Givers, Talkers & Lurkers

Dung Beetle

The dung beetle, a far more noble form of life than a spammer!

Going to try something a little different. Rather than write a longish comment in response to someone’s blog article or comment, I’m going to write a shortish article on my own blog.  (Well, short for me, anyway.)

Sometimes when writing a long comment, I find myself thinking that what I’d like to say would be better served as an article rather than a typically long-winded comment. There is also that comment sections can be a bit confined space-wise, plus it’s a bit harder to include pictures or do formatting.

Today’s “comment” is actually a long-standing observation about the interweb, but was triggered by the sudden rise in spam Follows and then Michelle’s latest article over on The Green Study.

Over the last few days I’d noticed a number of new followers, some of whom clearly had to be spammers.  As it turns out, likely most of them are.  And apparently they’ve been showing up on other blogs, too.

pond scum

Pond scum. Also vastly superior to spammers.

I’ve written before about my view of spammers as a form of life so low and despicable that I would gladly support military intervention with the goal of wiping their miserable asses from the face of the Earth.  Prolonged public torture designed for maximum humiliation and pain would be okay, too.

Think of the revenue some smart cable channel could obtain!  I’m not big on pay-per-view, but I would definitely pony up for that! I imagine most of us would.

You may think me hateful, but that’s only because I am. Keep in mind I think many people are a waste of skin and don’t deserve free oxygen.  (I’m really charming that way; you can see why everyone wants to be my friend!) But that’s just the background to my world; a form of social noise that’s plagued me all my adult life. Spammers are an entirely different matter, so far down the social food chain that words fail. None are quite vile enough!

bazooka hamster

My hamster army will vanquish the spammers!

It wasn’t until I read Michelle’s article that the round fully entered the breech. The absurd spammer comments are easily handled. WordPress does an outstanding job of catching almost every one.  I think I’ve only spotted two pending comments I recognized—and marked—as spam.

The gratuitous, “like me back” Likes are easily ignored, and the reality is that so are the “other agenda” Follows. Frankly, if you Like an article of mine, or if you Follow my blog, it means very little to me.  I may get around to checking out your blog one of these days.

kid corp

The Kid Corp Artillery Battalion will take the spammers by surprise!

What gets my attention and interest are those who comment.  I follow most (if not all) of the bloggers who comment on my blog.  And I comment, often a lot, on the blogs I follow.  I’m very much about the exchange of ideas and thinking.  I most respect those capable of carrying on a meaningful, thoughtful conversation.

Anyway, it all got me to thinking again about how the internet has changed.  I started writing a longish comment in response to our first exchange, and then decided not to pollute other waters.  Since I have a new High Bile policy here, this is the appropriate place to spew.

So here is the comment that grew up to be an article:

There was a real sea change when we went from internet to interweb.


Teachers. One of the higher forms of human life.

Used to be basically three groups: Teachers, Talkers and Listeners. Teachers offered free, often extremely valuable content (I consider myself a member of that group). Talkers reacted to that comment or chatted, debated, fought and trolled among themselves (that was the social component back then). And the Listeners just lurked and absorbed it all.

There were some self-promoters, although usually what they prompted was free stuff. Many of us offered free tools and ideas, and many of us benefited from the free tools and ideas of others (one of the best graphics apps I ever used is still freely available, and so is my favorite text editor).

Teachers is actually the subset of Givers, people who offer their work to the world freely and honestly. Whether it be the world’s most complete collection of elephant jokes or how to build a crystal radio or useful bits of source code, there are those who share their experience, education and knowledge. (And they are the ones I love and revere the most.)

blogBlogs (“web logs”) are kind of a new wrinkle. Some of them clearly fall into the Teachers category, and even more into the larger Givers category. For many it’s a form of self-expression or art. When given freely, they are Givers, and perhaps most bloggers fall under this rubric. There is a spectrum, I think, from Teachers offering knowledge (the highest form) to “online public diary” (the lowest form, but actually exactly what “blogs” started off as).

When it comes to those OPDs, it depends on the personality, nature, background and writing skill of the author.  As with many modern actors, who largely just play themselves, you’ll like the blog (actor) if you like the person.  As I say in my Disclaimer, I find interesting “the cynical, the edgy, the fractured and the outsiders.”  (Intelligence and education is the minimum requirement.)

conversationNot many Teachers left, although Talkers have multiplied enormously. One presumes that so have Listeners. Or perhaps it’s that there are so many Talkers and others that their numbers swamp the Teachers. Sadly, often when you search for information now, what you get is many hits of others asking the same or similar question and then lots of hits of others punting on the answer.  The amount of misinformation out there now is astonishing!

