When you write a blog, it’s only a matter of time before your site gets noticed by spammers. Sometimes the pitches are infuriating. Sometimes, they’re laughably ridiculous. All the time, they indicate pathetic desperation and a lack of situational awareness.
A few days ago, I got an insulting comment from a guy who purports to be a business communications specialist. This guy, “Richard M. Miles” has a Web site and appears to be hoping people will hire him to help them write content. Mr. Miles is on Linked In, too, and is apparently American, which makes him somewhat of an oddity in the spamming world. He includes his CV on his Web site, along with the invitation to contact him.
In fairness to Miles, he was commenting on a post I wrote last month about how layouts aren’t my forte. I was asking regular blog readers if they thought I should change my template again, along with suggestions for what would work best. I suppose he could make the case that I “asked” for advice. However, I was asking for layout design tips, not writing tips. His comment was that my post was “faaaar too long and wordy”.
Based on this one patronizing comment from Mr. Miles, I can ascertain that he didn’t read more than that one post, which actually wasn’t that wordy compared to most of my stuff. If he had read more than that one post, he would know that this is a personal blog. That means the posts come from ME, and are in MY voice. My blog is not meant to be “professionally” written, and certainly not edited by someone who leaves comments like the one he left for me. He doesn’t have a clue about me, or the people who regularly read this blog; nor does he know my purpose for writing it.
Brevity is a great thing if you’re writing for business. Time is money. But this blog is not about making money. If I was writing a blog for a business and was short on time, maybe I’d be more interested in what he’s selling. But this blog doesn’t get that much traffic, and even if it did, it’s not a money generator.
I blog because I enjoy it, so I’m not looking for any help with my writing. Maybe my posts are too wordy, TMI, and long for some tastes, but I still have people who visit regularly and some who even seem to enjoy my stuff. Those who don’t enjoy my writing can simply move on to their next station on the Web.
I was going to forget about my run in with Mr. Miles, but then I got a laughable pitch from someone named Lylah. Lylah claims to be from El Salvador, but according to Statcounter, she’s really from China. She wants to help me write my travel blog, but take a look at her comment and notice how poorly written it is. Even if I wanted to pay someone for content or even just have them write a “guest post” for free, I would never post what she’s offering. Besides, she appears to be selling spamming services more than anything else.
I know it’s silly to complain about these posts. Spammers are gonna spam, and there must be some level of success in their efforts, since they keep doing it. However, Mr. Miles’ post wasn’t in the spam section. He apparently has a WordPress handle, which I have now blocked. I had a good laugh at his comment and wondered what his motivation was for leaving it. Did he think it was helpful? Did he think it was welcome? I might have been more inclined to consider his advice if we’d previously connected somehow. If he’d read a few posts before leaving his comment, I might have been more impressed with his “tip”. I might have even taken it to heart instead of just scratching my head.
What Miles did was akin to the guy who leaves Chinese take out menus in your mailbox when you have a “no advertising” sign on it. Or someone who butts into a conversation about politics with an unrelated topic, say, about oral hygiene. Or someone who tries to sell pork and shellfish to Jewish people. I really am puzzled, and wonder if this is the way he successfully generates business. His resume makes it look like he’s been hired a few times, but this method of introducing himself and getting his CV out to the masses is strange to me. He did get me to look at his CV, but not for the “right” reasons.
Anyway… I guess it’s a good thing I don’t do this blogging shit for money.
Arran woke us up at about 3:00am, so I am unusually sleepy this morning. He had a touch of indigestion and threw up foam all over a blanket. I’m now washing all the sheets, which I had planned to do anyway. Laundry takes forever over here, though. My machine has a short cycle, but I don’t use it for the sheets, despite being “filthy” and a terrible housewife. I am tired, though, and it’s kind of cloudy outside. I’ll probably end up taking a nap as I wade through yet another book about Trump’s horrendous character.
In the interest of not ranting about my recently usual topics today, I’m going to revisit another tired subject… people who can’t spell. Especially when they are pesky spammers!
I have a persistent spammer. Based on the fact that I get lots of hits from China, I’m assuming that is where this spammer is coming from every day, even though the screen name is in Thai. And every day, whoever is generating this spam leaves the same message. It’s probably automated. Sometimes I get this very same comment on several posts. One day, I had eighteen of these very same comments in the moderation queue.
