[META] Alternatives to rot13 and karma sinks

post by HonoreDB · 2012-04-17T20:01:45.447Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 32 comments

rot13 is... (Results)
A quaint internet tradition that I quite enjoy
So annoying
Easy to use because I have Leet Key

In November, DanielVarga complained about rot13.com as a way of hiding spoilers, and suggested some specifications for an alternative web service, with an algorithm that can operate on any character.  I whipped up two, one using a bitwise not and the other using a password.  These have a usability advantage over rot13.com: they automatically generate a decode link, so that people who don't have an add-on such as Leet Key (get Leet Key! or d3coder if you're on Chrome!) on whatever device they're on can still use them.  The advantage over using a site like pastebin is that all of the text is encoded in the url, so if makefoil.com is down or you're offline you can still extract it with a bit of work.  Both algorithms are in unobfuscated javascript; feel free to host your own version.

Recently, I had the thought of doing a similar thing with polls.  This site doesn't have built-in polling functionality, and the project to create it seems to have stalled.  People generally solve this by creating a comment for each option, asking people to upvote the comment of their choice, and asking people to downvote another comment to balance the karma.  It's elegant as these kludges go, but it's still visually confusing in a comment thread, clogs the "Top Comments" lists, and somehow rarely ends up balancing correctly.

Here's the site I used to create the above poll.  Those vote buttons will turn into vote counts once you vote (you may need to refresh).  The site outputs poll syntax in two formats: html, which you can use by creating an article and clicking the html button on the top tool bar, or markdown, which is for comments.  The markdown display is a little different because the Less Wrong functionality for having an image be a link seems to be broken; the image gets double-encoded or something.

I hope you'll consider using markdownSpoiler or passwordXor when sharing secret info on the next Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality chapter, and getting input with a makefoil poll.



Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Username · 2012-04-18T05:27:40.624Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A few things:

  • The extra effort it takes to decode rot13 is an incentive to try and figure things out on your own. I really like this feature, as anything that's only one click away is a huge temptation to go and click it, and ruin what I might have really enjoyed finding out on my own. Rot13 is one of the few instances that allows my akrasia to benefit me.

  • If you do end up using another web service, please operate on only the alpha characters, not punctuation. Basically, still rot13 but with the links. ᆲマミヨモレヘフ￟ヒミ￟レムワヘニマヒ￟リミ￟ラレヘレ￑￵ is much more jarring on the eyes and attention-grabbing than guvf fgevat bs grkg. But more importantly, it lets you keep markdown when you rot13 something. If you want vgnyvpf, you can write *italics* directly in. If you obfuscate punctuation (especially spacing) than it is absolutely impossible to figure out where to put the markdown after you encode it.

  • Honestly I'd skip the middleman and go straight to spoiler tags. Here's the CSS code for spoilers tags on reddit. Lesswrong uses the reddit engine so this would be incredibly simple to implement. Just a matter of getting site consensus and showing it to whoever runs the site. (Lesswrong admin, can you implement this please?) Alternatively, you can hijack the link markdown: Hover for a major Spoiler. This looks like [Spoiler](http:// "Spoiler text here.").

  • Those polls are awesome.

comment by Grognor · 2012-04-17T23:10:36.606Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Upvoted for posting a solution rather than a call for solutions.

Edit: Though I accidentally clicked one of your vote buttons before knowing that it was a poll (it's not obvious, you know!) and ended up voting for "A quaint internet tradition that I quite enjoy" instead of "So annoying (and bad for SEO)".

Replies from: ahartell
comment by ahartell · 2012-04-18T00:14:54.506Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Same thing happened to me. I wonder if that effect biased the results much.

comment by gwillen · 2012-04-18T05:23:36.823Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If we're going to use links to automatically decode spoilered text, it's not clear to me why we can't still use rot13 for the spoilering, and just make it linked rot13.

I voted for 'quaint internet tradition', but I don't think it's all that quaint; it's a very practical Internet tradition.

