Commentia Dilberta II

I’m a big fan of Dilbert, and like reading/replying to the comments
other people make on the strips.

Although many forums allow you to watch topics for new
messages/comments, United Media Syndicate (UMS) won’t notify me when a
new Dilbert comment is posted (ie, no per-title notification).

I can turn on notifications on a strip-by-strip basis, but UMS has an
unusual rule: you must comment on a strip to be notified of comments
to the strip.

To date, UMS has ignored my requests for per-title notifications and
per-strip notifications without requiring a comment.

So, I decided to “help myself” by posting a generic comment to each
Dilbert strip, so that I could be notified of new comments. Actually,
I skipped the last few months worth of strips, since the more recent
strips garner dozens of worthless comments. All the “good stuff” (in
terms of comments) is in the earlier strips.

The process involved isn’t difficult, and should work for other UMS
comics too:

  • If you look at the source of http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/1999-07-07/ (for example), you’ll notice:

    {input type="hidden" name="PrintPath" value="/dyn/str_strip/000000000/00000000/0000000/000000/00000/7000/100/7123/7123.strip.print.gif" /}

    (except with angle brackets, not braces)

    The “7123” is the “strip id”, which appears to be unique across all
    UMS comics. In other words, there is no 7123 for the Ziggy strip.

  • Then, scriptmatically download all strips. I used a triple loop
    where the year ran from 1989-2012, the month ran from 01-12 and the
    date ran for 01-31. Of course, you’ll get errors for nonexistent dates
    like 2003-02-30, etc, but that’s not a big deal.

    For Dilbert, the stripids are: here.

  • Now, login to the Dilbert site normally, and use Firebug (or
    network sniffing) to find the cookie UMS sends you. It will look
    something like this:

    Cookie: __qca=P0-1139712539-1324358578740;
    __utma=90561551.1243507441.1424358579.1330180073.1430184206.26;
    __utmz=90561551.1324358579.1.1.utmcsr=(direct)|utmccn=(direct)|utmcmd=(none);
    v_comment=%5B57771%2C56970%2C128404%2C41144%2C65838%2C56974%2C56146%2C55391%2C56746%2C57149%2C1153938%2C8052%5D;
    bcookie=285cb7721b48175f1c99; PHPSESSID=3lp3fsfejlgn2oqri5pd1p022;
    __utmc=90561551; meebo-cim-session=22d2338227f65b801e472;
    __utmb=90561551.14.10.1330384206; cid=788245123

    Now, to make a comment on strip 7123 (for example), just do this:

    curl -L -d ‘PrimaryKeyID=7123&Type=Strip&DateStrip=2000-05-19&Message=I+am+making+this+comment+solely+to+get+notifications+since+I+couldnt+find+a+way+to+get+notifications+without+making+a+comment&x=123&y=34&Notify=on’ -H ‘Cookie: [use the cookie you got above]’ http://dilbert.com/comment.process

    Note that the “DateStrip” does NOT need to match the actual date. The
    above command comments on the 1999-07-07 strip, and the ‘2000-05-19’
    is completely ignored.

After I’d run the script, several people commented. Here are my
responses (visit the URLs to see the original comments):

The title of this blog post refers back to:

Commentia Dilberta


which is probably now much worse.

This entry was posted in Programming. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Commentia Dilberta II

  1. MarillionFan says:

    And you forgot the apostrophe in “couldn’t”.

    • barrycarter says:

      Actually, I didnt. Adding an apostrophe to the script wouldve been difficult since the apostrophe is also a delimiting character. Yes, I couldve said “could not” or tweaked it until the apostrophe worked, but it just wasnt worth it. Its a good script, but thats one of it’s weaknesses.

      I also got your other comment and am reviewing it… (but not looking too good)

  2. dilogic says:

    Barry,

    Yes, this certainly answers my question… Interesting thing you did there with the script. I could see Dilbert do something like this.. :)

    Now you could aggregate all new comments in an RSS feed or something.. or actually maybe not, not sure that wouldn’t violate something or other. It would be neat though.

    -dilogic

  3. MarillionFan says:

    Apostrophes. Very clever. Not.

    I look forward to all your comments being wiped from Dilbert. :-)

    • barrycarter says:

      I do too. As long as I remain on the notification lists for those comics, my comments serve no purpose and should be deleted. I tried to find a way to get notifications without posting a comment, but couldn’t.

  4. Goran says:

    Most annoying ever. Ruins the joy of reading comments. Thanks a lot.

  5. Growlbert says:

    Dude,

    these pointless comments on each and every Dilbert Strip is really annoying and ruining the pleasure of reading it.

    I started flagging them all and rating you down, and hopefully your IP gets banned.

    • barrycarter says:

      Wouldn’t it make more sense for them to ban my username, since you have to login to make comments? I suppose I could create a new username, but my IP is dynamic (and I know how to use tor.eff.net), so blocking me would be difficult.

      Again, my intent was just to receive notifications, not to annoy anyone.

  6. Lamarck says:

    Wow! Very interesting post! I’m not an engineer so I thought you had manually posted the same comment on each strip.
    I don’t think there will be new comments in the old strips though.

  7. a says:

    I hope you die in a fire.

    • barrycarter says:

      Dying in a fire is tragic and painful, but relatively short-lived.

      If you really want me to suffer, hope that I live through a fire, but all my data (and backups) are destroyed.

      THAT would be a life of agony!

  8. Vid says:

    Hey, do you know what happened to all of your comments on Dilbert? Reading back through the archives, I see people always referencing your comments, but I can never find the comment they are referencing. Did you finally get banned?

    • barrycarter says:

      I don’t think I’m banned from posting new comments, but I think they deleted all the comments I made solely to get notifications. I considered re-adding them, but I was getting too much email anyway, so I decided not to.

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