Now… I get that spammers are gonna spam. BUT– I don’t understand what the purpose of this particular spam comment is. There’s no hyperlink in it, and it doesn’t seem to be selling anything. It just says “Like!!” There’s not even a hyperlink to the blog this spammer supposedly writes, which I would never visit because I know the difference between “piqued” and “peaked”. See below…
Granted, I don’t know Chinese or Thai. I am not particularly gifted in any language, including English. But I do think that if you’re going to spam people in a foreign language and compliment them on their blog, you should at least write something in your zone of competency. On the other hand, plenty of Americans don’t know the difference between “piqued” and “peaked”, either. Nor do they know other quirks of English.
For example, the other day, I was hanging out in the Fender Community on Facebook and someone wrote a post referring to a popular strong coffee beverage. What am I writing of? Why, espresso, of course! But this person didn’t write “espresso”. Instead, she wrote “expresso”, which I see from the squiggly red line in my text is incorrect. I know… I know… I’m being very picky. It’s one of my many quirks. But when someone writes “expresso” instead of “espresso”, it’s like nails on a chalkboard.
Don’t even get me started on “discreet” vs. “discrete”, “per se” vs. “per say” (Holy fuck, that one bugs!), “faze” vs. “phase”, or “hellow” vs. “hello”. Okay, so it’s not very often that people write “hellow”. It happened yesterday, when I was on Recovery from Mormonism and someone wrote a post about a book they’re writing. First of all, the post was one big wall of text with no breaks between paragraphs. Secondly, the very first word was “Hellow.” And that is exactly where he lost me.
When someone complained about the “wall of text”, the original poster made an excuse about his equipment. It reminded me of an extremely exasperating Epinions (a defunct review writing site) member who had a habit of downrating people for typos and differences of opinion, but expected other people to cut her some slack because she didn’t have a proper word processor or some other such thing. She once called me “finicky” for rating one of her reviews “helpful” because it was a wall of text with many errors in it. And yet, she did the same thing to me because there was one typo. This incident occurred just a week or so before Epinions finally went down in flames, and at that point , I was getting really fed up with some of the more “eccentric” people on the site. I also blogged about it. In the interest of killing time, here’s an excerpt from that piece, which I wrote in February 2014:
“…every once in awhile, you run into someone who is a bit “odd”… The truly psycho people usually end up leaving or getting kicked off the site. But those who are just a little odd often end up sticking around and even gain some clout on the site. They are usually minor annoyances that flare up occasionally, much like a hemorrhoid or a cracked molar (which is also troubling me this morning).
Yesterday, I wrote a review of Preparation H with Hydrocortisone. It was a simple review, less than 500 words. I’ve started using this product because I’ve been experiencing some itching where the sun doesn’t shine. I bought it for the itching, not because I think I have varicose veins in my ass (though for all I know, I might have them). I wanted something that wasn’t going to irritate my skin.
Because it’s a review of an embarrassing product, I injected a little humor in my review. Well, this morning I got a rating and this comment from this rather odd Epinions member who, over the years, had left me weird comments and the occasional lowball rating. She wrote that she can’t use steroidal products and has to treat her itches homeopathically. She suggests that I use apple cider vinegar, adding that she “say[s] it works better” than the product I reviewed.
I will admit, this is the first thing I read this morning as I was just opening my eyes and her comment annoyed me. If you can’t use a product because of your own idiosyncratic body issues, how do you know how it works for other people? I can use steroidal products if I want to. If you can’t, because you have sensitivities, does that mean that I should automatically do what you do? The person also said that apple cider vinegar burns, even if it is effective. I prefer not to apply something that burns to my asshole. I’m not into that kind of thing. I left a polite response indicating that I prefer to use something that doesn’t burn and I was glad she’d found a solution for her issues.
But then I go to another review, which this person rated “helpful”. In the past, I would have been annoyed by a “helpful” rating; but before the standards changed at Epinions, “helpful” was still considered a good rating. I probably would have just let it go. Since the dumbing down of the Epinions rating system, the “helpful” rating is now considered akin to what used to be a “somewhat helpful” rating. And this person who left me this shitty rating did not leave a comment indicating why, so now I’m left guessing why she apparently didn’t find my review acceptable.
Under normal circumstances, I usually ignore people like her. I make a point of not engaging and won’t read or rate their reviews. But this morning, because I was so irritated, I did go to her page. I read her latest review, which happens to be a music review. She had a string of inflated ratings, some of which I personally didn’t think she deserved. I noticed her review was kind of hard to read, with no spacing between paragraphs and too much bolding. She writes that it’s because she’s typing on a word pad instead of her computer. That’s an explanation, but it doesn’t change my reading experience. Besides, if she has her standards, then I must be entitled to mine. “
I ended up leaving her the same rating she left for me, and somehow I had a feeling that she’d take exception to it. And sure enough, I was right. Here’s an excerpt from a follow up post from that same time period.