Replies from: QuicklyStarfish, QuicklyStarfish
comment by QuicklyStarfish · 2012-04-21T00:49:04.299Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I also thought linked rot13 would be nice, and put up a page, at rot13.ca, to do so conveniently:

V cerfrag sbe lbhe pbafvqrengvba (naq'"f ubcshyyl [fvp] nccebiny), gur fvzcyr cntr V qrpvqrq V jnagrq nsgre ernqvat frireny fcbvyrerq qvfphffvbaf.

Gurer'f n pbclnoyr znexqbja yvax orybj. Rnpu cnentencu'f nyg-grkg vf vgf qrpbqrq inyhr. Zhygvcyr yvarf be fcrpvny punenpgref fubhyq or unaqyrq cebcreyl.

Replies from: Username
comment by Username · 2012-04-24T04:49:09.071Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Perfect. Easy to use, preserves markup, can be used on mobile devices/without and special hardware, all the information is preserved in the link, and it even has decoded hover-text.

Motion to make this the standard rot13 tool, I for one will start using it.


comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-04-18T01:00:53.187Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wouldn't it use less total human brain time to just patch the forum source to support hide/show spoiler markup?

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2012-04-18T01:10:43.914Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wouldn't it use less total human brain time to just patch the forum source to support hide/show spoiler markup?

You should get right on that! ;)

It's open source. Edit in the change you want, make a post here advocating it then make it a pull request!

comment by David_Gerard · 2012-04-17T20:16:04.746Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Link for Leet Key for Firefox.

Replies from: RobertLumley, dbaupp
comment by RobertLumley · 2012-04-17T20:18:59.524Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

And d3coder for Chrome

One of the reasons I switched back to Chrome recently was that Leet Key wouldn't work for my build of FF. Has it been updated to work with the most recent version?

Replies from: David_Gerard
comment by David_Gerard · 2012-04-17T20:23:06.130Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm using FF 11 (stable) and it's fine.

Replies from: RobertLumley
comment by RobertLumley · 2012-04-17T20:24:10.641Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Interesting. That's what I was on, and it didn't work. But I was having other problems with my build that were just frustrating me. I like chrome less, because I can't streamline the interface as much, but Firefox just wasn't worth it.

Replies from: David_Gerard
comment by David_Gerard · 2012-04-17T22:53:46.193Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is the Ubuntu distro version, fwiw.

Most annoying thing about Leet Key is going through multiple menus to get to ROT13, the only function in the list I want it for. Also that they made the preferences dialogue over 600px high, which is irritating on a netbook.

comment by dbaupp · 2012-04-18T13:12:18.933Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

One can also use bookmarklets. I've got this one on my bookmark bar for one-click rot13-ing (it even works in text boxes!).

comment by see · 2012-04-18T05:02:15.092Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm still in the, "It ain't easy until I have a bookmarklet that will encode/decode for me" camp.

This LW comment in the "Reforming rot13" discussion has a very good one for rot13.

I'm perfectly willing to deal with something else — if you make it just as easy for me to encode/decode. No external websites, no vastly overengineered plug-in; just highlight the text and press the bookmarklet's icon.

Replies from: Viliam_Bur
comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-04-18T07:56:21.782Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is a great solution! And it could be made even easier by readers not having to install the bookmarklet, but to include the "Rot 13" button directly in the LW pages. With "position:fixed" it would be always on screen.

Like this:

Replies from: Stanley
comment by Stanley · 2013-09-14T04:31:06.436Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've made a ro13 function here. It returns a RO13'd version of it's arguments.

comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2012-04-17T23:09:59.573Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


Replies from: philh, HonoreDB
comment by philh · 2012-04-18T03:04:14.329Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I prefer rot13. I don't have an extension, but I can hilight it and type "xsr13" into a terminal window which I already have open and visible. Having to visit a new webpage has higher friction, and I can't see the spoiler and its context at the same time. It's also easier for me to generate, although I don't think I ever have.

