Last-modified: 10954 Oct 2
See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
"Know thyself." "The folly of mistaking a paradox -- Delphic Oracle, for a discovery, a metaphor for a 8th century BC proof, a torrent of verbiage for a spring of capital truths, and oneself for an oracle, is inborn in us." -- Paul Vale'ry, 1895 THE INTERNET ORACLE (TM) also known as The Usenet Oracle (TM) The Internet Oracle is available to answer all your questions. You may mail them to: email@example.com The "Subject:" of the message must be something like "Oracle Most Wise, please tell me ...". Actually, all it has to have is "tell me" or "tellme" somewhere in it. Capitalization doesn't matter. The body of the mail should contain only your question. You should receive a reply within a few days at most, probably much sooner. In the meantime, the Oracle may require that you answer a question for it as payment for its services. You will receive this question in the mail. You should respond with as most wise and witty an answer as you can. Mail the response to firstname.lastname@example.org, preserving the message's "Subject:" line. Usually, this can be done by simply replying to the mail through the normal means in your mail program, for example, using the "r" command in the standard Berkeley mail program. Actually, the subject just has to contain the word "answer" and the question number somewhere in it. The body of your mail response should contain only your answer -- don't include the question itself. Please try to respond within at most a day's time. If you take longer, there is a chance that the question will be answered by someone else first. Mailing the Oracle with the word "help" in the "Subject:" line will get you the most recent version of this help file mailed back. If you mail the Oracle with "ask me" or "askme" somewhere in the subject, the Oracle will send you a question to answer, if there are any available. Your questions, comments and even complaints about the Oracle are welcome. Please address them to email@example.com. ETIQUETTE The Internet Oracle is intended primarily as a cooperative effort for creative humor. Since its main purpose is just to let folks have fun, there are intentionally few rules. However, an etiquette has developed among its participants. A series of identical questions submitted is not appreciated since the same person often ends up answering many of them. It is okay to resubmit a question after you have received a reply, especially if you believe that the answerer did not do it justice. If you find yourself unable to give due consideration to a question you are to answer, it may be better to not answer the question at all than to give it a trivial answer and disappoint the questioner. However, doing this too much can cause a buildup of unanswered questions and slow down the Oracle's response time for everyone. You may wish to read some issues of the Internet Oracularities (see below) to get an idea of the conventions and style of writing in Oracle questions and answers. However, it certainly isn't required to follow them. Originality and creativity are usually the most appreciated qualities. Here are some general guidelines for those upon whom the Muse of the Oracle has descended and who are to write an answer as an incarnation of the Oracle: - Creativity and humor are valued. Many people find the anonymity of the Oracle a license to express themselves creatively and uniquely, often to surprising success. - Participants in the Oracle like to feel they've gotten out of it as much as they've put in. Please keep this in mind when answering questions. - Remember that brevity and clarity are key points of good writing. Overly long answers will reduce an Oracularity's chance of being published in the Internet Oracularities (see below) since it must really be worth the extra length to have it selected to be read by tens of thousands of people. - In general, avoid obscenity, slang, jargon, and obscure references. People of all different backgrounds and ages located all over the world use the Oracle. In particular, please be sensitive to the fact that children may be using the Oracle. - Try to be sensitive to new participants or to people who seem to have asked serious questions. - Don't flame the questioner for not asking a "good question". An off-the-wall or vague question calls for creativity, not rudeness, in the answer. Consider it a challenge! THE INTERNET ORACULARITIES The Oracle's priesthood receives a duplicate copy of all answered questions, or Oracularities as they're called. This is so that the best ones can be selected for the Internet Oracularities -- the chronicle of the mythos of the Internet Oracle. Your use of this program implies your approval of this usage. The Internet Oracularities are regularly published via postings to rec.humor.oracle, the World Wide Web and a mail distribution list, as well as occasionally via other media. Rec.humor.oracle is a moderated newsgroup. If your news system is properly configured, any postings you make to rec.humor.oracle will be forwarded directly to the Oracle and so you can ask questions of the Oracle by posting to the newsgroup. Rec.humor.oracle.d is unmoderated and anyone may post to it. It is a public forum for discussion and questions about the Oracle. If your system doesn't carry these newsgroups, encourage your news administrator