Friday, 15 November 2013

A Spam Too Far

Where had I got to before – on the verge of blogging when the only traumas were related to spel cheques and to utterly useless help pages with labyrinthine links accessed from blue underlined portals

At that point I had a grand total of one post and from that point on I was hooked. Hooked like an armchair cricketer with a shelf full of Wisdens Cricketer’s Almanac at my elbow completely obsessed with statistics.

I have bored family and cafĂ© life witless with constant updates of the number of “views” my blog has had. The studied off-hand opening gambit of “I’d just like to report that I have had xxx views of my blog” was initially met with genuine interest, then polite interest, then polite barely disguised disinterest, and finally with no interest whatsoever, and latterly I find people have to frantically find the toilet or need to get to the shops ‘before they close’. Even the animals are growing restless with this admittedly daily statistical litany.

But then there is the geography! Blogger, the platform from which this particular post is being “launched” provides information about where in the world views or hits are happening. To alleviate the glazed looks after reports on viewing frequency I do manage to elicit genuine responses when I can say with all honesty. . “and I’ve been read in 51 countries!” “Really?” people say dabbing their eyes to remove the tears of boredom.  “Yes – Bahrain, Belgium, Bolivia, Botswana, and Brazil” I sing out alliteratively.

So after three months, 20 posts and 2,500 hits and a world of a million readers just waiting to be captured I thought I’d got it cracked!

But no I hadn’t. 

It had taken me hours of effort to get to this zenith of success. Hours of heartbreak and tantrums, not to say tears. My newly acquired son-in-law who has proved to be an inexhaustible supply of IT knowledge is, I am sure, questioning the wisdom of marrying into this family; because it is he who has been on the receiving end of wailing and teeth gnashing emails that rail about the vicissitudes of computer-speak.  Evening after evening I sat snorting and snarling at the computer as I engaged with  a whole variety of help pages and forums (for the purist this should surely be fora and I fully agree – but the spel chequer won’t allow it and anyway no one else seems to mind). All this online assistance served only to confuse even further and I tumbled like Alice down one blue-lined and underlined rabbit hole after another, each becoming more foetid then the next with over-information, until I slung out another foul-mouthed and repetitive email distress rocket to the now long suffering and eternally patient son-in-law.

It was round about this time of high anxiety and even higher blood pressure that I discovered that I was reading the word ‘varnish’ on a computer software ‘help’ page, a word that I felt would have been happier in the context of wooden floors and antique furniture. I was so confused that I fled to Wikipedia for intellectual support and protection and was given none. I could not understand the language let alone the explanation. “Now is the time,” I mused, “to say stuff it and stick to what you know and stop trying to be clever.  Just carry on writing and don’t worry about trying to increase audience figures.” And so I did.

Then I discovered a potential measure of success – an indicator of a blog gone right perhaps. An increasing number of bizarre spam messages.

Does this curious and irritating phenomenon happen at a certain threshold of views I wonder? It certainly explains the unusual number of views that I started getting from Poland, Russia and the Ukraine because a number of spams have included hyper links to a variety of web pages with addresses that have no vowels, allude to dodgy pharmaceutical products, and have the telling “pl” and “ru” suffix in the domain names. I appear to have become a vehicle for flogging genuine Louis Vuiton Handbags (genuine - yea right – tell that to Louis), green coffee extract (which sounds faintly poisonous), something to do with self-tantric massage (the mind boggles – in a rather exciting sort of a way), and making a modest income in US dollars from home while being happily encumbered with bumptious toddlers. Other than the extreme annoyance that these advertising bandits are using my space – my effort to hawk someone else’s wares, not even their own mind, someone else’s, I fail to see what possible income there can be derived from posting clearly devious adverts about obviously faux Hermes and Gucci leather products on an intensely passionate (so I would like to believe) piece on the decimation of the world rhino population. No one but a blithering idiot (obviously excluding handbag salespersons) – or a not particularly subtle piece of software could make such an ironic mistake  . . .  but there you have it – nut-shelled and ship-shaped – there is nothing subtle about this business

What characterises these communications is that they are mostly empty folksy comments couched in bland terms designed (I suppose) to fit in with almost any blog posting and supposed to persuade the reader  to open their own innocuous blog which is entitled “health tips and green coffee beans” (green coffee again!)  but actually leads you to an Uzbekistani porno page -  I know because I’ve been there . . . once. Oh and they are all signed by the same nice chap named “Anonymous.”

I recently had a lovely spam, from my old mate Anonymous, which read:-
"We're a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community. Your web site provided us with valuable information to work on. You have done an impressive job and our whole community will be grateful to you. Feel free to visit my web site “Arizona outlet malls"
I was so busy feeling pleased and successful that I almost forget that the posting that Anonymous was referring to was another piece of whimsy about throwing balls for dogs but I do hope that it has added value to their community efforts . . .

So, here I sit after having now been blogging for a little under 10 months. I’ve posted 43 articles of a variety of subjects with an admitted bias towards my cat, mountaineering and trekking, and fat-headed attempts at engagement with the “third world.” The number of hits I have had far exceeds my initial (admittedly low) expectations, and recently the daily hit rate has accelerated. However I have received only 29 "real" comments and a massive 780 or so spam comments - all of which have been filtered out by Blogger - for which I am very grateful! But I wonder to what extent my hard work is being read by real people as against spamming machines?

I blog because I enjoy writing. If I do get comments then it is to an extent a validation of what I have done - which is very nice. I don't think however that I am writing and posting to elicit comments. Broadly the validation of my efforts lies, in my mind, in the number of hits that I have achieved - and it is the uncertainty surrounding those statistics that is exercising my mind.

I don't really mind the hundreds of senseless spam comments that are trying to persuade me to purchase erectile dysfunction cream but it is the implication in my mind that "hits" are in fact "bot-hits" and the thought of that pisses me off!

A last comment from faithful old Anonymous –
“Outstanding post but I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this topic? I'd be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Appreciate it! Have a look at my blog:- Trying to get pregnant.”  This on a posting about eating snake . . .
What the hell - so long as I can entertain or stimulate real readers the spammers, can as far as I’m concerned all go to hell in a handbag, a dodgy Louis Vuiton one!

What do you think?

Ivan the Spammer, busy at it in his cellar
in Uzbekistan.
With acknowledgement to the late Austin Hleza

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