And so it was for Mrorl and Balthacarius, after a bit of a shaky start. The initial disaster of the Machine That Could Grant Any Wish Having a Single Parameter N
was averted and repaired via Time-travel (by Mrorl) and a cleverly programmed microbot (by Balthacarius) dispatched to the nonlinear automamygdala of the great Machine, and upon their return to the Present colours burst once forth from all places, drawn from precisely pre-programmed palettes. This earned the bOTTifactors the royal blessing, and all-important funding. They built a great TARDIS
(for Mrorl) and a variety of castraftles, rockets, trains and bicycles (for Balthacarius) that were cleverly equipped with the ability to transport each other when needed, as there were occasional mishaps and breakdowns. In these vehicles the bOTTifactors could effectively and comfortably travel anywhere they wish, along with their workshops, bots, and special instrumentation and equipment, such as Mrorl's Chronotransponder and Balthacarius' Object Generator.
In keeping with the ancient custom, Mrorl and Balthacarius, who could alter the very fabric of spaaace-Time as easily as tailoring a shirt, soon ventured out together on their first Journey — Mrorl in his TARDIS
and Balthacarius in the Castraftle LEML
. When the familiar stars and galaxy of home had faded far behind them, they spotted a planet that seemed just right — not too seaish, not too mustardy — with one forum only, spread across many organised sand on the planet's only continent. Down the middle of this ran an immense stone wall, ten cueballs broad and ten high. A few scans revealed that on one side the wall had stopped a great fire, and on the other it had resisted an onslaught of —
"Stone golems?" guessed Balthacarius.
"I'm thinking trolls," replied Mrorl. "This wall is definitely very epsilon
, and it hints at what we're up against." They checked the planet's internet; a nopix or two of surfing made it clear: the social life of this world consisted in fact of only two fora, one devoted entirely to flames and the other to trolling. Posts were frequently in ALL CAPS and contained vague and weaselmolpish words throughout. The bOTTifactors considered how to conduct their visit to this world before landing.
"With two fora, it's best you offer your services to one, and I to the other." suggested Mrorl.
"Fine," said Balthacarius. "But what if they ask for blackhat hacking? Such things happen."
"True, they could demand botnets, even gray goo," Mrorl agreed. "We'll simply refuse."
"And if they insist, and threaten us?" returned Balthacarius. "This too can happen."
"Let's see," said Mrorl, opening up a browser. The pastpages of several popular threads were littered with takedown notices, deleted posts, and timestamp gaps when evidently the entire planet's network had gone Skynet. Mrorl turned away from the screen in disgust.
"I have an idea," said Balthacarius, switching it off. "We can use the Gontalmannas Effect. What do you think?"
"Ah, the 'Botnet' of Gontalmannas!" exclaimed Mrorl. "I never heard of it actually being put into practise… but there's always a first time. Yes, why not?"
"We'll both be prepared to use it," Balthacarius explained. "But it's essential that we use it together, or not at all, otherwise we're totally ch*rped."
"No problem," said Mrorl. He sent a little bot down a long corridor to a TARDIS
storeroom; it promptly rolled back carrying two small PNG Frames, their contents blank. "You keep one, I'll keep the other. Look at yours every evening; if an ONG appears, that'll mean I've started and you must too."
"So be it," said Balthacarius and put his PNG Frame away. Then they shook hands, brought their ships down to the planet, and landed each on their chosen side of the wall.
