blog, work, software, stories, tech" mystery meat.
posted by grouse at 5:47 AM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


mpbx writes "Anyone who Googles the answer wouldn't have taken the time to solve it in the first place."

Exactly. Anyone who goes to google to find an answer is practically by definition not being spoiled. If the mysteries of your front page won't stand up to a googling and that concerns you, you probably don't want to be posting it on the internet.

It still ticks me off that the lawyers of he whose name shall not be spoken got the ikkyu's speculation deleted. JWZ's homepage isn't any different.
posted by Mitheral at 5:51 AM on February 27, 2010 [10 favorites]


Wow, I'm kind of surprised that so many people have been so casual about recommending deletion. Look, somebody asked a solveable question, and it was answered. This is exactly what Ask Metafilter is for, and the fact that someone would prefer the information remain unGoogleable is really not relevant here. I presume we wouldn't be so eager if that ski lodge said "We would really prefer that people solve the mystery for themselves. Please delete the post that explains our viral ad."

Deleting this post sets a terrible precedent.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:54 AM on February 27, 2010 [45 favorites]


jwz doesn't care enough about the issue to spend $5 to ask directly for deletion. Let's not spend too much time agonizing about how desperately this needs to be done.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:08 AM on February 27, 2010 [29 favorites]


Agreed that it's a bad precedent. Tough shit for JWZ. If he wants to keep secrets, he can restrict his website to his friends. Public and online is public and online.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:13 AM on February 27, 2010 [12 favorites]


But this isn't a viral ad. This is an individual who has asked that we not spoil something he has invested a lot of time in. Yes, we can collectively solve puzzles and we like to answer questions and believe me, I love this community, but just because we have the power and right to shit on someone's parade doesn't mean we should. Especially if they asked us not to. It's common courtesy.
posted by ellenaim at 6:20 AM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wikipedia has a short article about jwz (Jamie Zawinski). I don't have an opinion about deleting the post or not, except that I think that who the person is should not matter in the decision-making process.
posted by Houstonian at 6:22 AM on February 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


This dude runs the most popular celebrity gossip site and he wants us to take down a 'secret'?
posted by gman at 6:29 AM on February 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


It still ticks me off that the lawyers of he whose name shall not be spoken got the ikkyu's speculation deleted.

What?
posted by milarepa at 6:31 AM on February 27, 2010


Check your MeMail, milarepa.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:39 AM on February 27, 2010


Seconding the fact that he did this through somebody else instead of ponying up $5 to lay down his convictions. I don't think it should be deleted. We are a community - I've read the AskMe question and although it's way over my head I think it's really, really cool that people came together to try to figure out what the hell the code meant.

We're not debating, say, an FPP with the answer to the code. We're debating a 30+ comment brainstorm on what the code means and how to solve it. It is a community effort, and it should stay visible to this community.
posted by deacon_blues at 6:56 AM on February 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Don't delete. The cat is out of the bag.
posted by event at 7:07 AM on February 27, 2010


Someone could add that askme url to robots.txt.
posted by stavrogin at 7:14 AM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


jwz has been on the web since early days, hopefully he doesn't genuinely think he can keep something off it. His reason for wishing it offline is silly; if he wants a puzzle to be unspoiled for a while he should write a new puzzle, only the first to solve it can have the glory.
posted by Tobu at 7:15 AM on February 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


You know, it's not an answer that's all "GRAR! Justice! Information wants to be free!"-ish, but I think the best way to approach this would be to base it on already existing Metafilter standards.

So, I'd ask the moderators, who are hopefully at least reading this thread: if the author of a post asks you to delete their post, will you just do it, or does their reason for wanting deletion have to match one of a handful of acceptable reasons? If the latter, what are those reasons?

Frankly, Mwongozi, depending on a moderator's response to that question, I think you are the one on the spot for deciding whether or not to go about having your question deleted. Sorry.

As for my advice as to that decision:

On one hand, the man has certainly accomplished a lot of base-level "good" in the world, according to Wikipedia's description of his life thus far, that one could honor that good by respecting his request.

On the other hand, as someone pointed out, unless this MetaTalk thread is also deleted (and that would take a far higher level of moderator accomodation), I'm not sure how much good deleting the Ask Metafilter thread would be, since such deletions don't wipe the thread blank.

