Deciphering
Glyph
( )
d00d ur pr0n warez sploits r pwnd

Fri 30 December 2005

Microsoft has a guide to "leetspeak", or as they call it, "kidtalk", clearly written by someone who doesn't understand either leetspeakers or languages. It's unintentionally hilarious in many ways. Some highlights:
  • The first word Microsoft thinks it's important to introduce to parents is not "pr0n", or "cyber", or even the actual meaning of "leet"1, but "warez". The worst thing your child might be doing online is apparently copying Microsoft's hard-earned "intellectual property". As they put it "The first series is of particular concern, as their use could be an indicator that your teenager is involved in the theft of intellectual property, particularly licensed software."

  • This page purports to help you understand language, but who helps you understand Microsoft's incomprehensible doublespeak? At the bottom of the article, when asked "Was this information useful?" I clicked "Yes" to be greated by this semantic gem: "Object reference not set to an instance of an object. We are experiencing technical problems. Sorry for the inconvenience. We are still interested in hearing your comments if you have time to provide your feedback. You can do one of two things. You can close this window, refresh your browser, and submit your comments. Or, you can try later."

1. If you don't already know, "leet" means "elite", which in the world of online teenage hooliganism means something like "popular with the in crowd". Someone is is "leet" if they are worthy enough or have proven themselves in a variety of totally arbitrary challenges. The movie "hackers" captures this eloquently in a scene where the protagonist is quizzed on the contents of various technical specifications by giving both the slang name and the technical name of various colors of book, to demonstrate his knowledge. Us, uh, legitimate programmer types occasionally use leetspeak ironically, and online gamers slightly moreso, but if your teenager is using so much leetspeak that you need a glossary to deicpher their online communications, it's likely that the people they're talking to are not the good guys. More importantly than worrying about whether your teenager has illegally acquired a copy of Microsoft Office, you should be concerned if they are spending a lot of time and energy trying to prove themselves capable to a group of people who are, like as not, professional criminals.

Hmm, this footnote is now longer than the rest of the entry. Perhaps I will save the rest of this thought for another post...