Blog spammers are fascinating critters. Their idea, as near as I can tell, is that if they post a comment on your blog, you may click their name to follow them back to their own blog where you will, hopefully, buy whatever product or service it is they’re peddling. WordPress uses Akismet to shunt most all of these directly to my spam can, yet the practice continues. Presumably it works in some cases, or else they wouldn’t be doing it. Right?
Although the practice may be reprehensible, the idea behind it does have a basis in reality. I posted a while back about my own dawning realization that blogging is a conversation, not a pulpit. Done right, your post is a continuation of some worldwide discussion. Through the act of linking, you give due diligence to what sparked your ideas; others, in turn, link to you and further that conversation; and all the while, you pay comments both back and forward to the ancestors and descendents of your ideas.
But linking doesn’t end with the link itself, and here’s where the blog spammers miss the sense of linking even while practicing the letter. When you blog, you’re a stepping stone in the path, which is both great and insignificant: Without your particular pebble, the path would still exist, but it wouldn’t be the same. My friends from Mizzou – Jeremy Littau, Hans Meyer, and Carrie Brown – all run some great (and far more focused) journalism blogs. We’ve fed on each other’s ideas, and we share space on each other’s blogrolls. When they comment on my blog, they say things that are, you know, relevant. When the blog spammers comment … well, you get this [all links removed]:
Attili Sattibabu: Thank you for giving such a informative blog. Your website happens to be not just useful but also very creative too. There are very few people who can think to write not so easy content that creatively. Keep posting !!
Sofia Ahr: Great post. I gained some very valuable information from it. I have been struggling with an addiction myself for most of my life, so what you wrote really meant a lot to me. Visit my blog if you’d like to read more. Thanks again for this blog – it is really informative.
Nigeria Forum: Hi. I needed to drop you a quick note to impart my thanks. I’ve been following your blog for a month or so and have plucked up a heap of good information as well as relished the way you’ve structured your site. I am seeking to run my own blog however I think its too general and I would like to focus more on smaller topics.
As you can see, generalized flattery is a popular tactic. Here’s a short-and-sweet one in response to my post against a Dislike button on Facebook:
templerel: Bravo, what necessary phrase…, a brilliant idea
I only wish I knew what phrase this was in reference to. I would use it more often to better display my brilliance. Some REALLY make with the gushing:
Sau Kaylor: Only want to say your article is striking. The clearness in your post is simply striking and i can assume you are an expert on this field. Well with your permission allow me to grab your rss feed to keep up to date with succeeding post. Thanks a million and please keep up the delightful work
This came in response to a post about drinking two beers in a Morgantown bar on a Friday when my wife was out of town. Clearly I am an expert in … what? Bars? Solitude? Lindsay Robertson has a great list of do’s and don’ts for online PR folks (I’m being polite in using that label), not that any of these guys would ever deign to read it.
Others do a marginally better job of targeting their fakery [asterisks added to avoid giving these guys any free traffic]:
Luther Blisset: Hey. I have launched a new Farmville site. If you want the latest hints, tips and cheats then have a look at http://www.ultimate%5B*%5Dfarmville.com
This post came in response to a post on Farmville’s holiday trees. The robots are becoming sentient! Or at least capable of recognizing keywords. Here’s another one in response to my post on the outcome of our baby shower:
Dustin: I laud the valuable post you provide in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and have my baby check up here recurrently. I am quite sure they will study lots of new stuff here than anybody else!
You just been lauded! It is humbling to know that my writing is inspiring fathers to direct their babies to my site. Be warned, though – I do occasionally use profanity.
Similar to the blog spammer is an animal you may have noticed on Twitter, where the “follow me and I’ll follow you” idea is even more streamlined. I don’t have many followers, so when I do get ’em, it’s interesting to see where they come from (Caesar’s Palace? Huh?). Most are my friends, or friends of friends, or people who started following me because I responded to their tweets (see?). Some are religious (@bryanthewitt), which I suppose it taking the “follower” idea in a literal sense. I’ve got at least one (@buddaway) that is entirely in Chinese, which I don’t speak or read. What is the thinking here?
The remainder are fairly often some would-be entrepreneur (currently I’m being followed by a holiday gift guide and a Cyprus jewelry dealer). Ever click on these profiles? They nigh-always will take you to some get-rich-quick site, or, even better, a get-rich-by-using-twitter-to-gain-followers site. I often wonder: When you pay these guys for their wisdom, how often is the first tip “Start following a crapload of people and hope a few will follow you back and pay you to tell them this tip.” Or maybe you don’t get that tip until the top tier.
If you’re on Twitter, try this sometime: Scroll back through your follower list. Your followers are listed in last-in, first-out format, so the top listing is the most recent. The farther back you go, the more legitimate followers you’ll find. For some reason, the Twitspammers drop you after a while. What, I wonder, is the metric they use for deciding that their following you won’t be fruitful? At what time do they decide to hang it up on you? And how can I make them do it sooner?
The “follow me and I’ll follow you” approach is key to social media. It helps us connect with others. People we don’t know can introduce themselves and their ideas to us via following, or linking, or commenting; we, in turn, can do the same. I follow Ethan Watrall, an assistant prof at Michigan State who teaches some awesome comics-oriented classes. We’ve never met. I started following after some other comics-oriented folks retweeted him, and after I responded to some of these, he started following me too. We’re part of a conversation now, which is terrific.
The link is a kind of sign – a sign of shared interest, of community. Like any sign, though, if it can be used to signify, it can be used to lie. Lying – false representation of interest to draw business – is the business of the blog spammer, and that’s not going to stop any time soon. But do they have to be so dumb about it?