Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Those Cheeky Comment-Spam Sploggin' Monkeys!

At some point or another, we all get zapped by spam comments. For some folks, spam comments come in at such a fast and furious rate (because they're programmed by bots) that they have to shut off their blog comments. When I started to notice spam comments coming in, I added word verification to the email notifications I already receive for blog comments.

The word verification seems to have slowed the nonsense down--but not stopped it. Now, the comment-spammer monkeys have taken it one cheeky step further. The comment I got this a.m. has been deleted from the entry where it appeared, but since I get email verification, I still have the text, left by one "NonToxic Chuck":
I've had this same thought. I wonder about the Michell Malkins and other of the blogger world. Especially, those who blog about terrorist subjects. That would create a great deal of anxiety for me. They are very brave to tell the truth in their blogs.

One fellow, I think he was the webmaster at iraqthemodel (?) was killed. He was doing his blogging from Iraq.

What makes this monkey possibly one of the cheekiest is that the comment seems to actually have a bit of thought. Even though Michelle Malkin's name is spelled wrong, that could be considered a common mistake, along with leaving the "s" off of "other" (for "others"). And the second paragraph alludes to iraqthemodel, which is a real conservative blogspot blog that's part of Pajamas Media.

NonToxic Chuck even has a profile (only 16 or so views though). So, at first glance, it appears that the comment is from a real live person.

Correction: real-life comment spammer who wants to lead us back to his splog.

There are two dead-giveaways that this is comment-spam from a splogger. First, the post was recorded on an entry from a year ago, that had absolutely nothing to do with the context of the comment. The post simply had the word "terrorism" in it, but nothing in the content of the post discusses political terrorism in relation to the war in Iraq or conservative politics--so the post was targeted by a bot.

All I could think was "Jeebus! ain't this rich."

The second key is in the word that is in bold in that paragraph, which, in the original text, was a hyperlink that lead to a splog. How did I know it was a splog? Well, it had one article, a reprint with a hyperlink to the original article, but no "about" page, and no links to other blogs. There were links to other pages but no content. What there was, aside from one article in very large print, were lots and lost of Google Adsense ads relating to anxiety relief.

Lots of ads with a bunch of content that's either cribbed from someone else or makes no sense is a sure sign of a splog.

What's the deal? Does this jerk think he's going to make good money off his splog? and how can we stop these idiots?

Sure, I could report them to Google Adsense, and I could flag the blog (as it was a blogspot blog.) But that seems to do virtually nothing.

So, not only is my content being stolen by sploggers, but I'm getting harassed by sploggers who think they're actually smart enough to leave comments that won't be taken for spam. Wow. Just like living in a bad neighborhood. And I don't even have to leave the house to get the flavor....

Update 9/27/06: Businessweek documents some of the major problems ofclickfraud spawned by splog

Monday, September 25, 2006

Do Citizens Really Need "Gentle Expert Guidance" to Build a Better Online Encyclopedia? (or haven't we lost our virginity yet?)

UPDATE:10/19/06 Larry Sanger's changed the wording on his descrition of Citizendium! Okay, the use of "constables" in this version is kind of funny and makes one think of British bobbies, but Sanger is now acknowledging that this place we call the 'net has lots of intellectuals of various sort. His essay now says:
"will invite experts to serve as editors, who will be able to make content decisions in their areas of specialization, but otherwise working shoulder-to-shoulder with ordinary authors.

Bravo, Larry!

Catching up on things missed from vacation while catching up on the past week's silliness, I came across Nick Carr's commentary on Larry Sanger's new project Citizendium, which also links to a fabulous (and amusing) debate about Experts and Expertise between Clay Shirky (who starts it off here, with Sanger's retort and Shirky's rejoinder, yet both miss the following point I'm about to make....)

Essentially, Citizendium will be an "experimental new wiki project that combines public participation with gentle expert guidance," beginning its life as a "progressive fork" of Wikipedia...."But we expect it to take on a life of its own and, perhaps, to become the flagship of a new set of responsibly-managed free knowledge projects," sez Larry...

And get this tidbit:
We believe a fork is necessary, and justified, both to allow regular people a place to work under the direction of experts, and in which personal accountability--including the use of real names--is expected. In short, we want to create a responsible community and a good global citizen.

Wow...I am shocked and awed. No, make that shocked and appalled that someone as intelligent as Sanger, who appears to want to build a community, would use such condescending language to try to reach, intelligent, thoughtful, articulate, educated Citizens, who, under different circumstances, might actually be his peers.

