Index ← 3533 CFJ 3534 3535 → text
==============================  CFJ 3534  ==============================

      In the below quoted message, a CFJ was initiated on the phrase 
      'I call for judgement on the following statement'.


Caller:                       Quazie                       

Judge:                        ais523                     
Judgement:                    FALSE                    
Judgement:                    FALSE



Called by Quazie:             28 Jun 2017         
Assigned to ais523:           29 Jun 2017       
Judged FALSE by ais523:       29 Jun 2017    
Entered into Moot:            29 Jun 2017
Remanded to ais523 by Moot:   07 Jul 2017
Judged FALSE by ais523:       14 Jul 2017


Caller's Evidence:

On Wed, Jun 28, 2017 at 16:16 Kerim Aydin  wrote:

I call for judgement on the following statement : أدعو إلى إصدار حكم بشأن البيان التالي


Judge's Arguments (pre-Moot):

The arguments so far have hinged on the message in question being
ambiguous, but is that really the case? I believe that, given the
method via which it was sent, the original message cannot reasonably be
interpreted as being in Arabic.

What's notable here is that an encoding of text can convey the meaning
of the text in two different ways; either using a visual ordering, in
which the sequence of bytes is corresponds to the positions of the
individual characters on the page; or a logical ordering, in which the
sequence of bytes corresponds to the order in which the characters they
represent have meaning (i.e. bytes that appear earlier in the byte
stream correspond to letters closer to the start of words, words closer
to the start of sentences, and so on). A visual ordering would not help
resolve the ambiguity in respect to the CFJ. A logical ordering would,
though, as the bytes are conveying not only the appearance of the text
in this case, but also the intended reading order.

The standard referenced in the message for the understanding of the
bytes it contains is ISO-8859-6 (which cannot be obtained from ISO
without payment, but Ecma have a standard Ecma-114 which they claim is
equivalent). The body of the standard contains no opinion on whether
the text it's used to represent is in logical or visual order. However,
email clients in practice appear to interpret it as being in logical
order; in my client, the bytes , corresponding to the
Arabic letters «أ» then «د» then «ع» then «و», are rendered as the
Arabic word «أدعو» (in other words, they're rendered right to left, the
normal logical order of Arabic, and the opposite order that they appear
in the bytestream).

The word in question is a real Arabic word, translating to "I invite" /
"I call" / "I appeal". If we reverse the order of the letters, to get
«دعوأ», this is no longer a real Arabic word, strongly implying that
the message was meant to be in logical order; if the message were meant
to be in visual order, the Arabic text would therefore have been
written backwards (i.e. left to right, when right to left is the
language's normal writing order).

I can also see how my email client interprets the message by asking it
to word-wrap it:

I call for judgement on the following statement : أدعو إلى إصدار حكم
بشأن البيان التالي

This word-wrapping is clearly incompatible with an Arabic
interpretation of the message, as it would have split the Arabic in
half with some English text in the middle.

In other words, I'm not seeing any sensible way to interpret the
English text as coming "after" the Arabic text. The message itself
contains an indication that the Arabic text comes second.

I judge CFJ 3534 ("In the below quoted message, a CFJ
was initiated on the phrase 'I call for judgement on the following
statement'") FALSE, and CFJ 3535 ("In the below quoted message, a CFJ
was initiated on the phrase 'أدعو إلى إصدار حكم بشأن البيان التالي'")


Judge's Arguments (post-Moot):

CFJ 3534 was remanded, so here's the new judgement. I'm beginning to
think I should just mark every judgement I make as a thesis; this one's
certainly long enough to count…

I didn't realise at the time of the original judgement that this case
was going to be such a big deal. Thinking about it, though, it speaks
to a pretty fundamental issue: what it means, precisely, to communicate
via email. There are a number of intertwined issues here:

 * Whether game-relevant actions can be taken in languages other than
   English and Spivak
 * Whether the intent of the poster of a public message poster matters
   when interpreting the message
 * What portions of a message, other than the basic appearance of its
   text, are relevant when interpreting the message

I'll start off with the issue about the language: is it possible to
take actions in languages not commonly used in Agora? Contrary to what
many people have suggested in the discussion fora, it seems that
there's a long history of this type of action succeeding; for example,
CFJ 1439 found that an action in Turkish, with an accompanying
translation in the message, was capable of succeeding. CFJ 1460
subsequently found that an action in Turkish, with an accompanying
translation, was not capable of succeeding.

