Occam’s Razor

Daniel DoertyAfter sitting on the Hot Abercrombie Chick story for a week, I still had an unsettling feeling that the story was unresolved. I decided to go back to my initial premonitions and check the IP addresses of the comments she posted to a few weblogs. Then I realized that I had been sitting on my own data the whole time, the IP addresses of sites added to Blogdex. Here’s what I’ve found:

   Date		    Source	     IP		  Owner
----------------------------------------------------------
2004-02-11	Blogdex		68.91.65.131	swbell.net
2004-02-21	Anil Dash	65.69.87.117	swbell.net
2004-02-28	Undisclosed	68.90.64.194	swbell.net
2004-04-14	Blogdex		68.89.157.59	swbell.net
2004-04-02	Blogdex		65.69.86.105	swbell.net
2004-04-07	Blogdex		128.252.173.54	wustl.edu

All of these IP addresses originate from St. Louis, Missouri, one directly from Washington University where Daniel Zeigenbein transferred to after leaving Vassar (also compare this to Amanda Doerty’s profile on MSN). While many open questions remain (the motive of the author, the identity of the girl in the picture, etc.), this is enough evidence for me to close the case on this one.

I find a great deal of pleasure in doing research on the internet, especially when it involves unearthing information that is nonobvious or difficult to procure. It’s the same type of excitement that one gets watching Woodward and Bernstein slowly uncover the trail of leads that eventually finds Nixon. I never had any intention of defaming HAC or Daniel Zeigenbein, it was simply a mystery where the facts didn’t add up and the truth should exist somewhere, buried in the internet.

Justin has also posted a more in-depth analysis of the evidence.

Something me

look ma, no hands!While walking home from work the other day I passed a group of guys emerging from a pizza joint. After a few handshakes and goodbyes they parted ways and made arrangements for their next meeting. And then one of them yelled across the street, "something me on Thursday." His friend looked a little confused, but I knew exactly what he was talking about. He added, "IM, call, email… I don’t care."

Despite our proximity to MIT, these guys did not strike me as the type who wear t-shirts that say Go away or I’ll replace you with a simple shell script or tote around Leathermans in their utility belts. These were just normal people with too many ways to talk to each other.

I’m guessing that we have reached some saturating point in communication technology where the actual medium itself has become unimportant. When I thought about the expression, "something me," I realized that we don’t have a satisfactory, general expression for communicating in our common vernacular. It seems like an issue that will only become more important as we add media and devices to the current equation, but at current I can’t come up with anything better. If you have a better idea, something it to me.

Dude, where’s my Google?

I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist, but I have to take notice when events coincide. As many people noticed yesterday, my Hot Abercrombie Chick post had a quick rise to prominence on Google, ranking at #1 for the query "Abercrombie Chick" and #2 for "Hot Abercrombie Chick." I was shocked to find that this page was no longer in any of the results for these searches. On the other hand, the post on Wizbangblog still maintains its original rank on both queries. In fact, my site has been removed from Google’s index while his remains. Check the screengrabs (click for more detail):

search for my post
Search for my post
search for the response to my post
Search for response post

Google’s policy about page removal is quite explicit:

Except in instances involving legal issues or spam, Google’s policy for removing a page from our index requires that we obtain the permission of that page’s webmaster. This prevents competitors from sabotaging each other’s listings.

I’m assuming my page is not spam. Without any emails from Google, I can only assume that it has been removed for legal reasons. Has Amanda or some other party emailed Google to remove my allegations? I’ve sent an email to Google to inquire.

April 23: The page is back in the index as of sometime this morning. Looking back on the whole incident, it’s pretty amazing that Google had the page in the index within 2 days, along with its PageRank. They have been caching weblogs within a few hours but this is the first time I’ve seen an individual weblog post go online in that amount of time. I now render this post defunct.

"Amanda Doerty"

she went to Vassar...Amanda Doerty is a name like no other. In fact, I don’t think it’s a real name at all. After becoming interested in Hot Abercrombie Chick I decided to do a little follow-up research to see what the Internet had to offer on our enigmatic blogstress. Of course a google search for her real name, Amanda Doerty returns just about nothing. It appears that her debut on the web was her first post to Hot Abercrombie Chick. Nothing on usenet, but then again I’d be surprised if a 19 year old had heard of such antiquated things.

In her first post she mentions two friends, one Mr. Daniel Zeigenbein and another Sebastian Bach (not the lead singer of Skid Row). While there’s no mention of Amanda on anything related to Sebastian, I did find a gleaming review of HAC by Daniel which confirms that not only do they know each other, but they’re acquainted through a mutual college friend. Daniel is wearing a Vassar cap on his website and Amanda claims her residence is Poughkeepsie, NY, so they must be chums through Vassar, right?

So one would think. I called the Vassar Registrar’s office to get to the bottom of this. It turns out that Daniel Zeigenbeim was once a student there, never graduated, and apparently no longer is. Amanda Doerty on the other hand, well, they’ve never heard of her.

So I’m assuming that HAC and Amanda Doerty are in some way a creation of Zeigenbaum and/or friends.

Game my system and pay the consequences, beeatch.

7:30pm: Foster reports that Amanda has a vanilla Movable Type site setup

8:11pm: Amanda responds to these questions, revealing her name is a pseudonym. I have responded in her comments.

