Ugly innovations in spam
Akismet can be a pain in the arse.
Its sensitivity to spam is pretty good with less than 5% of them getting through to my blog (if you believe Akismet’s blocking statistics that is) but its specificity ain’t so hot considering its mechanism of action. Not only does it toss about 5% of legitimate comments into the spam folder without notifying you – where they can languish for some time unless you check it regularly – but it also takes an unaccountable dislike to some people, spam dumping every comment they make to every blog no matter how innocuous.
As far as I know there is no way to tweak the sensitivity and specificity of Akismet to fit your own usage patterns and comment volume but, from what I’m told, when something goes seriously awry user support is pretty much non-existent. If Akismet software decides it hates you you’re on your own.
Nonetheless, thanks to Akismet over 90% of the efforts spammers make to compromise my blog are to no avail and my readers never have to see them.
But in recent weeks I’ve been seeing a new kind of spam aimed at WordPress users that completely bypasses Akismet. Or at least I think I have.
When another WordPress user follows your blog you get an auto-generated email giving their blog handle and a suggestion to check out their blog. At the bottom is a list of recommended ‘great posts’ with hyperlinks.
Some of my recent ‘followers’ have handles like “buymystuffnow” and great posts like “Try new Jerkoff dick detergent!” (not actual examples). Their blogs turn out to be nothing but a list of low rent advertisements for the sort of trashy products you only ever see being flogged via moronic hardsell. Most of them immediately ‘unfollow’ after I’ve received the email.
I guess it’s possible these Turing test dropouts are real people sitting bored at their crap jobs posting rubbish ads to bogus blogs and occasionally surfing the blogosphere for something to break the tedium. But I doubt it.
I wonder how long it will be before the spammers get the idea to subscribe to blogs via email¹. That way, whenever I make a new post they’ll receive a message confirming my email address, which can then be accumulated into databases to be onsold to other spammers. Then it won’t be long before my inbox starts filling up with those imploring missives from ultra-hot, lonely Russian women desperate to get their hands on my body (Down ladies! Please. There’s only so much of me to go around you know).
Maybe WordPress needs to provide users the capability force those they would prefer didn’t receive their emails to ‘unfollow’ them.
Which brings me to the second unsettling discovery I made about spammers this week.
I am one. Well, kinda sorta.
I’d long wondered about the business model of WordPress. How could they turn a profit offering so much free bandwidth and user support to all those bloggers and blog readers on the modest charges they apply to premium upgrades that hardly anyone buys?
Turns out they don’t.
Some readers of my blog are subjected to ads for God-knows-what stuck to the bottom of my posts.
I should have guessed. The advertising industry has its putrid fingers in just about every pie in the world these days. Now they’re using content generated by me to attract readers to their manipulative consumerist memes.
For as long as I can remember I’ve had contempt for the entire notion of marketing. Sorry about that to any of you who are marketers, but when the revolution comes be sure to mention you are a Neurodrooling reader to receive your free VIP Club position up against the wall.
My brief stint of IT contracting in the Australian advertising industry only deepened my contempt. If you hate sausages, laws or ads be sure to avoid seeing how they are made. You will hate them even more and with the exception of sausages you’ll still be stuck with having them rammed down your throat for the rest of your life anyway.
Of course I could cough up $30 per year to WordPress and spare my readers from having marketing screed forcibly inserted into their eyeballs, but I object in principle to paying off hostage takers.
My other option would be to pull down this blog and use the webspace provided by my ISP to inflict my drivel upon those bored and incautious enough to stumble across it, but the problem with that is I’ve become addicted to the blogs of several other WordPress users and if I give up my own status as a logged in WordPresser I too will join the tormented throng subjected to the abusive attentions of their sponsors.
So if you are seeing an ad at the bottom of this post, please accept my abject apologies. The only advice I can offer is you take up the WordPress suggestion that inappropriate ads be reported to their support team.
Because all advertising is inappropriate and offensive.
¹ I just realised that email followers don’t actually get your email address. Only people whose blog you comment on. I guess I’m not much of a spamming mastermind.