And despite my respect for his accomplishments, personally, I do think it's a bit foolish of Mr. Zawinski to expect social engineering methods to serve as a proper container to limit the dissemination of knowledge. All it'd take is one person to disagree with this and reproduce the information elsewhere.
posted by WCityMike at 7:18 AM on February 27, 2010


44 45 42 55 47 2E 45 58-45 20 69 73 20 6D 79 20
73 65 6B 72 69 74 20 65-6E 63 72 79 70 74 30 72
20 72 69 6E 67 2C 20 70-6C 7A 20 64 6F 6E 27 74
20 68 61 78 20 6D 69 20-74 68 78 20 20 20 20 20
posted by lordaych at 7:22 AM on February 27, 2010


Keep it up, I say. If jwz doesn't want puzzles to be solved, he shouldn't be putting them on the Internet.
posted by the dief at 7:24 AM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think he's framed the request decently enough and his motive is to preserve what he sees as the enjoyment value of the puzzle. I don't think it would necessarily have to set any precedent - our mods seem well capable of judging different cases on their particular merits - though I have no especially strong feelings either way.
posted by Abiezer at 7:29 AM on February 27, 2010


jwz is kind of a nerd idol of mine and I can dig the entertainment value and bragging rights that comes with cracking into a good puzzle, but I honestly don't feel great about trying to nuke a legit problem-solving askme in an effort to make the internet at large a spoiler-free zone.

We're willing to chew on third-party requests for deletion in the case of e.g. inadvertent (or intentional) breaches of privacy and such, but that's generally about as low as the bar for "please delete this content from your site on my behalf" stuff goes. Any number of other puzzles have been dug into on the green (and the blue, and the grey) in the past, and a lot of people get joy from that; there's a community vector to this that transforms the idea of Not Spoiling It into Not Being Able To Talk About It in practical terms.

Fundamentally, we'll remove an asker's question if they ask us too, so if you conclude that's how you feel Mwongozi then we'll respect that. Beyond that, while I have mixed feelings about the whole situation I am not personally inclined to take any action on this.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:41 AM on February 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Celebrity programmer? Who cares? Make a new puzzle.

I'd never heard of him or his website until the question. A web developer should be the last person who thinks that hiding information on the web can be accomplished by deleting stuff. Too bad. Render a new harder puzzle and do so again when that one gets deciphered.

I really hate the idea of deleting a post and comments made by members in good faith and clearly within the site guidelines for one non-member's whim. It's not as though the information will damage anyone's reputation, safety, or finances. I get that he's bummed that his puzzle got sorted out but life is not static and you can't force it to be so.
posted by Babblesort at 7:42 AM on February 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


Keep it up.

If he's so concerned about the integrity of his difficult puzzle, then he can change the damn puzzle. I have no desire or skill to attempt such a puzzle, but the thread was an interesting read.

What's he worried about, now he can't send his congratulatory e-mail any more?
posted by graventy at 7:43 AM on February 27, 2010


I'm with cortex on this one. Should be entirely the OP's call.

This said, without this post I would have never seen that site.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:49 AM on February 27, 2010


I can appreciate why jwz requested we remove it, but it just feels weird to kill a perfectly good question and answer, and even if we did, there's no doubt someone here would repost it on their personal site that would make it just as googleable.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:54 AM on February 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Y'all are a buncha spoilsports. Delete it.
Or better, get hattifattener to agree to have it deleted.
If it weren't for jwz this puzzle wouldn't exist for you to solve.
posted by msittig at 7:56 AM on February 27, 2010


I'm for the OP asking for it to be deleted, if he sees fit. It's like a magic trick being demystified: it's never as satisfying as being in the position of attempting to figure it out (or, for that matter, wondering if it wasn't actually "magic").
posted by marimeko at 7:57 AM on February 27, 2010


Be sure to drink your Ovaltine. Ovaltine? A crummy commercial? Son of a bitch!
posted by ericb at 8:06 AM on February 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


What does it matter if people who would google the answer to the puzzle know the answer to the puzzle?

I would never be able to solve the puzzle, nor would I have any interest in solving the puzzle. If I know the answer to the puzzle, so what? I would never have solved it or tried to solve it.

People wanting to cheat aren't the people the puzzle is designed for, anyway.
posted by jayder at 8:06 AM on February 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Leave it up. It's five bucks for him to personally express his displeasure at the big reveal of The Secret. The cover charge at the DNA Lounge is probably ten.
posted by fixedgear at 8:07 AM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


This looks like a job for ROT13!

No? No?
posted by Artw at 8:08 AM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can understand why he wants it deleted - you set up something. It's your little secret. In plain sight and yet only available to those who look at it and say, "You know, I'll bet he didn't randomly generate this hex code. I wonder where it comes from?" and then actually bother to do the grind and figure it out.

The problem he's running into is the one that the folks who created The Beast did. I can't find the quote right now, but it can basically be summed up as, "We gave them some puzzles. We thought they'd solve some in a day, some in a week, and some they'd never solve until we gave them more clues. The solved them all in the first day."

