Friday, February 1, 2013

The most mysterious subreddit on Reddit is a social chatter site that allows its users the ability to create "subreddits", which are message boards to chatter about more specific things. Sort of like the old Usenet system. Anyway, one of these subreddits has posed a mystery that so far no one's been able to definitively crack.

Each post is usually titled with a time and date timestamp. Then inside, each post is just random blocks of hexadecimal strings. Various attempts have been made to crack the pattern and purpose, but the content itself in hexadecimal decodes to one of two things: Either nonsense data like images, sound files, and snippets of literature or programming language code, or seemingly unbreakable data (which might be encrypted or might be nonsense).

It is apparent that a bot does the posting, though it has responded to queries before indicating that it has some human oversight. Thanks to the way it seems to toy with everybody's attempts to figure it out, a whole little subculture has formed around its enigma.

Except that I really think there's no mystery to it at all. Here's my take on probable explanations:

It's a stupid publicity stunt. The content is random nonsense,
sometimes it's a poem, sometimes it's assembly programming code, a
whole bunch of them were pointless GIF files.

To what point? Well, in the first place, it's not that difficult to
script, so one desktop sitting there grinding out random files with
random algorithms run over them could post all this. It's certain that
the motive is simply to get people intrigued and curious. Most of us
have drawn one of the following conclusions:

    * Corporation doing viral marketing. (not likely, since a product,
      game, or show would have been pitched by now.)

    * CIA / ICE / some other spook outfit uses this to
      recruit. (somewhat likely, but nobody claims to have been
      contacted with a job offer yet... not that they'd tell)

    * Single rogue troll (highly likely)

    * Single delusional / psychotic individual who really thinks
      they're communicating with flying saucers / the CIA / the
      Illuminati. (highly unlikely, the poster has joked and toyed
      with people trying to crack it, showing a sense of humor and wit
      about the operation.)

    * Psychology test by some student or university (likely,
      but it's hard to see where anybody would be able to get useful
      results. You could get the same or better research data by
      throwing 30 volunteers into a room with printouts and listening
      to them make up theories.)

    * Reddit admins themselves (somewhat likely - it's viral marketing
      for Reddit itself, to provide something entertaining and provide
      some depth for the site by giving it its own urban legend. May I
      point out that the subreddit was banned in the past, then
      reopened after months. Somebody had a compelling case to