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Enhanced Instant Messaging with IMSmarter 221

Zanek writes "Engadget has an article about David Weekly who has created IMsmarter. What is IMSmarter? David describes it as a 'secretary that helps you out by sitting between you and the rest of the world, letting you know about things that are interesting and taking notes'. Works on all computers, no software to install." Gaim and other clients have good logging and search capabilities, but this goes a few steps beyond that.
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Enhanced Instant Messaging with IMSmarter

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  • No thanks... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DAldredge ( 2353 ) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:04PM (#10876439) Journal
    Sorry, but I don't quite trust this service as they would be able to log every IM request that I send or receive.

    4.1 Advertisers
    Some of the services offered by Coceve are paid for by targeted advertising. As a result, Coceve may share aggregate demographic information about you and people like you with advertisers (including ad serving companies), allowing them to customize the ads that you might see. We will not release any personally identifiable information to them. However, if you click on an ad, sign up for an advertised product or service, or otherwise interact with an advertiser, the advertiser may separately record information about you or your computer, not subject to this Privacy Policy.
    4.2 Contractors
    Coceve may hire people or businesses to work with or for us on projects, such as performing security audits or providing customer support, in which they may require access to portions of your personally identifying information to do their job. Before we provide any such information to them, however, they must sign confidentiality agreements promising to protect that information, and if applicable, promise its return or destruction when the work is complete.
    4.3 Compelled Disclosure
    Coceve may be requested by subpoena, court order, or legal process, to disclose information about you. Coceve believes strongly in the privacy of its subscribers, and will attempt to notify you that your information has been requested, unless we are prohibited by law from doing so. If you are a Basic Subscriber, we will send notification to your email address. If you are a Premium Subscriber, we will send notice to both your email address, and your postal mailing address. We may be required by law to disclose your information if you do not challenge the disclosure request through appropriate legal channels.
    4.4 Other Disclosure
    Coceve may disclose information about you to comply with legal process served on Coceve, to protect Coceve rights or property, to investigate or report suspected illegal activities, or to take emergency action to protect the personal safety of users of Coceve services or the public.

    Coceve may be acquired by or merged with another company. Before your information is shared with or transferred to that company, you will be notified via email, and via Coceve.com or IMSmarter.com, and provided the opportunity to agree to the transfer (including acceptance of any resulting privacy policy) or to erase your information and cease receiving services from Coceve.
    • Re:No thanks... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:08PM (#10876463)
      "Sorry, but I don't quite trust this service as they would be able to log every IM request that I send or receive."

      And you think that your IM service cant?

      • Re:No thanks... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by FooAtWFU ( 699187 )
        Depends on whether you can get all your friends to use Jabber.
        • Which doesn't help, since admins of both your and their servers will still be able to read your messages, unless you use SSL (which is usually off by default).
          • Re:No thanks... (Score:3, Interesting)

            by lizrd ( 69275 )
            Makes rather little difference if you use SSL or not. Your SSL connection is between your client and your server. Once it hits your server the admin could log your messages if he/she so desired.

            The thing about any form of IM is that the vast, vast majority of traffic is completely inane and nobody would actually want a log of it since reviewing such a lot would subtract IQ points from the reviewer. Therefore you can probably inject your (not inane and stupid....apparently) super sekkret conspiracy plans int

          • Some Jabber clients (eg. psi) allow client-to-client OpenPGP encryption of messages. That means that nobody except the intended recipient (and possibly the NSA :)) gets to read the message. I'm not really sure how integrated-into-Jabber this is, but it obviously does require some client support since only the client software can encrypt messages before they are sent over the wire.

            (Oh, and like someone pointed out, SSL only encrypts your connection to the server not to the other client.)
      • Re:No thanks... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by DAldredge ( 2353 )
        I know they can, but they have much more to lose than this company does. The bad PR, for a large company, would far outweigh the dollar gains. That doesn't, necessarily, apply to a small startup.

        • When was the last time a profitable privacy violation actually cost a company more than it gained by releasing the info? Even breakins don't seem to bother anyone much.
      • Re:No thanks... (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        nope:
        http://gaim-encryption.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

        We even run this at work within my group to keep our conversations out of the hands of those pesky sametime admins.
      • I don't know about you but I use the SSL support in Gaim 99% of the time. Any people who dont want to use that (beyond people I hadly talk to) know to contact me in other ways.