The forum on which Mrorl registered his account was run by Moderator @Gursagar
. He was desparaging to the core, and incredibly frugal with words. To relieve the searchbots, he did away with all words except those absolutely necessary to denigrate others; character assassination was the official purpose of the forum. His favourite occupation was to abolish unnecessary words, Newspeak
-style; since that entailed many retro-edits, every forum member was obliged to execute xes own censorship, or else — on rare occasions of coma — have it done by whoever had most recently refreshed the page. Of the Debating Arts @Gursagar
supported only those utilising a small vocabulary, such as appeal to ignorance, proof by assertion, and circular arguments. The ad molpilem
attack he held in particularly high esteem, for a victorious attack hastened the elimination of any words that poster had favoured; on the other hand one needed Time to attract new participants and prepare the best attacks against each, so the Mod advocated senseless repetition, though in moderation, to create an atmosphere of absurd stability. His greatest reform was the automation of confidence-hustling. As the other forum was continually registering sock-puppets, he created the title of Deputy Ambassador, who, through a staff of subordinate tricksters, would encourage each newbie who arrived (usualy an enemy, i.e. troll) whilst bots analysed their every word to construct the perfect roast.
The members of @Gursagar
's forum decomaed early and posted often. They used search engines and word-counts to fortify their attacks, and made custom-tailored (offensive) GIF smilies to vividly illustrate their personalised character assassinations. In order that the thread not be too
full of the latter (which had happened during the Modship of @Dragmarel
several yips prior), whoever wrote too many roasts was levied a special luxury tax, payable in the forum currency Gursa GoldTM
. In this way roasts were kept to a reasonable level, and newcomers continued to delurk. Upon gaining private-message permissions, Mrorl offered his professional services. The Mod — not surprsingly — wanted powerful Cognincendiary Bots to monitor all thread activity and attack anything said. Mrorl asked for a few dips to think it over, then as soon as he was certain his webcam and microphone were switched off, pulled the PNG Frame out of his pocket. It was blank but, as he looked, its colour palette gradually changed, revealing (faintly, in cool blue) a face1
with a mischievous smile. "Aha," he said to himself, "Time to start with Gontalmannas!
" And without further delay he summoned his favourite helper-bots and set to work.
Balthacarius meanwhile set up his account on the planet's only other forum, which was ruled by the mighty Demon @Simidirkar
. This Mod also delighted in online debate, and he too worked heaviliy on attack methods — but in a creative way, for his forum was generous with words, and he was a great patron of the creation of new words and nonsense. He loved anagrams, ambigrams, acronyms, portmanteaus, puns, pig Latin, neologisms, Norwegian, and nonsense. A person of feigned sensibility, he trembled every time he wrote a new argumentum verbosium
to be waged on the other forum. And he lavishly rewarded archives of locked threads, paying according to the number of distinct flamers ensnared, so that, on those endless walltext pages with which the archives were packed, wordcounts reached up to the sky. In practise he feigned ignorance, yet with loquacity; a /\/\0r0|\|
, yet manipulative. On every anniversary of his rise to Modship he mandated the annual Ritual of Madness. Once he caused all the words to be turned into Olde Ænglisc, another time Pirate Swedish; in one infamous yip he
, and they
; and in yet another yip he ordered all vøwéls åccéntéd sø ås nøt tø trîggér thé trøllfîltérs în @G
ürsågår's førüm. By special decree he regulated and standardised2
all usernames, avatars, subject lines, pronouns, and signatures. Permabanning of members — a rare enough event — took place amidst pomp and fanfare, with meetups featuring live speeches, parades (and parodies), and floats bearing effigies of prominent members of @Gursagar
's forum who had recently self-immolated as a result of Simdrikarnan actions. This high-minded mod also had a theory, which he put into action, called the Theory of Universal Lulziness. It was well known, certainly, that one does not laugh because of the lulz, but rather, one has lulz because one laughs. If then everyone maintains that things couldn't be better, most especially when posting to @Gursagar
's threads, results immediately increase. Nothing trolls better than a seemingly euphoric utter n00b. The participants in @Simidirkar
's forum were thus required, for their own good, to continually post how right they were about everything, and the old, indefinite qualifiers of "I think"
were changed by Mod-filters to the unambiguous "I know"
— though delurkers and firstposters were permitted to say "You know…"
, and the OldTimers, "Totally!"