The translation was probably needed in this case, though. Here's what I
assume the Turkish sections of the messages in question were meant to
look like:

Bir tane 'Blot'u benden zefer taraftarle, aklamağım amaçım size
bildiriyorum. Zefer taraftarle, ben bir tane 'Blot'u benden

Bu demeçin kararı için ben bağırım:  Bu bir bağırış kararı için

And here are machine translations of those corrected messages:

I will inform you of one of my goals, "Blot", from the side of me.
Zefer supporters, I have laid one 'Blot' on me.

For the sake of this statement I am a coward: it is not a shouting

Even nowadays, those actions would be very hard to interpret for a
typical Agoran player without the translation. As an example, I assume
from context that "zefer" (left untranslated by a machine-translator)
means "zero", but I couldn't find the word in question in my usual
dictionary (which lists words in a wide range of languages, thus
allowing you to look up a word without knowing which language it's in),
and could not easily find definitions of the word via a search engine
either. (I found a website claiming that the word means "zero" in Dari,
a language spoken in Afghanistan, but the website in question did not
give a meaning for the word in Turkish specifically.) This is, of
course, most likely due to asymmetries in the Internet coverage of
various languages – modern machine translators work via imitating
translations made by humans, and as shown by the searches, there isn't
a lot of source material for Turkish – but the conclusion is still much
the same; a player of Agora has little chance of being able to
interpret a message written in this particular style Turkish without
the aid of a native speaker, given that the words used aren't in
typical dictionaries, visible via basic Internet searches, or found via
machine translators. (For what it's worth, the translator I used gives
the Turkish translation for «zero» as «sıfır», a word that's much more
commonly used and reliably translated.)

So there's reasonable uncertainty about what the statements in question
meant. Providing a translation clears that up, but if Agorans in
general have no way to understand what the action does, it's
ineffective because information hasn't been communicated. In Agora, we
perform (most) actions by stating that we perform them, the "by
announcement" mechanism. Notably, this means that it's the meaning of
the message that matters, not the way in which it's stated. And there
doesn't seem to be much reason to doubt the precedent that actions that
can't generally be understood by the Agoran population with reasonable
effort can't succeed.

What about languages which are easier to translate? Arabic is a good
example here. Take the Arabic portion of G's more recent message:

أدعو إلى إصدار حكم بشأن البيان التالي

and a machine translation of it:

I call for a ruling on the following statement

This is much clearer than the Turkish was! I think every Agoran is
likely to easily interpret this as referring to a call for judgement
(an interpretation made all the clearer by the rest of the post). In
this case, the language in which the message has been written isn't a
barrier to communication; for widely-used languages like Arabic,
machine translation is high-quality these days, and most Agorans are
highly likely to understand the statement. (This is likely to happen
even if English is not the native language of the Agoran in question;
for example, if we machine translate the Arabic in question directly
into Japanese (a language which at least one Agoran appears to favour),
we get:


which is clear enough that even re-machine-translating it into English,
as "I call to make a judgment with the following sentence", still
clearly refers to a CFJ.)

All in all, then, I don't believe the precedents with respect to
language usage need to change. CFJ 1460 holds that a player cannot
incur an obligation from a message e is incapable of understanding. I'd
prefer to generalise that a bit: a message is incapable of
communicating information, and thus of taking actions which require the
communication of information to function, unless Agorans in general are
capable of understanding what it means. Note that this means that over
time, as dictionaries become more comprehensive and machine translation
becomes more effective, the range of languages which can be used for
Agoran actions increases, because the amount of effort required to
understand a particular language will become lower. Incidentally, this
also means that messages are interpreted on a case by case basis,
rather than languages as a whole being allowed or disallowed; it's easy
to imagine a situation in which an easily translatable message in a
given language can be widely understood by Agorans, but text which is
less easily translatable is too hard to understand.

Note that it's also worth noting that English doesn't really have a
special status here, except inasmuch as it's the language that seems to
have the most general understanding among Agorans as a whole. Indeed,
many forms of communication that are common in Agora can't easily be
said to be in English. A sentence like "I transfer each Slave Golem to
eir recordkeepor." could have been perfectly understandable by all
Agorans back when Slave Golems existed, but I don't feel comfortable
claiming that the sentence makes sense in English (and indeed, machine
translators seem to assume that "eir recordkeepor" is a proper noun,
due to a lack of any evidence to the contrary). (In fact, I'd be hard
pressed to even translate the sentence in question into English; "eir"
is fairly unique among pronouns in that it can be applied to an
inanimate object that is also a person, a situation that often arises
at Agora but rarely arises in other contexts, and thus has no
corresponding English word that it can be translated to.)

