[META] Alternatives to rot13 and karma sinks

rot13 is… (Results)
A quaint internet tradition that I quite enjoy

So annoying

Easy to use because I have Leet Key


In November, DanielVarga complained about rot13.com as a way of hiding spoilers, and suggested some specifications for an alternative web service, with an algorithm that can operate on any character. I whipped up two, one using a bitwise not and the other using a password. These have a usability advantage over rot13.com: they automatically generate a decode link, so that people who don’t have an add-on such as Leet Key (get Leet Key! or d3coder if you’re on Chrome!) on whatever device they’re on can still use them. The advantage over using a site like pastebin is that all of the text is encoded in the url, so if makefoil.com is down or you’re offline you can still extract it with a bit of work. Both algorithms are in unobfuscated javascript; feel free to host your own version.

Recently, I had the thought of doing a similar thing with polls. This site doesn’t have built-in polling functionality, and the project to create it seems to have stalled. People generally solve this by creating a comment for each option, asking people to upvote the comment of their choice, and asking people to downvote another comment to balance the karma. It’s elegant as these kludges go, but it’s still visually confusing in a comment thread, clogs the “Top Comments” lists, and somehow rarely ends up balancing correctly.

Here’s the site I used to create the above poll. Those vote buttons will turn into vote counts once you vote (you may need to refresh). The site outputs poll syntax in two formats: html, which you can use by creating an article and clicking the html button on the top tool bar, or markdown, which is for comments. The markdown display is a little different because the Less Wrong functionality for having an image be a link seems to be broken; the image gets double-encoded or something.

I hope you’ll consider using markdownSpoiler or passwordXor when sharing secret info on the next Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality chapter, and getting input with a makefoil poll.


  • If you use the password version, the spoilered output includes some ascii special characters that LessWrong will automatically wrap in multiple <code> tags. It works, but it’s not as pretty as the other options.

  • The services are on very bare pages right now, like rot13.com. That won’t change much, but at some point I’ll be turning makefoil.com into a navigable personal site so there’ll probably be a navigation bar. If traffic starts becoming an issue, I may even add some third-party text ads.

  • The polls are “checkbox” style: you can vote for as many options as you want, but you can’t vote for the same option more than once.

  • The polls are extremely easy to abuse, and I don’t anticipate putting much effort into changing that. If you have a serious concern about ballot-box stuffing, probably best to stick to the old system, where presumably there are safeguards against massive sock-puppet creation.

  • If you host the spoiler pages on your own site, bear in mind that special characters in GET parameters are often blocked or escaped by default by security modules on the web server.

  • Yes, I know the right way to do this is to mod Less Wrong itself to create spoiler tags and poll embedding. But that requires getting multiple organizations to work with me, which is a higher order of problem than creating embeddable kludges. And this way, you can use these services on any forum, comment thread, or whatever that allows images and links.