. Contrary filters were applied to known flamers, for example replacing "clearly…"
with "Though I'm a douchebag, I don't really think…"
rejoiced to see his members in such trollish form. Whenever he updated the Forum Rules or changed a thread's title, dozens would post pointless congratulations, and whenever he graciously quoted or replied to such drivel, hundreds more would post: "You know…" — "obviously" — "totally." He liked to jump into threads he hadn't read, and out of the blue announce: "FOREGOAT ALL THE GUINEAMOLPS!
" — or: "|<33P (4L/\/\ 4|\|D 54\/3 7|-|3 71/\/\30D135!
" — or: "ARRRrrrr!
" For there was nothing he loved so much or held so dear as drivel, inanity, confidence in contradiction, bass-ackwards thinking, flashing text, and typos that were easily taken the wrong way. And so, whenever he was melancholy, he would set his browser to scroll continuously, whilst dutiful bots sang: "Troll and Enjoy! Troll and Enjoy! / You say it's a lie but it's really a ploy / So tell it to us, we won't give a fig! / We'll show you, we'll quote your words in our sig!"
And he commanded that, when he retired from the forum, the bots should tag all his posts with his favourite epigram: "Old mods never logout."
Balthacarius did not get PM privileges straight away. In the first thread he posted to, he waited several nopix, but nobody replied. Finally he glanced at the bottom of the thread to see who was lurking, and trolled one of them directly. The veteran member replied:
"Joo no p0s7!n6 sk!lz, nu53r? Dez bits be EZ :O
"Wut R U r34d1|\|9?
" replied Balthacarius, surprised.
," replied the veteran, attaching a pixelated screenshot with a glimpse of the realname and Facebug profile of one of @Gursagar
's most vocal posters. This surprised Balthacarius even more, and he said:
"1138, but no. BUT I CN HAS /MSG PR1V1L3G3S?
"Ph0R #e LULz, wut 3L$3? n00B!!!
"I haz sokpu441ts! I p0st 4U!!
"Very well then
," said Balthacarius, finally giving up on trying to write in L337
. The veteran troll linked to another thread. There, though it was 3 A.M. on a weepend, several were posting in rapid succession. As soon as he submitted one simple, direct query they all questioned him on several points, vaguely suggesting dozens of unrelated but nonethelsss irresistable contradictions. He was trapped in a quagmire of confusion. These forum members turned out to be part of @Simidirkar
's special enforcers. As soon as he had made enough posts to gain PM permission, his account was locked, and as he stared at the screen, sysops walked into the room and seized him from behind.
"This must be some sort of mistake
," thought Balthacarius as he was brought to a dungeon and set upon a foam maiden. Patiently he Waited until mornip — there was nothing else he could do — whereupon he was brought to a larger, softer foam maiden for interrogation. It turned out the veteran, the lurkers, the backtrolling — all of both threads, in fact — all of it was a trick to catch flamers' sockpuppets. But Balthacarius was not subjected to a long inquisition; the verdict was swift. For attempting to post the query to the linked thread, the punishment was a mip of forced labour at a wordfilter camp, because the forum's own bots (designed to counter the con-bots of @Gursagar
) were too busy coal3
-mining, and Balthacarius, for his part, repeatedly refused to send any message via sock-puppet. Nor did he have sufficient SimdriKashTM
to mitigate his offense. Still, the prisoner continued to profess innocence — but the judge did not believe his pleas, and in any event would not have had the power to free a stranger and suspected flamer, as it was outside her jurisdiction. So the case was appealed to a higher court, and Balthacarius was transferred to the capital where he was pelted every nopix on the ONG, though more as an observance of tradition than of any real necessity. In a dip or two his case improved; finally acquitted, he left the courthouse and proceeded directly up the high street to the palace of Mod @Simidirkar
