I had the most bizarre experience on-line yesterday. While working away at my desk, I had iChat open as usual and I received an instant message (IM). The message was from a user name (heatedcoho) unknown to me and it read "Happy Rudy Giuliani Day to one and all!". It got my attention as, while I am no fan of Rudy Giuliani, I thought it was rather crass to send something out like that on 9/11. I responded by asking who this person was, thinking it was possibly a former student. I received a reply and you can see part of the ensuing conversation.
It dawned on me part way through my interaction with said IMer that this was not actually a person behind this message, but a bot. I received one from a different user name a few weeks ago and it had perplexed me until someone in my Twitter network pointed out what it was. See this wikipedia entry for a full explanation. Essentially, this bot somehow hooks up to people using AIM instant messaging and masks it with a user name like heatedcoho. So, I wasn’t communicating someone using that name; I was chatting with another AIM user.
I wasn’t planning on chatting with this other user, but the guy on the other end started chatting away. It turns out his name is Will and he is a high-end web designer, responsible for some fairly well known Web 2.0 sites. I am not going to name him or list his work here as I don’t know how comfortable he’d be with that, but we had a really interesting conversation mostly discussing our work and tech interests. I showed him some of my favorite, well-designed education sites and it turns out he’s in charge of redesigning a kids’ site for a company that my own children frequent and love. I freely offered up my children as potential beta testers! He’s actually coming to Chicago in a few weeks for a developer’s conference so maybe we’ll even have lunch.
Anyway, it was a very strange way to make another networking contact, but I’m interesting in learning more from Will. And now you know what it is if you receive an unsolicited instant message!