Ghost in the machine

I found the Sun.Star Cebu newsroom abuzz yesterday over a website that seemed to know a lot of details, even intimate ones, about people and things. When I entered the newsroom, I found reporters, editors, librarians, and newsroom assistants gathered around TV host Jude Bacalso, the paper’s lifestyle editor, who was entering questions and getting correct answers on the Peter Answers website.

peteranswers.com ANSWER TO LIFE, THE UNIVERSE, AND EVERYTHING. It’s in PeterAnswers.com. Have fun fooling your friends with the website. Click on photo to view larger image.

At first glance, it was freaky. How could the website know the names of a co-worker’s children, the pet peeve of an editor, what I was doing at the precise time the question was asked (holding out my cellphone), what was on a reporter’s head (a polka-dot headband), and what one reporter told another reporter about his mother-in-law?

I initially thought that Jude had a conspirator on hearing distance providing the answers but no one within the vicinity was typing when Jude entered the questions. It was also impossible for Jude to have pre-programmed the answers because the questions were thrown at him at random.

Jude, it turned out, was providing the answers himself right before our very eyes and none of us noticed it. In defense, though, Jude is a great actor and he did put up such a convincing show.

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