himself. After being scanned for hidden spying equipment, then fitted with hidden spying equipment, briefed thoroughly on forum etiquette, and taught how not to misspell the username of His Modness, Balthacarius obtained the honour of a private chatroom over an encrypted channel. They also gave him a megaphone, cymbals, rattles, an air horn and several smaller noisemakers, for every forumite was obliged to announce xes comings and goings in the loudest and most annoying manner possible, as such was the way of Simdrikarnan trolling. @Simidirkar
did in fact demand the most advanced Semantillogical Bots, to read the fora (both his own and those of @Gursagar
) and spam them with naively inane statements or queries intended to draw a response. Balthacarius promised to fulfill the request; his plan, he assured the Mod, represented a radical departure from the accepted principles of online combat. What kind of assault — he asked first — always emerged victorious? The one that had the loudest and most redolent language, whilst leaving as much as possible up to the whims of the reader's subconscious mind; full of sensational but barely-understandable words expressing ideas that are vague at least, and REDUNDANT
at best; in short, precision-engineered nonsense. @Simidirkar
and his deputies had long known this, of course; but Balthacarius continued: By cross-indexing every thread to every other, and using a coördinated army of bots to cross-index every bit of flaming with every bit of trolling, analysing the effectiveness of each response, and tracing the likelihood of a counter-response to each possible option, he proposed to perfect online tactics to a science. But the enemy is fiendishly clever and infinitely adaptable, so merely recombining past offenses into new campaigns is not enough; leading to the brilliant insight of the famous Gontalmannas
, who was faced with a similar challenge in a war-beseiged kingdom of an Aforewhen long forgotten. Gontalmannas proposed to innovate by combining and adapting every word, phrase, and image with every other, making everything RELATED
, by a process Balthacarius proudly and reverently called — after an extended dramatic pause — bOTTification
Balthacarius' name for his proposal was cleverly chosen to be at once tantalising and absolutely inscrutable; @Simidirkar
immediately asked seven more questions without taking a breath, proving that even the great Mod himself had been trolled by the suggestion. Some of these were ambiguous or contradictory and others superfluous, as @Simidirkar
trolled instinctively by every word that left his mouth; but Balthacarius expected this and responded cleverly, navigating the maze of tangential diversions and concealed traps. When they had gotten all the bits sorted out and @Simidirkar
was clearly satisfied with the proposal, Balthacarius outlined the specifications of the Botcastle that was to host his bots for a pilot project, to be evaluated within the high-security network of a military training academy. After a pause, @Simidirkar
"Return to your quarters. I shall consult with my deputy moderators…"
"Oh, do not do this, Your High Modness!" exclaimed the clever Balthacarius, feigning dismay. "That is exactly what the Great Sysop @Tortlarjon
did, and his staff, to protect their own positions, advised him against it; shortly thereafter, the rival websites run by the Sysop @Elmarros
attacked with a revolutionised army and reduced the site to 404
s, though he had employed only an eighth as many bots!"
Whereupon he bowed, went to his room and checked the PNG Frame, which was not faint at all but bright red and white: a picture of flames; that meant Mrorl had done likewise at the forum of @Gursagar
. The Mod soon ordered Balthacarius to bOTTify one thread each in the forum's invitation-only area, one devoted to trolling, the other to flames, and populated by @Simidirkar
's friends and their sockpuppets, as well as those of agents hired or bribed from the ranks of @Gursagar
. These threads were soon filled with the most fabulously incomprehensible weirdness in recent memory; after thousands of posts in a few short nopix the Balthabots were victorious. Great was the grief of the assistant moderators and deputies, as @Simidirkar
unceremoniously demoted all of their accounts to the "Advanced Member" category; fully convinced of the efficacy of Balthacarius' technology, he ordered the entire forum to be bOTTified.
