Backtracks is full of delightful easter eggs as one of our partners once said. We wanted to point out one of these with a little nerdy technical background on emojis using the internet’s favorite animal, cat.
What do you see here?
On Windows machines this is what you would see:
On most non-Windows machines you would see two graphics or emojis:
How to see Hackercat on Backtracks and why you want URLs to be guessable
We allow some URLs to be open to “thoughtful modification” to allow someone to get the data they want by discovering or guessing options based on patterns in the tools and systems. For example Backtracks Charts supports URLs like https://backtracks.fm/charts/top-100 and https://backtracks.fm/charts/top-50 where the number of chart results can be customized. This is called a hackable URL and its not a bad thing. Designers and developers of objects and software often want functionality and tools to be guessable without an instruction manual. Predictable URLs are a form of user experience/UX.
Predictable URLs are a form of user experience/UX.
If someone modifies a Backtracks Charts URL to return a custom number of results then they’re met with an emoji character called Hackercat, which takes this hack a level further. If the user sees one or two emojis depends to represent Hackercat depends on the computer operating system that they are using at the time.
Why do different operating systems show different versions of Hackercat?
The entire system of emojis is essentially a standardized table or lookup of codes that tell computers, phones, etc. that a value of X means to show an image that looks like Y (or a cat, always a cat). This is why different phone providers and different systems can share emoji’s without sending true images. All the system share a common understanding that certain codepoints in a system called Unicode stand for different characters (written or otherwise like an emoji).
Now, sometimes the unicode standard is in flux or needs new “words” or characters introduced and there is not a consensus on what a new character will be (i.e. some systems will support the character or emoji and some will not) or some operating systems decide to deviate from the standard.
A little known feature of the emoji system on Windows (and to be fair some other operating systems) is that chaining two characters together with an invisible (to a human) zero-width character to join two symbols results in third character that you cannot create in another way. The use of the invisible zero-width joiner character is used by computers is used in regular writing systems and fonts in a computer or device’s operating system to know when the form of a character or letter in language changes based on the characters next to it or that is is joined with similar to cursive writing or in languages like Arabic. Often you can think of this as a ligature. Emoji extends this like Transformers, Power Rangers, etc. combining into some new form. In the land of emoji in some operating system, you can combine a cat, 🐱, with a laptop, 💻, using a ZWJ (zero-width joiner) to result in the mythical beast known as Hackercat 🐱💻 (no really, we didn’t make up the name).
Now, the real secret to hacking the podcast charts is to increase your PodScore™. We’ll leave that up to you. 🐱🏍