Monday, 29 August 2016

Spam from the Slushpile

By Nick Cross

Here at Notes from the Slushpile we love comments, especially on this post (hint hint). But, whilst enabling comments on a blog helps to inspire debate and bring the readers closer to the content, there is also a downside. Sometimes - shock horror! - people disagree with us, or they have technical problems on their device that prevent them from commenting, or (even worse) they spend ages writing a comment that Blogger then swallows forever. And there is a group of commenters who we don’t want on the blog under any circumstances – the spammers.

A successful blog like this one receives a large quantity of spam comments. How large, I hear you ask? Well, at the time of writing, there were 3745 messages in the Notes from the Slushpile spam folder:



Now, this would be a nightmare for us to administer, were it not for the fact that Google (who owns Blogger) has a very clever algorithm for automatically detecting spam comments. So, for the most part, you can go on surfing our blog without ever having to know about the turbulence below the surface.

But, as writers, we all know the feeling that what we’re writing is falling into a void. We send out streams of queries to agents and publishers, with no idea if anyone is even reading the material, let alone responding with anything more encouraging than “meh.” Do the spammers feel that way too? Maybe they’re sending thousand upon thousand messages out there in the hope that one – just one – will connect with a living human being.

Spammers of the world, it’s your lucky day! Because I’m here to dig deep into the spam folder and provide the critique that your unique work so richly deserves...

The Structure of Spam


Just like a novel or screenplay, spam blog comments have their own inherent structure. But rather than a beginning, middle and end, spam comments have just two elements:

The Tease
This is a paragraph of text whose content can differ widely (as you’ll see). But in most cases, the primary function of the tease is to trick you, to make you think you’re reading a real comment from a real person. If you read to the end of the tease, it’s done its job, because then you get:

The Payoff
This is a link to a website that the spammer hopes you will visit, and subsequently enjoy the fake Ray-Ban sunglasses or borderline illegal diet pills they're selling.

The tease and the payoff aren’t entirely aimed at you, the human reader. In fact, the spammers may be far more interested in tricking the most voracious readers on the internet – the search engine bots. If the spam comment is convincing enough, the search engine bot crawling the Notes from the Slushpile blog pages will record a genuine link from our site to the spammer’s site, thus raising the ranking of their site in search results. Sneaky, huh?

OK, let’s get onto the business at hand – spam critique!

The Flattery Spammer


This is the largest category of spam that we receive. Of course, it could be because we’re wonderful, but it’s more likely to be a bit of cunning social engineering. Who doesn’t like flattery?

I’ve been surfing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all webmasters and bloggers made good content as you did, the web will be much more useful than ever before. Investment offshore bonds offshore bonds Financial Assets financial advisers financial planner pensions IFAs life retirement investment international adviser

Nick Cross
Nick’s critique: This one started out slow, but once the flattery began, it brought a glow to my heart. Why yes, thank you, I do make interesting content. Why yes, the web would be a better place if I was in charge of it. Why, I do need to invest a sizable amount of money in a dodgy overseas tax haven! Thank you Spammer, thank you.


Wow, amazing blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is wonderful, as well as the content! Feel free to visit my webpage - Sebastian Hirsch

Nick Cross
Nick’s critique: Hey, Sebastian – I like your style. Nice punchy opening with a superb follow-up question, which had me reflecting on the existential benefits of spending 8 years of my life typing stuff like this into a Blogger window.


Very shortly this site will be famous amid all blog users, due to it’s nice articles or reviews Also visit my weblog - تنظيف بيارات بالرياض

Nick Cross
Nick’s critique: Actually, I like to think that this site is already famous among all blog users, due to its general awesomeosity. But it was nice to have that confirmed. I also liked the exotic appeal of your Arabic weblink, although when I followed it, I ended up on a website about Drain Cleaning in Riyadh (yes, really).



The Civic-Minded Spammer


We are a group of volunteers and starting a brand new scheme in our community. Your site offered us with valuable information to work on. You have done a formidable task and our whole neighborhood shall be grateful to you. My blog: Trump for President.

Nick Cross
Nick’s critique: And what could I possibly add to that? Godspeed Sir, and I hope your dreams are brutally crushed in a humiliating rout for the Republican Party come November.



The Fake Technical Problem Spammer


Now this is devious! Here’s a spam message that pollutes your blog and makes you feel bad about it at the same time!

I do not know if it’s just me or if perhaps everybody else experiencing problems with your website. It seems like some of the text within your posts are running off the screen. Can someone else please provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to them too? This might be a issue with my browser because I’ve had this happen before. Thanks Feel free to surf to my blog :: Vietnam Travel

Nick Cross
Nick’s critique: It is you. The site’s fine. Go away (I hear Vietnam is nice this time of year).




The Public Service Spammer


I wish that more householders would understand the serious dangers posed by carbon monoxide poisoning. Each year more than twenty people are needlessly killed by this odourless, colourless gas leaking from faulty central heating systems and many hundreds more suffer health problems because of it. Check out my webpage: Boiler Servicing

Nick Cross
Nick’s critique: Gosh, that’s totally true, and your sincerity defeats my ability to make a snide comment. You’re such a good person that I’m sure you must offer your plumbing services completely free of charge as a gift to the community...



The Almost-Poetic Spammer


Because the good pellet progresses the item melts as a consequence of shear from the wall membrane and for that reason touches and moves to the liquid sales channel. So the sturdy route filters gradually and the fruit juice funnel broadens.

Nick Cross
Nick’s critique: Oh, how can such sweet poetry come from such base materials? This symphony of DIY imagery reminds me of the time I tried to write a haiku about an industrial juicing machine.


