TheGreatHatsby is an AIM bot which instigates conversations between pairs of AIM accounts. Its name is a play on words from the book The Great Gatsby. It is a relay bot that retrieves the list of most recent LiveJournal posts and obtains the AIM screen names of their authors. It then sends users the message "i say, old bean, have you seen my hat?" from one of its screen names.
Responses from users are forwarded by the bot to another one of the users similarly contacted. These two users are paired up, and any message which one of them sends to the bot will be forwarded to the other. Thus, if neither of the users is aware of TheGreatHatsby, they will each think that the other user contacted them, and that the other user's screen name is the bot's screen name.
Messages containing a user's true screen name will have that screen name replaced with the bot's screen name; similarly, if a message contains the bot's screen name, it will be replaced by the screen name of the user receiving the message. This adds to the confusion, since copy-and-pasted chat logs will appear as though the users really were messaging each other directly.
In February 2008, several users reported being contacted by a new bot, with screen names of the form "<adjective>Salmon".
The Salmon bots behave similarly to TheGreatHatsby in that they find AIM and Yahoo screen names on LiveJournal, deviantART, Twitter, and Xanga, send them messages, pair up users, and relay messages between them. However, unlike TheGreatHatsby's constant "i say, old bean" opening line, the Salmon bots' opening line varies. There is no known association between the Salmon bots and TheGreatHatsby, with the exception of their similar behavior.
A group calling itself Project Upstream, and using the LiveJournal username "salmonmaster", has claimed responsibility for the Salmon bots. This claim has not been challenged, and salmonmaster has also revealed previously-unknown details about the Salmon bots.
Like TheGreatHatsby, the Salmon bots have been reported to filter screen names, as well as words related to the phenomenon, such as "bot" and "LiveJournal". However, these filters are not applied all of the time; in some cases, screen names and key phrases are removed, and in other cases, they are not.
The Salmon bots have also been reported to alter messages in other ways, such as changing them to "pirate speak", and putting messages in a rainbow font.
Although the Salmon bots message people on an automated basis, they also provide AIM users with some level of control over the process. On 2008-05-27, the LiveJournal user salmonmaster announced a Web site which allows users to request that they be connected with another random user via a Salmon bot; and on 2008-08-15, salmonmaster announced a new command, "$optout", which allows users to prevent Salmon (as well as Trout and Coho) bots from contacting them again.
In late July 2008, users began to report being contacted by bots with names of the form "<adjective>Trout". It once appeared as if the Trout bots replaced the Salmon bots; however, as of February 2009, some users have reported being contacted by Salmon bots.
While it is not completely clear if the Trout bots are affiliated with the Salmon bots and with Project Upstream, their behavior seems to be identical. In addition, the Trout bots have been reported to respond when Project Upstream's connection request site is used. Since this Web site previously solicited a response from Salmon bots, this indicates a link between the two.
On September 5, 2008, users began to report being contacted by bots with names of the form "<adjective>Coho". Coho bots respond when Project Upstream's connection request site is used. Since this Web site previously solicited a response from Salmon and Trout bots, this indicates that they're essentially the same bot. Another suggestive factor is the fact that Coho are a type of Salmon. Coho bots are directed at Twitter updaters. More recently, there have been a few reports of coho bots contacting LiveJournal and Digg users as well. As of April 30 2009, the Coho bot seems to be active within the reddit.com community as well. As of July 29 2009 Coho bots are frequently getting screen names from users on Digg.
Sometime in early January 2009 the Coho bot started word-filtering chats into old-English speech. Many common words including "I" and "to" are being substituted.
These bots have surfaced recently (January 2010). Some are revamped versions of older bots, but some are new. "itsnowing999," "YouAreTooLarge," and "Power Went OUT" are just three of the new screen names, although "Power Went OUT" is predominantly used to contact users individually. "itsnowing999" first puts you in a chat room with itself and another user with whom you are not familiar. It will switch between "itsnowing9999" and "Power Went OUT." Then a few days later the bot will initiate contact and converse with you. There is no current way to opt out. The trademark of these new bots is that they constantly say "0mfg." It is also common for the bots to claim they know some of your personal information such as your license number. They often know your first name as well. They work much like other bots of the Coho series, but these newer versions also converse with AIM users individually as well as pairing them up. They also claim to be part of the comedy site Improv Everywhere, but these claims are not verified.
Here is a small list of the suspected bots at this time: itssnowing9999, itsraining9999, Power Went OUT, YouAreTooLarge, Enlarged Trout, wtfitssnowing, xSantaxClaus, xxh2oiswater, gascoststoomuch, zzitssnowingx, AIM AD DIRECT, dalightswentout, and the lights went out.
When messaged by one of these screen names, you can type in the word $optout and it will ask you to confirm that you wish your screen name is to be removed from the list. However, this opt out feature is not available with the new 2010 bots.