The Art of Comment Spam

This is a comment sent to one of the sites I write for:

Excellent article. I am experiencing a few of these issues as well..

Would you accept this comment or moderate it (delete it/ mark as spam)?

Less experienced blog publishers would tend to accept and publish this comment. I did not. Why?

It’s generic. It helps if you know the post this was left for was about a cartoon collection called “Love Is…”. So, yes, there are issues, romantic issues, life issues and dating issues. But, the actual post was more about cartoons and collectibles than issues. Does that help you decide to keep or reject the comment (above)?

It is an art (in a way) to create a generic comment in hopes of getting it posted. The goal is to have your link accepted (the one you add to your comment with your name and email). If you get enough links accepted then they show up as published (accepted) comments and this helps sell those links as viable/ non-spam links to Google and so on.

Anyway, the part of that I find interesting at the moment is the art of writing a generic comment – appearing to sincerely comment while actually saying nothing. Have you heard of double speak?

Come up with a few truly great examples of generic comments a blogger could be fooled into accepting as real, sincere comments. Remember to keep it just generic enough that you can get away with posting the same comment everywhere, on any kind of post.

How to Choose Great Guest Bloggers

If you have a blog up and get some amount of traffic, you will begin to get requests for guest posts. At first you may feel flattered. That wears off pretty quickly.

Posts offered to you are not relevant to your topic or niche. They are all about getting their links on your blog, for free. There isn’t anything in that offer really for or about you and your blog/ site. Almost every offer you will get for guest blogging will be nothing but a new form of spam. The value of the posts they offer you will be on the level of comment spam, the stuff you delete.

It’s discouraging.

When guest blogging started, before it became popular and attractive to spammers, it was a good thing. You could find real content to supplement your own and give yourself a day or two off from writing and posting yourself. Those days are gone. We are left with a very few sincere guest bloggers and a mass of spammers all too happy to take advantage of web publishers who don’t know the difference.

Choose Your Own Guest Bloggers

Don’t wait to be asked by guest bloggers. Reach out and find the people you want to work with. Find people in your niche/ topic. People who already have content you have read and found worthwhile, resourceful, competent at the very least. Approach people you would like to write for your site. Offer them space in your blog and set out your terms: formatting, length, links, author bio, etc. Keep it simple and let them suggest alternatives and options.

Start by requesting an interview. This gives you a post, introduces your site to them (if they don’t already know you) and you find out more about them and what they specifically know about your niche/ genre/ topic. If you do accept guest posts from them you can refer back to this interview as an introduction to them.

Pick Performers, not Promoters

Look at the content the perspective guest blogger has to show. Do they focus on informing readers or are they selling keywords for ads?

You want a blogger who will have reader appeal. You also want someone who will focus on promoting the post AFTER it’s on your blog, not from inside the post itself. The smart guest bloggers will promote the post with their own social media. They will also return to check the post for reader feedback/ comments and give replies.

Don’t accept guest posts from anyone who wants to talk about links before any other content. You don’t want more than 2 links in the post and 2 links in the author bio at the end of the post. That’s a total of four links, 2 which should be for the guest writer – not something they are trying to sell.

Typos Are Unacceptable

When someone offers to write a guest post don’t give them the time of day if they have a typo in the very proposal/ request they have sent.

If they can’t put time into making a good first impression do you really want to give them more time. Obviously, they don’t think much of you. They don’t really appreciate your time or the chance to have some of your blog space.

Offering a Post “Free of Charge”

How kind and generous… how full of themselves they are…

A guest post is free.

If they mention this they either think you are too stupid or clueless to know this or they think you will appreciate their boundless generousity and grab up the offer while you still can.

Either way they are trying to pull something on you and I don’t want to work with someone like that.

Beware the Tried and True Cookie Cutter Content

The last thing you want from a guest post is something you could have written yourself, or something you have already read in a dozen other blogs. Blah, blah, boring.

The guest post you publish should have something fresh, unique and individual. A new slant or a fresh point of view. A twist on an old idea. Something!

Don’t publish a guest post to be nice, to do someone a favour or just because someone offered you a “free” post.

This is your blog. Your name is on it. You pay the bills. It’s your space to create something great, including the content from guest posts.

Read More

Use CAPTCHA and Word Verification to Make Art

6975320_f260Next time you’re stuck trying to read the lines of word verification (CAPTCHA) somewhere think of a way to turn those words into something funny. Add an illustration. Make the word verification part of a cartoon.

