Book Reviews

Frustrated with false friends: spam comments

sundaysalonNo matter how many years you’ve spent on this planet, no matter what gender you are or which country you hail from there is one thing I bet we all have in common: we all love to receive compliments.  Remember how you felt when your teacher singled you out in class for something you’d done particularly well? You might get that same warm glow of satisfaction and pride now when you get a promotion in work or just a verbal ‘well done’. Or when someone comments about the dress you’re wearing or your new hairstyle. Or you get a positive reaction to a blog post you’ve spent hours crafting.

You are so intelligent,” read one recent comment posted on a review I published last year. “I’ve been surfing on-line for more than 3 hours but haven’t seen anything as interesting as your article,” said another. “If all web masters and bloggers made content like yours the internet would be a better place,” said a third.

Now I flatter myself that I can string a few words together to create some semblance of order but I doubt that I’m anywhere as good as these comments would suggest. They’re just too effusive to be genuine.

And of course they are far from genuine. They are in fact false friends, otherwise known in the lingo of digital media, as spam.

I’ve experienced these kinds of comments ever since I started BookerTalk more than two years ago. Just one or two a day to begin with, then it started creeping up and just lately the number has exploded. Even though the WordPress spam filter tool catches most of them, some creep through and no matter how many times I report them or try to block them permanently, they keep coming back.

Some of them are so obviously spam that they easy to detect. They’re the ones that contain gibberish, usually in multiple languages and written at great length.  Like the one that contained this gem of gobbledygook:

You know thus significantly relating to this matter, produced me personally believe it from so many various angles.

Thank you for sharing that wisdom with me lili-marlene-doortmund, or whoever you really are, it made my day complete in so many ways.  But may not as much as this tremendous comment from Dark Souls:

Just desire to say your article is as surprising.
The clearness on your post is just cool and i can suppose you are a professional on this subject.
Well with your permission let me to clutch your feed
to keep up to date with imminent post. Thank you one million and please continue the enjoyable work.

I’m not quite sure how one ‘clutches a post’ but it sounds a bit painful.

Then there are those where you can tell just from the name, that they are not genuine I’m pretty certain that Michael Kors is rather too busy running his fashion empire to read my review of an African author’s latest work let alone leave a comment saying how wonderful it was.  Yet every day, and sometimes multiple times a day, I get an email in his name.  I’ve picked up two more great buddies also in the shape of Tree Removal Galston West and Buffalo Linkstation Is430d who send me comments every week even though I have yet to write about tree surgery or link stations (actually I don’t even know what a link station is).

I’ve read enough warning about opening mail from strangers to know that the last thing you should do is click on any of the links in these comments or respond. The spammers know this so they seem to have changed tactic in the last few months and instead of simply posting compliments, they are now asking for help.

So I get plenty of comments now asking me what spam filters I use and can I recommend a good plug-in to deal with them (thanks for the question Thad Pitcher but the fact your gravatar is called Giuseppe Zanotti Sneakers doesn’t suggest that you and I have much in common).  Then are the ones who say they are having problems finding my contact page so would I send them my email because they have some recommendations for me – nice try Janie Russell of auto detailing chandler NZ but I live in Wales, United Kingdom so it’s a hell of a long way for me to travel to buy my next car. Unless of course you’re offering to pay my air ticket?  No, somehow I think not.

And so it goes on day after day. I imagine most of the comments are written by people in one of the poor regions of the world where they get paid peanuts to splurge this garbage. It may be the only kind of job they can get and it might mean they can afford to put food on the table for the family. I feel rather mean making fun of them if they are in that predicament. Maybe that’s just an idealised notion of mine and really these things are simply written by people who have absolutely nothing better to do with their lives than to annoy others.

In which camp do you think they fall? Do you have similar problems with spammers and if so, how do you deal with them??




What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

21 thoughts on “Frustrated with false friends: spam comments

  • They are an annoyance…time consuming but easy to spot for all the reasons you’ve said. I maintain two blogs (both wordpress) and I get hundreds at one blog and none at the other…go figure.