And so coders worked dip and nip, turning Balthacarius' specifications and template-bots into a team customised for each thread, both for his own as well as for @Gursagar
's fora (the latter to be accomplished via the existing organisation of sock-puppets). Honoured with titles and adorned with three new hats, Balthacarius browsed from thread to thread, supervising everything. Mrorl fared similarly in the forum of @Gursagar
, except that, due to that Mod's well-known aversion to the making of new words, his proposal emphasised repetition, which fit established flaming traditions and increased REDUNDANCY
, and so required little modification to the basic Gontalmannas protocol; as for titles he had to settle for just one, Great Betrayer of All Ways Prior
. Both fora were now preparing for all-out war; botcastles were upgraded where needed, and shadow mirrors brought online to handle any unexpected mustard. Their work now all but done, the two bOTTifactors packed their bags in secret, to be ready, when the time came, to repair to their ships where they had been parked near the great wall.
Meanwhile miracles were taking place in the threads, particularly in the "anything goes" area for general-interest topics. Members accustomed to drab inquiries about news stories or yesterdip's match suddenly discovered the appeal of poetry, both parodic and satirical, combining the most serious bits of one recent post with the most ludicrous or hilarious bits of another. On @Gursagar
's forum the flamers joined in, occasionally forgetting to flame, or vowing to do so later, after a verse or two; in @Simidirkar
's forum the trollers began to appreciate posting as a purpose in and of itself, recognising that a response was just as good as no response at all. Another thread devoted to ponies soon flourished into a songwriting tournament, and its long-entrenched flamers, suddenly and thoroughly immersed in cuteness, very nearly laughed. Somehow or other, as a result of this incident, Mod Madness was declared, and all users, grumbling and LOLing, but somehow neither flaming nor trolling, slowly moved from thread to thread, enjoying each new topic more than the last. MRW comments now commonly linked to GIFs that did not merit an NSFW tag — a first in the planet's history.
The law of Gontalmannas proceeded to work with inexorable logic. As bOTTification led to bOTTification, in proportion there developed an aesthetic sense, which reached its apex at the level of the stage musical comedy with full sets, costumes and orchestral score; three such productions had progressed through readings, workshops, and previews and were about to open in the planet's long-neglected theatres, streamed live on the fora of course. The critics and pundits, traditionally given over to flaming and trolling, found it hard to say anything in the least bit unmolpish, such was the awesomefulness of these productions. New businesses sprung up, merchandising hats, t-shirts, magnets, &c. expressing each new memeification arising from the latest fad in the threads. There were video hotogs and actual hotdogs with ketchup and mustard, each cross-promoting the other; new forum-devoted religions sprung up; and people began to organise meetups and bOTTification conventions. The planet's economy showed clear signs of improvement. There was even talk of dismantling the massive Wall that had long kept the trollers and flamers from direct contact.
Sensing that something had gone amiss, @Gursagar
sent after Mrorl and Balthacarius respectively, but the bOTTifactors were just then boarding their ships; pursuing leads from eyewitnesses, the hapless assistant of @Simidirkar
reached the Wall just in time to see the flames of the Castraftle LEML
's thrusters high in the sky far to the east. That which they had planned had come to pass: before the eyes of the mortified, infuriated Mods, both fora joined together into a great bOTTified community that would battle no more.
The planet safely far behind them, the bOTTifactors discussed their adventure. Stunned by the creative renaissance that had risen mainly from the Simdrikarnan side, Mrorl realised the value of an Ottish vocabulary; Balthacarius though would take no credit, believing the results to be entirely the inevitable consequence of Gontalmannas' laws. But having experienced several dips of pelting, he graciously apologised for his basement inquisition of Mrorl, which the latter forgivingly accepted, and with no hard feelings.
~ ~-~ ~-~-~-~ ~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~ ~-~-~-~ ~-~ ~ Footnotes
1. That face
2. Mrorl and Balthacarius had journeyed so far that they had reached a land where the great Wisdom warning against standardisation (related in the first tale of this volume) had never been received.
3. Mod Madness 2013 included the filter bitcoin
~ ~-~ ~-~-~-~ ~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~ ~-~-~-~ ~-~ ~