Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

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Return of the 13: A Shortcut to decode Twitter spoilers

The great thing about knowing Dr. Drang is that sometimes he will solve technical problems for you just because he’s intrigued by the challenge. (Every Southwest Airlines flight I book gets processed automatically by a script thanks to Drang.)

I was planning on writing a brief article this week about a Shortcut I built over the weekend, while still sipping my tea in bed, to automatically decode ROT13-encoded tweets so I could read a few threads of obscured “Rise of Skywalker” commentary. Instead, it’s my pleasure to report that Dr. Drang has done the work so I don’t have to. Of course, his shortcut is an improvement on mine.

If you don’t know what ROT13 is, well, it’s a dumb cipher that pushes every letter of the alphabet forward 13 letters in order to obscure the content of a post. I first encountered it on Usenet newsgroups, where it was an agreed-upon way to obscure text that you wouldn’t want people to read accidentally. This is how I learned about the concept of spoilers.

But to really embrace ROT13 you need a quick way of decoding the ROT13 letter rotation. The excellent app Text Case provides a ROT13 encoder/decoder, but it was laborious to copy text out of tweets, switch apps, and paste them in. Besides, I do enjoy occasionally creating a bit of user automation as I’m waking up. As Dr. Drang wrote:

During a checkup a year or so ago, my doctor asked if I do puzzles and things like that. It was a more clear indication of my advancing years than a prostate exam or colonoscopy. I’m not sure how definitive the research is on the connection between keeping your brain active and fending off Alzheimer’s, but I guess he thought of it as “it couldn’t hurt” advice. He’d probably approve of this shortcut.

Indeed, user automation sharpens the mind. Thanks, Doc.


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