Sneak has recently and somewhat reluctantly become a user of AOL Instant Messenger. Among the AIM client's many annoying "features" (such as its tenacious ability to load automatically on start-up, despite Sneak's persistent attempts to persuade it otherwise) is the automatic replacement of text "smileys" in messages. If you type in, say, :-) -- or more probably in Sneak's case >:-( -- then the software automatically converts it into a little yellow graphical picture of a face. These kinds of "helpful" automated changes are, of course, an absolute blight if you can't turn them off using something more subtle than uninstalling the whole useless pile of bugs. The true scope of the problem is highlighted by this recent post to the always-excellent Risks list:
"A colleague was discussing his 401(k) plan [a US pension policy] with his boss, who happens to be female, via instant messaging. He discovered, to his horror, that the boss's instant-messaging client was rendering the '(k)' as a big pair of red smoochy lips."
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