Why you should steer clear of “Florida Man Challenge”

"Fun" as in "fund transfer"

Enlarge / “Fun” as in “fund transfer”

This week, a viral “challenge” took Twitter and other social media by storm. The “Florida Man Challenge” called for people to:

  • Google “Florida Man” and their birthdate,
  • Find a headline about the activities of a “Florida Man” that matched their birthdate, and
  • Post that headline to their social media account.

The challenge spread like a cat meme, so much so that typing “Florida Man” into the Google search bar resulted in suggested entries that were almost exclusively calendar dates.

When I walked into the @tb_times newsroom this morning, ALL of the top stories were about #FloridaMan. It was confusing until we realized why: Everyone is googling to see their Florida Man headline.

Of course, I wrote about it:https://t.co/nFMWQPbMRT

— Gabrielle Calise (@gabriellecalise) March 21, 2019

Doing this was, as we like to say at Ars, a really bad idea.

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Rebooting UUCP to redecentralize the net

UUCP (Unix-to-Unix Copy Protocol) is a venerable, non-hierarchical networking protocol that was used as transport for early email and Usenet message boards; its intrinsic decentralization and its cooperative nature (UUCP hosts store and forward messages for one another) make it a kind of symbol of the early, decentralized robustness that characterized the early net and inspired so much optimism about a fundamentally distributed arrangement of peers rising up to replace the top-down phone companies and other centralized systems.

As part of the decentralized web movement, UUCP has been rebooted by Dataforge, a Fort Worth, Texas-based “hybrid shell provider/tilde server” whose proprietor Wesley “praetor” Banderia uses his decades of Unix systems administration to keep the system running on a cluster of lovingly maintained vintage SGI machines with a Google Cloud VPS for backup.

Dataforge’s UUCP is encrypted by default using ssh (you could also adapt it to run over TLS) with GPG signing for the content layer. Banderia is seeking other hosts to peer with his system (the system has four peers at present).

From the UUCP manifesto: “We are a dedicated group of artists, system operators, nerds, geeks, nostalgics of every walk of life who desire a fully decentralized internet in the vein of the UUCP networks of yore. In this way, we have revived the network protocol adding modern essentials such encryption, permissions, better integration with dedicated links. While also keeping it’s virtues of transparency, ease of implementation and resiliency. We also return to a place of mutual respect and understanding, freedom for all people who utilize it. Nobody ‘owns’ it. It’s everybody’s to use, tinker with, contribte to and have equal say and access to its content and resources without fear of reprisal, condemnation or censorship.”

This reminds me a lot of Scuttlebutt, the distributed, off-grid secure messaging system.

Why doesn’t this have a proper name?

Following past traditions of UUCP networks, the network at large has no real name. A name implies ownership, and nobody owns the network. Individual site networks are free to have a proper name, but the larger network doesn’t. Just as the Internet doesn’t have a real name.


Dataforge UUCP

(via Four Short Links)