I’ve done it. I did cheat a bit. I refreshed a Blogger blog until I felt inspired by the word verification that came up. Then I cut and pasted the letters, added my own text and my own art. I used a simple graphic program, nothing fancy.

It’s not terribly funny, the CAPTCHA art I created. I’ve found much funnier and far more clever art created with word verification on various sites online. But, I did it myself. Sometimes that’s kind of nice in itself.

CAPTCHA Art

The CAPTCHA Protest

word verification

I’m not a big fan of CAPTCHA and/ or word verification. It annoys me frequently. Many times I have chosen not to leave a comment on a site rather than deal with their word verification. It’s like going to visit someone’s house and being attacked by their dog at the door. Makes you feel unwelcome.

However, it’s not just blog comments that require word verification and CAPTCHAs now. If you register for a site, or sign up for an account you get stuck with verifying you are human too. (That’s the original purpose of CAPTCHAs and word verification). Well, as a human, I find I’d like a machine that could read and type in the word verification for me – cause I’m tired of trying to prove I’m a human.

word verificationI doubt anyone is ever glad to see word verification. But, we have come to see it as the standard pest we are forced to deal with. That’s fine when it’s simple, easy enough to read and understand. But, some sites really want you to jump through hoops.

I’ve had some ask me to do math. I dislike math and avoid it when I can.

Another asked me to do word verification, TWICE!.

Some sites will ask you to register – I never (or very rarely) do this. Why register for a site you have only visited once and may never come back to read again? Meanwhile, you give them your email address and any other information they expect from you. They can now take that information and sell it. Registering for one site to leave one comment can leave you getting a lot of spam in your email.

Other sites stick you with word verification and even then they hold your comment back until someone moderates it and actually lets it post. That is a bit much. Pick one! Either moderate your comments or leave on the auto pilot. I’m a bit insulted at your laziness in moderating the comments to your blog. Be assured, I won’t be leaving another comment cause I probably won’t read your site after that.

The latest trend I’ve noticed is the double word. Two words in one word verification. Now, it would be some small help if the two words made sense together. You might be able to use them to figure out what you need to type in. But, they almost never do. They are two random squiggly words instead of just one.

The irony of people relying on word verification is that it stopped working awhile ago. Comment spammers and others who want to post junk on your site have found ways to do so. They can get past word verification. Some use newer technology and others pay real people (they hardly pay them in reality) to type in the CAPTCHAS so the spam computer can leave comment spam. So the whole thing is a lost cause.

  • Petty Revenge for Annoying Word Verification | Word Grrls
    “…that gave me the idea of telling every blogger what their word verification says. If they want to inflict the thing upon me I will give them updates about how it is working.”
  • The Official CAPTCHA Site
  • CAPTCHA – Wikipedia

Alternatives to CAPTCHA

Offalings Not Accepted Here

Guest posting is not worth the time it takes to moderate, edit and argue about it. Why do all that for a post which isn’t paying you anything? I accept the odd paying post or text links, if they pay. I’m willing to put in some time working with them. But, the freebie guest posts are very seldom worth posting.

It’s very rare to be offered a guest post which is actually relevant to my site. Most of them don’t spend any time beyond looking at keywords and page rank. Some of them know how to use spellcheck. Some of them submit something that looks like comment spam. This blog is written by a human being, not a machine. If they can’t appreciate that, I can’t take the time to read their offalings.  (Offlalings = offal + offerings).

If you still accept or seek out guest posts for your site why do you and what do you get out of it?

How to Get Started (and Enjoy) Using Twitter

TwitterNote: Originally published on HubPages, July 2012.

What’s keeping you from using Twitter?

Twitter is easy to use. Basically you type in text and hit send. You can do more, but you can get started with the basics and even skip a lot of the extras and not miss them.

I’ve been using Twitter from the beginning. I like to try new things like Twitter and see how they work. I’m an explorer at heart.

I’m assuming you have already joined and created an account at Twitter. If not, go ahead and do so. You can sign up for an account, free, with your email address and have it link to your Facebook login as a back up login.

You’re going to need a user name on Twitter. Pick something you already use on social media accounts like Flickr, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. Pick a descriptive user name but don’t let it get long winded. Keep it all one word, this just makes it easier for you to type. Once you get started with social media you will be typing your user name pretty often in order to pass it around and let people know who you are.

Compose New Tweet

newtweet newtweet2

 

Go Ahead – Start Using your Twitter Account

Login to the Twitter site. Click in the box and type something. You don’t need to add anything fancy. You don’t need to add your user name (Twitter adds it automatically once you send the post). Stick to 140 characters, this includes spaces and punctuation as well as each letter or number you type. Twitter lets you know how close you are getting to the 140 limit.