In other words, the language barrier is not really an impact for this
particular CFJ. However, there's another barrier here, a technological
barrier. Four of our five recognised fora use email as a means of
communication, and, perhaps due to an analogy between email and paper
mail, the perception among players is often that what they send will
have the same appearance as what the other members of the list receive.
In many cases, though, this is not true, especially when using
codepaths and settings which are rarely tested (such as communicating
in a language that isn't habitually used with that email client).

First, a quick primer on how email works behind the scenes. It's fairly
well understood that each message has body text, and, separately from
that, headers; the headers contain a lot of contextual surrounding the
email, with the most user-visible being the addresses (to/from), the
subject line, and the date, whereas the body text typically contains
the actual message that the email is trying to convey. The headers are
self-contained, and also contain a guide as to how to interpret the
body text.

One notable situation in which the headers are relevant is related to
the use of alphabets. There are two common ways to represent an email's
body text, but perhaps the most common for languages with relatively
small alphabets (and the method actually used by all three of G.'s
emails mentioned here) is the "8-bit method", which assigns a number
from 0 to 255 inclusive to each possible letter of each alphabet used
in the message; email body text is effectively just a series of numbers
in this range, so the assignment mentioned in the headers can be used
to turn it into an understandable message. (The other commonly used
method is called Unicode, which I told my email client to use to send
this email because it contains characters in so many different
languages, but it isn't relevant here because none of the relevant
messages used it, so I won't discuss it further.) This conversion
*must* be done to make any sense of the message, but this is typically
considered the job of the email client, and thus something that people
don't generally have to worry about. In order to avoid having to
specify which number corresponds to which letter as an explicit mapping
(which would lead to something of an infinite regress), each letter has
a well-known mapping that's programmed into the majority of email
clients; for example, the letter «A», used in many European languages
(including English), is consistently represented by the number 65.

Now, there's a problem with this way of doing things: taking all the
languages in existence into account, there are a lot more than 256
distinct letters. This means in practice that some numbers are assigned
to more than one letter, but these would typically be letters from
languages which are rarely used together. As such, the email headers
specify (in an abbreviated form) the list of alphabets that are used in
the body of the email; this will always be a set of alphabets which
have no letters with overlapping corresponding numbers, and thus it's
possible to unambiguously determine which words are being
communiciated. (This also applies recursively; the headers also contain
information on how to interpret letters in the headers themselves.)

Unfortunately, many email clients seem to mess this system up. If the
recipient's email client violates the standard systems for doing
things, I don't see it as much of an issue; the action should logically
still work, because the recipient could determine the actual content of
the email via, e.g., visiting one of the online message archives. If
the *sender*'s email client violates the relevant standards, though,
it's quite possible that the recipient's email clients will not be able
to figure out what the message means (and because the process of
correcting a "misencoded" email is fairly technical and can be
timeconsuming, I don't think that fixing misencodings is something that
we can reasonably require recipients to do).

Now, when I spoke about G.'s Turkish messages above, I hinted that I
had to correct them. The reason is that G.'s email client had just the
sort of issue I mentioned above; although there were Turkish characters
in the email, it failed to recognise this and put contrary suggestions
in the headers. For example, here's the subject line of the second

Mutluðuz 1st Nisan, Agora!

That «ð» might well look very out of place to someone who knows
Turkish. What's happened here is that despite being intended to contain
what I assume was the Turkish letter «ğ» (which is encoded as the
number 240 when Turkish is in use), the list of alphabets specified for
the subject line in question omitted Turkish. What it did include,
however, was Icelandic, whose letters have codes that clash with those
of Turkish (the issue of being unable to send an email containing both
Turkish and Icelandic text was presumably decided to be only a minor
issue back when the 8-bit method was designed). The Icelandic letter
«ð» is also encoded using the number 240, and because the subject line
was precise about what languages were in use, no reasonable email
client would have displayed it as anything other than a «ð» here; it's
not like email clients can read Turkish, or aware that (as far as I can
tell) «Mutluðuz» isn't a real word in any language. In other words, the
sender's intent is being subverted by eir own email client here. The
body text of the email had a similar issue; the headers claim that the
body text used *only* the English alphabet, which is blatantly a false
statement, so the text would actually have displayed to its recipients
more like this:

Bu deme?in karar? i?in ben ba??r?m:  Bu bir ba??r?? karar? i?in

Unsurprisingly, this would have been even harder for a non-Turkish
speaker to decipher than the original Turkish was. In cases like this,
I don't think it's reasonable to argue that it's the original intent of
the sender that matters when trying to decipher an email into the
corresponding text; in a language which had no overlap with English,
such as Arabic, an email saying "????? ??? ????? ??? ???? ??????
??????" could not be reasonably be considered to communicate any useful
information (purely knowing the lengths of the words isn't very
useful). Going by the apparent intent of the sender is also problematic
when it comes to scams (in which the sender's apparent intent and
*actual* intent are often pretty different). It seems to me that the
text that the message actually contains, when interpreted according to
typical rules for interpreting messages in the medium, is what we need
to go by to determine what information is being communicated.

