I always enjoyed the "I Get Letters" that CRZ published from time to time and it's latest incarnation, "IM Log Of The Day". Now I have one to share. It's not as fun as any of CRZ's and it's only a couple of emails from me replying to this lady, but it's a good example of how much people *don't* understand about their computers and teh interweb and I thought you guys might enjoy it. All names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Here's the setup: I was at a birthday party with my son, talking to one of the other parents. When she found out that I'm a programmer, she asked me how a particular site, peteranswers.com, could "know the answer to questions when those answers are so personal? How can they know that kinda stuff?" I had my suspicions which were further confirmed when she said it only worked for *some* people and she never could get an answer from it, but rather than speculate, I simply promised to check it out and email her what I discovered. What follows is our email exchange-->
It seems that when you "petition" Peter, if you type a period you can type the answer to the question you are about to type and it will continue to show the petition on the screen keystroke by keystroke until you type another period. Then you can finish typing the petition and when you ask the question, Peter gives you back the answer you fed him.
Example: In the petition box type .Voldemort.se answer: Then type the question Who is Harry Potter's best friend? When you submit the question you will get Voldemort as the answer because that was the answer you told Peter to return.
But what about just typing in the petition like it says to (Peter, please answer the following question:) I submitted a question to Yahoo answers and I have gotten several responses from people that have gone to the web site. I'm still confused ... it won't work for me, my husband or Zzzzz [her son].
Kkkkkkk, It's just a trick and you will never get an answer by just typing the petition and asking a question. It will never give an answer that you haven't fed into it. It allows someone that knows how it works to make everyone else believe that the website is psychic. I can appear to make a quarter disappear and then I can pull it out of your ear. Am I a magician? Peter is the same. No magic, no psychic, no voodoo. It's just an illusion.
It seems like a harmless enough trick to play on your friends though.... ;>
---edited to fix URL---
(edited by rinberg on 13.2.07 1239) One of the Thirty-two (or maybe Thirty-four....)!
Ooooh, that's an interesting one. How scary is it that I completely understand the Details in the British Advisory (uniras.gov.uk)? Uh, at least it's not out to trash your end machine, but "just" to disrupt TCP connections? (Yeow.)