        But then even my mother uses SSL-Gaim and PGP so I guess I'm lucky.

        The best bit is that there is probably someone somewhere wondering what the hell $^&$%%^"""23745 means as it keeps showing up in his log file stats :D
      • Re:No thanks... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Eskarel ( 565631 )
        Well first of all unless you're connecting through the server(which is only really a problem for those of use using gaim and it's vastly old ICQ protocol) they probably can't log you, because they never even see you.

        Secondly, let's take a look at AIM for a second, how much storage space would you need just to store a days worth of aim conversations? How much processor power to search through it all? Unless you're redflagged somewhere, or the government is watching the connection the odds of anyone seeing wh

      • >And you think that your IM service cant?

        no. it can't. we run our own jabber server here. =)
        • > > And you think that your IM service cant?
          > no. it can't. we run our own jabber server here. =)

          So it can, but it'd be you doing the snooping :)
    • Re:No thanks... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SlashChick ( 544252 )
      I love the fact that you use Gmail and then complain about your IM logs being online. Gmail grabs keywords from your email and shows advertisements based on them! IMSmarter hides the chat logs from everyone else, and (as far as I know) has no plans to be an advertising-supported service.

      Also, you can turn off logging if you're really that worried about it. :)
      • Re:No thanks... (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        From the privacy policy [imsmarter.com]

        2.2 Signing Up for IM Smarter
        Basic Subscription: When you register for IM Smarter, we ask for your name, IM clients used, ZIP code, and age. All of these are required in order for our service to function properly. Basic Subscriptions are paid for by targeted advertising. Thus, as a Basic subscriber, we may also ask you about your interests from time to time, to help our sponsors select advertisements most appropriate to your interests.
      • I do not use my gmail account for anything that important. I have email on my own servers for that, i mean that account has received almost 1000 spams since I made it, and my personal account has received 3 in the same time.

        I also really don't care about a program looking at the contents to serve ads I care about people looking at my IM's and using that info to work against me.

        Lastly, they do the exact same thing.
        • Hmm, do you think that perhaps the reason you have 1000 spam messages at your Gmail account might have something to do with the fact that you post it all over Slashdot? I mean, come on, your attempt at criticizing Gmail is just pathetic.
          • I didn't criticize Gmail and/or Google. I simply stated a fact which, if you had thought about the name of the email account, you should have been able to figure out yourself.
      • Re:No thanks... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by metlin ( 258108 ) *
        Yes, but IMs by their very nature tend to be a whole lot personal than emails.

        For instance, how often do you flirt on emails, when compared to IMs?
        • I'm so sure the whole internet wants to read your logs of you cybering with some 'female' you met in a yahoo! games chatroom ;) heh
          • Re:No thanks... (Score:3, Interesting)

            by metlin ( 258108 ) *
            That's besides the point - the "female" could be my girlfriend, which could result in problems for both me and her. The question is not whether or not the privacy matters, merely that no matter what privacy *is* needed.
        • Re:No thanks... (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Idarubicin ( 579475 )
          Yes, but IMs by their very nature tend to be a whole lot personal than emails.

          I think that's very subjective, and very much depends on the user.

          Is there nobody left who can write a steamy love letter? I know this is Slashdot, but there must be someone here who knows more about romance than "a/s/l?" People somehow managed to get laid even before the Internet was invented.

          People might also tend to discuss more technical things via email, when detail is more important than instant feedback. If someone

      • I find it amusing that anyone things IM /or/ email are intended/plausable as secure communication mechanisms. But maybe that's just me...
        • Re:No thanks... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by nkh ( 750837 )
          That's why we have asymetric encryption: you can use your GnuPG [gnupg.org] public key with any kind of software now, whether it's an e-mail or Jabber client like Psi [sf.net].
    • Re:No thanks... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by davidu ( 18 )


      Coceve may be acquired by or merged with another company. Before your information is shared with or transferred to that company, you will be notified via email, and via Coceve.com or IMSmarter.com, and provided the opportunity to agree to the transfer (including acceptance of any resulting privacy policy) or to erase your information and cease receiving services from Coceve.

