Internet Oracle

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The Internet Oracle (historically known as The Usenet Oracle) is an effort at collective humor in a pseudo-Socratic question-and-answer format.

A user sends a question to the Oracle via e-mail, or the Internet Oracle website, and it is sent to another user when he/she has asked a question, or requested one to answer. This second user may then answer the question (or not; if it is not answered within 24 hours it is put back into the queue to be given to another user to answer). Meanwhile, the original questioner is also sent a question which he/she may choose to answer. All exchanges are conducted through a central distribution system which also makes all users anonymous.

A completed question-and-answer pair is called an "Oracularity".



A representative (and famous) exchange is:

Many of the Oracularities contain Zen references and witty wordplay. "Geek" humor is also common, though less common than in the early years of the Oracle's existence, when fewer casual home computer users had Internet access. Most Oracularities are significantly longer than the above example, and they sometimes take the form of rambling narratives, poems, top-ten lists, spoofing of interactive fiction games, or anything else that can be put into plain text.

A complex Oracle mythos has also evolved around the figure of an omniscient, anthropomorphic, geeky deity and a host of grovelling priests and attendants. Other staples in conversation with the oracle include:

  • A *ZOT* (administered with the Staff of Zot, see LART) is earned when the Oracle is irritated. *ZOT*s are something like lightning strikes and are usually fatal. Unscrupulous participants will sometimes administer undeserved *ZOT*s. (The particular word *ZOT* may be a reference to the comic strip B.C. Alternately, it may be an allusion to Walter Karig's 1947 novel entitled Zotz!, in which a person could point at anyone or anything, say "Zotz!" and make that thing or person instantly disintegrate.)
  • Woodchuck questions are a sure way to earn a *ZOT*. The Oracle will often censor the word "woodchuck" as "" or simply refer to it obliquely ("rodent of unusual size"). This is a reference to "The Woodchuck Question": "How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?", which in the early days of the Usenet Oracle, was over-asked to the point of being a cliché.
  • Traditionally, questions to the Oracle open with a suitable grovel such as "High and Mighty Oracle, please answer my most humble question," although grovels are often very creative and can be very long, or even part of the question.
  • Answers from the Oracle traditionally contain a request for payment such as "You owe the Oracle a rubber chicken and a Cadillac." This segment, often called the "YOTO (for "You owe the Oracle") line" or tribute, often references objects that are related, in a punnish way, to the answer they are a part of.
  • If you mention DMP, Dumpie, or "the cooler incident" you will receive a free e-mail with details on how to profit by helping with a transfer of a large sum of money from an account in Nigeria.[citation needed]

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