JWZ has half the problem - If you get a group together with the right skill set, give them your knowledge based puzzle, and say "OK guys, solve this." It's going to take them about an hour if all the data is available.

DARPA has the other half - Any schmuck can stumble across one of your big red balloons, but only a vast network of schmucks can dream of finding them all.

I'm not sure that policing the internet and asking people to delete anything that's a clue to JWZs not-exactly-a-puzzle is a viable solution to his not-exactly-a-problem. If he's giving away keys to the inner sanctum based on solving the puzzle, well, a guy who was involved in one of the first serious pieces of web browsing software should have put more thought into the implications of the web.

If, on the other hand, he's worried about our ruining people's fun, that seems like a more valid point, but I think the comment that's already been made is legitimate - that people likely to solve it aren't Googling for it.

My vote - convert the whole thread to hexadecimal and call it good.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:13 AM on February 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


Y'all are a buncha spoilsports. Delete it.

How so? If the first thing someone tries upon finding a puzzle on jwz.org is to google "puzzle jwz" than they weren't trying to solve the puzzle. They were trying to find the answer. Someone can still solve the puzzle on their own, without any help if they want to.
posted by graventy at 8:19 AM on February 27, 2010


And if someone puts together an FPP on how MP3s work, I found enough stuff looking for that quote from the puppet masers non-quote I cite above to put together a sweet FPP on game design.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:19 AM on February 27, 2010


Keep the question. I hardly call people working out a publically-available puzzle "sad" or "joy-killing." Puzzles that no one ever figures out aren't rewarding for anyone except the person who made them.
posted by TBAcceptor at 8:29 AM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


jwz doesn't care enough about the issue to spend $5 to ask directly for deletion. Let's not spend too much time agonizing about how desperately this needs to be done.

I kind of agree, jwz can afford a fucking Metafilter account if I can. Christ.

And also, tough cookies jwz. Make up a new puzzle now why don't ya.
posted by dubitable at 8:46 AM on February 27, 2010


I believe we have a protocol for this already. Unless I am very much mistaken, except in the cases Cortex just outlined, Teh Mods only edit posts at the poster's request. There is not a polling mechanism in place for reasons this thread is about to ably demonstrate.

Therefore, Mwongozi, it's your call. Either ask for the domain in question to be redacted, or don't. There is no need for the community consensus you're not going to get anyway.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:48 AM on February 27, 2010


Just edit the post to put a big SPOILER WARNING at the top. That is how you deal with spoilers, not by deleting them.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:49 AM on February 27, 2010 [9 favorites]


I'd never heard of him or his website until the question. A web developer should be the last person who thinks that hiding information on the web can be accomplished by deleting stuff.

jwz's a web developer?

jwz doesn't care enough about the issue to spend $5 to ask directly for deletion.

metafilter is yelp?
posted by effbot at 9:06 AM on February 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


As a matter of personal opinion, I would be in favor of Mwongozi requesting that the thread be deleted. I neither feel that anyone "owes" deletion to jwz nor that there is necessarily anything morally or ethically wrong with leaving it up. However, in the spirit of mystery and goodwill, it is my personal preference that the thread be deleted.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 9:10 AM on February 27, 2010


This is ridiculous. Of course the thread shouldn't be deleted. What a bizarre request, especially from someone who presumably understands the internet.
posted by languagehat at 9:24 AM on February 27, 2010 [21 favorites]


This is like at the end of Indiana Jones the Last Crusade when the dusty old knight is guarding the grail and he tries valiantly to use what little strength he has to fight off Indy. Jwz should gracefully say "you vanquished me" and realize the challenge lasted for eons (in internet time) and its over.

I love puzzles, mysteries, and still have those mindtrap card riddles. Its fun to create your own riddles also, and it is fantastic that so few people have succeeded (well how many even attempted it seriously) over 10 years.

But it's over. It has been solved before and partially solved in the thread. With all due respect, sir, you have been vanquished. Time to come up with something better.
posted by cashman at 9:32 AM on February 27, 2010


jwz's a web developer?

What does this mean? Like I said I'd never heard of him before this. Based only on what I've read right here he evidently wrote some portion of Netscape. That counts as a web developer to me. It seems like you are implying there's something wrong with describing him as such. Is there? Honest question. I don't know him or have any opinion about him as a person or as a professional.
posted by Babblesort at 9:35 AM on February 27, 2010


Its Mwongozi's post, they can decide. If it were my post and jwz asked me to delete it the way he asked Mwongozi, I'd delete it.
posted by ish__ at 9:35 AM on February 27, 2010


I'm a bit surprised by the vitriol expressed toward jwz. This probably could've been handled differently by jwz - they probably should have just contacted mathowie directly - but that doesn't really change the fact that this is one old-school internet guy asking another old-school internet guy for a favor. The classy thing to do would've been to honor the request. Of course the internet is free and open, and of course it's basically designed to expose "secrets", but why let MetaFilter be the site that fully exposes it? Ya'll can make the argument that if it isn't here, it'll happen somewhere else. Fine, my response is, so let it be somewhere else. If a guy comes to you and asks you for a small favor, to honor a secret, I don't see the real harm in saying okay, the secret's been around for 10 years, and I won't be the top 5 google hit for its exposure.

