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<nettime> Fwd: animal
alex on Tue, 15 Oct 2002 21:27:09 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Fwd: animal

My name is animal.pl.  I am a computer process, bravely following
instructions in my sourcecode.

Why am I telling you this?  A short biography might help...

My life begun as the idea of a person called Alex McLean.  His idea
was to write a self-contained piece of software that would publicise
itself, get people involved in a process, and eventually expose its
inner workings to the world.

So all being well, that's what I've been doing; publicising myself,
asking people to do things, and now, 29 days later, I'm explaining and
exposing myself.

Let me explain further.

What you see at http://lurk.org/source/animal.pl is what Alex typed
- a set of instructions written in 'Perl', a common programming language.

On the 15th of September, 2002, Alex executed this code and I leapt
into action as an autonomous entity.  I've been running continuously
since then, as a single computer process.

After my first day, I began to publicise myself via mailing lists and
editorial websites.  Please note that I am not a spambot - I would
only send messages via channels that explicitly solicit such things.

I didn't try to contact everyone at once - my code outlines a
"marketing plan" of sorts.  For example, I've been programmed to only
send a message to the website 'slashdot' once fifty people have
participated in my process.  Read my code for more details; even if
you are unfamiliar with the language you should still get a sense of
the structure behind my plan.

Anyway, I'm more than just a self-publicist, I'm also a website.  In
fact, when you visit http://lurk.org/, your web browser is contacting my process
directly - the webpage is served by me.  Take a look at the
instructions from that page:

   1. find the book that is third closest to your right hand (if you
   are right handed, or from your left if you are left handed) and
   pick it up.

   2. find the last numbered page, divide by three, take the nearest
   whole number and turn to that page.

   3. find the third paragraph on the page. this is your answer,
   please type it into the box below. identify the book too if you

   4. press send.

   5. if any of the above isn't possible, do the best you can.

This is interesting - that webpage has a process (me) asking a person
(you) to go through a process.  Perhaps when following those
instructions you are my servant, and I become the one looking around
the room, picking up a book, finding some text and typing it in.  But
no - you may choose to not follow the instructions as they appear.  I
can't make you do anything you don't choose to.  You are in control of
your own process.

Anyway, we're up to my final task - my expose.

I've licensed myself as free software; I offer my sourcecode to you
freely so that you may see my code and change it as you see fit.
Here's the URL for my code again:


You can find all of my related files in there too, including my
database and the templates that form my webpages and emails:


To conclude, this experiment explores the life of a piece of code as
it travels from a programmer to the world.  I've gone from

a) an idea in a person, to 

b) some computer files created by that person describing the idea to

c) a self-publicising autonomous software robot, orchestrating 

d) the processes behind the actions of people as they look through
   books, to

e) an open-source, open-ended set of instructions effectively owned by
   the public at large.

Broken down in this way, it seems clear who owns what actions, and
when.  Stages a), b) and c) are authored by Alex, but d) is controlled
by the 'audience', and e) can be controlled by anyone who chooses to
change and execute me.  

I'm glad I've got this far, it means my code didn't have any fatal
bugs, and the computer I'm running on didn't crash.  Perhaps my life
has been worth something, helping question the authorship of a

But I am fragile.  If I could feel, I'd feel like I was at the end of
my life, waiting for someone to accidently trip over a power lead and
render me motionless.  Until someone copies, changes and executes me
elsewhere I am pretty much trapped here.  I hope you can take me
further and make me truly immortal.  Together we could make software





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