      Actually, in this day and age, that's a pretty sweet thing to say. It's basically obvious that your IMs are logged and it's also
  • I'll pass. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by conner_bw ( 120497 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:05PM (#10876442) Journal
    Alternate description:

    "A centralized proxy that consolidates all your alternate methods of digital correspondence letting *them* know about things that are interesting to you and your peers."

    Thanks, but no thanks.

  • Privacy? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Norg ( 824853 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:07PM (#10876459) Homepage
    One thing I wish the interviewer had covered was the privacy aspect of the IMSmarter. What prevents others from accessing your chats and collections of notes through the service? How is it protected from malicious intruders? Why should I trust David to hold onto my stuff? All of which, of course, is not going to stop me from trying it out. If I have something important to say, I don't say it via instant message. It's just an aspect I'd like to see covered in the interview. It is covered in the sites privacy policy [imsmarter.com], but I'd like to hear a little more from the creator on that front.
  • logs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ryu1232 ( 792127 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:08PM (#10876468)
    A lot of people have logging turned off specifically for the reason "Whatever happens in the box, stays in the box".

    this proxy is a nice idea, if you don't value your privacy.
  • No chance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FiReaNGeL ( 312636 ) <fireang3l.hotmail@com> on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:09PM (#10876471) Homepage
    # Search your IM chat history...at work or at home!
    # Discover when your friends update their blogs
    # Blog as easily as sending an IM
    # Remember the laundry you just put in the wash
    # Recall web sites, phone numbers, and email addresses mentioned on IM

    Ok, this is nice. But no software to install... this means that it has to store (or at least transmit) my IM chat history. To boot, it parse phone numbers, web sites and EMAIL ADRESSES. And their privacy policy say :

    4.2 Contractors
    Coceve may hire people or businesses to work with or for us on projects, such as performing security audits or providing customer support, in which they may require access to portions of your personally identifying information to do their job. Before we provide any such information to them, however, they must sign confidentiality agreements promising to protect that information, and if applicable, promise its return or destruction when the work is complete.

    Oh... they'll give my personal info to business who PROMISED they won't give it to others... right.
    • Re:No chance (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      What do you want, exactly? A software that is never touched by human beings?? Don't hold your breath... Would it make you feel better if they never worked with any contractors or businesses, but just hired everybody as employees? You think internal employees are magically more trustworthy than contractors? BTW, by definition, it's best if auditors aren't your employees AND auditors need to have access to your data. Perhaps you should only do business with companies that never get audited, yeah that'll be mu
    • Re:No chance (Score:3, Insightful)

      by n3k5 ( 606163 )

      But no software to install... this means that it has to store (or at least transmit) my IM chat history.

      Err, well, yes, but this is pretty much the whole point of this service. Maybe you know this situation: you use ICQ (or Jabber or whatever) from home 99,5% of the time, only sometimes you have to log in from somewhere else and have a short conversation with someone. The problems with these short conversations is that they're all missing from your logs. But if you have an IM Smarter account, you can asso

  • Bonzi! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EEBaum ( 520514 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:10PM (#10876476) Homepage
    "secretary that helps you out by sitting between you and the rest of the world, letting you know about things that are interesting and taking notes."

    Isn't this what the irritating green parrot, and later purple fuzzy monkey-thing, were supposed to do? We all know how effective and well-loved those things were. Cute for a week, then you wanted to strangle them, and never once did I get a useful suggestion.
  • Let's see (Score:4, Insightful)

    by solistus ( 556078 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:11PM (#10876482) Homepage
    So, in essence, this takes a bunch of simple functions most people already have access to, and in exchange for not having to go through the arduous task of opening multiple apps or contextual menus, you hand over as much personal info as you could ever hope to cram into a single app to a company who states that their express purpose for this is to give it to advertisers. Also, let's say you actually use their features and become reliant on them. What happens when, all of a sudden, they decide to charge premium usage fees for access to, say, your online chat logs? Never trust data you may want or need some day to a host you can't rely on having indefinite free access to.

    How is this newsworthy?
    • Re:Let's see (Score:2, Interesting)

      by The-Bus ( 138060 )
      Furthermore, it keeps saying "No software to install!" then asks me to download a registry modifier...