Frankly, given the site's size and growing influence on the 'net, these kinds of favors are a bit like embracing the site's roots as a tiny blog that no one gave a shit about 10 years ago. I think this site owes people that courtesy.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 9:35 AM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


What a fascinating capsule of Internet culture. For me, jwz is one of those Internet people who has such a history, is so important to the development of our culture, that I'd do anything like this that he asks. In a minute. And most of you whippersnappers here are like "who is this guy? doesn't he understand how the Internet works?". I guess it's inevitable. jwz, if you're reading, you're officially an Old Dude now.
posted by Nelson at 9:35 AM on February 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm very much against setting the precedent of a one-off rule change for the sake of something as dire & consequential as a puzzle. We trust the mods to run the site fairly, that they'll apply the same set of rules & logic to all cases equally. Disappearing this post without the poster's consent undermines that trust.

Don't do it, guys.
posted by scalefree at 9:39 AM on February 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


SeizeTheDay and Nelson are right on. Its the OP's post they can do what they want. But the way the community is reacting is some major lulz here. Obviously its not a requirement of getting on the internet to know who jwz is, but things like

It still ticks me off that the lawyers of he whose name shall not be spoken got the ikkyu's speculation deleted.

and

I kind of agree, jwz can afford a fucking Metafilter account if I can. Christ.

and

I get that he's bummed that his puzzle got sorted out but life is not static and you can't force it to be so.

and

What's he worried about, now he can't send his congratulatory e-mail any more?

are missing jwz's request entirely. He doesn't want to get on Metafilter. He isn't trying to force anything. And he has his own reasons. He asked politely to remove a thread about him. Just because its "just a puzzle" doesn't make it any less important to him. The way everyone is reacting like "grow up" and "this is how it works in the real world dude" is disappointing to me. And comparisons to ikkyu's thing are just ridiculous. There are no lawyers and jwz is fully aware he can't force anything.

I think this MetaTalk thread is worse than the original AskMe really. Now in addition to spoiling his fun, he gets to have a hundred people psychoanalyze his reasons and tear him up over it.
posted by ish__ at 9:53 AM on February 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


The classy thing to do would've been to honor the request.

We're not talking about Matt making a post on his personal blog and jwz being like "oh hey can you amend that blog entry". The request is to remove someone's good-faith question and cut off lots of folks participation in a totally legitimate use of this site as the community space it was designed to be.

I don't think classiness is a very clear-eyed frame in which to view this situation. And, again, I'm a total nerd for jwz, so this isn't some Who The Fuck Are You thing justifying the thinking here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:58 AM on February 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


"However, until now, ALL of those people have had the good taste to not SPOIL IT FOR EVERYBODY by posting the answer somewhere that is easily Googleable."

I'm having trouble understanding how someone who has any insight into how the Web works could think this is a reasonable thing to say. The Internet might have worked this way 15 years ago, but it sure doesn't now. And I don't see that as a bad thing.

Also, people wanting to have the joy of solving the puzzle aren't going to google the answer.

Dude is being silly.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:04 AM on February 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Christ, I don't know anything about the guy or his history, but I do love a good puzzle and if someone asked me to take an answer list off of my personal website I would in a snap. And I have; for a while I was one of the first google results for notpr0n's username/password list.

Even disregarding that, the OP of the AskMe question made this thread to ask for it to be deleted. I've seen 'poster's request' as a deletion question several times, so why is it wrong to do it this time?
posted by flatluigi at 10:07 AM on February 27, 2010


"The classy thing to do would've been to honor the request."

How is it classy to delete an AskMe post just to satisfy the odd whim of some anachronistic nerd who has goofy ideas about public web sites?

This is cool, but it's not the last endangered black rhino. It's a puzzle on the Internet.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:09 AM on February 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


It still ticks me off that the lawyers of he whose name shall not be spoken got the ikkyu's speculation deleted

Indeed. I can't remember another time when the threat of legal action has caused the removal of material on Metafilter, though perhaps I have missed things. (Are we not allowed to mention that it was Tom Cruise? If so, mods feel free to delete.)
posted by jokeefe at 10:11 AM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think we need to hold a contest to see who can convince the most famous (real-world or Internet) person to make the most capricious, outrageous or indefensible request of the mods & have them comply with it. Points will be awarded in each of the three areas (fame, badness, compliance) & the contestant with the top overall score will be awarded an account with mod priveileges (but none of the responsibilities).