    • I couldn’t begin to imagine how much time it absorbs when you have two blogs to manage. One is hard enough

  • Spam has really ramped up over the past year or so I’ve noticed. I get comments from Michael Kors too, he’s a busy fellow! I must say though that I appreciate the complimentary spam much more than the suggestions for body enhancement products. I don;t think real people write most of it, I think most is written by computers pulling stuff from websites which helps explain the often nonsensical nature of most of them!

    • yep, how do these people know i need to lose weight. Are they watching me???

  • Mine has exploded recently as well, from 15-20 a day to over 100-200 a day. I think my favorite are clearly the bots which aren’t built properly so you get to see all of the options: Hello Dear Sir/Madam/Friend/Person, How are you today/this evening/this morning…etc.

    • That’s a serious hike in the frequency. I’m so glad you explained what a bot is because I’ve heard the expression but had no clue what it meant Geoff

      • Most of then are but it’s the improperly coded ones that make me laugh because you can see all of the options! I was checking settings today and saw that my most egregious spam was automatically deleted and I won’t lie I was curious about what went into that one compared to normal spam!

  • Yes, I’ve noticed a huge upsurge in the volume of spam recently, although fortunately the filters are catching all of it on my blog…so far. I asked on the WP forum if they were aware of any reason for the increase, but got the usual bland reply that says nothing – a technique WP excel at! I don’t understand how spam makes anyone any money, since even ‘real’ links on my blog hardly ever get clicked by anyone, much less spam ones…

    • They rely on someone not being that clued up getting into a discussion with them. My parents almost got caught by a spam saying they had won the lottery,. They were so excited until I said `i didn’t know you did the lottery.” “We don’t” they said. “So how can you win a prize in a competition you didn’t even enter”???? Think about it

  • You asked (on my blog) about using “three generations of reading” for Sunday Salon.

    Sure, go ahead and use the idea. In my Sunday Salon this week, I not only have “three generations” of books (just finished, currently reading, and next up), but I also mentioned three ACTUAL generations of my family, not all in the same branch of my family tree — I have three children, who have these branches:


  • joyweesemoll

    For a while, I was getting spam comments that were critical of my blog! I wanted the complimentary spam back! I think they thought maybe some people would be less inclined to think it was spam if it critiqued the spelling or formatting.

    • Luckily I have escaped the critical ones though I did see one comment that said other people who had commented on my blog must have been brain dead. Nice!

  • wordpress filters are rather good, but still the occasional one gets through, and they can be hilarious in how bad they are they are clearly the result of a bot (though quite to what avail I dont know – it has to help someone financially, but who?).

    When I get overloaded with them, I just move over to youtube and play the monty pyton Spam video that this type of post is named after (bloody vikings)

    • I wouldn’t describe them as funny but some of them are indeed so bad they do cause my eyes to roll

  • I have had very few that have got through the spam filter, so I seem to have been more fortunate than you in this respect, (although clearly not in so many others 🙂 ). However, what does really annoy me is the way in which WordPress allows other people to simply lift your post and place it on their own blog without so much as a by your leave. This happened just this afternoon and having looked at the blog concerned it is certainly not somewhere that I would want my work to appear, yet there seems to be nothing I can do about it. I don’t mind when friends ask if they can reprint, or leave a link, but this really does get my goat.

    • That’s terrible – simply lifting content without permission is intellectual property theft and constitutes a crime doesn’t it>. WordPress wouldn’t condone one author lifting content from another person if the format was in print so why is it ok when its on line? Seems WP is culpable here.

  • I have no idea where they come from, but at SNB we’ve been having a nightmare with them. Simon Thomas did something miraculous and in the past few days the stream has dried up entirely. Drop him a line – he’ll tell you what he did. They really are a pain.

    • Thanks for that – I’ll be interested to know what magic Simon was able to apply


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