A couple of days ago, I wrote about Epinions and an encounter I had with a rather odd person who annoyed me by suggesting I put apple cider vinegar on my asshole and rating a review of mine low without any explanation. In my post, I explained that I’ve had a few encounters with this person and usually ignore her. I find her a bit strange. Others seem to have a similar opinion of her.
I made the mistake of reading this person’s latest music review. I rated it “helpful”, and while my rating may have originally been inspired by early morning annoyance and the desire to take revenge, in actuality, I did not find her review to be very good. Because she didn’t leave a comment for me explaining her low rating, I didn’t feel the need to leave one for her explaining mine. I figured I’d probably hear from her and, sure enough, I did. She sent me the following email this morning…
Hi fellow Epinions writer,
I was just curious why you were the only one that rated my CHERISH by David Cassidy a helpful . . .
What could of made it VH or Expert in your opinion ?
Have a nice day ! sharing the light,
And this was how I responded to her. Bear in mind, Epinions had gotten very annoying by February 2014. If it hadn’t tanked days after this incident, I would have probably quit writing there. By that point, it was no longer worthwhile on any level.
I rated your review helpful because I found it hard to read. There was a lot of bolding and no spacing between paragraphs.
Also, I didn’t think you offered much analysis of the music on the album. There is a lot in the review that came from the album cover, but not so much about the music itself or what you think of it. I realize you might have been trying to make your review fit into the lean and mean promotion going on this month. Personally, I find writing lean and mean music reviews difficult. Perhaps if you want to make the review under 500 words, you could remove your discussion of Shirley Jones and Jack Cassidy, which doesn’t really have much to do with the music on CHERISH. That would save you some words which you could then use to offer more of your opinion of the music.
All the best.”
Below is her response in italics. My comments are in bold. Given my complaints about excessive bolding in her review, I offer apologies in advance to anyone who finds the formatting hard to read. 😉 While I am somewhat tempted to respond to her email, I realize it would only cause a back and forth that would probably lead nowhere. Unfortunately, I am still left with the desire to communicate, so I will respond in this blog post. If she happens to read it, so be it.
I had a comment written from myself explaining the inability to space properly after four edit attempts the paragraphs properly and using the bold where it was necessary (I did remove that comment before you came in and rated this) the final published draft now a review does look terrible but the platform of Epinions WOULD NOT and still won’t let me edit using proper spacing.“
I did actually see the comment she left before she removed it. My perspective comes from that of a reader, not as a fellow Epinions writer. A visitor to the site is not going to know or care about her problems with the Epinions platform. They may not even see the comments section or bother to read it. If she’s going to explain why the formatting is not right, it would make more sense to put that information in the review where people will have a better chance of seeing it. But anyway, while I do empathize and her inability to format correctly is regrettable, it’s not my problem. It’s not an Epinions visitor’s problem, either; but it would likely affect their experience on the site.
I do not have a word counter anymore as my old computer tower crashed (due to possible virus threats that came through last month and December in Epinions before my tower crashed) and I no longer have a Word Program that counts such things so if it does not make the lean and mean grade, so be it.
Again, computer issues… not my problem, nor is her inability to count the words of her piece. In all honesty, I don’t even care how long or short the review is, as long as it adequately covers the subject. The only reason I mentioned the Lean and Mean promotion is because she mentioned it at the end of her review. But the review’s helpfulness or lack thereof is entirely based on its content, not how many words are written. Whether or not the review counts as Lean and Mean is of no concern to me. Moreover, I bet if she looked online, she could find a word counter.
However if that is what epinions rates on instead of merit for knowing the material and knowing it well, then so be it also.
Knowing the material and knowing it well is very important in a review. Based on what I read in her review, I was not convinced that she did.
The album CHERISH was and did have a lot to do with his dad and step-mom, which is why I added that info. I have been following davids career since I was 16 and have seen him twice in concert, I thought it would provide more oomph to the review.
Okay, if the album’s concept really does have to do with David Cassidy’s relationship with Jack Cassidy and Shirley Jones, then that information certainly is useful and should be explained in more detail. But in her review, I didn’t see much of a discussion as to why that information was important. And again, include the information or don’t include it. It’s her choice. I honestly don’t care.
My suggestion to omit information was simply to give her a way to economize on words so that she could add more of her own opinion while staying under the word limit challenge this month. In my view, more of her own opinion would have made her review much more useful. I would have also advised her to leave out the information she included on the artwork and liner notes. Again, that would be simply to keep the review under 500 words and qualify for the sweepstakes. Any other month, I wouldn’t have even mentioned word count.