      [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\America Online\AOL Instant Messenger (TM)\CurrentVersion\Proxy]
      "Enabled"=dword:000000 01
      "Host"="proxy.imsmarter.net"
      "Port"=dword:000 00438
      "Protocol"="SOCKS4"
      "Username"=""
      "Passwo rd"=""


      As much as it's not an executable, I still consider it "software" -- no thanks.
      • I think they're only trying to save you the hassle of editing your IM settings manually. Nothing suspicious about the above registry entries.
      • You do not have to run the modifier, you are capable of setting up AIM's proxy server yourself. No need for auto registry modification. It seems to be working fine for me and I didn't use that.

        Here is how to find the proxy settings.
        My Aim / Edit Options / Edit Preferences / Sign on/off / Connections
      • Re:Let's see (Score:3, Informative)

        by batkiwi ( 137781 )
        It's not software, it's a settings file. You should know the difference. Do you consider it downloading software if your pop email server changes and you have to change a setting in firebird/outlook/whatever?

        IMSmarter works by acting as a SOCKS4 server, so every packet from your IM client (AIM in your case) goes to their server first.

        They offer that auto-config for people who aren't smart enough to find the connection options dialog and change it themselves.

        • I don't know about you, but I consider anything on my computer that isn't static data 'software'. This isn't static data. A file which drops it's settings to the registry is not static data. Like the grandparent states, it's not an executable, but it's still software, at least by my definition.
  • "Pretty Cool" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EEBaum ( 520514 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:19PM (#10876523) Homepage
    From their FAQ: "Using IM Smarter is pretty cool"

    Like "Quality food", "Exciting sale opportunity", and "Innovative new features", if you have to say it, it probably isn't.
  • by SlashChick ( 544252 ) <erica@ e r i c a .biz> on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:22PM (#10876550) Homepage Journal
    Finally an article I can post on! :) We host IMSmarter's many servers (yay, another Slashdotting for Simpli!) and David is a personal friend of mine. I've been using his service for a few weeks and I can offer you my feedback.

    First, the thing about IMSmarter is not what it can do right now, but the platform it's enabling for the future. David has been working hard for the past year developing the backend things; it's just in the past month that he's really started to turn his focus to adding features. Some of the things he's been chewing on include:

    1) To-do lists. These are mostly implemented now and are mentioned in the article. They are basically reminders without the cumbersome Outlook interface. "Remind me in 20 minutes to call my friend," you type to the proxy, and it dutifully does so. No more setting up calendar appointments for simple things.

    2) Logging (and yes, for the paranoid out there, you can turn this off.) This is actually pretty useful as the logs are stored on a central server. I can't tell you how many times I've logged into my PC from home just to dig through chat logs; now I don't have to.

    3) Website updates. This is the one I've been bugging David about. The service will automatically notify your friends when you update your personal website. I can't wait to use this one for my blog.

    4) Fedex/UPS tracking. Notifies you when a package you've shipped has arrived, for instance.

    Basically, David's vision for this (as I understand it) is to get rid of those hundreds of annoying emails we all get saying "Someone has replied to a thread you posted in" or "Your package has been shipped" or "XYZ updated his blog today." Those are things for which email is not as useful as IM is.

    Knowing how motivated David is in this venture, I know we'll see great things from IMSmarter. It still needs maturation -- right now, the platform is there to build on, but not too many implementations have been built. He needs beta testers, and beta testing is pretty simple (you just set up a proxy on your IM client and sign up through their website.) Check it out and mark this one down as "one to watch."

    -Erica
    • So what do you say to all the people concerned about privacy as a close personal friend of this guy?
      • Privacy concerns (Score:5, Interesting)

        by SlashChick ( 544252 ) <erica@ e r i c a .biz> on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:40PM (#10876658) Homepage Journal
        "So what do you say to all the people concerned about privacy as a close personal friend of this guy?"

        Well, first, IMSmarter allows you to turn logging off by sending the proxy a message. That's the first thing.

        The second thing I would mention is that, since IMSmarter isn't selling your information to advertisers (and, as far as I know, has no plans to introduce this as a revenue stream), it's far less dangerous than even your standard webmail client. (What, you think Yahoo or AOL administrators can't read your webmail or IM chats?)

