Paul W. Rankin

about news filmmaking screenwriting live visuals etc.

For a while now it had been bothering Mark Zuckerberg that people wrote “tl;dr” instead of “tl,dr” at the end of long posts. It was like the whole Internet didn’t care about the proper use of the semicolon. It had only taken him a couple of hours over about three days, but Mark had written some injection code that would dynamically render every instance of “tl;dr” on Facebook as “tl,dr” while leaving the original values unchanged. But that wasn’t all, the code would also track subsequent instances of user-submitted “tl,dr” and automatically shut itself off after ten of these. Mark felt ten was an appropriate number to catch some genuine reactions rather than just mistakes. And reactions were what he was after.

Mark was now ready to deploy the code. He typed the command string, took a quick look through the glass panelling to make sure no one was on their way to his office, then hit Enter.

The code came to life and a millisecond timer began whirring away on the terminal output. Mark refreshed a page he had ready and saw his work appear: tl;dr had become tl,dr! URIs listing the new instances of “tl,dr” were populating the terminal output. Three… Six… Seven…

The timer stopped at 4.209 and the code shut itself down. Mark refreshed again and saw that everything was back to normal. Only then did he realize his heart was pounding.

He blinked. Took in a sharp breath.

He opened the URIs in a batch of tabs and found the first genuine reaction: a David Plymoth from Philadelphia who had commented on his own post:

wtf facebook has changed all my tl,dr to tl,dr. is this some kind of facebook spellchecker?

Mark looked over David’s profile. He saw that David worked in the IT department at Thomas Jefferson University. He saw that David’s friends called him “Dave”. He looked over the photos of David at various parties and get-togethers in the past month, and he opened the profile of David’s girlfriend Katie.

Mark leaned back in his chair, cupped his hands together behind his head and let out a satisfied chuckle. Then he stood and walked to his office window, watching the people move about the Facebook campus below. He silently mouthed the name “David Plymoth” over and over. Then he started to hum “I Got You Babe” by Sonny & Cher, but in his head Mark changed the lyrics to I got you Dave.