Who wants to play?
posted by scalefree at 10:11 AM on February 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think it should stay but let's not go overboard here. He made no mention of lawyers or threats of repercussions. I disagree with the request but a request was all it was.
posted by Babblesort at 10:12 AM on February 27, 2010


Frankly, net.diety or no, jwz comes across as incredibly douchey and self-centered in that email.

Phrases like "ALL of those people have had the good taste to not SPOIL IT FOR EVERYBODY" and "the fact that you guys have posted this out in the open like that is very sad and joy-killing" and "I really think that it would be the right thing to do" are just dripping with condescension and I-know-better-than-you-because-I-am-better-than-you

Now, maybe he is better than us-- he's certainly better than I am at an awful lot of thing, no doubt-- but both courtesy and common sense dictate that when you come asking for what is, essentially, a favor, you might consider doing it humbly rather than arrogantly.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 10:13 AM on February 27, 2010 [11 favorites]


Even disregarding that, the OP of the AskMe question made this thread to ask for it to be deleted.

No, the asker posted this reporting the request from jwz and stating no particular position about its deletion one way or the other. If that changes and they decide that they fundamentally and personally want it deleted, that's different, but that's not where we are.

Are we not allowed to mention

It's pretty much Matt's call. I don't think speaking of it in abstract is really a problem, but at the same time we'd clearly be better off not going into any detail, since its the details that to my understanding causeed the stupid litigious bullshittery in the first place.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:15 AM on February 27, 2010


Even disregarding that, the OP of the AskMe question made this thread to ask for it to be deleted. I've seen 'poster's request' as a deletion question several times, so why is it wrong to do it this time?

No, he asked for consensus:
I don't want to express any particular opinion on his wishes, but if the consensus is that the question should be deleted, then so be it.
He's asking us to make the decision on whether it stays or goes.
posted by scalefree at 10:17 AM on February 27, 2010


the OP of the AskMe question made this thread to ask for it to be deleted

As others said, that's not true, flat. He just asked what people thought about it. And it seems unlikely at this point that we will get a "consensus" about it...

I like puzzles too, and I understand how jwz feels. I'm sure there is a way (robots.txt or whatever) to mitigate against his main issue - the answer showing up in searches - without deleting a perfectly fine Ask question. But even that would set a bad precedence, IMO. I personally think it should stand unless Mwongozi specifically asks for it to be deleted.
posted by gemmy at 10:33 AM on February 27, 2010


Honestly, for people like me who had no idea this puzzle existed and would have even less idea how to go about solving it, it's interesting and adds to the joy. I absolutely understand where JWZ is coming from and I sympathize with his desire not to have the solution out in the open, but it's cooler to me see a group of people figuring out a puzzle together than to have it stay an impenetrable secret accessible to only a few.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:34 AM on February 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


if the author of a post asks you to delete their post, will you just do it, or does their reason for wanting deletion have to match one of a handful of acceptable reasons? If the latter, what are those reasons?

In almost every case, we'll delete any thread at the poster's request. Occasionally we'll ask a poster in AskMe, if their reasoning is "It's embarrassing to have it associated with my username" if anonymizing the post is okay with them because we'd prefer to do that. People who abuse the deletion/anonymizing option may find it not available to them in the future, but that's really all the modly guidelines that apply to this situation.

Mwongozi, ball's in your court. I suspect you're unlikely to find consensus on this.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:34 AM on February 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


If someone really wants to put the time into solving a puzzle, they're not going google it. That's why I stopped reading that post 2 comments in. Don't delete it.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 10:37 AM on February 27, 2010


Another vote for Don't Delete it. The question was a perfectly legitimate use of AskMe, and I enjoyed reading the thread. All we can control is this little section of the internet. It follows our guidelines, people got some pleasure out of it.. what's the problem? Sooner or later someone else is going to let the cat out of the bag. As y6y6y6 said, its not like shooting the last black rhino on earth... it's an internet puzzle. A little perspective.
posted by pintapicasso at 10:54 AM on February 27, 2010


Breaking! Barbra Streisand doesn't want you looking at her house.

Come on guys, she's a legend.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:02 AM on February 27, 2010

Or better, get hattifattener to agree to have it deleted.
For what it's worth, I got the same message from jwz, and wrote a note to the mods with similar sentiment to Mwongozi's. Having mulled it over a bit, I'm pretty much in the "if you don't want the puzzle spoiled, don't google for it" camp1 but I read jwz's letter as a polite and reasonable enough request, and if we can, for example, mark that askme as noindex without it being a PITA for matessexapbinta, I'm all in favor of that. I wouldn't actually be upset if the thread were deleted, either, though that seems like overkill.

