I just took a look at my WoB Talk spam folder. A few months ago, I would generally have had between five and ten comments in there at any given time. Lately, however, the spambots have been taking notice of the blog. There were 100 spam comments yesterday. Today, there are 121. Considering that comments are deleted when they’re more than thirty days old, that means I received at least 21 and quite possibly many more spam comments just today. One even got through the filter, though it was pretty obviously spam, and I deleted it immediately.
The spambots have really been trying hard lately. Gone are the days of all-caps spam detailing which bits of the male anatomy the spammer is proposing to perk up; such messages have fled to the Gmail spam folder, where they languish in dusty obscurity. No: the blog spammer is a more sophisticated creature. A spam comment on a blog is designed to look like a genuine comment, though it is couched in the sort of vague language that fake psychics use to convince their marks that they really can see beyond the mysterious veil. The secret to a successful spam comment is to word it in such a way that the spam filter and/or the blogger may be fooled into thinking there’s a possibility that it’s genuine.
Take an example from today’s appalling load of spam, all of it directed at the Rant I posted two weeks ago, “Not Exactly a Handsome Prince.” Apparently, all the spambots have been telling each other about that one. Here is the latest comment (spelling and grammar reproduced faithfully):
Thank you so much for providing individuals with such a nice possiblity to read critical reviews from this site. It is always so excellent and also stuffed with a lot of fun for me personally and my office mates to search your blog at a minimum thrice per week to study the new secrets you have got. Of course, I’m just certainly fulfilled with all the surprising hints you serve. Certain 2 ideas in this posting are honestly the most efficient I have ever had.
The commenter mentions “critical reviews,” often a safe bet for blog content. He personalises the comment by mentioning his “office mates” and their thrice-weekly blog search. “Surprising hints” also turn up on many blogs, and calling two of the blog’s ideas “efficient” is a savvy idea, as it praises something that, again, many bloggers aim for; it also suggests a certain specificity. Other spam comments mention daughters, friends, or spouses. Some are short and vague; others are long and detailed. The former often work better, as they are less likely to get stuff wrong. Two seconds of analysis will, of course, direct you to the spam link accompanying the “personalised” comment, but I’m sure many people are fooled just long enough to click.
It’s probably only a matter of time before spammers find ways past the filters by creating programs that can borrow actual content from blog posts, plugging key words into the spam and thus personalising comments to the point where the filters can’t distinguish then from genuine comments posted by genuine human beings. We’ll know the machine world is imminent when the spambots begin posting fake comments that are more insightful than the real ones. Perhaps the spambots of the future will be able to construct fluent paragraphs extolling the virtues of a certain blogger’s cat or agreeing with another one that the ukulele is a noble instrument. Bloggers will start writing to attract spambots, with whom they will be able to have much more intelligent conversations than they do with thirteen-year-old trolls who clog up their comments pages with such gems as, “LMFAO STFU IM SLEPING WITH UR MOM.”
I, for one, welcome our new spambot overlords. Maybe if I ask nicely, they’ll help me with my marking.