April 22: Jason Carter has uncovered an original Hot or Not post circa 2002 (click 1083 votes) for a familiar face named Ashley. Props to the hive mind.

Hot Abercrombie hoax

hot abercrombie chickAnyone watching Blogdex over the past few months knows Hot Abercrombie Chick, a.k.a. Amanda Doerty. This site has popped into the top 10 least 5 times since I started noticing. I became interested last week when I saw it for the third or fourth time, and delved a little deeper. As it would turn out, all of the sites that Amanda was posting to were weblogs that posted their most recent comments on their front page, hence exposing comments to Blogdex. In other words, Hot Abercrombie Chick has been gaming Blogdex.

The notion that this attractive college freshman was spending all of her time trolling weblogs looking for exposed weblogs seemed implausable to me. But looking through the comments themselves, it appeared that most, if not all, were at least marginally on topic. In addition Abercrombie Chick was interacting with hundreds of commenters on her own site, and doing quite a good job of it. A person this prolific would have to be unemployed and completely focused, which anyone who has been unemployed knows is impossible.

Something was amiss, and I had to prove that Hot Abercrombie Chick was either a) a totally different girl, b) a guy or c) some team of people creating an identity. And I was devoted to outing this fraud. It turns out that Julia Set beat me to it:

Just received an inside tip that the recently famous Hot Abercrombie Chick is really a male college student capitalizing on cute pictures of his girlfriend (previously unbeknownst to her) in a rush of “beggars” trackbacks. In retrospect, it’s pretty obvious that he is quite the player. Over the course of the last couple of months, “Mr. Abercrombie” has played every text-book trick for raising his popularity on the blogosphere.

Unfortunately there’s still no reference to this indictment on Amanda’s site, and still very little evidence beyond Julia’s post that this inside tip is true. Recent links to the site on Blogdex reveal that someone else is using Amanda’s tactics to call her out ("Comment Spamming Bitch Riding High On Blogdex!").

And I feel like a tool… she’s a man, duh!

Continue reading

Choice Cubicism

artist's rendition of the time cubeFor those of you not familiar with the Time Cube, it’s no surprise, you’re living in an illusion just like everyone else. Discovered by Gene Ray, this is the Theory Of Everything (TOE). Academics have spent years trying wrap their heads around the 4-corners, 1-corner, 1-corner concept, but they have (of course) been educated stupid for too long and still don’t get it.

Well it’s time to let the cat out of the bag. Gene Ray may have invented the Time Cube, but we invented Gene Ray. He is actually an Artificial Intelligence program devised by me and my colleague late one night many, many years ago. And then, before our very eyes this adolescent mind discovered the Time Cube. We were in shock, since we can’t even understand it ourselves.

Well, now that the truth is out there, we might as well make him available. You can chat with Gene directly using AIM. Just send him a message at his handle cubicism. He’ll be happy to entertain you with his theories of the Time Cube, TOE, or just about anything you’d like to talk about.

And if you’re still having trouble understanding the Truth, take a look at the song NIGGAZ BE FEARIN’ THE TIME CUBE TRUTH on the Insolitology site. It’s a very accessable introduction that is endorsed by our AI.

Redesign

After staring at my site for 2 years, and needing some serious procrastinatory work, I decided to redesign overstated.net. My goal was to remove as much of the cruft as possible from the interface and focus on the readability. My main inspiration were Tufte, hence the use of whitespace in layout and small caps for various typographic functions. There’s also quite a bit of Dean Allen in there too because he’s the man when it comes to weblog layout.

The image in the header of the page was ganked from a 17th century map by Fredrick de Wit. I had originally intended to use one of Jesuit scientist Athanasius Kircher’s engravings, but this king was too badass to pass up.

Let me know what you think and of course if you encounter any bugs

Harvard sucks!

One of the wonderful things about being an MIT student is witnessing all of the nerd pride and anti-Harvard sentiment. Like this beautiful piece of hackdom:

harvard sucks sign
Harvard Bridge construction sign (photo by Johnathan Wang)

Apparently the photo was edited and a 4-letter word removed from the third line of the sign. I guess us MIT students aren’t just nerds, we’re also a bit witty.

The MIT Tech: Photograph, Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Political Googlebombing

While giving a Blogdex demo today I was startled by the fact that the third site listed was the Wikipedia entry for Jew. After looking at the citations I realized that its position in Blogdex is only a side-effect of a much larger movement to readjust the PageRank for an injustice in the current Google results, namely that a horribly anti-Semetic website maintains the top position for the query.

This strikes me as a fascinating use of the Googlebomb. I’ve known PageRank to be used in jokes, hoaxes and for advertising, but this is the first example I’ve come across where the goal is to correct what most would consider an act of discrimination captured by Google’s index.

I’m sure that most people would agree that hate speech does not deserve top results for common words, and webloggers will adjust the statistics and impart justice on Google’s index. But what happens in the case where a debate is more hotly contested? Take abortion for instance. The first four results are unbiased representations of the debate while the fifth is the leading website for the pro-choice movement. Pro-life ranks in at number 10.

To me this implies one of two things: that the authors on the web are generally more liberal than conservative or that PageRank is skewed towards the left end of the political spectrum. I wouldn’t be surprised if this sort of political Googlebombing becomes a more regular part of weblogging, adding to the set of identity tools already incorperated into most blogs (blogrolls, link lists, etc.). Add one more list to the sidebar: political words I endorse.