The life of a blogger is a lonely one. Likely no one is reading, and even if someone is, well, they read a few paragraphs and move on. So I’m always thrilled when someone, anyone, leaves me a comment. That tiny bit of validation keeps me going. So the other day, I was almost ecstatic: six (six!) comments had been made and were awaiting my moderation.
The first read simply:
Your viewpoint on the topic is very outright and convincing.
My first thought: well, that’s awfully nice and move the mouse to the Approve link. But then I stopped. Wait a second. It’s awfully nice, but it’s also awfully generic. Plus, what the hell does “outright” mean in this context? I looked at the next five comments. They were all of a piece: utterly generic praise, usually in ESL English. Good post, I’ll read your blog, how interesting, yadda, yadda.
It’s just comment spam: idiots pushing some site and wanting my poor site to link to them in the hopes that Google will see my link and be fooled into raising their all-important site rank.
It won’t work, of course. Even if it fooled me, my blogging software (WordPress, by far the most popular) tags every user-supplied link with rel=”external nofollow”, which tells Google not to consider it. Most other blogging software does the same. The spammers are wasting their time, not just mine.
Still, the whole thing depresses me. The spammers certainly know that the usual response is exactly like mine: a brief spasm of elation, followed by disappointment. Every bit of spam they manage to submit is a tiny unhappy-o-gram waiting to be opened. Do they care? Do they congratulate themselves on their cleverness when they successfully deceive people?
Once in Laos, I was stopped by a policeman. I had, he claimed, stopped my motorcycle with the front wheel in the crosswalk. My choices, he told me, were to pay him $20 US or he would impound the bike and I could pick it up at the station and pay an even bigger fine.
I had actually been looking forward to experiencing some of that fabled Third World corruption. Now that I was actually been shaken down, the experience was depressing me. The cop looked pretty dispirited by his own corruption. The poor guy probably had to pay his sergeant for the posting he had: a kiosk on a prime corner of the city’s main thoroughfare. He didn’t seem to enjoy extortion but he had to make a living somehow. Evil, even petty evil, seems to be its own punishment.
I negotiated the bribe down to $10 and went on my way, sadder but perhaps no wiser.