to do so! Readers of the Oracularities may mail in ratings of each published Oracularity, the results of which are returned to the authors of the Oracularities and published in a later posting. They are also used to select occasional "best of the best" postings to rec.humor.oracle. Instructions on how to mail in your ratings are given at the top of each issue. If you don't have access to rec.humor.oracle and would like to receive the Oracularities via mail, send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to get on (or off) the mail distribution list. Include the word "subscribe" (or "unsubscribe") in the "Subject:" line. Back postings and ratings are available via anonymous ftp on ftp.cs.indiana.edu (220.127.116.11) in the directory /pub/oracle. If you have access to the Internet's World Wide Web, you can access The Internet Oracle Resource Index at http://www.cs.indiana.edu/~oracle/ or http://www.internetoracle.org/ This index has just about everything to do with the Oracle, including an HTML version of the help file, more FAQ documents about the Oracle, the latest Oracularities digests with voting enabled via your web browser, complete access to the Oracularities archives with search capability, etc. You can even submit questions to the Oracle here. ANONYMITY The Oracle is a confidential and anonymous service. The anonymity of the participants is preserved within all Oracle mailings and Oracularities postings. However, if you append a signature file to your mail, this may appear in your question or answer. Signature files are edited out from Oracularities postings. If you do not wish to remain anonymous, you may include a phrase in your answer like "incarnated as <insert your name and/or address here>". DISCLAIMER Since its users actually give the answers to all questions, neither the Oracle nor its priesthood take any responsibility for the content of the questions or answers. We would also warn parents that, due to its uncontrollable and unpredictable content, using the Oracle may not always be suitable for children. HISTORY Throughout the history of mankind, there have been many Oracles who have been consulted by many mortals, and some immortals. The great Hercules was told by the Delphic Oracle to serve Eurystheus, king of Mycenae, for twelve years to atone for the murder of his own children. It was the Oracle of Ammon who told King Cepheus to chain his daughter Andromeda to the rocks of Joppa to appease the terrible sea monster that was ravaging the coasts. That solution was never tested, though, as Perseus saved the girl in the nick of time. With the advent of the electronic age, and especially high-speed e-mail communication, the spirit of the Oracles found a new outlet, and we now recognize another great Oracle, the Internet Oracle. Local oracle programs have existed in various places for many years. Most can trace their origin or influence to Peter Langston's <email@example.com> seminal oracle program which was written for the research V5 Unix system at the Harvard Science Center in 1975-76. As part of his "psl games" distribution, this original program spread to a number of sites, such as Murray Hill Bell Labs, Interactive Systems and Lucasfilm. Lars Huttar <firstname.lastname@example.org> used a description of this program to write his oracle program, which was posted to alt.sources in August 1989. This program inspired the Internet Oracle. Steve Kinzler <email@example.com>, a systems administrator and graduate student at Indiana University, installed Huttar's program on silver.ucs.indiana.edu, where it proved to be quite popular. The best Oracularities were posted to in.bizarre, a group local to Indiana. Ray Moody <firstname.lastname@example.org>, a graduate student at Purdue University, after correspondence with Kinzler, wrote the core software for the Usenet Oracle, a mail-based oracle program to be run on iuvax.cs.indiana.edu for net-wide use, where it proved to be an immediate success. On 12 March 1996, it was renamed as the Internet Oracle. Kinzler continued development of the system, adding support for the Oracularities postings and ratings and, eventually, the Oracle Priesthood -- a hardy and loyal band of volunteers who read through the hundreds of questions and answers each week to choose the best for publication. Jon Monsarrat <email@example.com> and Randal Schwartz <firstname.lastname@example.org> also contributed to aspects of the software development. Michael Nolan <email@example.com> carried through the newsgroup creation process for the rec.humor.oracle newsgroups. Scott Panzer <firstname.lastname@example.org> and David Sewell <email@example.com> developed the Oracle's presence on the World Wide Web via the Internet Oracle Resource Index. Of course, it is the thousands of Oracle participants over the years who have created the personality, mythos and history of the Internet Oracle. Long live the Internet Oracle (in all its incarnations)! ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Written: 8 October 1989 Steve Kinzler Last Revised: 2 October 2003 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.cs.indiana.edu/~kinzler/ Thanks to Joshua R Poulson <email@example.com> and Jim Cheetham <firstname.lastname@example.org> for assistance with portions of this document. "Internet Oracle" and "Usenet Oracle" are trademarks of Stephen B Kinzler. s of Stephen B Kinzler.