AIM Coho, Salmon & Trout Bots

Salmon Can Type!

I got an IM from a coho tonight. In case you’ve never seen one, that’s a coho there, on the right.

How did this happen?! I mean, no thumbs. No fingers, even. You can’t fool me, I said, cohos can’t type.

I wasn’t all that surprised to get a random IM, although the fish thing did kind of throw me for a second. I post one of my AIM screen names online, so every now and then I get a message from a name I don’t recognize.

Salmon are Rude

So I wasn’t worried when I couldn’t place my good friend BunnyCoho when he or she IMed me. Being A) relatively polite to strangers and B) insatiably curious, I IMed back. Mistake. If I want to listen to a random person insult me, I’ll turn left from a right turn lane in downtown Salem. Then at least I’ll deserve it.

Oh, Disappointment, Salmon are Actually Just People

It turns out, this is not intended to be SPAM or general harassment. This is a social experiment. TheGreatHatsby is a bot that scoops LiveJournal account screen names, and randomly matches the users up. The insidious thing is that it’s done in such a way that each participant believes the other one contacted them first.

This is kind of a neat idea. I like to talk with new people, and I’m all for new methods of online communication. But if you’re going to initiate unsolicited communication between people without any advance notice of the experiment, you’re going to piss a lot of people off. So, unless the goal of the project is to create irritated misanthropes, you might have missed the mark a bit.

According to the Wikipedia article, this bot died out in 2007. TheGreatHatsby was replaced by the Salmon bots, which are essentially the same, but less private (your screen name may or may not be filtered) and more confusing (text is randomly edited). Screen names may appear as (adjective)Trout, (adjective)Salmon or (adjective)Coho.

Oh Good, I’m Not Crazy, Being Hacked or Being Spammed

My thanks to, for the instructions on how to opt out (type $optout as a response) and livejournal’s themissinghat for explaining what the heck was going on.

Good luck to Project Upstream as well. I was glad to have a reason to learn about something new, and you can surely add one more misanthrope to your tally.

Image credit: red coho


  1. Eric Mirchich

    I love you, thank you for the $optout command. You have made my life a much more fish free place. Don't get me wrong, I like fish, but I communicate with them on my own terms.

  2. Thanks for posting this. I was looking up AIM coho to try and figure out what the heck I experienced tonight on AIM and came across this post. It gave me a lot of insight as to what was going on. I did a post myself on the subject and referenced your post as a resource for others.

  3. Tom

    maybe u should set up guys with girls and actually make a damn difference. or do some kind of homework. random people dont like random people. its creep. give them something to do or talk about

  4. Yes, it would be nice if this add-on was useful. Although, I think setting random people up might be even creepier – not only do weird people message you out of nowhere, but they also want to date you. I dunno.

  5. PISSED!!

    This happened to me like four times before I thought to google it. I thought i was being stalked or something. Then finally I googled it and found this page. The person who aimed that time hadn't even ever heard of live journal. How is this legal??? Isn't it somehow an invasion of privacy???

  6. Lidia-Anain

    ROFLMAO!!! This happened to me too and when the person tried telling me who they were it added the word shoe! LMAO!!! OMG at least next time it happens I will know what is going on and reference this link for them.

  7. Nathan

    DUDE! omg this happened to me this past week! Someone with the aim name "curiouscoho" and "mendaciouscoho". AND everytime I asked for their name they were like "what is shoe"? wtf?! It weirded me out a lot. I'm glad its not just me.

  8. Tiffany

    This just happened to me right NOW! my name was phenomenalcoho and theirs was regressivecoho…totally weird and it freaked me out!

  9. Krista

    The thing I hate the most about these coho things is that they start with something either very creepy or rude. The first one i got tonight (shortly after i posted on my LiveJournal) was about me being beautiful in my sleep and something about sifting cotton and a racial slur. Then the second was about me having a wonderful night that is as wondeful as me. Which makes this whole "talking to random people" thing even worse because it starts out offensive. Thankyou so much for the $optout command; I'll definitely be using that the next time someone IMs me like that, now that I know.

  10. Glad to pass the optout command on. This experiment seems to need a little tweaking – whoever is in charge of it, please take a look at the above comments, and tweak accordingly!

  11. How come no one seems to like this? I think it's a great idea. I'm stuck home on a Friday night (dead car battery), and "ModelCoho" starting IMing me. I guess it could get annoying if it happened repeatedly, but it was a great way to kill some time.

  12. Pissed off user

    So $optout didn't work for me. Some coho name IM'd me and I threw out the $optout command. About 2 hours later, I get another message from the same coho. I then set my AIM to block the name, but messages keep coming.

    Whoever is running this damn thing needs shot.

  13. When you typed out $optout, did you get a response from someone named Operator? If not, it may not have gone through. I've been checking around online to see if this has been a problem for anyone else – for the most part, it seems to be working, although one user said they opted out, but then the other person kept IMing them independently.

    Another post suggested IMing one of the bots (like idealcoho) with $optout to get out of the program preemptively.

    When you blocked the name, did messages come from the same name, or different bot variations? Is it possible that you have a sadistic acquaintance who is making coho names to destroy your soul?

  14. Hi Justusthane,

    A lot of people (at least on the LiveJournal forums) seem to like this. I think a lot of the negative feedback comes from being surprised, or from having a bad experience with an impolite person.

    Personally, I think it would work better as an opt-in service, rather than opt-out, although I recognize the difficulty of making people aware of it without force-opting them in. To be fair, I work at an email marketing company, so I believe everything should be opt-in as a courtesy & for compliance reasons. :-P

    Glad you had a good experience, and thanks for sharing your feedback.

  15. oh this was great. at first i responded nicely to the person but then they were rude back. but then when i looked it up i realized what happened and told the person and they thought it was funny also. i IMed the person of the same name as me and they apparently knew about it as well. this is great! if they came up with a better intial IM from the bot to spark something interesting i could imagine to be something more positive.

  16. Note 1) Messages are often filtered. Shoe means screen name. Other common things like 'LiveJournal' are occasionally filtered too.

    Note 2) Dobernala is the name for a more hostile series of bots. They were recently impersonating the fish bots – if they started with an especially offensive message and you couldn't opt out, chances are it was Dobernala.

    Note 3) I'm a bit disappointed in the excitement over the opt out possibility, but I suppose the people opting out wouldn't be the fun ones to talk with anyway =)

  17. Thanks for your clarification. It is difficult to contain any viral internet phenomenon, and less friendly imitations are bound to crop up. I think people are reacting less to the idea (which has potential) than to the surprise and confusion a coho message can generate. Possibly the first message should contain an explanation, like "You have been connected with another LiveJournal user via Project Upstream," with a link and a brief explanation of the service. Then it should offer the chance to opt out, "If you would like to opt out of this service, please type.." The main thing would be to explain what is going on, and why you've been contacted by someone you don't know, who believes that you have initiated the conversation.

  18. I disagree. I think that having an explanation message at the beginning of the conversation takes all the fun out of it. I think that would make it more awkward than anything…"Hm. So. We've been randomly paired together. Now what?" Whereas if it's totally unexplained, sure, it leads to some confusion, but if you get past the initial stages, you're in a partnership together, trying to figure out what's going on. Way more fun that way.

  19. michael

    cool. thanks for posting this. I was about to go insane. Had no clue who was contacting me. Thanks for the headsup! Great post!

  20. Duong

    I actually had a pretty interesting experience.. Ice only talked with person once but haven’t seen the person online againsince then. Is there a way to change the coho name to their actual screennames?

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