Comment spam becoming conversational
Wednesday, 12 December 2007 — by Wayne Smallman
Spam of all forms is a fact of life on the internet, with email and comment spam being the top two. Like some kind of internet arms race, as fast as the systems evolve to filter spam out of our in boxes, the spam changes subtly — now comment spam is becoming a conversation…
Over the last week, I’ve been getting comments dropping into my ‘blog listed as pending moderation. Unlike most other comment spam, some of those comments needed to be read through for me to be sure they were actually spam and not a legitimate comment.
I’m not about to quote any of those comments here, since I’m not in the habit of inviting the wrath of the search engines and forcing them into a false positive on this article. So instead, I’ll mimic what I’ve been seeing:
“My brother Tom’s been working real hard all year, but he’s struggling to make ends meet. How do you think he could improve his credit rating?”
And then a link to some website at the end, which I really don’t feel compelled to look at.
The comments have typically been well written, grammatically correct, spelled right and rather deceptive in their conversational style.
Much has been said about the value of Conversational Marketing, which I think David Maister sums up perfectly:
“If you want to win my business, give me the chance to talk to you, person-to-person, about my needs, wishes, and wants. Make it easy and comfortable for me to share my secrets. In short, if you really want my business, let’s talk; let’s have a conversation.”
Even though the comment is largely out of context, because the filtering process your brain employs is struck by the conversation being made in the comment, you read through, or at least I have been doing.
I’m pretty sure the guys churning out comment spam aren’t trying to strike up a conversation with me per se, instead, I think they’re playing on the deepening personal debt crisis in the USA, hoping to draw me into some credit agreement.
For the likes of esteemed science writer and ‘blogger David Bradley, who’s making the most of comment spam, this will add to his work load — trying to quickly figure out what’s spam and what isn’t, among thousands of comments per week.
Giving an insight into the kinds of tricks & tactics spammers are employing, some time ago, there was the threat of comment spam being out-sourced to India, which as far as I’m aware hasn’t yet materialized.
The thing is, if this new breed of conversational comment spam is slipping through the clutches of Akismet, what other routes, prosaic or Byzantine, will they take to evade the attention of our Bayesian filtering? What a conversation that would be…