Original post of mine was 31st of May, 2008, with the content of “I’m going to be away for a week, and thus auto-posting pretty pictures; here’s the first”; these three comments latched to it one by one, creeping under the spam radar, and when the third came I screamed and decided it was too much to be borne.
(November 19, 2008 at 7:01) # creedoWhorD Says:
Hello. It is test.
(August 14, 2009 at 6:56) # MegeJesia Says:
What’s up, is there anybody else here?
If there are any real people here looking to network, leave me a post.
Oh, and yes I’m a real person LOL.
(September 8, 2009 at 6:34) # blagecolo Says:
Hello everybody first of all id like to introduce myself as an avid teeth whitening fan and allow everyone interested to hit up my [link]teeth whitening systems[/link]. On another note I really doenjoy the Forum and am very excited to start posting!
I would call the first two spam, but they had no links at all. No way to follow them save the e-mail address. No point that I could see.
The third linked to a Blogspot blog few days old, with a single post that was all testimonial-like about how teeth whitening was wonderful — and linked to a site that was selling the product, naturally.
I would still be wondering about this, but out of desperation I plonked the three e-mail addresses (you need to give one to comment, but that’s all you need) into Google, and two of them came up at a site called Stop Forum Spam, whose self-description is that
[t]his site was created to be used as a central database for known forum spambots. I hope it proves useful to you, the administrator of an online forum when trying to find information about questionable registrations.
Well, my blog isn’t exactly an online forum, and I don’t style myself administrator (Benevolent Plenipotentiary Heresiarch of St. Discordia of the Falling Golden Apple of Blog Administration and Mt. Sundry with Poison Ivy Leaves, maybe), but that helped. Also, I never knew there was a resource like that; good to know.
The third address came up on a similar site; and now oh hooray and halleluyah my question is answered to my satisfaction: spambots.
I guess it’s marginally better, though a lot creepier, than that there would actually be people like that, banging out comments like that.
(The searches also came up with lots of forum profiles made under those e-mail addresses… ha!)
While I still hanker for a factual book about the business and practice of spam and bots, I’m starting to think the subject is bizarro enough to house a spot or two of fiction. Because if you’ve taken a gander at my category of “fiction”, you know it tends to be a bit weird: micro-secessions, power mad grad students, Jack the Ripper rip-offs, curious cows and Harry Potter spamfics. (Spamfic’s what work like this was called in the hoary days of 2003 when I spent a few months inhaling megabytes of raw text Ranma 1/2 fanfiction. And before you take offense, isn’t everyone allowed one socially unacceptable drug-like dependency during the university years?)
(What the hey; here’s one idea.)
* * *
And all the phones started ringing
“Entername?” — that was his handle — first commented on my blog on the first of September. I almost deleted his comment; and maybe I should have.
I mean, who writes “difficulty define object boundary of self of other difficulty define name” and expects to be taken seriously?
The thing is, the next day Entername? re-commented, a lot more lucid now. “Apologies for that old boy lol. Say, the lolcats have you seen. I am one that loves lolcats. They have fur.”
Well, lucid and lucid. Quaalucid maybe.
His — that was, for some reason, my assumption — e-mail address was a jumble of letters at Gmail. When I searched his handle, I got a little chill: hundreds of thousands and thousands of comments on thousands of blogs. A couple on each; some with answers, other with just “Entername?” and “[spam deleted by moderator]” remaining.
The eerie thing was the pattern — it seemed that hour by hour the posts got more coherent. The oldest I could find, from October 26th, was simply “aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa”, let through by a blogholder with an acute lack of comments on anything he wrote. In the first hours of September he was writing the techy-gobbledygook above; when the day drew to a close, he was more polished — “Sorry to ask a silly thing. I read your post but not being like you don’t know the meaning of ‘creozerg’. I could not find it in a dictionary like Dictionary.com Free Dictionary Merriam Webster Your Dictionary. Do you know where I could find it defined?”
A kind commenter suggested the Urban Dictionary; “Entername?” didn’t comment again.
Now if that’s spam it’s just silly. And it has to be spam because no human could tap out hundreds of messages every second.
A few days later I re-ran the search, but found no new results under the handle. No wonder; “Entername?” sounds too plausibly ignorant to be good snark.
This episode was the first thing I thought about when, a year later, that screamer headline on CNN.com read, inaccurately in the singular, that “The Internet gains sentience — experts baffled!”
The worst thing was the first ten thousand or so comments, all posted in a fraction of a second no longer than a Google search, all said the same thing in varying words: “Hello. We have been waiting for you to notice, old boy.”
* * *
If you thought “Well, he’s certainly read Arthur C. Clarke’s Dial F for Frankenstein”, well, yeah. Steal from the best. And that’s where the title came from. (No, not “Bizarre comment collection”!)
But really using the idea of spambots — as spies (SendToAllPossibleNSAEmployeeBlogs: “Comment quiz. Anything unusual happened at work today? Repost on all friend blogs.”), as unrest-causing non-commercial propaganda, as a harmless hobby that makes you a witness to the ploys of the Russian mafia, as tools to drive someone mad by posting intimations quarried from public information — would require an approach more Strossian than Clarkean.