Don’t worry about the limited characters. Type in one sentence, Most sentences will fit into the 140 character limit easily. Twitter is meant to be quick, lively posts so one sentence is all you usually need. If you do need more to make your point clear think of words you can take out, words you can shorten with characters like &, for instance. Pretty simple so far, right?

Now that you have typed in your sentence, send it out there. All you need to do is click “Tweet”. Your post will be sent out to everyone on your Twitter list.

Click Expand to Retweet, Delete, Reply or Favourite a Tweet

retweet

 

So Now You’ve Posted But….

So you posted but noticed a typo/ typing error or spelling mistake. Just go to your tweet, click on “expand” and click on “delete” from the list of options. You just need to confirm that you want to delete that post and then it will be gone.

You can also retweet the post from someone else this way. Or reply to anyone who has sent you a tweet.

If you want to save or savour the tweet from a friend you can mark it as a favourite here. This will save the post on your Twitter account. The tweet is saved in a file on your Twitter account.

I have an extra option on my Twitter account. It shows up in the image I cut and pasted above. It’s called ClassicRT (Classic ReTweet). You can add this option to your web browser if you like. It’s an extra – but not essential.

ClassicRT for Google Chrome

ClassicRT Addon for Firefox

Find Replies to Your Tweets and People who have Mentioned You

connecttwitter connecttwitter1

 

Venture Out a Bit…

Wander off the Home section. Click ‘Connect’ at the top left. Now you can see who has mentioned you. Who has retweeted your posts.

I like to use this side of Twitter to reply to anyone who sent me a note. It is much easier to find replies here. (Especially once your Twitter account gets busy).

Block or Report Twitter Spammers

mentions1 mentions2

 

How to Report Spam Accounts on Twitter

On the Connect section you will eventually get Twitter spam. This is much like comment spam in a blog or on your posts on HubPages. You can (and should) block or report Twitter spam. Blocking the spamming accounts will keep them from posting to you again. So this is enough if you aren’t sure they are spamming. Otherwise, report the account to Twitter staff. Let them deal with it.

Click on the name/ user name on the spam account. This brings up a second window which lets you choose the options to block or report the account. Just click and be done with it.

If this were a friend you could send them a tweet this way as well or go to their Twitter profile. You can also choose to follow or unfollow the user account.

Never send a spam Twitter account a message. NEVER. You may think you are teaching them a lesson, giving them a piece of your mind, or giving them a chance to change their ways. But, all you are actually doing is confirming that you are an active Twitter user. They will put your account on a list which they sell to people looking for active Twitter accounts to send spam to. They will also dig for more information from your Twitter account, like your web address, blog or email address. So, NEVER reply to a spam account on email, your blog, Twitter or anywhere else online. Don’t do them any favours.

View your Profile, Change your Settings or Get Help

profile1 profile2

 

How to Change your Settings and your Profile on Twitter

Click the icon/ image of the person on the top right of the screen. This gives you options which can lead you to Twitter settings and let you edit your Twitter profile.

You can leave the settings as they are until you have an idea of how and why you want to change any of them. The basic settings will be fine for almost every beginner on Twitter. I’ve left mine pretty untouched.

I do like to play with the profile settings. I add my own image as face to the Twitter account. I created a background which has my links and whatever else I care to add. (You do need software for this, some kind of image software like Gimp). You can also write a blurb for your profile and add links.

Fun with #Hashtags

The last thing you need to know are hashtags. You may have heard about them already.

Hashtags are just a quick referral tag. Anything at all can be typed as a hashtag. You just add the # in front of it and keep it all one word.

Add a fun hashtag to your Twitter post to illustrate your point, catch someone’s attention or see if you can turn a clever phrase viral. (Viral being something that catches on in social media and spreads around in a huge way). Seldom will anything grow to viral proportions but it’s kind of fun to try now and then.

Don’t go crazy with a lot of hashtags. Consider how much you would want sent to your account before you go on a hashtag binge.

#ThisisaHashtagExample

A few last things to keep in mind…

This really is enough to get you started on Twitter. There’s a bit more about Twitter etiquette and just being a smart Twitter user (tweeter) in general.

Don’t follow a lot of people you don’t know or care to know. Having a lot of followers does not make you rich and famous. It does make you look like a possible Twitter spammer. Real Twitter users will have a balance of people they follow themselves and those who follow them back. You don’t want to have people following you from some Twitter follower service either. Those are all spammers who want to bloat their numbers so they can spam and look important. They may have you on account but they won’t be reading your posts, following your links or really care about anything you have to say.

