Prentiss Riddle: Chuckles

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Laura K. and SCIgen

Being at the point of the semester when projects are coming due, and struggling as I am with trying to make my own writing more than just a pro forma fulfillment of the assignment at hand, I'm basking in schadenfreude regarding a couple of recent incidents.

One is the story of Laura K., an undergraduate who solicited a stranger via IM to write a term paper for her. He did so and documented the consequences. The paper, for a comparative religion course, covered "Vindaloo Dharma" under which "if a Shudra watches dharma and greg, it will have a positive effect on his karma". He even threw in a bit of pottymouth just to make it obvious to her prof that Laura K. could not have read the paper at all before turning it in. As engrossing as the prank itself is the back and forth in the comments on the author's blog, a sort of mini-Mahabharata of conflicting opinions on whether it was right to pull this trick on a blatant plagiarist.

In a similar vein but without the troubling moral issues is Badger's story of a graduate comp lit classmate who essentially pulled a Laura K. on the whole class. She turned in a poem "babbling about the meaning of art and how her name was william shatner" which culminated in:


There must be a term for bogus content intentionally included in a text to show that the readers don't get it, sort of like easter eggs in software.

Meanwhile at the other end of the spectrum of academic writing is SCIgen, an automatic CS paper generator. It produces grammatically correct, properly formatted papers of utter nonsense, complete with charts and graphs. The authors successfully got one of their papers accepted at a conference, WMSCI 2005.

The SCIgen guys say that WMSCI is part of the SCI/IIIS family of dozens of conferences "with no quality standards, which exist only to make money". I heard about this via one of my fellow students who notes that UT hosts an SCI/IIIS-affiliated conference, CCCT '05. The CCCT website appears to have a mechanism for reviewers to access submitted papers, so maybe the accusation that all SCI/IIIS conferences are frauds is false; it would be nice to think that UT was above falling for such a scam.

chuckles 2005.04.16 link