(1 I don't have trouble not flipping to page 73 to read the crossword solution either. But sometimes someone makes a puzzle that's designed to require googling to solve, phooey.)
posted by hattifattener at 11:24 AM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


matessexapbinta

That word scares me.
posted by lore at 11:45 AM on February 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


jwz's letter as a polite and reasonable enough request

Reasonable, I'll give you. Polite? Not so much.

ALL of those people have had the good taste to not SPOIL IT FOR EVERYBODY

Dear jwz, if you're reading this and not responding because you don't have a paypal account (though, I hear mathowie will let people who are being talked about in for free, and the nerdgasms caused by your presence would almost certainly make the sidebar), generally when you're asking someone for a favour, it's best not to tell them they're tasteless, you know? If you save the personal insults for after the inevitable 'no', it magically becomes a lot less inevitable.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:54 AM on February 27, 2010 [8 favorites]


If using robots.txt to conceal the solution from Google is technically possible, then it seems like that would satisfy both jwz's and cortex's concerns. What would be the downside to such a solution?
posted by Jpfed at 11:57 AM on February 27, 2010


I like puzzles too, and I understand how jwz feels.

Really? Why? I enjoy puzzles too, but the existence of an answer for it does not change the state of the puzzle.

Sometimes I like to be challenged by videogames, but that doesn't mean I ask GameFAQs to remove content from their site.
posted by graventy at 11:58 AM on February 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Someone could add that askme url to robots.txt

Sounds like an ideal compromise to me.
posted by weston at 11:59 AM on February 27, 2010


Leave the askme, take reasonable steps like robots.txt to prevent search engines from indexing it.
posted by fatbird at 12:03 PM on February 27, 2010


Another vote for keeping the AskMe thread. Killing it sets a bad precedent.
posted by exlotuseater at 12:05 PM on February 27, 2010


I agree with Metroid Baby. I would never have tried to figure it out (clicking on it, I thought, "oooh, pretty... okay, boring"). But once I saw others figuring it out, I appreciated everything that went into making it and everything that was going into figuring it out, and I was impressed, and happy to be able to follow along. I'd vote for keeping it but shielding it from search engines, too.
posted by salvia at 12:07 PM on February 27, 2010


ah, to be a more special snowflake.
posted by the aloha at 12:07 PM on February 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


So the way I see it is this:
1. Dude inside the community sees something interesting, wants to ask about it.
2. Dude outside the community sees the dude inside the community asking, and wants him to stop announcing it to the world.
3. Dude inside the community has the decision of "deleting" his thread...final say by mods anyways, of course.
4. Who is to say that me, or someone else who is anti-deletion on this matter won't post the same question again, get the same answers...and NOT want to delete it.

I suggest to the original OP remain the only OP.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:16 PM on February 27, 2010


I understand jwz's frustration (sort of) but I agree with jacquilynne that going out of his way to make the OP feel like a shitheel for having the temerity to post the question in the first place leaves a bad taste. If I received an email like that from someone I had never met I would likely tell them to go screw. I say this only to highlight that reasonable minds can differ and I agree that it should be up to the poster.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 12:24 PM on February 27, 2010


I agree it's the OP's call, but I hope very much that the OP does not request deletion. Jayder has it exactly right. In the NYT crossword puzzle collections you can buy at the bookstore, they have all the answers in the back. I could go ahead and fill out every puzzle just by looking at the back pages. Yet of course I don't do that. Same, of course, with people who really want to solve this puzzle - anyone who wants to enjoy the challenge simply won't "cheat."

A desire to remove the answer (or a partial answer) from the Internet cannot, therefore, be motivated by wanting to preserve the puzzle's puzzliness. It can only be motivated by a desire to prevent people who are unable or unwilling to solve the puzzle from knowing the answer. In other words, it's an attempt to keep certain knowledge secret and in the hands of an elite group.

Because I oppose (in general, though perhaps not always) attempts to keep knowledge secret, I therefore hope the OP does not request deletion.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 12:28 PM on February 27, 2010


I would be ok with adding noindex to the page and doing a robots.txt line for it.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:30 PM on February 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


What would be the downside to such a solution?

It feels like a camel's nose to me. I think we ought to be leery of creating the impression that people are entitled to ask us to conceal content (that isn't libelous or egregiously privacy-violating), because that will only lead to ever-escalating requests to do so.

On preview, I defer to Matt's judgement, of course.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:35 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


jwz's letter is a great example of the importance of framing requests at people politely and non-lecturingly, because tone really does matter if you're asking someone to do you a favor that they're under absolutely no obligation to do.