Even the larger group, the Givers, seems swamped by the Talkers, but these venerable groups have lost considerable ground to a new group: the Sellers.

And for my money, the fucking Sellers have ruined the internet.

nasa4saleMost major webpages now look like NASCAR cars with advertising crammed into every available inch of space. Those ads jitter and jangle to get your attention, making one feel as if one has walked into a Vegas casino.

(They also record your browsing habits, by the way.  If the same ad vendor places their ads on completely different websites, they can detect you’ve visited both.)

You all know, right, that it was the porn industry that led the way, inventing the technology of reasonably secure commerce over the ‘web.  Everyone who sells over the ‘web owes a debt to porn.

There is a sub-group of Sellers that self-promotes (just like in the olden days), but which now charges for their wares.  I call this group Hookers.  (That isn’t quite as pejorative as one might think. I have nothing against adults who voluntarily choose to sell their body.  To me it’s part of a spectrum that includes, for example, master chefs who also sell their personal skills.  Or me, for that matter, since that’s mainly what I have to offer.)

comment spamYou do (almost) have to admire their persistence and creativity. Spam comments provide some amusement as they wheedle on your ego. (The giveaway, of course, is they compliment without ever actually mentioning any of your content.)  I’m not the first to notice the new tactics of insulting you or of complaining about how your page loads slow.  It’s all designed to evoke a reaction or to at least somehow look legit.

You sometimes wonder why they seem so incredibly inept and downright stupid in their attempts.  Turns out that’s part of the tactic: they know smart people will ignore them anyway. The lameness is deliberately meant to weed those out leaving only the truly under-educated and thought-impaired as their target.

The good news is that WordPress does seem to weed many of these out. When I sometimes do check out the blogs of those lurking, mute Likers and Followers, I often find their page doesn’t exist anymore.  Bravo, WordPress!

And thus ends my 1300+ word count “comment.”

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

42 responses to “Givers, Talkers & Lurkers

  • GreedyFrog

    I did indeed wonder why the spammers’ comments were always so inept. Thanks for clearing that up! Oh, and your tags made me chuckle! 🙂

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Yep. They’re only interested in people capable of believing in their crap. Others need not apply.

      The fun thing about the tags… from what I can tell spammers trigger off your tags and content (for example, posts where I mention enjoying the occasional cigar often get lots of cigar store spam). The fun starts when, despite those tags and the content, spammer comments arrive on the article praising (but of course not mentioning) the content.

      One spammer wrote about their intention to apply the “valuable knowledge” to their own site and pass it on to their friends. Oh, if only!

  • Michelle at The Green Study

    Grateful that you went with a post on this and thanks for the mention! Sellers do ruin everything and I enjoyed your likening of some websites to casinos – some of them truly are distracting and it quickly becomes obvious that content is NOT king on the site.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Yeah, I figured you’d appreciate my not polluting your much calmer waters! 😀

      I think you’re right. As with much TV (which exists solely to support commercials), many websites seem mainly to support advertising. The interweb has become as noisy and annoying as TV!

  • dianasschwenk

    What a great idea! Write a blog post in reaction to a post! Brilliant! Good to see you again Smitty!

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Hi Lady Di! Nice to “see” you again! It’s not so different, I think, from what you do every Friday, although I guess you’re writing in reaction to an entire blog more than a specific post. I do like the combination of being free to be as long-winded as I like without feeling like I’m taking over someone’s comment section.

      In this age of “micro” and “nano” blogs (e.g. Facebook and Twitter, respectively), I’ve wondered if a “macro” blog could work. No comments, just blog articles, but with a linking ability, so the whole thing would be articles and response articles and response-response articles and … well you get the picture! 🙂

      Fight Brevity! Up with Long Thoughts!! 😀

      • dianasschwenk

        haha fight the good fight Smitty! Or should I say Sir Smitty as you always call me Lady Di? Have an awesome Sunday!

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Gee, I’ve never been a “Sir” before! Nah,… I don’t have nearly your class. “Lady Di” fits you like a snug pair of jeans (Mmmmmm! <—see? no class here). On me, “Sir” looks like a bad raincoat!

