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Bot Nick Q and Rather Long 2 Cents

Posted By: mamabear
Date: Tuesday, 1 December 2009, at 5:27 p.m.

In Response To: Summary of Lehmann views (rew)

Thanks for this summary and list of talking points. I am not addressing them in order, because I want to put the new info I am providing first.

1. There's still an elephant in the corner, which is the nicks the bots used. I reported two bots or bot-assisted players two years ago, and Play65 said they would investigate, but they were still on the server a year later. One or both appeared to have some human input at the time...one even complimented me on my playing, and the other bot (which I didn't know at the time was a bot or bot-assisted player) was a silent spectator, perhaps assisting by phone, who knows? I wasn't amused, but I was suspicious, so I analyzed all the games we had played and emailed them to P65 with a strongly worded letter.

I don't know if these two bots were tied in with this crowd at all, but player I am sure about had a short nick that began with a lower-case c. The error rate for "c" was close to zero in a series of 20 games.

2. One reason P65, if not actually in on the bot-scam, may have had difficulty dealing with it is that they apparently don't archive the games played there, or at least told me they didn't at the time. My letters to them were in November of 2007, so were about two years ago. The first time, I sent just the game .mat file numbers, which included a game ID number but not a date stamp. They emailed back asking for the files themselves, which I sent.

They emailed back that they were investigating, but nothing came of it...and I understand why that would be, if they don't have an archive and nobody else complained. After all, a human, including some legitimate ones I have played, can have a series of awesome games from time to time, and should not be banned because one person happens to run into them on one of their best days, then complains. Also, regardless of their ER, anyone who plays half-decently will occasionally be accused of bot-usage by an opponent, so unless there are multiple complaints I wouldn’t investigate in depth either if I were them.

I also think my complaint may have been dismissed as less serious because I won two points in the series. You can also get awesomely lucky now and then!

3. Now back to the first four points. PJT may indeed have developed this bot without any intention that it be used online to cheat. I would still be interested to know if he was aware of what use was later being made of it, and did nothing to stop it. Did he ever say to Alex, “Friend, you must not do this”, or try to stop the moving train by talking to Play65’s management?

PJT, you know I have no dog in this fight, please get over here to this BB and tell us your side. There is no democracy in either the Americas or Europe whose intent is to convict someone without hearing both sides, and I am sure I am speaking for everyone who has posted here that we are more than willing to listen to everything you have to say about this. You don’t have to be lily-white to avoid being drawn and quartered—IMO anyway Wernher Von Braun was a hero because of the overall picture of his life and its trajectory and accomplishments, despite the remaining controversy about his role in the use of slave labor in the Mittelwerk.

4. Regarding the bots being “good for the game”: This isn’t rational, it is rationalizing! If a weak punter came hoping for a friendly, social game, and over and over found himself playing bots that either never spoke at all, or answered in strange, stilted language the way “Parlorbot” at FIBS talks, that player would end up thinking the backgammon world was not a friendly place. It would be like judging Brazil to be harsh and dangerous because of a brief forced landing in the middle of the Amazon jungle, without ever seeing the beaches at Rio, but the traveler wouldn’t know that and so would not come back.

And what about the legitimate players who are also sitting around waiting for games? They are losing action, profitable or not but desired regardless, to a bunch of bots. The real players have ratings that show the punters what they are buying if they say yes to a game, e.g. the Red Flag of Death that tells opponents you are above 1800. I would guess that a random survey of “recreational players” would yield a 100% negative response to a question about their desire to play with bots not labeled as such.

5. The idea that improving one’s skills so that one can win in competition with others, whether in commerce, games, or the arts, is somehow cheating--is one of the most poisonous and enervating ideas our culture has ever imbibed to its detriment. I could go on at great length about who I think first cooked up this sorry intellectual pabulum, and what its dangerous effects are and will be, but in the interest of staying on point here I’ll save that for someplace more appropriate. But I will say that I believe there are excellent players on Play65 who are not cheating in any way at all, because reading books, studying and thinking are commendable, not condemnable, activities.

Oh yeah, one more thing: if anyone on that “committee” is good friends with one or more of the people being investigated, they need to recuse themselves immediately.

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