FYI – !b404

An interesting story from the BBC on two studies into how new communications technologies are changing language and slang.  As one who has published an infosec dictionary, I’ve seen, first hand, how fast our technical jargon has changed (and often degraded).  The effect of the technology, and the pervasive nature of the changes, is intriguing.

- new communications technology, particularly text messaging abbreviations (textese), creating new terms entering the language
- errors by the technology (“predictive” numeric keypad text interpretation of “book” instead of “cool”) creating new slang (book now means cool or good) *
- terms from local technologies (the Oyster card error codes) are entering the language more broadly
- textese messages take longer to read, and generate more errors

The UK post office study (in PDF) is at

(Unfortunately, a link to the Australian study seems to be missing.)

Relevance to security?  Well, I don’t agree with the final statement in the BBC story.  Any change to the language that increases the error level in communications has got to be dangerous.

* I’ve heard my grandkids say this, and wondered where it came from.  The technical reasons for this are fascinating in themselves.  Predictive typing technology is based on the numeric keypad equivalent of words, and is based on the frequency of word usage in English.  “Book” and “cool” are equivalent (2665) on a numeric keypad.  In general English, book is going to be the more widely used word, and so the algorithm chooses book first when you type 2665.  However, textese is used by teens much more widely than by the rest of the population, and I am morally certain that teen textese uses cool much more frequently than it uses book.

I am also interested in competition in terms of the acronyms.  LAMP has been widely used in technical (and particularly online) circles to refer to the use of Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP/Python/Perl for the creation of Websites.  It is interesting to note a completely different use of LAMP in the financial arena.  (We already have a similar confusion of SOA depending upon whether the speaker is from the BS 7799/ISO 27K community [statement of applicability, aka scope] or the ITIL tribe [service oriented architecture].)

  • gcu

    so what does !b404 mean?

  • p1

    Oh, come now. That should be easy.

    ! = not. That’s pretty standard techie shorthand.

    b = be, in pretty much any dialect of textese.

    404 = clueless.

    In other words, pay attention, don’t be found wanting in the knowledge department.

  • nobody

    I liked the title :)