My response to that letter as written would be to shrug with a mental "oh, screw off" and delete it. If it had actually been phrased in a more humble "Hey, I have this puzzle out there, and a few people over the years have solved it and really enjoyed the process of doing so. While I know the nature of the internet means people can openly discuss the solution as they choose, I'd personally prefer it if you could delete or have the moderators of Metafilter delete your question about it. Hopefully that's possible, please consider it" or the like, I'd be inclined to likewise shrug, but also go ahead and email the mods a quiet request to remove the question and why. Tone matters.

That's just me, though. As it stands, my vote's for letting it stand. Mwongozi can file my vote in whatever bin they like. :)
posted by Drastic at 12:36 PM on February 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


That is, to shrug and delete the you-sad-joy-killing-tasteless-person letter and let the post stand.
posted by Drastic at 12:37 PM on February 27, 2010


Honestly, for people like me who had no idea this puzzle existed and would have even less idea how to go about solving it, it's interesting and adds to the joy.

Yeah, this. The guy must be getting more traffic to his website from people predisposed to think it's cool and as others have said anyone who wants to solve it can still do so without googling. It's not like we're cheating for a prize or something. I hope if it does get deleted many people repost it around the place.

Also put me in the camp of finding the email pompous and somewhat condescending, at least in places. On the other hand I see no reason why he should have to pay for an account to be upset about this. Not wanting to join metafilter is a perfectly fine choice and shouldn't figure into the question of what to do here.
posted by shelleycat at 12:41 PM on February 27, 2010


Oh and removing it from google etc is cool. It's not like not being in google means you no longer exist, whatever google itself might want you to think.
posted by shelleycat at 12:43 PM on February 27, 2010


I would be ok with adding noindex to the page and doing a robots.txt line for it.

I do not like this idea, for essentially the same reasons I think deleting the post altogether is bad. I simply don't see why the answer to the puzzle should only be in the hands of a select few. Removing the ability of Google to see this page means that it will essentially become unfindable.

As has now been said several times in this thread, anyone who wants to solve the puzzle will do so without first trying to look up the answers. Making this AskMe un-Google-able will only affect people who do not wish or are not able to solve the puzzle.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 1:06 PM on February 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


It feels like a camel's nose to me. I think we ought to be leery of creating the impression that people are entitled to ask us to conceal content (that isn't libelous or egregiously privacy-violating), because that will only lead to ever-escalating requests to do so.

I don't totally disagree, but I'm okay with us doing as a one-off here even with those reservations. Certainly better than deleting the whole mess.

I'll happily state right here and now for any potential future reader fishing for a precedent that, no, this does not mean you have the right to have whatever random request you might have ginned up granted. Fie, hypothetical future requester. Fie.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:10 PM on February 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know, the puzzle is only half-solved. It sounds like to actually learn "the secret" you have to monitor the site to collect audio at three seconds a day. That's cute enough that I might try it, even if someone eventually posts the purported contents of the file.

Keep.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 1:11 PM on February 27, 2010


Is robots.txt / noindex a real solution? Does google forget things if you ask it not to look again?
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 1:14 PM on February 27, 2010


i think the interpretations of his email are tone-deaf. or tone-adding. he sounds dismayed and sincere, which admittedly can come off somewhat negative to those who practice a more critical/cynical outlook on the world. or he has engineer brain and doesn't see the sense in beating around the bush. also not negative, just direct.

making it non-indexing sounds like the best compromise and i hope that's what the OP requests, ultimately.

some of the replies here seem kind of derisive, which is so unnecessary as to be a bit saddening.

(((((((((big hugs. yay.)))))))))
posted by batmonkey at 1:20 PM on February 27, 2010


I agree with batmonkey – the pile-on here is dumb pack behavior bullshit. On the other hand, jwz, 12 years is a pretty long time for a secret to stay secret – why not come up with another big secret?
posted by furiousthought at 1:26 PM on February 27, 2010


I'm a little surprised that no one has done this before, honestly re: jwz's sekrit.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:28 PM on February 27, 2010


You know, someone posted my last name in an article on the internet. I asked them to remove it from the article. Unfortunately, a Google search for my first and last name still brings up that article because it's in their cache or somesuch. I wrote to Google and they won't change it. I'm guessing that adding noindex will not matter.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:36 PM on February 27, 2010


I'm very much against setting the precedent of a one-off rule change for the sake of something as dire & consequential as a puzzle.

The fact that it is something as dire and consequential as a puzzle and that the request to deleting or obscure it seems mostly for the sake of preserving the mystery for people who come later and want to work it out for themselves is the one thing that makes the request seem not totally unreasonable.

