Spam (madbodger) wrote,

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Secret code solution and backstory

The secret code I posted a while back is simply the "every third word" scheme mentioned once upon a
time on Get Smart.

What was going on in my head is the fact that occasionally I find friends of mine living in bad
situations. Worse, they're generally living with someone who monitors/censors their communications.
I'm happy to rescue people in such situations, but the trick is to find out if they want to be rescued.
And this can be tough.

I was watching Firefly, when Simon explained that he'd gotten an incomprehensible letter from his
sister, who was theoretically attending a special government school. The letter seemed reasonable
on the surface, but referred to people and events that didn't exist. Simon figured out it must be in
code, and then worked out the real message, which was something along the lines of "get me out
of here, they're hurting us".

It occurred to me that the same tactic might work for me, sending a letter that appears innocuous,
but contains a secret message (a technique known as steganography). So I needed to construct
something that would a) pass cursory inspection (easy enough, as the sort of people who entrap
other people are generally dumb), b) be recognizable as out of the ordinary by the true recipient,
c) have a code someone can figure out and decode without prior information, external assistance,
or even the appearance of difficult thought, and ideally also be encodable the same way.

Luckily, my friends are bright (aside from some having emotional quirks that get them into these
annoying situations). So as sort of a trial balloon, I put up the post to see if a simple encoding
scheme like that might be figured out without help. I found that several people did figure it out,
and a few displayed impressive ability to encode dual contradictory messages.

So, ideas for other subtle codings the people might recognize, once they realize a letter probably
contains more than it seems to? Criticism of my paladin tendencies? Whines from foiled captors?

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