Instead it gets downgraded by only one finicky Top Reviewer . . .
I’m really not that finicky. In fact, I consider myself a very fair and even an EASY rater, the vast majority of the time. This person’s analysis of the music on David Cassidy’s album consisted of a list of album tracks with four or five vague words about what each song sounds like and very little about her opinion. The review told me almost nothing about what was actually on the album and I found it hard to read besides. I stand by my rating, finicky or not.
oh well epinions is not as much fun as it used to be and the rating guidelines have seriously changed the incentive to keep on plugging away on reviews EXPERTS find fault with.
I completely agree. Epinions is not as much fun as it used to be. I don’t consider myself an EXPERT, though. I am just another Epinions user and reviewer. Moreover, a few days ago, when she left me a “Helpful” rating on one of my reviews with no explanation, I didn’t go whining to her in an email demanding her reasons why. In fact, she has left me many lone lowball ratings over the years with no explanations. I have never once complained to her about them.
Besides, the overall rating of her review is still “Very Helpful”; other members gave her high ratings. In the long run, my rating means nothing anyway, other than an insult to her pride. Would it make her happy if I just went back and changed my rating? Maybe so… It sounds to me like she cares more about ratings than the actual quality of her work.
And below, in italics, was my conclusion. Fortunately, since Epinions died just days after this incident, I didn’t have to make the decision myself.
Before anyone brings up the obvious, I do realize that my decision to go to her page and rate her review led to this. I should have done what I normally do when it comes to this particular person. I usually ignore her and seldom read what she writes because I don’t want to encourage interaction. I probably would not have even noticed her rating this time if not for her comment that the product I reviewed was inferior to putting apple cider vinegar in my ass, even though I’ve read that it is a “miracle cure”. I’d rather not exchange an itchy ass for one that burns. But lesson learned. I won’t be reading or rating any more of her reviews. It’s too much trouble.
Anyway, this is probably a sign that I need to take an Epinions sabbatical. I’m going to give it some serious thought.
I used to spend hours writing for Epinions. I actually made a significant amount of money there, too– I think it was about $12,000 over eleven years, which when you consider that I was just reviewing stuff around the house, wasn’t an insignificant amount of cash. Especially since I joined the site a couple of years after its initial heyday, when people were getting a penny per view, or something like that. I made some good friends writing there, found some good products, went to some fun parties, and scored plenty of schwag besides making some income. It was a great place for writers and it had surprisingly high standards. But yes, I did run into some strange folks… and some of them couldn’t spell or wanted to apply different standards to me than what they applied to themselves.
I’m sure the lady who inspired my rantings in 2014 was crushed when David Cassidy died a few years ago. Maybe it even inspired her to break out the apple cider vinegar and apply it liberally to her asshole or anywhere else the sun doesn’t shine.
It’s not even 9:00am yet, and someone has already accused me of being a racist. Why? Because I commented on a news story on The New York Times about how the Internet has been shut down for 60 million people in India. It seems that their government leaders have been pushing provocative policies that have caused a lot of civil unrest. There have been riots. People are very upset. I don’t blame them for being upset. India is supposedly one of the world’s largest democracies, yet its current leader is imposing draconian measures to keep India’s massive population under control. Government officials claim that they regularly shut down the Internet “to stop the spread of hateful and dangerous misinformation, which can move faster on Facebook, WhatsApp and other services than their ability to control it.” Sounds like a scary situation.
Alright then. So what did I write to be accused of being a racist?
And yet, people from India still constantly spam my blogs…
So far, my comment has gotten 86 reactions, most of which are positive. Several men have taken me to task for making the factual observation that many people from different countries spam my blogs and quite a few of them are from India. What’s disparaging or racist about that? I didn’t say Indians were bad people. I didn’t disparage Indian culture or food. I didn’t even say spam was *bad*. In fact, my niece was BORN in India, because my sister was living there in the early 1990s. I don’t dislike Indian people. I do dislike spam, but it’s evidently a big business in places like India, China, Pakistan, and Nigeria. The fact that I get spammed by people in those countries doesn’t mean I hate them or think I’m better than they are, though. I simply made an observation.
Here’s another observation. After I got called a racist, several men started flirting with me. Naturally, they’re probably spammers too. In fact, I would not be surprised if my Facebook Messenger is flooded with filtered messages from these folks, looking for quick cash or whatever. One guy wanted me to add him and I told him I was married. Another asked why I didn’t “like” the guy. Um… I’m married. What part of that don’t you understand? Would you want your husband or wife privately chatting with some stranger from a distant land on Facebook? And even if I weren’t married, I’m not looking to meet “strange” men on the Internet… even though Bill used to be one of those strange men.