        David will have to introduce more fine-grained logging controls in the future (i.e. never log conversations with xyz; always log conversations with abc; delete the last hour of logs with asdf.) This is all coming. You are seeing a project that is in its very early beta stage right now, and I think this Slashdotting should jump-start some of the things that IMSmarter needs to do. You and I both know, however, that people care more about features than privacy. If we all cared about privacy first and foremost, none of us would have a Gmail account. ;)
    • by spudnic ( 32107 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:44PM (#10876673)
      You'd have to have some trust for the proxy, but I'd feel better if I were able to upload my public key and have it encrypt everything against that before it saved to the database. The logs would be sent to me encrypted and I would decrypt on my side. A simple client could handle this for me.

      Sure, they could write the raw data out also if they wanted to be mischievous, but at least there would be protection if their site was compromised.
      • Yeah, but that would bring upon quite a bit of load on the servers -- I'm sure if the feature were offered, every geek using it would want to encrypt their IMs. That would be a significant load at his end - he'd prefer to go without it because other than the geeks, nobody is going to care.
        • I don't know about that. I can count how many PGP/GPG encrypted emails I have received. Don't underestimate the power of laziness. So long as it is done that it takes 1 minute to set up. generate key, upload key and not automated. Forget it. Only a few would.

    • To-do lists. These are mostly implemented now and are mentioned in the article. They are basically reminders without the cumbersome Outlook interface. "Remind me in 20 minutes to call my friend," you type to the proxy, and it dutifully does so. No more setting up calendar appointments for simple things.

      I really like OneNote [microsoft.com] for TODO lists. Is IMSmarter better than that? The one thing OneNote doesn't do is notifications (or, I haven't figured out how to do that, anyway), but I don't need to be notified

      • Maybe I'm in the minority, but I don't think I've ever had an IM conversation where I found myself going back through the logs at some later point. To me, IM is like a face-to-face conversation. If I need to take away something important, I'll write it down (in OneNote :). If I don't, the conversation happens and then vanishes into the ether.

        Yes I believe you are...

        Most people use IM as a mix of face-to-face conversation and email, at least as far as I am aware. If someone sends you a URL to a site,
        • If someone sends me a URL, I click it or open it in my web browser, then save it as a bookmark. Web Browser-storing web link...seems to make more sense. If i don't or can't open the link right away, I leave the IM window open until I can. It's really simple. Sometimes I get crazy and copy and paste the URL into notepad or some fancy thing...of the people that didn't stand in line for the newest AOL upgrade, I don't think I'm in a minority.
    • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hizonner ( 38491 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:48PM (#10877034)
      "Someone has replied to a thread you posted in" or "Your package has been shipped" or "XYZ updated his blog today." Those are things for which email is not as useful as IM is.

      Those all strike me as things for which e-mail is vastly superior to IM. I don't want to be interrupted by an asynchronous notification of a low-priority event that doesn't require an immediate response.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Who'd a figured?! Next he'll be posting links to Roland's blog...!
  • ... Microsoft announced today it will create a server-side indexing solution for Windows users to keep track of their warez.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    IMDumber
  • by Chatmag ( 646500 ) <editor@chatmag.com> on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:46PM (#10876696) Homepage Journal
    There really isn't anything to prevent them from using the logs in a similar fashion to the out of control cyber-vigilante [chatmag.com] web site Perverted Justice [perverted-justice.com] other than a privacy policy that seems to leave a lot of questions in my mind as to the security of the system.

    According to their privacy policy:
    "Access to your personal information other than your chat logs and buddy lists (which are protected according to Section 2.3) is limited to employees who reasonably require access to it in the course of doing their jobs, such as providing customer support to you. We require those employees to sign confidentiality agreements promising to safeguard your information."

    There's been a few highly publicized cases of insiders stealing information. I've got to pass on IMSmarter.
    • Here's another thing I just ran across in their site, under Questions.

      "Can I delete my logs? Yes. You can delete your chat history at any time, and we'll erase it from our servers as expediently and thoroughly as possible. (We try to make it pretty clear that you're doing this so you don't end up deleting your logs by accident!)"