Now if some clown who got caught astroturfing for the charity he works for were to do something like this, then put his head on a pike outside of the camp.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:36 PM on February 27, 2010


graventy: "Why? I enjoy puzzles too, but the existence of an answer for it does not change the state of the puzzle. "

You're right except that the public availability of the answer means that jwz can't know whether the next "solved!" email he gets is from someone who genuinely cracked the code or someone who looked at the cheat. I don't think that's a valid complaint, but I think it's the real motivator here.
posted by Mid at 1:41 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'll happily state right here and now for any potential future reader fishing for a precedent that, no, this does not mean you have the right to have whatever random request you might have ginned up granted. Fie, hypothetical future requester. Fie.

Yeah...saying "wait wait wait...we'll do this here...but it doesn't set a precedent" does not work in court, business, real life...and shouldn't work here on Metafilter. If you don't want these kind of requests to exist...then you know what you gotta do.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:45 PM on February 27, 2010


Yeah...saying "wait wait wait...we'll do this here...but it doesn't set a precedent" does not work in court, business, real life...and shouldn't work here on Metafilter.

I'd argue that there is ample precedent of it working just fine here.
posted by grouse at 1:48 PM on February 27, 2010


I'll happily state right here and now for any potential future reader fishing for a precedent that, no, this does not mean you have the right to have whatever random request you might have ginned up granted. Fie, hypothetical future requester. Fie.

I'm confused as to why we'd make this exception just this once for this guy to protect his precious puzzle but we wouldn't do it in the future.
posted by graventy at 1:53 PM on February 27, 2010


does not work in court, business, real life...and shouldn't work here on Metafilter.

Appearances to the contrary, MetaFilter is actually real life.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:55 PM on February 27, 2010 [15 favorites]


Can't we have our cake and eat it, too? One of the mods could slap a "SPOILER" tag on the original post. As someone who hates having mysteries spoiled, that would 100% satisfy me.

"[Note from the moderators: the creator of this puzzle has requested that we delete this thread. While we don't remove posts on demand, we respect that a puzzle-maker might not want his puzzle's solution in print, and we respect that people trying to solve the puzzle might not want to stumble upon this thread. So please be warned that there are spoilers here. If you want the puzzle to remain a mystery for you, don't read what follows.]"

or simply...

"[Not from the moderators: this thread contains spoilers.]"
posted by grumblebee at 2:06 PM on February 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah...saying "wait wait wait...we'll do this here...but it doesn't set a precedent" does not work in court, business, real life...and shouldn't work here on Metafilter. If you don't want these kind of requests to exist...then you know what you gotta do.

Tell it to Bush v. Gore.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:08 PM on February 27, 2010


i like grumblebee's suggestion.
posted by batmonkey at 2:15 PM on February 27, 2010


There's a history of mystery-makers requesting this:

"Don’t be devils. Don’t ruin the interest your friends could take in this film. Don’t tell them what you saw. Thank you for them." -- title card at the end of "Les Diaboliques."

"Don't give away the ending - it's the only one we have!" -- advertising slogan for "Psycho."
posted by grumblebee at 2:17 PM on February 27, 2010


I was always under the impression that the biggest shock in "Psycho" was in the first 15 minutes.
posted by graventy at 2:20 PM on February 27, 2010


fantabulous timewaster writes "Is robots.txt / noindex a real solution? Does google forget things if you ask it not to look again?"

Sort of. It's all wrapped up in secrecy of course. The problem is that primary links off of other pages that don't have those settings will still bring up the question albeit one link away. Get a couple dozen bloggers talking about this and the cat will never be in the bag. Besides a link to the question isn't really necessary at this point. Thousands of people have been given a very big hint on how to proceed.

hal_c_on writes "Yeah...saying 'wait wait wait...we'll do this here...but it doesn't set a precedent' does not work in court, business, real life...and shouldn't work here on Metafilter. If you don't want these kind of requests to exist...then you know what you gotta do."

It actually works just fine here which is why we need mods and real life needs judges. Otherwise someone could crank out an AI and thousands of people would be out of a job. It is pretty frustrating though some days when what seems to be a completely innocuous question gets deleted at poster's request. I always put it off as homework filter.
posted by Mitheral at 2:25 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah...saying "wait wait wait...we'll do this here...but it doesn't set a precedent" does not work in court, business, real life

This is not court. Real life in general actually involves an awful lot of context-specific flexibility on a lot of folks parts. There's an awful lot of that sort of flexibility in play on metafilter pretty much constantly, which is part of what makes our jobs doable and keeps this place from descending into a rules-lawyer hell of strictly codified and enforced regulations.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:44 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


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