        [BTW: I was doing some work a couple weeks ago for our Canadian branch, and mentioned that I was taking early retirement due to mutual dissatisfaction between management and me. The manager in the Canadian office immediately asked if I’d like him to find a position for me in Canada, since they valued me greatly. My first thought was, “Well, I do know someone in Canada!” Problem is, the office is in eastern Canada.]

      • dianasschwenk

        And it’s cold here! I’m originally from Montreal, Quebec!

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I was told (admittedly by the guy trying to get me to take a job in Canada) that the winters there were actually a bit warmer than those in Minnesota. That seems hard to believe, but weather can be funny that way.

        (It must be your origin that had me thinking you were in the eastern part. Somehow didn’t register that you’d moved west!)

      • dianasschwenk

        Some parts of Canada are indeed warmer than parts of the US. Tim Horton’s coffee would keep you warm! 😉

        I moved out west in 1983! Been here longer than I was in the east now.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I know that feeling, too! I moved here from Los Angeles in 1984, and have now been here longer than I was in LA. I guess I’m no longer a “California Boy”!

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I really enjoyed living there, although given the crowds, prices and economic situation, I’m not sure I would want to anymore. I do miss palm trees sometimes, though!

  • rarasaur

    I swear I’m worth my skin! In fact, I’m pretty sure you’d like me so if your “retirement” ever brings you to SoCal, look me up! I had an equally long comment response to Michelle, in fact, and I was working on my post when I saw this. I’ll link back to you too, now. Of course, my thoughts went an entirely different direction. (Hey, I said you’d like me, not that we think the same, 😉 )

    I do agree that we can leave the spammers be– WordPress has that well in hand.

    Your post, as always, was articulate, convincing, witty, and brilliant. Glad to see you around again! 🙂

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Aw, Rara, I already do like you! You’re clearly worth every square inch! (I do have some family and friends in SoCal (lived in Los Angeles 1967-1984), so it’s not out of the question. And next summer I’m hoping to do an “All 30 MLB Ballparks” tour, and California has five!)

      I’ll pop over to read your article as soon as I can. Work is still draining both time and energy (and morale), so I’m not quite fully here yet. Completely catching up on my blog reading may have to wait until I’m free from work, but I am trying to get around.

      (I just realized I’ve forgotten to do my taxes, so that’s the first task for today once I answer comments.)

      Thanks for the compliments!! Where’s the [blush] icon?!

  • Riddled Rara: Okay, McSpamthy, you got me! | rarasaur

    […] Oh, and for a whole different response to spam posts, check out Logos Con Carne.  It’s an intellectual take on a sort of social internet caste system: […]

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I couldn’t resist popping over for a quick read. Some food for thought there, so I’ll have to come back later. (Like you [pun intended], I sometimes need to “bookmark” an article (or entire blog), so I can come back later when I have more time to engage. The problem with that bookmarking is that new ones keep coming along, and the older ones sometimes get pushed into oblivion.)

  • pendantry

    A good summation of TWIOWASBE (the way it once was and should be again).

    Thanks for the reminder about (and link to) VIM: I’d all but forgotten about that wonderful tool. I’ve been using ‘programmer’s file editor’ (PFE) — by Alan Phillips, one of your ‘Givers’ — myself for years, but that tool is, sadly, no longer being developed.

    On the spam front; I agree completely. I’ve recently installed a widget called ‘Adblock Plus‘ on my browser. I suspect that you might be interested in their “acceptable ads” concept.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I’m not familiar with that term, but I like it! Another very apropos term is the German “Weltschmerz,” which literally translates as “world pain.” It’s the sense of (pain-causing) conflict between your ideas of ought to be and your realization it can never happen.

      Rare to meet a vi (let alone vim) fan! I’ve had people watching over my shoulder while I edit, and they’re blown away by the obvious power of the tool. They want that power, but when I explain that vi has about a one-year learning curve, somehow they lose interest. 🙂

      I really should look into ad-blockers again. I’ve tried them in the past, and they seemed to often make it difficult or impossible to view the page. In some cases, they made the page unviewable. Seemed like there was a fine line between the widgets and JavaScript the page legitimately needed and the spam crap. It would be nice if the White Hats were winning that race. I’ll check it out, thanks!

      (And welcome to my blog!)

