Copyright © 1995 by Wendy Aron
Converted to HTML by Scott Pakin.

Magazine article about my complaint-letter generator

The following article, written by Wendy Aron, appeared in XS magazine, a publication of the Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, the Telegraph Herald in Dubuque, Iowa, and the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania on June 27, 1995. I'm famous! However, I would like to be more famous, so if you've written anything that puts me in a good light, just send me a copy and I'll put it online.


Hate mail

At a rate of one request every 30 seconds, the complaint letter generator on the Web at http://www-csag.cs.uiuc.edu/individual/pakin/complaint has to be one of the Internet's busiest sites.

Scott Pakin, the graduate computer science student who created the site, believes that most people who use it are not angry, but view it as a form of entertainment. "It's fun to type in someone's name and have the computer spew out paragraphs of grammatically correct, albeit completely unfocused text about that person," he says.

The program Pakin created works by stringing together words and phrases commonly found in complaint letters to generate its own peevish missive to a designated person. It contains such adjectives as bloodthirsty, irrational, and unscrupulous, and nouns like boneheads and dorks. In all, the program has 282 sentence skeletons, 170 independent clauses, 183 adjectives, and 123 nouns, for a potential of over 1 billion sentences.

According to Pakin, as far as public figures go, Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich and Bill Gates are the most frequent recipients of complaint letters from the service. However, he notes that most letters are sent to personal acquaintances.

How heartwarming.


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