Digging into the numbers behind my 1,000 followers

1000-followers

This blog recently passed a milestone, logging its 1000th follower. It should be noted, however, that the landmark follower was a blogger whose site was titled Chinese Numbers, which describes itself as “Chinese, language, learn, speak, write, textbook, contract, beginner, advanced, intermediate, commercial, marketing, correspondence, characters, radicals, decomposition, business, numbers, numerals, contract.”

Blog posts on Chinese Numbers include “Read Chinese Numbers 1-10 for Fun.” How could I resist? I clicked on the post and got what appears below (I erased the link that appeared behind “more information”).

read-chinese

What fun, indeed. The exclamation points were utterly superfluous.

Also, when you click on the “about” section of the blog, used to provide background on the blog or author, it reads: “This is an example of an about page. Unlike posts, pages are better suited for more timeless content that you want to be easily accessible, like your About or Contact information. Click the Edit link to make changes to this page or add another page.” So, no one bothered to even describe what the blog was about. Sounds legitimate to me.

Apparently, my blog is popular with the Chinese self-help crowd. Follower No. 999 is a blog titled Chinese for Beginners, while No. 998 is Chinese Commercial Correspondence. And right before that is the delightfully titled The Earth of Brain, which describes itself as “Chinese, language, learn, speak, write, textbook, contract, beginner, advanced, intermediate, commercial, marketing, correspondence, characters, radicals, decomposition, business, numbers, numerals.”

Others that have begun following my blog in recent months include the usual mishmash of sites selling male enhancements products, art, photography, architectural designs, books, publishing services, etc.

These sites apparently believe there are people randomly seeking poorly maintained, poorly written blogs for odd products. I’m not sure what sort believes this is part of a solid business plan, but they’re likely the same type who approach an advertising agency and tell the firm, “I don’t know what I want, but make it ‘pop!’”

(And to the recent follower who thought up the name FoxxyMobile Investment Services Limited – I say, good luck. Points for the use of “Limited,” but where I come from anything with “foxxy,” whether it’s spelled with one “x” or two, unless it has to do with omnivorous vulpines, is a likely sign that mischief is afoot.)

On the other hand, you have the particularly focused blogs that are quite fascinating. Sharks Parasites and Zoology comes to mind, along with Crusader History and To the Sound of the Guns.

I’m certainly no expert in, for example, sharks, parasites or zoology, but find all three interesting, having caught sharks, attracted my fair share of parasites and enjoy seeing, catching and studying animals in general. I have much respect for individuals who specialize in a legitimate area of study, and are able to cogently express their knowledge and interests in words the average person can grasp.

There are also a handful of high-quality writers out there who are able to touch on a wide range of topics.

Waldo Lydecker’s Journal, a North Carolina blogger who succinctly writes on a variety of political and social issues, An Sionnach Fionn, who describes his site as “Irish Republican news and opinion” but is so much more, The Venomous Bead, who describes her blog as “themeless” but writes with both knowledge and wisdom on myriad topics, and roughseasinthemed, a Brit who lives in Gibraltar and Spain, and adroitly mixes common sense with a desire for justness, all come to mind.

Unfortunately, for every one of the above, all of which I have followed for some time, there are at least 50 blogs set up solely to sell merchandise or services, push spam or for simple self-aggrandizement.

I equate the above 1,000 figure, as compared to the actual number of legitimate bloggers who follow this blog, to an idea I would sometimes espouse when I was a journalist. There is an old theory that if an infinite number of monkeys were left to bang on an infinite number of typewriters, sooner or later they would accidentally reproduce the works of Shakespeare. When I occasionally turned out a particularly pathetic bit of prose as a reporter, I would turn to one of my co-workers and say, “Three monkeys, 10 minutes.”

In other words, of the 1,000 followers listed for this blog, it’s likely at least half are nothing more than shills for products, services or worse.

That said, to those of you who have taken the time to read this blog since it began eight years ago, you have my thanks.

I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to deliberate with you who have both agreed and disagreed with me, and on more than one occasion I have been forced to rethink my position(s). I’d like to think I’m a better writer and a better person for having embarked on this enterprise.

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Turning the tables on the Internet’s blackguards

snow

Over the past couple of weeks no fewer than half a dozen spam faxes have come into my office pushing everything from Caribbean vacations to timeshare rentals. My first reaction: Do spammers use fax machines anymore?; followed by, how can spamming people by fax possibly be worth the effort?

Not all spammers are retrograde. Anyone who writes or reads a blog is familiar with insidious spammers attempting to post all sorts of unrelated links in comments sections for such items as Chinese manufactured goods, search-engine optimization services, the ubiquitous “male-enhancement” products and scams that purport to enable individuals to earn $87 an hour working part-time from home.

Of course, a good spam filter keeps many of these from seeing the light of day, but some spammers are particularly persistent, especially on blogs that see heavy traffic.

Google uses a complex algorithm to rank the relevancy of websites and blogs, and has worked to make sure that the actions of third-party sites – read spammers – don’t negatively affect websites.

Google has even gone so far as to devise a “disavow” tool which allows websites and blogs to basically ask Google not to take certain links into account when assessing their sites.

It would appear that these spammers are also being penalized by Google for their past actions.

The Coyote Blog noted recently that it has been receiving link-removal requests from companies that spammed its comment section in the past.

“Most of them threaten that somehow their past spamming might threaten my Google rating, when in fact they are actually worried about their own Google search ranking,” The Coyote Blog writes.

