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[personal profile] cjwatson
I've had several days of prompts that involved really quite complex and thoughtful answers, so it's helpful that today I have a completely frivolous one: [personal profile] emperor said "I think you should write about trouts". Given the unusual plural, and the fact that I don't really know much about the fish beyond that they're tasty with butter and samphire, I'm going to assume that he in fact meant the silly IRC kind.

I hang around on a good number of IRC channels, many of which are largely serious and for work, but the relevant one here is #chiark on chiark's own little IRC network, which is frequented by a fair crowd of geeks. Now IRC is a pretty old chat system and has accumulated some quirky traditions. A lot of those are channel- or network-specific, but quite a few found their way into some of the popular client software and so spread further than that. One of those was the /slap command in at least mIRC, which caused the client to emit "* <person> slaps <other person> around a bit with a large trout". This sort of silliness was ubiquitous enough that it made it into some surprising other places.

Anyway, enough #chiark users were old-school IRC types, and presumably quite bored, that they decided to totally overengineer the whole business. Thus the "Servus" bot was born, whose function is to hang around on channel until somebody asks it to do something, at which point, depending on the command, it might complain at somebody's pun with a "trout", say something subtly or otherwise flirtatious to somebody, search the web for something and post a summary, expand a Twitter link into the text of the tweet, those kinds of things. The lists of trouts and flirts (and indeed of slashes; that command takes two arguments rather than one and its purpose is hopefully obvious) have grown over the years as people suggest things, and are now thoroughly exotic and weird. Trouts range in destructive power from "mutters darkly about %s" and "hits %s with a squeaky hammer", through "staples %s to Gordon Brown's nose" and "earnestly discusses railway routing regulations with %s", to "sacrifices %s to dark gods" and "introduces %s to their antimatter twin".

I think that's about as much as I can manage to write about a silly IRC bot, except to note that it is occasionally speculated what type of being Servus must be in order to actually carry out all these requests, or at any rate what kind of supply cupboard it must have; and it would appear that [livejournal.com profile] ewx was bored enough to compile a list of its consumables.

This post is part of my December days series. Please prompt me!
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