So on Saturday I get to my computer and there’s an iChat window up from someone named ColdTrout. It says one thing: “hi”. Thinking it’s one of my friends who’s just changed their screen name, I respond with a “hi” of my own. And I get this in response: “Who are you?”
Ok, so this is some kind of stupid game. “You said hi to me,” I reply. “No,” ColdTrout says, “you said hi to me.” Screw this crap. I close the window and go about my day.
Later in the day, another person with Trout in his name hits me with a “hi” and I ignore it. I probably know the person, I think, and they’re being stupid and immature and if I wait they’ll just come clean. Or it’s someone I don’t know, and I’ll ignore them and they’ll go to find someone else to play with.
Sunday night rolls in and SeveredTrout sends me a message. This one is a little creepier. “are you going to die.” Hmm, ok, so the game is escalating. This time I reply. “Everyone does, eventually.” Because the proper response to stupid internet mind games is to reply with banal philosophy. Clearly.
By this point I’ve googled every *Trout name I’ve heard from to no avail. I’d search for “trout,” but we all know that would get me nowhere. So I’m really happy when SeveredTrout himself gives me the clue I need. “why do these trout bots keep finding me?”
Trout bots! Got you!
As soon as I realize I’m talking to a bot I start looking at the conversation differently. I find people making vague references to these bots that pop up on IM and how they used to be Salmon bots but as of August 3rd these TroutBot things have been rearing their head. And the TroutBots might be more malicious, fishing for information and occasionally dropping the personal information that led them to contact you into the conversation to freak you out.
I think back and decide the responses I’ve gotten could have been bot-generated, except that they are occasionally a little too in-response to things I’ve said. And either way, this entire phenominon is starting to weird me out a little bit. I flash myself into some kind of cyberpunk world and wonder if I’m the target of a copy without an original. Then I actually, you know, read the Wikipedia entry on them and it all makes sense.
The TroutBot is not responding at all. Its purpose is to randomly connect two screen names and route their messages between each other. So each person thinks they’re talking to *Trout, but truly are talking to each other. The big difference with the *Trout is that, unlike the *Salmon, *Trout drops in random questions and phrases to further confuse the issue. I’ve also heard that it occasionally changes words in actual responses. Interesting.
It’s possible the purpose of the *Trouts is to use a now familiar hack to get people to reveal personal information about themselves. I’m not sure. It was fun to get a genuine sense of online creepout, which doesn’t happen very often anymore. If you get hit with one, try playing along for a bit. It’s fun. But be careful with what you say, since this is a hack and could have malicious intent.
Or maybe there’s a ghost in the wired.