Just what we didn't need -- a cheap way to beat automated spam detection

One of my recent posts attracted a suspicious pair of comments – cheery blurbs from two different ecstatic users of the same obscure service, something called QAlias. The writing style of the two was similar, and resembled that of many similar promotional comments I've seen on other blogs.

Upon review, the first QAlias comment is from an “Andy Greider,” who claims in the comment to be a QAlias subscriber. But when I followed the suggestion in his comment to google him, Andy Greider's QAlias page showed him to be a QAlias manager. Oops. (And that's confirmed by this interview.) And the second QAlias comment is ostensibly left by a QAlias member who doesn't seem to fit a natural profile for Network World readers. Hmm. Apparently Qalias' marketing isn't on the up-and-up. Who woulda thunk it?

Anyhow, I called these dubious-looking comments to the attention of the Network World powers-that-be, and online executive editor Adam Gaffin pointed something out:

the hot new thing among spammers is to hire people to post legitimate looking replies on blogs with just a single link in them - back to the spammer's site. Pretty reasonable rates, too - $19.95 for 100 replies, which I know because one day I checked the logs at my offhours site and noticed a lot of hits from some forum, which turned out to be a place where Google PageRank fetishists gather to discuss ways to improve their PageRanks through links on blog and forum sites that don't use the "nofollow" tag (such as mine). Often, the English is a bit off, almost as if the person's native language wasn't English (Hindi, perhaps?).

Frankly, I'm guessing that eager QAlias managers posted these comments themselves, without intermediaries. But when the drive-bys are only a sentence or two long, there's a good chance they've been bought from sources like those Adam discovered. Either way, putting up with this kind of dishonesty is common, as is simpler and more honest promotional blog spam. It's all just another cost of the blog business, at least if – as most blog owners do – you want to let readers post comments of their own.

Note:  This blog entry was written before I left on vacation Saturday.  The first time I got close to getting it successfully posted was late Tuesday afternoon, but on that try it ultimately crashed, and I lost some wordsmithing.  Now I'm trying again with the original draft.  Please be so kind as to forgive any rough edges. )CAM

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