I accept that most people are probably not in the same situation. It's only minor, because If this became common I'd just write a terminal app to decode it. (The bitwise-not version is better for that: for the password version I'd have to copy link location instead of just hilighting.)

comment by gyokuro · 2012-04-19T02:21:05.836Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For fun, I learned to read rot13 semi-fluently. It's an exercise that makes me look forward to spoilers so I can practice reading them. Serving its purpose? No, but it's much more entertaining.

comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2012-04-18T08:18:08.188Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

[polling by voting on comments] clogs the "Top Comments" lists

Not nearly as much as that one thread.

comment by wgd · 2012-04-20T18:47:03.905Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I often read LW on my phone and for that use case rot13 is the best spoiler method by far. It prevents immediately seeing words that would give away spoilers, but I can generally decode a given phrase in my head given the word lengths, punctuation, topic of conversation, and position of common words like 'gur', 'na', 'bs', 'vf', or 'gb'.

Using reddit-style CSS spoiler tags means that I can't access the spoilered content at all AFAICT, and linking me to a decoder, while nice in theory, isn't very helpful because if I click it I will lose the nice highlighting of new posts. This is a Big Deal on long-running threads like the HPMoR discussions.

Replies from: Wei_Dai
comment by Wei_Dai · 2012-04-20T19:39:56.884Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

linking me to a decoder, while nice in theory, isn't very helpful because if I click it I will lose the nice highlighting of new posts

Does your phone browser allow you to open links in new tabs? (If you're not sure, try doing a long press on a link.) If not, you should switch browsers. I use Dolphin on Android. Opera Mini also has this feature and is available for virtually all phones, I think.

Now if someone could tell me how to avoid accidentally voting someone up or down on my phone (or worse, accidentally banning a comment) when I'm trying to scroll...

Replies from: wgd
comment by wgd · 2012-04-20T22:11:05.542Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm using the stock browser that comes with Cyanogenmod 9, so in principle I can open links in a new window but in practice the interface is annoying enough that I rarely use it. I've tried Firefox mobile but the white-and-grey "not yet rendered" texture makes the browser feel much slower due to its obviousness. Dolphin looks interesting, I'm surprised I haven't heard of it before.

I guess my complaint isn't that I can't open a link separately, it's just that it's annoying enough to do so that I find myself running into the question of "do I care enough about learning what this spoilered text is saying to bother following the link?" and repeatedly running into that question during a longish discussion causes enough decision fatigue that I stop bothering.

comment by RobertLumley · 2012-04-17T20:20:20.273Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I half expected this entire post to be rot13ed.

comment by Incorrect · 2012-04-18T00:48:37.231Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

ウィ コド スピク ライク ヂス

Replies from: falenas108
comment by falenas108 · 2012-04-18T01:36:34.782Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Google translate says this means as "We Cry Kudji to spin codon."

Replies from: Incorrect
comment by Incorrect · 2012-04-18T01:51:54.285Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's just English poorly written using the Japanese phonetic alphabet.

"ui kodo supiku raiku disu" = "we could speak like this"

Replies from: Mitchell_Porter
comment by Mitchell_Porter · 2012-04-18T03:17:42.390Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The translator parsed it as "ui-kodo-supi-kurai-kudi-su", "we codon spin cry Kudji su". "su" is the infinitive particle, so "supi..su" has come out as "to spin".

Kuji are esoteric mantras, and a codon is the minimal semantic unit in the genetic code. It's as if you're saying that you recite a spiritual formula in order to scramble or unscramble ("spin") a genetic sequence. So you see, you were making a practical contribution to the discussion of how to efficiently hide information from those who don't want to see it... or you would have been, if you were a character in an anime that doesn't exist. "In my universe, when we don't want the genes in a chromosomal implant to express just yet, we recite the Nine Magic Syllables, and all the codons temporarily reverse, so the transcriptases won't see a 'start' signal."

Replies from: thomblake
comment by thomblake · 2012-04-18T13:50:31.469Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

we recite the Nine Magic Syllables, and all the codons temporarily reverse, so the transcriptases won't see a 'start' signal.

I vote for this method.