Spam spam spam

If one maintains a blog, one gets, inevitably, a lot of spam.

No joke. The ratio of spam comments to real ones for this blog, over its three and a half years of operation, is something like 15 to 1.

And if one maintains a blog over a reasonable period of time – like three and a half years – one starts to notice trends in the spam.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – what kind of saddo looks at the spam comments on his blog? Well, some bloggers, doubtless of greater moral fortitude than me, never look in their spam folder, but I admit that I check mine once in a while. After all, at 15-to-1 spam-to-real, one doesn’t want to throw out any real comments along with the spam.

So over the years. I have become something of a connoisseur of spam

There is, of course, a permanent background level of the stuff in the usual categories you would expect, like P*rnSpam (offers of sites with rude pictures) and DrugSpam (offers of cut-price pharmaceuticals). There are also the hybrids, like P*rnDrugSpam – which typically offer a range of, er, chemical enhancements, mostly, but not limited to, cut-price knock-off versions of Pfizer’s most celebrated product.

Over the years, though, there has been an interesting tendency for the spam to become less obviously spammy – far less multi-URL LinkSpam, for instance – and more sneakily comment-y.

Some of this stuff simply offers a random comment like:

“Cool blog!”

- and the link back to the spamsite. Or often the link appears only in the supposed title of the blog that sent the Spam-comment.

Others offer longer comments than this, though typically not much more interesting.

Then there are the odd ones that seem to have been generated by random cut-up of words or phrases. This is a particular favourite Spam Category of mine. Who knew spam-bots were William Burroughs fans?

And very, very occasionally, one happens across something inadvertently funny.

For instance, the other day one arrived that began:

“Life is like a box of chocolates. A cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for.”

Heh. Was the spam-bot related to Forrest Gump, I asked myself?

Or was the Spam-bot a Spam-bot-philosopher? Because the next line was:

Un-returnable because all you get back is another box of chocolates.”

Anyway, for some reason this comment, with its philosophical gloom, reminded me oddly of the line Mrs Dr Aust usually uses when I am complaining – as I often am during busy parts of the year, or when the kids are sick, or when we are short of sleep,  or all of the above at the same time, like several points this Winter – about being fat, or feeling knackered, or old. Or, indeed, whenever I say something like:

“!**!! – why does life have to be such a bloody struggle?”

To which she responds, far more philosophically than I can muster, with:

“At least it’s better than any of the alternatives”

Which, if you can believe it, usually leaves me quite without riposte. Apart from a ruminative:

“Hmmm”.

12 Responses to “Spam spam spam”

  1. Tony Brooks Says:

    Yes indeed. The pathetically obvious ones continue to flow, but I have noticed some slightly more convincing attempts lately, like the one from “Express Delivery” telling me that my parcel has been despatched and inviting me to click on a link for details.
    One wouldn’t have to be tremendously stupid to fall for that,

  2. Neuroskeptic Says:

    There’s a spammer who frequents my blog called “Generic Viagra”. With a name like that you would think he would just leave comments saying “BUY VIAGRA” but no, he actually reads each post, and leaves a comment which shows at least a vague understanding of the point of the post. Often he asks questions which are not always stupid. On occasion the comments are actually quite good. But he’s called “Generic Viagra” which rather defeats the point.

  3. stephenemoss Says:

    Next time Mrs Dr Aust stumps you with such a philosophical riposte, you can point out that there can only ever be ‘two alternatives’. Thus, ‘any of the alternatives’ should actually be ‘the alternative’. That comforting crumb of linguistic accuracy may leave you slightly more chipper than a ruminative ‘hmmm’.

  4. draust Says:

    @Neuroskeptic That’s certainly a bizarre username to give himself. Unless he specifically wants all his posts to go in the spam folder. Or perhaps it’s just a strange sense of humour.