I thought about sharing my entire exchange on The New York Times here, but the cross commentary is too confusing, and I don’t feel like editing everybody’s names. Besides, while I’m sure that some of the people who have commented are serious, more of them are likely trolls or people who are angling for something. I’m sure if you visit The New York Times’ Facebook page, you can easily find the thread.
Just as I was about to move on with my day, I noticed another comment accusing me of thinking the world revolves around me. After I reiterated that I was simply making an observation, someone else accused me of having a “thin skin” and not being able to recognize trolls. I think that’s funny, since none of these people have ever met me. It would not occur to me to immediately assume something about a random stranger on Facebook and openly call them out like that. Like… it would actually bother me to make that kind of a bold assumption about a total stranger. But it seems that many people have no issue with it.
Here’s another observation I’ve just made. I commented about spammers from India. This guy posted this comment:
Except for the beautiful women – there is nothing good about India.
This comment has been up for about 20 minutes, yet the only reaction to it is a single thumbs up “like”, and he’s only gotten about six somewhat neutral comments. No one has accused this man of being “racist”, having a “thin skin”, being “funny looking”, or having a “poor sense of humor”, nor does it appear that anyone has tried to pick him up, although I think his comment is far more racist and sexist than mine is. I guess he’s not being picked on because nature bestowed a “magic wand” between his legs instead of a bleeding axe wound. I’m kidding, of course. There’s nothing particularly magic about a penis. I once had a psychology professor who constantly referred to penises as “magic wands”. She taught a “Psychology of Women” class. I got a C in that class, so no one should take seriously anything I have to say about gender.
I’m not that upset this morning, although I have a cold sore brewing (Abreva, please do your stuff!). I’m actually more bewildered than troubled. I made a simple observation on The New York Times, and suddenly a bunch of apparently Asian men think they know me… or they wish to add me on Facebook based on a couple of comments and a photo. It’s kind of creepy and weird, but I’m not particularly upset about it. In fact, before this morning, I wasn’t even aware of India’s problems with having the Internet withheld by government authorities. I’m sympathetic to their plight. I’m sure this is a big deal to them, especially since a lot of people’s livelihoods are affected, not to mention the social stimulation people get when they’re online.
I don’t know how people make money from spamming. I guess some people must take the bait, since it’s been a problem since the dawning of the Internet. I’m sure there is a motivation for people in other countries to send out ridiculous spamming emails and comments in order to generate business. Otherwise, why would they do it? Spam was a much bigger problem on my old blog, since I left comments mostly open. I’d regularly get spam comments cleverly disguised as “legit”. On this blog, the default comment mode is moderation, so comments don’t appear unless it’s from someone who has commented once before and is approved. I also have stronger spam filters on this blog than I did on Blogger. But still, I pay close attention to Statcounter, and whenever I get a non VPN hit from a distant country, nine times out of ten, it’s someone trying to leave spam. Again… this is a statement of fact. There’s not anything racist about making such a statement. It would be racist if I claimed that all spammers are “dirtbag Indians”. I never made such a claim, nor would I, about Indians or people from any other country.
I had actually considered writing about several different topics this morning. Some of my alternative topics might have been more interesting than this is. At this point, it looks like people have moved on. Such is the nature of The New York Times, I guess. It’s a big, well-respected newspaper, and lots of people are reading and commenting. Most people realize that my comment was pretty innocuous, if not spot on. Otherwise, why else would it have gotten so many heart and laughter reactions?
Just now, I got an insult about my looks…
(in response to a comment I made– “who says I’m joking?”)
I’m glad you’re not because I’d expect it to be as Funny as your face Lol.
To which I responded…
Haniyam Shaikh Awww… you say the sweetest things! <3
Like… seriously. I’m a happily married woman with a dynamite lifestyle. Why should I care if this man wants to insult my looks? Even if he thought I was “cute” and I thought he was “cute”, it’s not like we’d ever meet. And… if I really did want to be racist, I’d mention that I’m assuming our standards of hygiene are vastly different and I might be quite turned off by that. But that WOULD be a very racist and rude thing to say, so I’m not going to say it. Instead, I’m going to decide if I feel like washing the sheets. Then, I’m going to have some breakfast before I get into too much more trouble. Low blood sugar is the pathway to Hell, y’all.
Edited to add: Many hours after the thrill had passed, some chick named Lacey came along and started insulting me by calling me “Karen”, “Susan”, and “Boomer”. I told her she should go learn about respecting her elders. New York Times’ readers are fun to fuck with sometimes.
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