Coyote, unsurprisingly, is less than sympathetic to these online vermin. He responds to such requests thusly:

I might or might not get to it, depending on how I feel and how hard it turns out to be. I only have limited sympathy as your company placed those spam links on my site against my wishes and against the usage guidelines for the site and on posts that largely were irrelevant to your product. I had to go to considerable expense to move my server and add new software specifically to fight spam of the sort you were dumping on me. All I can say is that you reap what you sow. And as to your threats that my Google ranking is somehow in jeopardy due to your past behavior, I believe Google is fully aware of whether your site or my site should be penalized for such spam, and it is not going to be my site.

Should The Coyote Blog get around to addressing the spammer’s request, it usually adds an update to the post itself saying that “[company with link] has confessed to being unapologetic spammers in the past and a link to their site [and I include the link] has been moved from the comments section at their request and moved to the main post to give their bad past behavior more visibility.”

Hear! Hear! Way to stick it to the Man Mouse!

A grudging nod to the ‘crusading’ spammer

crusades

It’s taken more than five years of blogging, but I’ve finally come across a spammer who has grudgingly earned my respect.

A recent search of my spam folder showed the usual array of half-assed unsolicited emails, ranging from “Toronto Escorts” (sorry, I’m not an “escort” kind of guy and if I were, I wouldn’t travel 1,500 miles to be “escorted”), to sites for cosmetic surgery loans and cellulite diets.

And, of course, there were the usual abusers of English grammar: “My family members all the time say that I am killing my time here at net, however I know I am getting familiarity daily by reading thes fastidious content.”

But tucked amid the above detritus was this gem, appended on to a post I had written about the gruesome reality of the American Civil War: “This takes into account the view of the Latin Church and medieval contemporaries such as Saint Bernard of Clairvaux that gave equal precedence to comparable military campaigns against pagans, heretics and many undertaken for political reasons. This wider definition includes the persecution of heretics in Southern France, the political conflict between Christians in Sicily, the Christian re-conquest of Spain and the conquest of heathens in the Baltic.”

Oh, this was still spam; the comment came from an individual promoting a Spanish-language herbal remedy website.

But it was several notches above the usual unsolicited monstrosities that are the bane of electronic communication.

Given the nature of the comment and the fact that it had to do with war, if not the War Between the States, I decided to attempt to seek the source of the comment.

It took just a few moments to discover the comment was taken directly from Wikipedia’s definition of the Crusades, specifically, the 20th century description of the Crusades as inclusive of all military efforts against either foes in the Middle East or Europe, at the direction of the Papacy.

So, it appeared, someone had taken the time to cut and paste this comment, rather than randomly generating barely decipherable text – think “All your base are belong to us” – or, as another spammer did, sending a useless shill: “Coach Jerseys – 5850 yuan to 3510 yuan.” (I’ll get back to you after I get my yuan-to-dollars converter fixed.)

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If there was a Spam Hall of Fame…

dog

Sadly, spam is a fact of life for anyone who blogs.

Even a piddly little blog like this one gets hit up with its fair share of unsolicited electronic messages, most of it for weight-loss products, male “enhancement” pills or friendly offers from the kind-hearted sons of Nigerian princes, eager to cut me in on a share of the family fortune.

But every so often, an offer comes along that makes one sit up and take notice. Thus, we have this:

“unexceptional bust Reduction.

discerning Curves bust Enhancement adjunct Directions.

summary Curves guarantees casket enhancement…

[url=http://bigbreastlover.XXXXX.org][img]http://activesbreast.com/images/26.jpg][/img][/url]
More gen: [url=http://bigbreastlover.XXXXX.org/denver-breast-reduction.html]denver breast reduction[/url]

ReviewsGirls
“thankfulness you, inimitable Woman. I’ve tried troches, creams, wraps, caboodle rodomontade of surgery and nothing worked. I don’t asdependabledly be dependable how your enzyme technology works…but it does.
Maria, Age 50
Atlanta, GA
Good site  [url=http://bigbreastlover.XXXXX.org/male-breast-milk.html]male breast milk[/url]”

With the exception of a some website addresses which have been partially obscured, this is verbatim. The wording and grammar are so bad, it’s practically genius.

Take the opening line: “unexceptional bust Reduction.” I wasn’t even aware anyone sent out spam for breast reduction. And to promise that said reduction will be “unexceptional,” now that’s an attention getter.

The next line is equally odd: “discerning Curves bust Enhancement adjunct Directions.” While it appears the spammer has switched gears and is now in the more traditional bust enhancement business, I’m not sure what to make of the “adjunct Directions” part. The best definition of “adjunct” I could come up with – “added or connected in a subordinate or auxiliary capacity” – certainly didn’t help.

The third line left me even more confused: “summary Curves guarantees casket enhancement…” Casket enhancement? This, too, is a new one as far as spam is concerned, at least for me, and one I’m not particularly eager to pursue.

Skipping over the bizarre web addresses listed, I came to what I guessed was the testimonial: “thankfulness you, inimitable Woman. I’ve tried troches, creams, wraps, caboodle rodomontade of surgery and nothing worked. I don’t asdependabledly be dependable how your enzyme technology works…but it does.”

Ah, yes. If I had a nickel for ever time I’ve heard a friend say: “I’ve tried troches, creams, wraps, caboodle rodmontade of surgery and nothing worked,” I’d be a wealthy individual.

And if I had any lingering doubts (not possible, you say!), the final sentence seals the deal: ‘I don’t asdependabledly be dependable how your enzyme technology works…but it does.”

Best of all, the endorsement comes from a fellow American – “Maria,” age 50, of Atlanta. That’s good to know because rabid xenophobe that I am, I always insist on buying American, even when we’re talking about bust reduction and/or enhancement products.

Of course, this despite the fact that the spam sender is identified in my inbox as “TejedeweW.”Probably just an inadvertent mixup. I hear a lot of people get “Maria” and “TejedeweW” confused nowadays.