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Dec 22nd, 2013
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  1. So http://xkcd.com/1305/ exists, which reminded me of the woman who talked to Clippy. This is a true story.
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  3. What a lot of people didn’t realize was that Clippy, by default, sent anything you asked it to Microsoft, anonymized.
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  5. No evil intent. We had no idea who asked what. It was a way of knowing what we’d screwed up. Lots of queries on a topic? Bad feature design.
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  7. One day one of the PMs in charge of monitoring Clippy’s logs found a story, told in fragments.
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  9. Somebody, probably a woman in the US Midwest, was typing a sentence at a time. Clippy would answer nonsensically. She’d type another one.
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  11. She’d lost her job. Her boyfriend was beating her. She was so lonely, and so afraid. All her waking nightmares, told to a paperclip.
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  13. We couldn’t help. We didn’t know who she was. We’d gone to great lengths to make sure that we COULD not know who she was.
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  15. So we read her story. One sentence after another. Soul-searing honesty, told to a little paperclip that could never, ever answer her.
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  17. I often wonder what happened to that woman. I hope she’s okay. I hope she’s happy.
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