Tag Archives: blogging

Akismet comment spam compliment spam Facebook Google how-to internet listserv mailing list Online News PageRank plugin SEO social engineering social software spam Twitter webspam WordPress

Sick of compliment spam on your blog?

Not amused One of the great things about having a blog is getting comments on your posts. It’s particularly gratifying when someone takes the time to tell you that your post was helpful, entertaining, or well-written.

Spammers know this and exploit it by generating compliment spam. They’ll put together a few lines of general praise and slather them across the web, hoping that bloggers will fall for the trick and post their spammy links.

Abusive social engineering like this really annoys me, so when in doubt I always do a Google exact phrase search to see if the compliment is really for me and not from a bot. This is tedious, so I created a simple WordPress plugin: O RLY Comment Spam Search.

You can get the plugin directly from WordPress.org, where you can also give it a rating to tell other webmasters how great (or non-great) it is. By the way, the plugin browser/installer added in WordPress 2.7 is very cool, and makes it much easier to try out plugins.

Judging by the thousands of blogs my O RLY searches have found, this sort of spam works. But why do spammers do it? Since WordPress (and most major blog systems) nofollow links in comments by default, the spammers can’t expect to gain any PageRank from these links. My guess is most of this spam is either intended to get traffic via clickthroughs or is generated by naive site owners, SEOs and marketers who don’t really understand how things work.

Take a look and let me know if it’s useful in the comments below. Also, let me know if it’s breaking on certain comments or otherwise buggy.

I Love Hospitals With WiFi, or Twittering Childbirth

When we were looking for hospitals and doctors offices for little Athena, wifi wasn’t really on the list so much as reputation, compatibility with our insurance, and other concerns.  In retrospect, though, thank goodness Stanford Hospital and Palo Alto Medical Foundation have wifi.

We live more than 2,000 miles from most of our family.  Not all of them could make the flight to California for the birth.  We also have too many friends around the country to possibly make all the phone calls we’d have liked to have made that night.  In addition, we had several thousand people all over the world wondering which name we would pick for our baby.

Because of internet connectivity, I was able to do a fair job of including all of them in the process:

1) With my iPhone, I was able to take and post photos during labor and delivery.  Photos of my mom’s new granddaughter were available for her, on Flickr, within minutes of birth:

Wrapped and swaddled

I’m not sure I can properly express here how much it meant to her and the rest of our family to be able to see Athena so quickly.

2)  Using the Twitterific App on my iPhone was was able to post updates to Twitter throughout the whole labor.  This is a perfect example of what Twitter is good for.  Liveblogging while my wife endures the pains of childbirth would be ridiculously insensitive, but there were always minutes of downtime here and there to tap out a few words describing what’s going on.


3)  Using the Twitter App for Facebook, my updates showed up on my Facebook status as well.  This was a big help, since so many more friends and family use Facebook than Twitter.

A fourth option, which we didn’t use but might have had the labor been longer, was videoconferencing with Skype.  We’ve been using Skype to keep in touch with family for some time.  It is currently my grandmother’s favorite thing to do.  Since we’ve been back home Athena has become the star of many family video sessions.

One final thing I have to mention is YouTube – we certainly weren’t going to share the gooey miracle of life with the world in streaming video, but my wife followed the videos fo several other women during pregancy up to and including labor.  We don’t know a lot of other couples having kids right now, so that gave Ann a personal connection with their stories and helped her through some of the tougher times during the last 9 months.  She could see that other people were going through the same things she was and that was an important comfort.

The common theme here, which I think goes a long way toward explaining the growth of the internet as a whole, is communication.  Because of almost universal connectivity, we were able to turn a deep personal experience into a social experience as well.

Okay, we should dump the Electoral College – but no need to spam my blog!

One of the things I mentioned in my last post was how the Electoral College distorts the vote in favor of those in small-population states.

I got a comment from NationalPopularVote.com along these lines…

The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided “battleground” states. In 2004 two-thirds of the visits and money were focused in just six states; 88% on 9 states, and 99% of the money went to just 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people were merely spectators to the presidential election. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the winner-take-all rule under which all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

They make a good argument, and I agree with them, but I find it pretty reprehensible that they are spamming blogs to make their point.  If the comment is on-topic, why do I call it spamming?  Grab a snippet of text and do an exact-phrase Google search by wrapping quotes around it, like this:


As of this writing there are 233 occurrences of the exact same comment slathered all over the web.  It looks like they’re using an automated program to watch Technorati or Google Blog Search for posts about the Electoral College and autopost the same comment.  I’m going to email them and ask that they stop.

The phrase search is a good technique for discovering compliment spam as well.

In any event, we already looked at the fact that some people’s votes count four times as much because they live in a state with a small population.  Do the NationalPopularVote.com folks have a point about swing states?

One way to look at the power of your vote is to figure out the likelihood that yours will decide the election.  By this definition, it helps a little to be in a small-population state but the most important factor is how close the election is in your state – your best bet is to live in a swing state.  Andrew Gelman has a great article explaining why, but it’s pretty intuitive.  If you live in a safe Democrat state, for example, it doesn’t matter if you live in California or Rhode Island – your vote is much less likely to be the one to flip the state to one side or the other.  The same is true for safe Republican states, from Texas to Wyoming.