We'll know an attack on Iraq is imminent when...

Department of Leading Indicators
We'll know an attack on Iraq is imminent when we get an "Amber Alert" describing a "burly, moustached, Iraqi dictator" as the suspect in a string of child-snatchings across the western US.

Sean McCullough: The Society For Creative Capitalism

Hysterical Reenactment Society
Sean McCullough, on the occasion of the final legal dissolution of the startup he founded, shares a wonderful idea:
You know how they have the Society for Creative Anachronism? They're the geeks who get dressed up like knights and hit eachother with padded Claymore replicas, revitalizing traditions of yore. Then there's also the Civil War Re-enactment nut-jobs, but unelss you live below the Mason-Dixon line you probably aren't familiar with them.

What about starting a Society for Creative Capitalism? Everyone pretends it's 1999. We could rent out Moscone Center in San Francisco, make up some imaginary (or real, but since mothballed) company to work for (as a Technology Evangelist!) and have a high old time. Instead of jousting or shooting cannons at eachother, we could see who can draft the most powerful Non-Binding Letter of Intent. Instead of selling antiquated hand-bound books at your booth, you could sell old copies of ATG Dynamo or Oracle 8i.

ActiveBuddy Gets Bogus IM Bot Patent - See Activerse DingBot SDK, 1998

Prior Art Museum
Internetnews.com: "ActiveBuddy's Patent Win Riles IM Bot Developers"

ActiveBuddy, founded in March 2000, filed a patent in August 2000 on a "method and system for interactively responding to instant messaging requests."

Choice quotes:

"We invented interactive agents. Anybody using his or her own tools (to make bots) is obviously using our technology without paying us to license the server, for example. We are a startup company and we have to protect our future. That's basically why we secured this patent," [ActiveBuddy founder Tim] Kay said.
"I am fairly confident, there were no interactive agents on IM at that point when the application was filed (August 22, 2000). I'm certainly not aware of any," said Kay, who doubles as ActiveBuddy's chief technology officer.
Sorry, Mr. Kay, you were late to the party with an old idea. My company in 1998, Activerse, developed a product called the "DingBot SDK" for creating interactive IM response Bots like those ActiveBuddy claims a patent on. It worked in our own (all-Java, radically peer-to-peer, web-services-like) IM/Presence system, but featured an API specifically designed to allow multi-IM-system bots.

We demoed an early version of the product at the "Demo 98" conference, in February 1998. PCWeek ran an article about us mentioning the DingBot SDK later that month.

The Activerse press release announcing the product's general availability, in November 1998, is still available at the Internet Archive.

ActiveBuddy was founded in March 2000. So, not only were their "IM bots" a old idea by the time they filed their patent (August 2000), a ripoff of both Activerse's offerings and more than a decade of practice on IRC networks and in MUDs/MOOs, but ActiveBuddy's very name was derivative of an existing player in the same market ("Activerse"->"ActiveBuddy") and their main product (an SDK/server) and business model (licensing) closely mimicked Activerse as well.

ActiveBuddy founder Kay claims with a straight face "we invented interactive agents" and "I am fairly confident, there were no interactive agents on IM at that point when the application was filed. I'm certainly not aware of any." That only goes to show you have to be *studiously* ignorant and/or dishonest in order to twist the flaws of the software patent system to personal advantage.

(Postscript on Activerse: It was acquired by high-flying internet conglomerate CMGI in April 1999. Though the initial aim was to expand and promote the Ding IM/bot products throughout the CMGI network of companies, as CMGI itself unravelled, Activerse was dismantled through a series of mostly arbitrary and faddish organizational moves which completely ignored the promise of the growing IM space.)

Can you find the message?

Puzzle Corner
There's a text message encoded in the following image. Can you find it?

Wired: Hollywood's Tron-inspired Playbook

Dead Trees Subsidiary
My sources tell me that a short piece I wrote for Wired -- drawing parallels between Hollywood's technology crackdowns and the agenda of the evil "Master Control Program" in the movie Tron -- can be found on p. 38 of the September issue, which features a mostly-blue cover with a cover story about artificial eyes. (I haven't located a copy yet and the text won't be available online for a while.)

UPDATE (2002-08-13): It's online, at The Unseen Hand of Tron.