Onto the present email. I assume that G.'s either using a new email
client nowadays, or if it's the same one that it at least understands
Arabic better than Turkish, because eir email contained a correct
specification of the alphabets in use this time (the specification was
"the English alphabet, plus the subset of the Arabic alphabet used for
Arabic itself", which is an excellent description of the actual text
that the email contains). There was still a deviation between what was
actually contained in the email and the apparent intent of its sender,

I'm going to digress into a bit of a thought experiment here: suppose
we didn't play Agora by email, what other media could we use instead?
One possibility would be to play via paper mail (assuming we were
willing to allow for multi-day message sending delays and pay for
postage). In this case, the content of a message would be fairly clear;
it would be the physical object that the message consists of, which
would typically convey information via its visual or possibly tactile
properties. Alternatively, we could perhaps play via telephone; in this
case, the message conveyed would entirely consist of sound waves. The
interesting thing here is that even though Agora is mostly medium-
agnostic, the different media communicate different aspects of the
presentation of the information. For example, in a letter, the
positions of the characters on the page are observable information; you
can say "the first character of this letter is an inch from the left
hand side of the page" or the like. However, things like the tone of
voice to use when reading the message are completely missing, whereas
that information would be naturally conveyed in a phone call. In either
case, we'd likely need to have rules about what properties of the
messages are relevant and need to be preserved in things like
quotations; rule 2429 might talk about, for example, variations in font
or in tone of voice being insignificant, rather than its current
mention of "whitespace" (which is basically a collective term for
things like breaks between words, paragraphs, and pages, which are
often observable in email but not always in other means of

Now, because different aspects of information are communicated over
different media, the medium of communication used makes a big
difference to what statements are clear and what statements are
ambiguous. There are a number of jokes and puns that only work when
spoken, or only work when written, because they rely on an ambiguity
between two words with the same pronunciation but different spelling,
and vice versa. One particularly relevant distinction here is that when
written, English text followed by Arabic text looks indistinguishable
from Arabic text followed by English text (because the languages write
in opposite directions); however, when spoken, it's always completely
clear which comes first (because although Arabic is written from right
to left, it isn't spoken from end to start, but rather uses the same
start-to-end "speaking direction" as English).

I assume that when G. sent eir email, e was expecting it to preserve
the visual layout of the email, and leave the speaking direction
ambiguous. Eir email client, however, did the opposite; it went and
sent the email with a specified speaking direction, and left the visual
layout ambiguous (the message doesn't contain any formatting characters
at all, as it happens, other than the leading and trailing newlines).
It was therefore left up to the individual email clients as to how to
display it on a page; I assume some displayed it as intended, but some
email clients word-wrap it (mine, when viewing it in a reply/quote),
and email clients also disagree as to the writing direction (mine
writes it left to right, but omd's writes it right to left; left to
right is obviously correct based on the content of the post, but with
no visual formatting information in the email, guessing the opposite is
an entirely reasonable guess for a computer, especially as "English +
X" alphabet pairs are very commonly used for 8-bit encodings, but
mentioning Arabic would be very unusual unless it were actually
necessary, so "Arabic was mentioned, this is probably primarily right
to left" is an entirely understandable heuristic). So in other words,
when the email is displayed onscreen, email clients can reasonably
disagree about how it looks; but if a text-to-speech system is used to
speak the email out loud, it would be expected to be pronounced the
same way regardless of how the email client would lay it out on screen.

Even if G.'s email happens to render in an email client in the way it
was intended, there are plenty of potential clues (such as copying-and-
pasting the email to a text editor with a narrow window and seeing how
it wraps, or attempting to select part of the text and the colon at the
same time) that a nontechnical user could use to determine the speaking
order of the message. As such, I think a fixed speaking order for the
message has been conveyed fairly well, which would remove the
ambiguity. On the other hand, the intended *reading* order of the
message hasn't been conveyed at all (and the fact that it was
intentionally ambiguous doesn't really change things). So, relying on
information that's in the email that was actually sent, rather than the
email that G. meant to send, we have to interpret this message using
its stated reading order, in which the English comes before the Arabic.

Incidentally, if the email in question were sent visually (e.g. as an
image), it would lead to no CFJs being created; ambiguity about the
language in which a message is written is not really any different from
ambiguity caused by, e.g., a word that means more than one thing.

I re-judge CFJ 3534 FALSE.