One of the downsides to operating a writing website is screening the comments that readers post. I will admit that in the past I was have been critical of “cheerleading” sites where readers just tell writers how good their work is no matter the quality, and often offer compliments without actually reading the specific post. The comments are more of a tit-for-tat type arrangement because page views result in some kind of monetary compensation. So, to give writers what some call “Page View” Love, readers leave saccharine comments like “super job” or the smiley face which is either depicted in symbols or as the actual smiley face .
I know I am judgmental on the whole comment thing, and I will confess that I have left some rah-rah comments myself, but I come from a print journalism background where I never knew how many people read my work. Few people wrote letters to the editor to compliment a writer, so the only time I knew if people were reading was if someone recognized me from my head shot on my column or if an article was the focus of a rant in the “Letter to the Editor” section. However, I understand that writers today look for comments, and I am not immune to the effect that comments can have on a writer or a website.
As vocal as I am about my disdain for the cheerleading comments, I now concede that they are not nearly as annoying as the spam comments. Unlike the cheerleading fans, the spammers could give a hoot about writers or their work. The spammers’ primary goal is to sell merchandise. At one time, they were open and direct in their goals. They would click on an article, go to the comment section and post a link to their websites and give a description of their merchandise.
But websites did not take well to giving spammers free advertising, nor did they appreciate their readers being assaulted with marketing and sales propaganda especially if the merchandise was of the sexual nature. So, the websites blocked the comments. But spammers do not discourage easily; they devised alternate plans to get their merchandise loaded onto sites. They started to leave comments which almost looked as if they had read the post or article.
Comments like, “Wow, what a great idea” or “You made this issue so clear for me” or “I love your interpretation. Finally, an intelligent viewpoint” flooded the sites. Okay, the last one almost got me on HumorOutcasts.com. I came so close to approving that comment, until I looked to see what post it was attached to. Yes, the intelligent viewpoint comment was on a piece I did about a museum for penises. Now, I know there might be a variety of ideas on the best way to attach a penis to a piece of wood to hang it in public — I personally have thought about several ways to do this after bitter breakups– but I don’t think any of these ideas involved me having a unique intelligent viewpoint.
So, I have watched the spammers continue to attempt “taking over” HumorOutcasts with their comments and sales pitches. After a few weeks with the complimentary spam messages, word must have been broadcast throughout Spam World that the sucking up comments were not working. Undaunted, the spammers developed a new strategy that I have to say has me baffled. Instead of the insincere compliments, the spammers have gone in a totally new direction. They are posting insults in the comment section. Now, writers might see these messages: “This was painful to read” or “I can’t believe someone actually let you post this” or “This is nothing but crap. I hope you learn to write better”.
Yes, the spammers hold nothing back. If the comments were the true feelings of the spammers, I guess I would have to let them be, but the comments come from people who I have blocked eight to ten times, so I know this is just another new tactic. What bothered me is what did the spammers hope to gain by insulting writers? Are the insults the result of frustration because the big meanie, which for HumorOutcasts is me, stopped them from hawking their crap on the site? Or have they realized that much like reality TV, derogatory comments will get the attention of writers who might take the insults to heart because, as we all know, most writers seem to be a bit overloaded on the sensitive side of the brain? Do the spammers believe that the sensitive writers will let the spammers post their comments in hopes that the insults will then stop?
Well, whatever your reasons or tactics, know this, Spammers! Each day, I check comments. I even have them forwarded to my phone. I will not let my guard down. You may have won the battles a few times, but I will win the war! I will be victorious! You know what? I think I really need a vacation.
photo by PlanetDuWeb