Mad Lib Spam

Normally, I just skim the comments that end up in my spam folder and delete them without thinking too much about them. I do this, because back in my formative days of blogging, more experienced bloggers assured me that every once in a while actual comments would show up there. Over the years, I’ve rescued maybe four real comments that way. But at a terrible cost.

Reading all that spam has changed me in some fundamental way that I’m not entirely sure I ought to admit to on the Internet. I classify spam now. I can’t help it. It just happens.

But since I’ve done all that work, I might as well tell you about it.

You’re the best. Seriously.

Most spam follows the vague compliment + link back to retail website format.

“I’m impressed, I have to admit. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s both educaive and entertaining,
and without a doubt, you’ve hit thhe nail on the head.
The issue is an issue that not enough people are speaking intelligently about.

I’m very happy I stumbled across this during my hunt
for something regarding this.”

octopus dancingThis note was really sweet the first 72 times I received it. Even now, it makes me smile. And not just because of the typos.

Thanks, guys. I’m so pleased you found my post on whether octopuses do gymnastics at the bottom of the ocean helpful.

Guide me, oh sage one

Many spammers prey upon my presumably generous nature, asking for advice on starting their own blogs, help deciding between blogging platforms, or protecting their content against copyright infringements. I think I may have even rescued a few of these in earlier days and written up answers to them, because until you’ve received the exact same query 15 times you can never be sure if it’s genuine. Am I right?

Old-timey T. Rex at the Boston Museum of Science. (Photo: Kasuga Sho)

Old-timey T. Rex at the Boston Museum of Science. (Photo: Kasuga Sho)

My “Why did they think T. Rex stood with his tail on the ground?” post seems to attract more of this kind of spam than any other post in my collection. I wonder if there’s some sort of message in that?

Let me guide you, oh potentially great but currently incompetent one

Lots and lots of messages are devoted to the idea that I could improve myself or my blog in some way. Not too surprising, since most spammers are selling something. Among the tips for me to increase my SEO, improve my marriage, and abrade off all those pesky freckles marring my otherwise perfect skin tone, this little bit of fiscal advice stands out:

“For that reason completely
the difficulty.Amazing, The pedsonal fіscal capacity of
the іnsurance policy company, That a that morning most.”

Those wacky spammers may forget to include the odd word here and there, but they never ever forget the link back.

OH NO! Your site is breaking!

fearfulThis one really had me worried for a while:

Hello, I think your site might be having browser compatibility issues.
When I look at your blog in Safari, it looks fine
but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.
I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that,
fantastic blog

I worried about that for a long time, especially since I had received it from multiple sources with slightly different phrasing.

Then one day I started getting these…

Mad Lib Spam

“{Howdy|Hi there|Hey there|Hello|Hey} just wanted to give you a quick heads up.

The {text|words} in your {content|post|article}
seem to be running off the screen in {Ie|Internet explorer|Chrome|Firefox|Safari|Opera}.
I’m not sure if this is a {format|formatting} issue or something to
do with {web browser|internet browser|browser} compatibility but I {thought|figured} I’d post to let you
know. The {style and design|design and style|layout|design} look great though!
Hope you get the {problem|issue} {solved|resolved|fixed} soon. {Kudos|Cheers|Many thanks|Thanks}|”

Notice anything familiar about it?

It’s the Mad Libs of spam. These comments run on for what seems like forever in my spam folder. This particular one had 2839 words. (Yes, I did count them. Wouldn’t you?)

Buried within it are the formulas for many of the most common types of spam:

  • The pleas for guidance with {starting a blog | choosing a blog platform | guarding against copyright infringement}
  • The vague compliments on my {writing | sense of humor | expert knowledge}
  • The warnings about {my site’s poor loading speed | imperfect visual presentation | content troubles}
  • The helpful suggestions for improving my {writing | SEO | marriage | complexion}

All in there somewhere.

The only spam category that appears to be missing are the extremely vague, but deeply hurtful comments about my writing ability that show up every few months.

Hmmm… Maybe those really are genuine.
EmoticonChoices

 

Related Links:

About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book, Did Dinosaurs Have Belly Buttons?, is currently planned for release in 2018. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
This entry was posted in Miscellaneous Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Mad Lib Spam

  1. Paul says:

    You are {hilarious | obsessive compulsive | lovely }. Pick all three. 🙂

    Like

  2. tirane93 says:

    hello dear loved one! i am the president of the bank of kuala lumpur and knowing your expertize in this matter will help …

    pity spam can’t be smelled online like it can in your kitchen. 🙂

    so what’s causing that overlap in internet explorer i wonder?

    Like

What are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s