      • pendantry

        ‘TWIOWASBE’? I’m not familiar with it either; I just made it up on the spur of the moment 🙂 I do like ‘Weltschmerz’, and will have to try to remember that word; I get that feeling all the time.

        I know what you mean about learning curves… when people see me typing using the Dvorak layout, they often ask me what (on Earth) it is, so I point them to the Dvorak Zine. Surprisingly, it only takes a couple of months to learn how to touch-type using Dvorak, but you do have to persevere with it (and you need to pick your moment, since for the first two weeks in particular it’s impossible to get anything done, as I found out).

        I haven’t been using Adblocker Plus for very long — only a couple of weeks. But I can say that so far at least, the experience is a pleasant one. It’s interesting to toggle the feature on and off and see what’s being hidden (quite a lot, of useless crap, as it turns out)…

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Well, this is really embarrassing! Twiowasbe sounded like a real word (despite your actually spelling it out!), so off I want to Google Translate to discover this new and interesting word I’d never heard of. Google Translate thought it might be Polish. (Polish? I was betting on Japanese. They have some interesting words, such as Umami.) Even mighty Google said, “Huh? Did you mean Two Wasbi?”

        Like a dog with a bone, once I latch on… I’m gonna eat that bone! 🙂

        What I did with vi was decide that every time I used it I would learn one new feature. Over time they added up nicely. When I left the Unix world and returned to MSWIN I felt bereft. And then I discovered vim!

      • pendantry

        Ah, I love it! Thanks for the belly laugh 🙂

        (Perhaps I should have warned you that I’m a phlyarologist.)

        Re: the mighty google; it’s entirely possible that once google spiders this page you’ll have a unique search word for it. No thanks necessary 😉

        What I did with vi was decide that every time I used it I would learn one new feature.

        Underneath all them words, I suspect you’re one smart cookie.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I added TWIOWASBE to the tags to help Google do that very thing! 😀

  • Nandini Godara

    I got here through Rara’s article and well, I don’t have much of a take on spammers because I’ve only just gotten the hang of this thing and don’t get that much spam (apart from the obvious ones weeded out by Wp)! But your tags made me crack up and I thought you should be told. haha! 🙂

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Well, I delighted to meet you. Any friend of Rara’s is welcome here! (Welcome to the blogsphere. And don’t worry, the spammers will “befriend” you soon enough.)

      And thank you! Tags as a form of creative expression (and a warning to potential spammers)!

      24 frames per second… as a former film student, that sounds intriguing! I’ll have to drop by and check out your blog. (Some many interesting blogs… so few waking hours in a day!)

      • Nandini Godara

        Yep! I’ve only just become a “former film student” myself! I’d love for you to stop by, when you do have the time of course! I thought your explanation of your blog name was something only a person who loves words as much can explain so well. See you around! 🙂

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Flattery like that (and a film student!), how can I not stop by immediately, at least for a quick visit! I just finished filing my taxes, and the Twins are snowed out (yes, snowed out; gotta love Minnesota), so I have some time today!

      • Nandini Godara

        Now I feel bad! There really is no pressure! haha. I have a few friends in Minnesota and I’ve heard some pretty scary stories about the cold there. I’ve never been but I’m assuming it isn’t normal for it to snow mid-april? Crazy. I’ve seen snow twice in my whole life.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Nah, no need. The older I get, the less likely it is that anyone can make me do something I don’t want to! I make my own choices (for better or worse!). Snow in April isn’t really that unusual, at least not prior to the days of global warming. Old timers here find most “modern” winters fairly wimpy, and I’ve been told the only month it has never snowed is August.

        I actually dislike the highly humid summers more than the winters. I can dress for -20. I don’t like it, but I can dress for it. When both the temp and humidity are 90+ (at 11 PM at night!), there’s just not much you can do.

      • Nandini Godara

        Well then Bombay is NOT the place for you! It is maddeningly humid all throughout the year except for a little while in the “winters” when it is a cool 20 degrees (Celsius). When I first went to London I couldn’t even handle september!

      • Wyrd Smythe

        It is very much a matter of acclimation. Even around here (we hearty Minnesotans have heavy-weight oil for blood), when the temps drop in the fall, it feels cold. But after a long winter, when it warms up to those same temps, it feels like shorts and tee-shirt weather.

        Although I have been ice fishing up on the border in -44 (with a -80 wind chill). No one acclimates to that!