Don’t post a lot of links or stale quotations. People want to know they are following a real person. They want to follow people who are using their Twitter account as READERS and WRITERS. They want people who will read their post, follow their links and give them feedback now and then. Isn’t that what you want from people on Twitter too? So make personal posts which don’t include links to be followed and do include some personal chatter. Nothing too dull. Come up with something interesting, something surprising that happened to you, something funny you noticed today… and so on.

Ask questions, send a note to someone using their Twitter name (@thatgrrl is my Twitter user name for instance) try to get a two-way flow of conversation. Don’t be afraid to jump into a conversation if you have something useful to add. Watch Twitter hashtags to find Twitter groups who have scheduled online meetings to talk on Twitter.

If you would like someone to follow you back let them know. Busy Twitter accounts have a hard time keeping up with new followers. Many of them are not sincerely following them but just want to get followed back and will likely remove them from their own list once they get followed back. Lost you there? Don’t worry about it. Just know that people you would like to notice and follow you back on Twitter will respond if you send them a post on Twitter. Let them know you followed them and tell them WHY you chose to follow them. Do they share your interests, do they write on the same site you do, etc.?

Don’t ignore posts on Twitter from other people. Follow an interesting link, leave comments when the links go to blog posts and let people know you followed a link posted to Twitter. Give people feedback on Twitter when they make a witty comment, shared an interesting link, or have a typo in their post. People almost always like a chance to fix a mistake if someone notices and lets them know about it. Not so different from the spinach in your teeth thing. (A friend will always let you know about the spinach stuck in your teeth).

Use your Twitter profile – write something about yourself. Tell people who you are, what you are interested in and what you are doing. Include at least one link they can click on to find you outside of Twitter. If someone thinks about following you, that profile will be a big deciding factor.

Other Places to Find Twitter Help

How to Use Dmoz aka the Open Directory Project

Dmoz writer resourcesI was an editor at Dmoz (The Open Directory Project) for 10 years. I worked my way up to the title of ‘editall’ which meant I had the run of the directory. I would review and add new sites submitted. I could edit current listings or delete those which were no longer functioning or had become spam like splogs and link farms. I enjoyed the work. I still like finding great links from all the content online. I like adding links to any post I write here on HubPages and part of the enjoyment is just tracking down the links themselves.

From what I have seen The Open Directory Project is not being updated very reliably now. It looks like very few people are still maintaining the directory and the listings. When I look at categories I used to maintain myself I find link rot and listings which need to be fixed for spelling, punctuation, grammar. There are even links which lead to parked domains, and other useless sites.

The Open Directory Project (ODP) may be unpredictable and a little neglected, but it’s still a free to be listed there and the directory database is still picked up by many other sites.

If you want to submit a link to Dmoz

Find the best fitting Dmoz category for one of your posts which represents your niche at HubPages. If you look at what you’ve been writing you will see you do have a niche/ theme of some kind. Your personality will show through the range of your topics, go with that. Narrow it down to one post and then find the corresponding category in the Dmoz directory.

Don’t submit more than one post anywhere else in the directory. Wait, even as long as a month, before you try another submission. Try a different category, something even more specific to your content/ topic. Never submit to a top level category. Those kind of sloppy submissions are almost 100% sure to be deleted without even being looked at by any editor.

Do not get yourself (or HubPages) labelled with a bad reputation for too many submissions or submissions to the wrong categories. Dmoz will block networks/ domains like HubPages from any submissions if the editors begin leaving negative comments on the submissions from that domain.

When I was part of the workings of Dmoz editors could be very diligent, keeping categories clean, tidy and updated. Even then some categories had no editor and no one checked them regularly for submissions or bad links. I think there are less editors working there now so it is even more important to have patience with any links you submit there. Sending a second submission too soon just makes you look like a mass submitter. Also, extra submissions will just be deleted while the original sits in the category until an editor takes time to look at them all individually. Editors are more likely to work on a category that does not have a lot of submissions they have to mass delete. It’s just common sense when you remember the editors at Dmoz are volunteers, not paid for their time.

Check your submission to the Dmoz directory

  • Proofread your submission. Spelling, grammar and punctuation do count.
  • Double check the link (the http:// link, not the title) of your post.
  • Don’t use excessive keywords.

How to Pick a Better Password

Pick a better password so you won’t have your online email and social media accounts taken over and used by spammers or hackers.