    @Stephenemoss Good spot, Stephen. Actually, she probably does say just “the alternative” in the singular – Mrs Dr A is rather more grammatically and philosophically correct than me…

    [I think this is actually a consequence of her having learnt English as a second language, as I find the same linguistic punctiliousness in others who have done the same. Do I remember David Colquhoun saying this about Bernard Katz, too?]

    I think I actually selected/wrote “any of the alternatives” (plural) because I thought it sounded funnier.. call it artistic license.

  5. Kausik Datta Says:

    My friends and I run an online magazine of vernacular literature. We often get a lot of spam comments after each post. The Akismet plugin for WordPress does a pretty good job of catching them, but nonetheless I have to check the Spam folder every once in a while for false positives. A particularly interesting spambot recently left a comment which went something like “… Thank you for this information. I must say, this is life-changing and vital to the health and well-being of people…” followed by the obligatory link to some spammy site.

    It would have been all right, had the page (containing the ‘life changing information’) not been the table-of-contents page for magazine.

  6. Johnd Says:

    “Life is like a box of chocolates. A cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for.”

    ……

    “Un-returnable because all you get back is another box of chocolates.”

    It’s lines uttered by the Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files. One of his more philosophical comments. I think he was looking down a sniper scope at the time.

  7. Dr Zorro Says:

    I must have been very lucky. My blog has never had a single item of spam. Perhaps it’s because no-one ever reads it.

  8. draust Says:

    @Johnd – Thanks for that, John. I guess it must have been in this episode from series 4. I was actually an early fan of The X-files, but had given up watching by the end of series 3 (too much alien invasion/colonisation and conspiracy theory stuff, which I got kind of tired of)

    @Dr Zorro – The reasons why one accrues spam, or doesn’t, are a bit mysterious. I wonder if some of it depends on the titles of posts. For some weird reason a lot of the spam I get is directed at the old diary page, which I haven’t touched for a year plus.

    WordPress actually has a pretty effective spam filter (the Akismet one Kausik Datta mentioned). It would be worse if the spam got through and one had to delete it. The false negatives are a small price to pay. There are some much more trigger-happy spam filters – Dr No’s one is the most savage that I have encountered.

  9. josephinejones Says:

    I haven’t encountered DrugSpam recently as my blog is still in its infancy and if anyone emails it to me I think it gets automatically binned. I’m almost jealous! I wonder if you could report it to the MHRA? Is it all from abroad..?

  10. Brian Hughes Says:

    Cool blog! No, seriously, cool blog. I get this kind of spam also, at around the same ratio. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of comments linking back to websites that sell sneakers and, latterly, food. I think it’s the recession.

  11. draust Says:

    @JosephineJones – Hard to know where the spam comes from, Josephine. Servers may be one place, but originators in another.

    The drugs offered form an interesting study. I really should have kept a record, because spam gets auto-deleted after a certain amount of “Quarantine” time and I can’t reconstruct precisely what drugs they were. Viagra obviously features prominently (!), but (from memory) a lot of other stuff is offered too, including many mainstream Pharma drugs that I wouldn’t have imagined a black / unregulated market in and/or demand for. If the sites are real, I would guess a lot of the drugs are counterfeit.

    @Brian Hughes – cheers, Brian. I do get a fair bit of shoespam/sneakerspam, and also handbagspam (a very niche category). Haven’t spotted any foodspam (spamspam?) though.

    A new subcategory appears to be spam in Cyrillic. The links/offers, though, still appear to be primarily porn/drugs. So now we have a sub-sub-category of Cyrillic PornDrugSpam.

  12. Jon Says:

    I too run a wordpress blog and see a lot of spam. It is always good to check sometimes as Akismet (the software that filters spam) does sometimes make a mistake. Not often. Most of the spam we see is auto-mated – people write computer programs to seek out blogs and leave comments. There are so many variations of the spam comment it is silly. A while back everyone was saying “great post, I will tell my mum and subscribe to your feed”, or words to that effect. Strange business.

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