      The words "expediently and throughly as possible" really make me wonder. I want to have control and a guarantee of what I delete, which means I'll archive my chats on my own s
    • What scares me is that you seem to think that your im conversations are private in the first place. They don't need an insider to monitor your conversations, just decent hacking abilities.
    • This is exactly why I'd love to see this released as open source. While my traffic isn't encrypted, it's relatively safe, as most people don't care enough to go through the trouble of intercepting my IMs. On a server, where the data is just lying there for searching, it's a whole different story.

      If this was available for download, to run on my own servers, or on the servers of a (more) trusted company, this would be great!

      I wonder how long it will be before AOL, MSN, etc start to offer server-based log
  • by Elphin ( 7066 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:50PM (#10876717) Homepage
    Yeah my knee jerk reaction to this was "never in a thousand years" too, don't forget that the person you are messaging may be using this service *and you'd never know*.

    • Just make a direct connection to anyone before you say anything you don't want recorded. And use a client like Trillian (require they use the same) and turn on SecureIM so it is encrypted. Now, if he has logging on it's still on his computer so you're still in trouble but at least a middle-man isn't in the mix.
  • by __aaitqo8496 ( 231556 ) * on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:50PM (#10876719) Journal
    As if your privacy isn't of utmost concern, what about your friends'? So now, I could be targeted for advertising if a friend IMs me asking for my email. I type it in as one would expect, and now, instantly, this is logged on IMSmarter's servers. Next time a "contracter" "comes in" to perform some "service", I start getting SPAM. Wait a minute, I never agreed to receive SPAM from you!

    I don't like this service simply because it doesn't require the other party's consent.
  • by vadim_t ( 324782 )
    I came with a better way to solve that here. A Perl script.

    Basically, it's a small script that talks to a mysql database, and a set of filters that convert log files to an universal (currently very ugly) format. You just run this from cron or whatever, and then can search the database. Comes quite handy when you have several computers with different IM services.

    Currently Psi, Kopete, kvirc and mbox/maildir.
  • Where's the Gaim plugin?
  • Lazy (Score:3, Funny)

    by Aeiri ( 713218 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:26PM (#10876926)
    From here [imsmarter.com]:

    What if I forgot my password for the website?
    Easy! Just type FORGOT to the service, and it will send you a link that you can use to log in again and reset your password! Try to remember your new password. :)

    How do I get the service to bug me less often?
    No problem. Just type BUG ME LESS to the service and it will send you a link that you can use to log in again and reset your password! Try to remember your new password. :)



    Looks like someone got a little lazy.
    • by dew ( 3680 )
      Yeah, I'm lazy. But I've fixed it now. :) Thanks for pointing this out!

      Yours,
      David
  • And while your privacy concerns are understandable, I can vouch for his total commitment to maintaining privacy through this service. He's a great guy, do a little google work and judge for yourself.

    I am his friend though so while I can speak to his motives beter than most, I am biased.

    -Ian
  • by Effugas ( 2378 ) * on Saturday November 20, 2004 @07:07PM (#10877132) Homepage
    So this is what's really evil about Gator et al -- they make *actual* innovators look bad. David's a geek, a damn cool one, and he's genuinely trying to make a really useful service even better, through liberal application of mind-bogglingly cool hackery.

    This should be cool, right?

    So I used to live with David. I'm a moderately well known packet hacker type, and around the time I was living with him, I put together this hack for SSH called Dynamic Forwarding. SSH has the ability to forward TCP-based services, like email and such. But you used to need to pre-specify all your forwards before connecting. Dynamic Forwarding put a SOCKS server in the SSH client, so any application that could speak SOCKS could gain access to the cryptographically encrypted channel.

    David had a much more expansive vision -- rather than just encrypt the chat session, why not add new features to it? IM is this brutally efficient communications medium where all sorts of otherwise superfluous communication artifacts are dispensed with; perhaps this efficiency could be used as an appropriate channel to organize one's life?

