Spam Considered: Episode I

Any website that allows comments is bound to receive spam. My blog is no exception. I use an Akismet filter, which does a wonderful job blocking the nonsense that gets posted. In most cases the filter just blasts the spam in cyberspace; I get a report on blocked comment totals but I do not have to sort through them all. Occasionally spam comments manage to take on an air of legitimacy and cause the filter some doubt. These comments are placed in a tentative spam folder for me to review. I usually get 2-5 of them per week.

These well-dressed spam amuse me. One thing they have in common is a flattering tone. Another thing they have in common is a link to another website. Here are a few examples (I did not post any of the links associated with them).

Posted 12-7-10 on: PSU Blue-White Game: 2009

“I enjoy your writing every time i visit your blog, do you work as a journalist some time? Keep up with the good blog.” – Chelsea

Thanks for the compliment Chelsea, but I’m not interested in promoting your webcam. I doubt you even read my blog post. I also doubt that you’re a real person. No offense.

Posted 12-17-10 on: Pringles Xtreme Ragin Cajun
“Very efficiently written information. It will be valuable to anybody who uses it, including me. Keep doing what you are doing – for sure i will check out more posts.” – Barbecue

I’m glad you like this post, Barbecue, because I’m a big fan of you.

Posted 12-28-10 on: Moby Dick: The Tarry Ends

Seriously like your sites information! Definitely a wonderful deal of data which is very helpful. Proceed to retain publishing and i am likely to proceed reading via! Cheers. – Anonymous

I will proceed to retain publishing a wonderful deal of helpful data. Sorry about confusing you with the post title, though. Judging by the website you want to link to I think I threw you off with the second word.

Based upon the spam comments I receive on my blog I have three observations:

1. Spambots have terrible grammar. You’d think if you’re going to go to the trouble of being a spammer you’d at least design a program that generates comments that make sense and are grammatically sound. It seems that quality comments, or even comments that at first glance appear to have some quality, would increase the effectiveness of spamming. Posting a link with a nonsensical spam comment is like going to a job interview naked. Even if you’re qualified for the job you’ll be discounted immediately. Security won’t even let you in the building. If you get dressed you’ll at least be able to state your case, as terrible as it might be. The sad thing is that poor quality spam must still be effective since it turns up so frequently.

2. Sex is the dominant product spammers are selling. Most of the links are for porn, webcams, questionable “dating” sites, and sexual enhancement products. But there is a bizarre mix of other things out there too. Things like used Mini Coopers, vacation timeshares in unstable countries, career counseling, cheap electronics, and information harvesting software. Many spammers do not specify in the comment what they are selling, and at times the links have no indication of where they lead (that’s a bad sign).

3.   At times there is a connection between a post and the spam topic that turns up on it, though most times the connection is through a perceived double entendre or the presence of a keyword (for instance, I predict this post will by heavily spammed because it includes the word porn . . . twice). It is a real testament to the worthlessness of spam to realize that in the history of my blog I have not had one spam comment that offered a link to something even remotely pertinent to a post.

I’d like to see how spammers operate. How they make money, spread viruses, and mine data. I’d also like to know which spam comments are typed by a person and which ones are generated by a program. And then I’d like to discuss grammar with the people typing the comments or designing the programs. I think they might be monkeys.

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