Friday Humour - The Tour

Last updated: 17:20:11 Sat 15 Jun 2013 AEST
A Short History
Friday Humour was commenced by Tony Sanderson in May 1997 as a small internal mailing list with a couple of text jokes per email. It grew enormously over time, and with Davo's help became one of the most Googled humour sites.

Tony provided and managed the emailing and the web services for Friday Humour from his "office", which was the room with the persistent "blue haze" from his smoking.

Tony died most unexpectedly in June 2006, and after the initial period of shock and distress Davo and others decided to restart the mail outs and continued Friday Humour, partly to remember Tony, and partly as a response to the many requests to continue a web community tradition that was appreciated by many.

The history of Friday Humour up to Tony's passing, written by Tony, can be read on the bottom of the Archives page at http://humour.bluehaze.com.au.

Renewing the Tradition.
When Tony passed, it was necessary to relocate and re-establish the Friday Humour systems so that Friday Humour could continue. For a number of reasons, the processing of Friday Humour has now become a largely automatic process.

An exception to this is establishing the content of the weekly mail out, which is still manually edited by four editors who take turns one week in four. The group of editors is not a closed society. There is always room for another editor to share the load, so if you are interested in trying your hand don’t be shy, let us know by sending an email to management@bluehaze.com.au.

Friday Humour only continues to exist because of the continuing involvement of its regular contributors, and by the dedication of its editors.

An Aside About Spam
Because Friday Humour is fundamentally email based, avoiding spam and erroneous spam detection is a big part of the processing. There is an enormous quantity of spam email on the internet. Some days, spam accounts for around 90% of all email on the internet.

Friday Humour is sent more than 800 spam emails each week and the Friday Humour systems incorporate a number of processes to minimise the effect of incoming spam, and erroneous outgoing spam detection.

How Friday Humour Happens
Friday Humour is edited from a collation of all the contributions received in the preceding week.

The result is then sent out individually to all subscribed email addresses early Friday morning Australian Eastern Time.

At the same time, the email content is posted to the Archives site at http://humour.bluehaze.com.au.

People may subscribe to, or unsubscribe from, the list at will by sending an email to humourlist@bluehaze.com.au and following the instructions. The subscription process is now automated and confirmations are required in order to prevent unsolicited subscriptions to third party emails using spoofed email addresses.

Records are kept of all contributions, all automatic processing decisions, all subscriptions activity, and all mail outs.

How the Contributions are Processed
The processing of contributions into the weekly package is fully automatic.

Friday Humour contributions should be sent to contribute@bluehaze.com.au . If they are not, and need to be forwarded by an editor or some other contributor, they will not be properly attributed.

Each contribution is checked as it arrives to ensure the email does not come from an invalid or compromised source, and that it does not contain solicitous web addresses.

It is then checked to see if it comes from the email address of a known contributor. If it does not, an email is sent to the unknown email address asking if and how the contributor would like to be identified in the weekly mail out.

This is done for two reasons. Firstly, to genuinely request the preferred identification information, and secondly to be sure it came from the email address identified sender. Because is possible to send an email using somebody else’s email address, this confirmation process avoids email address spoofing.

Once a sender’s email address is verified by a reply, the email address and the preferred identification is added to a known senders list, and the question is not asked again.

When a contributor’s email address is already known an email is sent acknowledging the contribution.

When a contribution is received from a known contributor that includes a solicitous web address within the email, the contribution is modified to remove the address, and the contributor is sent an email to alert them to the change.

Each bona-fide contribution is then processed to extract the textual content and any attached files (images, movies, sound, documents etc.) in a form that can be reused in a text based email. The contributor identification and text content are then added to the weekly edit package.

Extracted files are placed on the Friday Humour web site and appropriate links are placed with the textual content within the weekly edit package. There are currently more than 65,000 files on the Friday Humour web site.

Each contribution is scanned to see whether any part of the content text or attached files has been used in any prior Friday Humour or in any other contribution within the current package. If it has been, the package is annotated to show which Friday Humour it has been used in.

Files using uncommon or high risk formats are not included in the package. They are excluded to ensure that most subscribers can open all included files with reasonable safety. To be sure a file is included, contributors should limit themselves to files with the extensions asf, au, avi, bmp, doc, gif, htm, html, ico, jpg, jpeg, m1v, mht, mid, mov, mp2, mp3, mp4, mpa, mpe, mpg, mpeg, ogg, pdf, png, pps, ppt, ra, ram, rm, rtf, swf, txt, wav, wm, wma, wmv and xls.

The edit package is based on a simple text email format with HTTP (hyper-text transfer protocol) links to humour site files or other web sites within the email. A simple text form with inline links is used to ensure the resulting email can be real by all email programs.

How the Weekly Email is Edited
The edit package is automatically finalised and sent via email to all editors early Wednesday morning. A roster is maintained to determine which editor is responsible for each week’s edit.

Each editor edits the package according to their individual style, and usually puts some form of editorial at the start of the finished version.

It is up to the editor to decide whether to include previously used text or files. For example, an editor may decide to allow repeats if the prior usage was more than three years ago, or if it is newly relevant, or if they have an itchy nose at the time. Previously used files might be included if they are part of a new set, of say images, that have mostly new files included. It is entirely up to the editor.

Content retained by an editor is subject to some informal guidelines agreed amongst the editors. To be included, content should be funny. That is, funny ha ha, funny peculiar, or funny unusual. It is a humour list after all. Content of a gratuitous graphic sexual nature is avoided, unless it is genuinely funny of course.

That does not mean such contributions should stop. It would be sad indeed if the editors saw nothing worth categorising as gratuitous sex.

Funny stuff of a sexual nature that may cause unintended embarrassment, in an open office environment for example, should be marked with a XXX or some other notation to indicate it is somewhat risqué. This allows subscribers to avoid or delay viewing of items so annotated if they choose to do so.

The rostered editor completes editing before the Friday morning deadline, and submits the package via email for distribution. Packages submitted for distribution are only accepted from known editor’s email addresses.

The editor is then sent an automatic email acknowledging receipt of the submission. The email includes information about the files retained in the processed package.

It generally takes from one to three hours to complete the editing of a package, depending on the size and content of the package.

How the Weekly Email is Sent
The Friday Humour email distribution is fully automatic.

When it is time to send the weekly email the edited package is processed to modify any words and word combinations which could draw the attention of over-zealous email spam filters.

As a result of the spam flood on the internet, many businesses and email service providers have implemented extensive email filtering systems to minimise the amount of spam received by bona-fide users.

One of the older, and therefore more common, methods is to check for offensive words within an email, and make a statistical judgement of its "spamness" based on the quantity of so-called rude words within the email. This method has obvious drawbacks and has been eclipsed by newer and more sophisticated systems, but is still retained by many organisations, either through laziness, or through a dubious wish to protect users from offensive content.

Modifying words is a less than ideal solution, but it is a solution that works.

The package is reformatted to avoid unwanted line breaks and indentations when viewed, and to remove redundant punctuation.

Standard footers are applied to the package and the email is sent to each subscriber. Emails are sent individually. Emails to the same company or provider are not sent as a single email with multiple addressees, mainly because some email systems will drop other addressees if one addressee is invalid.

How the Archives are Maintained
The Archives maintenance is fully automatic.

When the Friday Humour is emailed out to subscribers, it is also placed onto the Archives web site as the latest archived Friday Humour.

When all processing for a week is completed the contributions for the week, along with all the associated logs and package information are zip archived.

And that is how it all happens.

If you would like some more detail on some part, or would like to ask a question, please send an email to management@bluehaze.com.au



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