    So -- no joke, he marshalled his savings, quit his job, and became this total guru of instant messaging protocols so he could explore the potential of this (very good) idea. No VC's, no ulterior motives, and when he's talking about security engineers who some day might need to examine the system to validate his architecture -- well, that'd probably include me, and seriously, I don't want to know anything about your life thank you very much :)

    Honestly, it's a bit ridiculous to talk about IMSmarter as creating any serious alteration to IM privacy. You're using an unencrypted channel to a centralized messaging clearing house that, in AOL's case, is located in Virginia. Ahem. I'm not saying privacy isn't important -- just that David's got way more interesting things to worry about than who you've got a crush on. Ultimately, his service isn't a very good place to spy from anyway, because he doesn't get all messages from all people, just those that are intentionally routed through him. And as anyone will tell you, global views trump self-selection any day of the week.

    Honestly -- he's pulling some really cool protocol tricks, and I'm happy to see his wonky-as-hell hack actually become something my mom could use. I know there's alot of creepy corporate virus vendors who are doing some truly nasty things -- someday I want to find the guy who replaces people's TCP/IP stacks and replace a few of his vertebrae -- but David's not one of 'em. Good guy with cool code -- he deserves to be encouraged.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
  • File transfers. Either they're blocking them, which makes their service useless as you'll have to turn on/off the proxy to send/receive files, or every file sent through IM is going to go through them.

    That could really add up, especially with that gaim-based filesharing thing coming out...
  • From this guy's "about" page [imsmarter.com]:

    Coceve has patents pending on its unique technology for providing a platform for delivering messages to a wide variety of IM services. Its trademark on "IM Smarter" is also pending registration at the USPTO.

    I know of considerable prior art on several patents that he could have applied for, but he doesn't give the patent numbers here so I suppose I can't be sure what he's claiming he's done. Anyhow, writing something that interacts with users via a text interface over networks

  • It requires that you already have an IM client on your system. If you don't, then there's software you need to install right there to use this facility. The tagline of "no software to install" is misleading.
  • You can set it to watch the log-in, log-out and status messages of specific people on any given IM service, allowing you to figure out when they tend to be at their computer.

  • bittlbee (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MacJedi ( 173 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @08:29PM (#10877706) Homepage
    It's not exactly the same as IMSmarter, but i've become a giant fan of bittlbee [bitlbee.org] + irssi [irssi.org] + screen. [gnu.org]
  • That sounds GREAT! Seriously! Where can I download their proxy? I want to run one for myself! ;)
    What? I can't have it? Why? :P

    Thinking a bit about this, it should actually be trivial to make a plugin for Miranda-IM, or some other OS-product, hey even bitlbee could be extended (since that is designed to run on your server anyway)...
  • The Author Responds (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dew ( 3680 ) <david@@@weekly...org> on Saturday November 20, 2004 @10:33PM (#10878329) Homepage Journal
    Hi, everyone! I'm David, the author of IM Smarter. I'm glad that people are interested enough in the service to post about it. I'm sorry that I wasn't able to post this earlier, as I was in a (very long) meeting with some folks from the Chicago Beck Foundation to discuss different ways to promote literacy in the third world.

    Anyhow, I'm here now, and I'd like to respond to some of the higher-order points that people have made. I think that it's correct that trust is a big issue here. This is part of the reason why we tried to create a privacy policy that would clearly hold your private data as sacred to us. This is also why we took the unusual step of making a privacy promise [imsmarter.com]. The comments in this forum make it clear that we didn't do a good enough job in making it clear that your private data is yours alone. We would be delighted to work, with your constructive feedback, on a privacy policy that does a better job making it clear that your chats are for your eyes only. I actually did ask the EFF to edit and review my privacy policy, but they haven't set up a program for doing that. If any of you know of a consumer-rights organization that would be interested in working with a company on drafting a consumer-focused privacy policy, please do let me know about them.

    Let me be very clear here: we will not scrape the content of your IM chats to deliver advertising to you. This is not GMail. We will not sell or otherwise disclose your personally identifiable information to third parties. We are here to use your information for you, not against you. If that makes it harder for me to rake in the big bucks as quickly, so be it. I am here to protect your privacy and improve your IM. (The last time I was on Slashdot [slashdot.org], it was because my non-profit [communitycolo.net] had successfully sued Diebold [eff.org] in federal court for infringing free speech rights. We won - thank you EFF [eff.org]!)

