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  • Sunday, August 21, 2005


    The Ethics of Borderline Comment Spam

    I received a nice comment from someone in my languishing blog Invisible Books. As is usual, I curiously visited the person's blog to check them out. The blog, named Juicy Fruiter, is four days old and has three posts on it. Yet the three posts have 178, 43, and 28 comments apiece. I am Jack's envy.

    Now the blogger, Juicy Fruit, has been visiting quite a few blogs and leaving nice, though brief, comments in blogs like mine. This is not quite spam, merely enthusiastic immersion in the blogosphere. I certainly can't fault Juicy Fruit for using this method to garner visitors to her blog. (I believe Juicy Fruit is female for pronoun's sake.) Most of the comments to her blog basically say "Thanks for your comment in my blog, like your blog too." [Update 1: Well, yes, I guess it is comment spam. It looks like she probably copied and pasted the same comment in all the other blogs she visited. The slight difference is it doesn't appear to be automated or for profit.] [see Update 2 below.]

    So I'm ruminating on the ethics of using this technique to drum up visitors. (None of this should be construed as a critique of Juicy Fruit. I wouldn't have linked to the blog if I was upset or found it annoying.) On one hand, I believe that comments in blogs are what make the blogosphere vibrant and valuable. If not for comments, blogs just become one way channels going out. It's the exchange of views that is stimulating for me.

    The issue of my blog traffic irks me a little. I somehow expect more visitors to my quaint little blog but seem unwilling to put forth the effort to gain steady readers. I often vow to be more involved in discussions in other blogs but I rarely actually do so. I feel both shallow and egocentric at once. (A common pairing, I think.) I've said a few times here that I dislike leaving short, almost content-free comments on blogs I visit. I just haven't seen a need to say something just to see my own words. Yet my reticence works against any sort of publicizing of my own soapbox. I like to flatter myself in thinking I post some items of value here, that I articulate a unique voice and point of view. Perhaps this is delusional.

    The thing is I don't know if I could even handle lots of traffic and comments. I would probably become overwhelmed, take criticism too personally, etc. I don't even take the time to make sure my blog looks good/OK under Internet Explorer because I use Firefox. So perhaps I'm just being weirdly narcissistic and neurotic. Perhaps I should be more aggressive in promoting this blog. If my traffic numbers went up, would I feel better about myself and this blog? Nope. DemiOrator is a process for me, not necessarily a goal. Still, I may consider a judicious and limited application of self-promotion in the future.

    [Update 2, 25 Aug. 2005: I take it back about it not being spam. Today I received two more messages on a different blog of mine, Sullen Oblations at Alien Altars (I've got fourblogs on Blogger but only DemiOrator is consistently active.) The interesting thing is that the email comes from a different address than the previous two messages yet is identical. This leads me to think the message and blog may be some low-level attempt at harvesting addresses of people who comment in the blog or perhaps a scam of some sort. Just a guess but I don't really have any concrete evidence.]

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