Bots typing away with nothing to say.
August 7, 2012 2:22 AM   Subscribe

What exactly is going on with people I don't know showing up as "X is typing" on one of my instant messengers, but never actually saying anything? Is this some sort of oblique scam?

So I have a multiclient chat called Pidgin, which has an interesting function known as Psychic Mode - it detects when somebody's typing to you before they've said the initial message, and opens the chat window then.

Now, I've recently had a window open in this way with a user I am completely unfamiliar with. I have messaged them back a number of times (as this has happened a few times) to no reply; they just keep the "X is typing" dialog up, like they're continuously typing.

The medium in question is Yahoo, on the multiclient.

There were a couple of ones that did this, though I blocked all but one. Two examples of the usernames, in case it means anything: apoloniaguadeloupe and markettacastellana.

It wouldn't seem to be a scamming thing; for most people, that sort of thing would never show up. So what exactly is going on here?
posted by solarion to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My guess is yes, it's a bot. Hard to say, but the screennames are pretty random, and don't seem to be used elsewhere, based on a quick google search. I'm definitely not an expert, but it seems like a possible problem with the Pidgin app, the bot takes advantage of the psychic mode/functionality and causes, essentially, a popup.

I recall having occasional bot activity with AIM and Yahoo, and I doubt that quit just because I stopped using their IM much.

Probably a good idea to scan your system for viruii and possible spyware, etc, on the off chance it's something already in there.

Hope you can get a more satisfying answer!
posted by 6 of 1 at 3:09 AM on August 7, 2012

I found it fairly likely that it was a bot. S'pose my question is more what possible angle does a bot have by doing this?
posted by solarion at 3:23 AM on August 7, 2012

I found it fairly likely that it was a bot. S'pose my question is more what possible angle does a bot have by doing this?
Curiosity. If the bot actually speaks to you, then you will quickly know it is a bot. If it appears to be typing something, some number of people will jump the gun and say something to the bot. Now the bot knows that there is a live person on the other end. Maybe they switch to a live operator running the scam or something. I don't know because I also block spammy-looking unsolicited chats.
posted by b1tr0t at 3:34 AM on August 7, 2012

Could the action of initiating the chat and beginning to type, which triggers the "X is typing" dialog on your end, generate an error message if you're not online? And hence, this is a way to confirm whether or not you're online?
posted by XMLicious at 3:37 AM on August 7, 2012

Curiosity. If the bot actually speaks to you, then you will quickly know it is a bot.

Not necessarily...lots of bots do a darn fine job "conversing," for extended periods. And it's never curiosity. It's purely programming. As for the purpose, depends on the programmer. Could be for malicious intents, might just be to get a laugh. No way of telling.

I'd still strongly encourage the scans, though.
posted by 6 of 1 at 3:52 AM on August 7, 2012

"X" is typing doesn't mean that they are typing to you. Especially if it is a bot, it could be opening thousands of chat windows at a time and the "typing" you are getting notified about could be another window.
posted by COD at 5:34 AM on August 7, 2012

Is that true, COD? Because I'd think you'd need to be centered on the window. But if not (which is possible - other opinions?) that would make a whole lot of sense.
posted by solarion at 6:00 AM on August 7, 2012

Could be a bot. It could also be that they are chatting with someone else in another tab/window of the messaging app. I've found that doing so will often display the "X is typing" message in ALL active chats.

So, it's possible a bot spamming many accounts at once, and you're just seeing evidence of its constant chatter.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:12 AM on August 7, 2012

Re: COD and Thorzdad...

That's something you need to check with your individual client. Get a few friends together and it'd be trivial to find out.

I use AIM at work a lot, and I'm 99.9999% sure that "X is typing" means they're typing just to you.
posted by lewedswiver at 7:31 AM on August 7, 2012

"X" is typing doesn't mean that they are typing to you.

XMPP chat on Pidgin only shows the typing indicator when someone is typing in your window. You might be thinking of a busy indicator, which typically goes away like a screen saver with mouse or keyboard activity.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 7:51 AM on August 7, 2012

Lewedswlver, I would agree with that analysis, so it still seems strange to me. But I need to check if that is how it works on Yahoo or not; elimination by the scientific method and all. I'll unmark those until I know. Other prospective answers thus still very welcome.
posted by solarion at 9:16 AM on August 7, 2012

I get this too. The big problem I have is I keep trying to block one of the bots after I accidentally added them to my list, but pidgin tells me every time I log on that I am trying to block them and they're in my list. So I delete them from the list, block them, same thing happens next time.
posted by jesirose at 11:32 AM on August 7, 2012

I use Pidgin and I'm sure I see "X is typing" when I'm in a chat and there is quite a delay before I see the message. I've always assumed that the typing was not necessarily in the chat window - thus the delay.
posted by COD at 11:36 AM on August 7, 2012

Turn off the Psychic Mode plugin. Which service are they coming from (Google, Facebook, etc)? You may need to go to your account on that service and remove them from your Contacts list. Pidgin has to do things a bit weird due to its support for multiple protocols when it comes to contacts. There are the server contacts (the Roster) which is sent from the server to the client and sorta-merged with Pidgin's own Buddy List. Some types of Buddy list things are local-only. This is why you delete someone and they're back the next time you sign in -- they're still on the server Roster.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:52 AM on August 7, 2012

Oh, sorry missed the Yahoo. I don't know how they do things.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:54 AM on August 7, 2012

This also happens to me. I don't use yahoo messenger, but sometimes when I'm checking my yahoomail account I will see invitations to chat with an obvious bot on yahoo messenger. I just blocked the name and close the window- maybe if you click through there's some kinda scam going on.
posted by kittensofthenight at 4:12 PM on August 7, 2012

Probably an artifact of the way the bot is programmed - 99% of users don't use pidgin with psychic mode, so the bot creator may not be even aware this is happening.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:20 PM on August 7, 2012

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