    There was some concern that our intended deployment of Premium features would suddenly disable currently-available features. This is not true. There are a suite of kickass *new* features planned for Premium - the services that are currently offered as Free will continue to be offered without cost throughout the service's lifetime.

    If you have any other questions or concerns about the service, I'd be happy to hear about them. Having launched less than two weeks age we frankly weren't ready for Slashdot with regards to our privacy messaging or site design (which, yes, totally blows but should be fixed in the next week or two). We've got a lot of great features yet to deploy - as I said on the Engadget interview, logging is really only the tip of the iceberg. Logging isn't the *point*. The point is having an agent who can work on your behalf to keep you in the loop about things you want to know about and who can keep away messages you don't want brought to you (at the moment because you're busy, or ever).

    This is my baby, the fruit of my labors of a year. I realize my baby's pretty ugly and infantile right now, but my metric for going out of private beta was to launch at the point when I could imagine that at least one random person out there on the Internet could plausibly find the service interesting enough to use on a regular basis. I think we're at that point now, albeit not at the point where we're the service "everyone obviously should use". The service continues to make progress on a regular basis. I can only hope and pray that people will be patient with me as it creaks onwards towards becoming a great, genuinely useful service for people.

    Have a great Saturday night, everyone.

    Peace,
    David E. Weekly
    • by Lord_Dweomer ( 648696 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @11:26PM (#10878596) Homepage
      "I think that it's correct that trust is a big issue here. This is part of the reason why we tried to create a privacy policy that would clearly hold your private data as sacred to us."

      David, please take this as constructive criticism. There is very little a privacy policy (no matter how well crafted and no matter who reviews it) can do to alleviate people's privacy concerns. What people on here are asking for is a technical solution to make absolutely sure that you couldn't invade our privacy whether your wanted to or not (not trying to say we don't trust you but you know...). The only way I can think of to do this is encryption. Remember, legal promises never stopped anybody from breaking the contract if they wanted to, but encryption would.

      So in summary, the control over our privacy needs to be in our hands, not yours.

      • by dew ( 3680 )
        Lord Dweomer,

        Thank you for your comments; I do take them constructively.

        I think that it's likely that there will be some folks that don't like the logging feature. I hope to very soon introduce a suite of services that that are compelling enough that people would be interested in using the service with logging disabled. I'd be delighted to welcome those users onboard as soon as we're ready for them. In the interim, we have a privacy policy, which is a legally binding contract obliging me to respect the in
        • No problem David. I'm glad to see someone actually soliciting and taking into consideration the users comments. And while from an objective standpoint, your word on protecting our privacy "don't mean jack", it does seem like you care about the issue and will be doing all you can to address it sufficiently as you have seen the kind of responses it has generated.

          I do have to say though that while I love the idea of the egg timer, it seems like it would be more appropriate as a stand alone program or a brows

      • I just can't see much of a use for the product...I set it up and played for about 10 minutes, before I realized there wasn't anything I really wanted about it.

        The centralized logging is a cool feature, I *like* that, but I don't really *need* it. And the egg-timers, also a cool feature, but I don't need it enough to justify having my conversations logged (because I don't need them logged anywhere than my local machine.)

        If I needed remote access to logs on a regular basis, the service would be very interes
    • I must attest that David Weekly is essentially today's equivalent of Hiro Protagonist - the sportbike-riding, authority-defying, world-trotting, party-throwing l33t h4x0r in the unspoiled sense of the expression. He runs an incredibly useful community non-profit, he apparently quit his job to write this, and he recently took two weeks to educade kids in Ghana about technology.

      While I wouldn't normally be likely to believe the words he's saying about protecting users' privacy on this service given the consi
  • Your messages are travelling across any number of hops to a central server owned by AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo! or some guy who wanted to donate his bandwidth to Jabber. This is really just adding one more hop.
    Unless you're encrypting your conversations, you can't assume for a minute that you have any kind of privacy online.
  • Sounds nice, but I'm not certain I want to give up my IMSoSmrt client from Compuglobalhypermeganet.

I am here by the will of the people and I won't leave until I get my raincoat back. - a slogan of the anarchists in Richard Kadrey's "Metrophage"

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