Thursday, August 12, 2010

Confession of a Kaizeneer and my hoax finding "software"

Dear faithful blog readers (all two of you),

I have a confession to make.  One of my past Kaizens(improvement ideas) to reduce unwanted hoax emails is a hoax itself.  That's correct, it's a big fat fake...but it did help reduce spam and educate people about urban legends and helped them save face.  In a sense, I fought fire with fire.  Let me explain...

There was a time on the Internet when it seemed that every other day I was getting an offer for a free pizza or Bill Gates would give me $5 dollars to forward the message.  Folks new to cyberspace checked their brains at the login screen and forwarded every $200 cookie recipe or money making scheme to everyone they knew.  Since I received dozens of these completely ridiculous messages, I went upon a quest to educate and inform people about folklore and popular myths in hopes that this nonsense could somehow be curbed.  Let's just say that confronting and exposing falsehoods via email didn't go very well.  After a number of volcanic and explosive responses that created even more on-line angst, I came up with a secret improvement idea that I want to now reveal to the world...

I invented Hoax-Finder software.  That's right, the Hoax-Finder "application" was created by DL Soft (DL-Dan Lafever).  OK, there is no DL Soft company or code that was written.  Instead, I realized that if a computer did the correction and education it would be received with less defensiveness.  So, I fought back against urban legends with one of my own.  Here's how it worked:

I would receive a bogus email about not calling the 809 area code.  After identifying that this was a myth, I cut and pasted the following text in an email and sent it right back (in italics):

HOAX-FINDER Bulletin from DLSoft
This is an automated computer reply from Hoax-Finder V2.7a from DLSoft, Copyright 2010

This software has been installed on mailbox DAN.LAFEVER@XXXXX.XXX since 12/05/1998

Your message has been identified as a hoax advisory. Email contains information that is true and false. Please check the links listed below:

Subject: 809 area code

Sent: 2/14/2006 3:14 AM EST

See: or

Tips for detecting hoaxes and urban legends:

• Look for over dramatic subject lines titles and sentences such as “WARNING!!!” “VIRUS ATTACK” or “Will destroy everything!” or “We swear it’s true” or “came from a reliable source”

• Look for lots of exclamation marks and capital letters in the subject line.

• Look for lines like "send this to everybody you know!”

• Consider the subject of the message for it's believability and authenticity

• Try typing the subject line or virus name into google and search to see if the warning is valid

• If you are not sure of a messages authenticity, consult or and check if the message is true.

Most people don’t forward hoaxes on purpose …they just fail to check the source. and are good places to fact check messages.
The MTS-ID of the original message is: c=US;a= ;p=SSFHS;l=ONTEXIND01-040405994850Z-77313
MSEXCH:IMS:SSFHS:Alverno:ONTEXBH01 7118 (000B19FF) 550 Requested action not taken: delete hoax email message.
Send educational reply.





I customized the message for the whatever the subject addressed and I tweaked the text several times to make it look like a computer generated response..but it was all me just cutting and pasting.  Suddenly, Hoax-Finder changed peoples minds so instead of ugly comebacks or silence I started getting apologies and responses like "I'm sorry and I will be more careful next time".  If anyone inquired how they could get a copy of DL Soft Hoax-Finder, I conveniently dodged the question.  Overall, the ruse worked great and stopped some serial offenders from spamming the planet with the latest version of the stolen kidney story.  However, today I am coming clean about Hoax-Finder.  It was totally made up by me.  This admission guarantees that I flunked the blogger ethics exam but I am glad to get this off my chest...or at least until I get another urban legend email and Hoax-Finder once again comes to life.
What have you confessed today?
Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

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