  • Snoring Dog Studio

    I’m grateful that WordPress is so good at weeding out the spam. But frankly, that’s not what bothers me — it’s what you mentioned – the likes for the sake of being liked back. I almost always check out their blogs but almost always find that the “liker” is selling or promoting his or her book or some other product. Or – they’ve just started their own blog, which has absolutely no content. If you want to be followed and have good followers, you have to comment and not for the purpose of being followed back. I can tell when people are doing that. I try to comment on the blogs I read, but sometimes, I’ve got nuthin’ to add.

    I pay no attention to my stats anymore. In fact, I’ve given up reading articles about “How to be a super blogger in 10 steps!” and other such nonsense.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Yep, I hear ya! I ignore the stats, too, and I think all those “how to do X in 21 days” things are bunk. They’re all rip-offs trading on people’s conceit that there are shortcuts to success. There usually aren’t.

      I’ll offer you the same tip I offered elsewhere, just in case it’s helpful. I use the email notices that advise me of Likes and Follows. The Likes go in one email folder, the Follows go in another. That queues them up for when I do have the time to go exploring new blogs.

      The tip is that those email notices list up to three of that blogger’s most popular posts. One can often tell from those three post names what the blogger is about. I got one this morning where all three have to do with selling stuff; obvious spammer. Newbie bloggers often won’t have three (sometimes none), and that tells you they’ve never published an article that anyone has viewed. Could be a legit newbie or could be a spammer; the handle, URL and/or Gravitar can sometimes help there.

      Maybe I’m being rude, but mute Likes and Follows mean nothing to me. I’ll likely eventually check most of them out, but it’s a very low priority task. You want my attention? Then speak up. At the very least introduce yourself and say, “Howdy!”

  • partsyspeaks

    Wow you really hate spammers. I am new into blogging again, so I don’t know to what extent spammers are a destructive force in the blogging world. I have renewed my interest in blogs, and hopefully I get to put up some writing, read, and participate in a dialog of thinkers and talkers.

    Since the internet has become a universe of people pushing forth a lot of information, there has been a lot of misinformation. That’s scary because inasmuch as the Net provides free access of knowledge, these bits of information can’t be wholly trusted. They say everyone can find anything in the Net, one just has to know how to set apart what should be believed and what should be thrown to the fire.

    I really admire people who really put a lot of consideration, work, and effort into the blogs that they publish. What I have for a blog however is the basic format, which is the online diary. I hope I could provide helpful reviews or literary stuff worthy to be read, but I’ll wait when I’d get close to my goals. For the meantime, I like to read blogs like these and get to share my two-cents worth of thought.


    • Wyrd Smythe

      I do indeed hate spammers, but it’s not related to their being a destructive force in the blogsphere. In fact, I’d say they aren’t very destructive at all. WordPress does a very good job of screening comment spam (which I find the most objectionable), and they’re pretty good at going after obvious spammer blogs.

      Bloggers who are very diligent about checking out Likes and Followers are the ones who suffer most from spammer blogs. I have a policy of mostly ignoring lurkers, so they don’t bother me as much as others.

      It is a shame there is so much misinformation out there. Things would improve if people didn’t answer questions unless they actually really, truly know the answer. I suppose they’re just trying to be helpful by guessing, but it ends up polluting the waters. There have been some web projects oriented at valuating information, but they have a long way to go.

      Good luck with your blogging! Thanks for dropping by and commenting! I’ll try to drop by and check out your blog ASAP.

  • wakemenow

    Irfanview does rock. I’ve used it for years for quick resizing of photos. 🙂

    You’re a hooker, Wyrd? lol That just struck me as cute.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Likewise (on the Irfanview)! Most of the images on my blog have been sized, cropped or possibly horizontally reversed by IView. I have a more advanced tool if I need more horsepower, but for viewing and simple changes, it just can’t be beat! (I was chagrined at work after recommending it to folks only to discover it’s not free for commercial use. Oops!)

      Well, metaphorically programmers and chefs and maids sell their services and expertise like hookers. As we’ve discussed in the past, there is a non-fuzzy line, defined by intimacy, that draws a pretty sharp distinction. When “the boss man” is making unreasonable demands, it’s easy to lump oneself in with sex workers or slaves, but obviously there are whole other levels involved.

      I’ll say this… I generally gave it away (still do)… there’s an even worse word for that! 😀

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