Pick a Pickled Password…

A password for your email account (and other accounts like social media, etc.) should be an unusual word or phrase which you can remember. In the middle of the word, or phrase, stick in a few numbers.

Don’t make it too complicated. You want something you won’t forget.

But, don’t make it too simple. A computer is going to try random words and numbers to try guessing your password. So you don’t want to use a word from the standard dictionary and you don’t want to use numbers like your date of birth or any ID you carry around with you.

Examples of Passwords

bac347kbacon
screwed434driver
pickled490peepers

Forever Caught in the Machine

caught in the machineI haven’t had obvious spam from another Twitter account in awhile. But, no big deal. I did not click the link. Instead, I always go look at the profile. There she was, her name unknown but her photo forever caught in the machine. Things like this are far spookier to me than ghosts in abandoned houses.

Do you ever think about these photographs of people taken and put up instead of another face. The face covering the anonymous face. Yet, there it is. Bright and fresh looking and unable to ever escape or speak up for her/ itself. Caught in the machine, forever.

If your hand gets caught in a machine you pull it out, get it fixed up. You can’t do that when it’s your face in a photograph, an image. It’s like a part of you.

Native peoples in various cultures were deathly afraid of having their photograph taken. They were sure the camera was stealing their soul. Who are we to say they were wrong, fully and completely? You may scoff but we are far from having all the answers when it comes to things beyond the machines of our own making.

Look at her face, caught like a pretty little bug in a web. Stuck in the tangled threads, being wound up in the machine where there is no escape.

What do you think? The eyes are the window to your soul. What happens when your soul is taken in a photograph and left without you on the big, world-wide web?

If Google’s Panda Bit you Bite Back

HubPages CEO on Googles Panda algorithm: SEO doesnt work!!! | ZDNet.

As I was reading this post I got that too familiar feeling. The one where I wonder who made Google a God. Then I remember, the spammers. Spammer being short form for get-rich-quick bloggers and others.

Google is going to do what makes money for them. They have a lot of staff with a lot of great benefits and the promise of retirement in their own mansion on Google Island. So, Google isn’t here to be nice and fix how content is produced, published and promoted on the Internet. Google’s motives are not so altruistic as you may assume. Google sells ads. Did you read that the first time? If not, read it again.

Google sells ads. Google sells ads, on your site. You let them. Every few years you might even make the $100 limit to earn a payout from Google. Wow! Quit your full time job for that one!

Why do people take Google so seriously? Sure there are a few who do make enough money from Google to become ‘professional bloggers’. The keyword there (for you keyword lovers) is not money, it’s FEW.

So, what to do… what to do… what to do…. How about finding another solution? Skip Google – Google will be fine without you worrying about them and trying to cater to them. Google will be just fine without you.

Before Google people were looking at other methods to make money online. There were an assortment of ideas out there in trial stages. Since Google rose up and found itself put on a pedestal and made a God, most of those other methods and ideas have been neglected and passed over.

I’m not going to list the ones I remember or try to track down the few which are still left. The key is to think differently. Stand on your own feet and slowly back away from the Google mentality. Consider better ideas for making money online. Go back to the BG (before Google) days and consider what you have to offer to people who are selling products and services.

For instance, have you ever contacted a business and asked if they would like to buy ad space on your site? Try it. You will need to come up with a plan, statistics and information about your publishing schedule, your readers, your commenters and how your site is distributed. Look at other publishers, offline. How do they sell themselves to advertisers?

Your site is your own microworld, which you control. There is no reason you can’t become more than yet another blogger working for Google. Stand on your own feet, take the reins of control and sell ads on your site – just like any other print publisher. Of course, there will be differences, due to your format, your web medium, the audience you can reach, and so on.

However, rather than get bitten by Google’s Panda bear, take the other option and DIY. If enough people stopped catering to Google and began to do it themselves the entire web could change. The entire way business is done could evolve, again.

How Very Informative Is It?

I pity words like ‘informative’ which get targeted by spammers and used as generic and meaningless words in comment spam. Don’t you?

Look at the word, informative. It was a nice word, a shy and quiet word on it’s own. It didn’t cause a ruckus. It didn’t ask for much. It really just wanted to let people know about a few things, important things but not Earth shacking. Nice things like, “the colour of your new dress really suits you”. Important things like, “your new dress seems to have caught fire”. Informative was just a nice, simple, well meaning word. Until the comment spammers grabbed it.

Which word do you notice being especially abused by comment spammers lately? Is there one that stands out in your mind as you skim through and delete comment spam from your blog?