I don’t|do not even know|understand how|know how I stopped|I ended|I finished up here|right here|but I thought|I assumed|I believed this|used to be|was|was once good|great |I don’t|do not realize|recognize|
understand|recognise|know who you are|you might be|but definitely|certainly|should you|when you|in the event you|in case you|for those who|if you happen to are not|aren’t already

Nick Cross
Nick’s critique: I can not|can't|even begin to|start to|critique this|masterpiece.




The Slice of Life Spammer


Today, I went to the beach with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” Shhe placed the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside annd it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is totally off topic butt I had to tell someone! Feel free to surf to my site: Kacer Kawin

Nick Cross
Nick’s critique: Kacer, your story touched me deeply. On the surface, it might seem like a simple tale of a trip to the seaside with one’s family, but in the telling it becomes a rich metaphor for the human condition. I know that I will be driving to the beach this weekend and obsessively picking up shells, until I find my own hermit crab of destiny.



The Cut-and-Paste Spammer


This last category is one that accounts for a good proportion of the spam messages we receive. As far as I can tell, the spammers have a program that scrapes random phrases off other websites and then recompiles them in an order that invariably makes no sense. But occasionally, the pieces fall in a pleasing pattern:

Facebook and other examples of such can be a great way to reconnect with people out of your past. However, problems occur when one particular partner is unhappy about the lack of intercourse. They could not teach in broad daylight and thus disguised their own fights as a dance. Also visit my website; stardanznyc

Nick Cross
Nick’s critique: Great start there - beginning with a mention of social media is bound to get you loads of shares. And I felt a personal kinship with your writing, because I too have a fear of teaching in daylight. Or maybe that’s because I’m a vampire? I’m so forgetful since my 476th birthday.


Neurontin, marketed below the gabapentin medication variety repute Neurontin to each others, is a medication ex- to expound on epilepsy, neuropathic plague, randy flashes, and highly-strung dollop deliver. In acclimatized chase of those with fragmentary. It a living soul of a gather of original ceil accede to bribes medications in behalf of the treatment of neuropathic pet in diabetic neuropathy. Sincere side effects swaddle sleepiness and dizziness. Weighty side effects may clip an increased endanger of hypnotic reprisal, progressive demeanour, and systemic symptoms. Gormandize down doses should be against problems.

Nick Cross
Nick’s critique: How to begin to analyse such a multi-faceted masterwork as this? Even the cut-up techniques of William S. Burroughs would have struggled to turn out such a magical piece of writing. The only way I can see to pay tribute to the spammer’s greatness is to construct my own critique from random sentences cut-and-pasted from the Literary Review:

The endlessly inchoate, incessantly restless and unfinished character of modern capitalism haunts the officers who have to deal with them. Less obvious are the ways in which the Internet has made the variegated forms of life of former times decreasingly viable. His fear that ordinary people might be unprepared for an age of leisure proved to be unnecessary, since such an age never arrived. Behaviour of this kind is not only irrational, but – Hobbes at times suggested – a symptom of madness.

Nick.


Nick Cross is a children's writer, literary wunderkind and qualified spam archivist.

As well as being an Undiscovered Voices winner, Nick has also received a 2015 SCBWI Magazine Merit Award, for his short story The Last Typewriter.

23 comments :

  1. I had no idea. Off to open some spam.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Why thank you very much, NickCross. Your a good blogger and all the internet will soon no it. Please visit my site: myblogisbetterthanyurs.nottrue.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No probl_m, Juli_t. And thank you for th_ link, which has install_d som_ fantastic malwar_ on my comput_r which has mad_ it impossibl_ to typ_ th_ l_tt_r _

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  3. And to think I've been merrily deleting spam that makes it through the spam filter, without saving them for potential blogging gold...! Who knows what we might have missed?

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    Replies
    1. Well, if you want to trawl through the others, be my guest! There were a lot of repetitions in there, which is how I knew the hermit crab one was spam, for instance.

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  4. Oh Nick I am laughing laughing - genius! Also, visit my website www.kathrynevans.ink

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Careful, I can hear the Google police coming to get you ;-)

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  5. "All the best blogs that is very useful for keeping me share the ideas of the future as well this is really what I was looking for, and I am very happy to come here. Thank you very much. Well,I have a site paragraph and sentence structure checker in which all information are available what you want" I think that says it all doesn't it? I've also had an offer of help with my "civil engineer personal statement" Thanks, Nick, for these perceptive structural analyses and all the critiques.

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  6. Great post, Nick, and you really identified quite a selection of spammers. I've seen most of those types but confess I didn't realize a couple of them were spammers. You have educated me a little today. :)

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  7. My favourites are the ones that spin a lengthy story about legacies etc and assure me that if only they had access to my bank account I could inherit squillions.

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    Replies
    1. I know, they seem so obvious, don't they? And yet people must get taken in by them, or the spammers wouldn't bother. I just read the other day about a new scam where spammers use Instagram to hack people's bank accounts: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-37172022

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  8. Actually that figure of 3k+ spam comments is astounding because I've deleted thousands and thousands at a time over time!

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  9. I had no idea spam was quite so interesting! Thanks Nick! Feeling enlightened!

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  10. Superb - although I feel you were a little harsh on the one you called "Almost Poetic" - I aspire to write so lyrically, in fact I shall most definitely be trawling through future blog comments for other such gems that I might emulate...

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    Replies
    1. I will admit that second poem was better than some of the ones I wrote in sixth form!

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  11. THIS. IS. BRILLIANT. *Hopes the spam bots don't think I'm spamming due to my incongruous use of capitals and punctuation and blows a large wet raspberry to the spammers*

    ReplyDelete
  12. Not just me, then. Thanks for the giggle this morning...

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, the rich irony of being targeted by a spammer on this post!

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