Now, I understand that Sanger's been a bit put off by the rough and tumble anarchy of Wikipedia, and seems to have some prejudices against online communities. He seems to desire to up the ante and the level of discourse as well as input into Citizendium

But, myself and a whole host of others could tell him that he ain't gonna get it by telling everyone he's going to have "experts" offer "gentle guidance."

Let's put it this architect, who just might think of himself as an expert at building houses, who also sees himself as "regular people," may not find any desire to contribute to a place where "experts" will offer "gentle guidance."

He might not mind peer review, however.

And "gentle guidance"??? What are we, Sunday school kids trying to figure out what the whole bread-and-wine thing is all about?

Please, Larry...If you want the folks who constitute "regular people" on the 'net to be interested in your project, you're going to have to learn to speak to them at their level of intelligence...Which, quite frankly, is a lot higher than you may have been lead to believe from the level of discourse you perceive on forums, newsgroups, wikipedia, and some blogs. Remember, some of the smartest people are known for doing, and saying, very foolish things.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Fox Filmed Entertainment and Fox Faith: Where "One Night With The King" has nothing to do with Elvis...

The LA Times reports this morning that News Corp's Fox Filmed Entertainment division will announce its plans to venture into old fashioned Christian Epic Filmmaking with its new Fox Faith Division. The Times mentions "Love's Abiding Joy," set for 10/6 release--but the film they *should* have mentioned is the gargantuan Christian romantic Epic One Night With the King, scheduled for release on Oct. 13

There are two trailers: the Macho Mainstream trailer:

And the longer, Schmaltzy Romantic trailer:

Isn't Peter O'Toole such a hambone?? Isn't Luke Goss a perfect dreamboat??? And what's with John Rhys-Davies in yet another epic film (at least in this one they don't squash him down to troll size)?

The film is produced by Gen8Xion Entertainment, in association with Fox Faith....the story is taken from the novel Hadassah:A Night With the King by travelling evangelist Tommy Tenney (who's also co-producer and reminds me a bit of Billy Sunday) and screenplay writer Mark Andrew Olsen.

Gener8Xion is headed by Matthew Crouch who was V.P. of the Trinity Broadcasting Network--which was started by Jim Bakker and is the home of the Preacher Lady With the Pink Hair and our favorite "healer", Benny Hinn.

The film even has a MySpace page

Check out what Tenney's Godchaser's site has to say about the film.

A quick synops: Tenney's taken the Story of Esther and christianized it--drawing in elements of good old fashioned Calvinist predestination and high romance into a very pragmatic story about a young woman who wins a beauty contest and wins the king's "favor" in order to save the Jewish people. Yes, there may have been some fateful hand of God in that Old Testament story, but I'm not so sure that Tenney's christianizing of the story, replete with a 20th century romantic ideals of kings and queens, reveals, as Tenney states, the "hidden truth of Esther's story."

So let's get a grip for a moment here. This is an Epic. It's a Movie. It is a resurrected form of filmmaking that passed away more than a generation ago. The film is made by individuals who have a particular intention for the story--whether that intention is moneymaking or something like proselytizing can only be determined by reading copious interviews of the filmmakers and script writers and producers (note: I have done extensive research on epic christian filmmaking, so yeah, I kind of know something about its mechanisms.)

Could their motive be simply to make a "family friendly film" about a girl who has the power to change the mind of a all-powerful ruler (basically by offering herself to him--oh, the story appears to leave out that the king has multiple wives)? Possible. As a student of both Media and Religion, I am Ultra-Skeptical of any film that purports to tell the truth about an event that happened several thousand years ago that is then sliced and diced and re-packaged for pop culture consumption. Distortions are going to be rife as filmmakers try to pluck just the right pop culture emotional notes that will get audiences into theaters and help studios turn a profit.

It is odd, though, that Epic films are making such a comeback after their slow demise over 40 years ago. The final collapse of the genre started in '63 with MGM's ultimate bank-breaking snooze-fest Cleopatra, continued through the George Stevens' biblically literal but culturally discordantThe Greatest Story Ever Told and that final nail-in-the-coffin, John Huston's creepy The Bible(1966). There were attempts at big 1930's style adventure films in the 1980's, most notably Raiders of the Lost Ark (John Rhys-Davies in his first ethnic epic role as the Egyptian Sallah) and the Star Wars Saga overlapping the 1970's and '80's...but these pale in comparison to the likes of Spartacus(actually a secular epic--Dalton Trumbo wrote the screenplay) and The Robe (which influenced the highly impressionable 8-year old mind of genius filmmaker Martin Scorsese.)

What isn't so odd is that these new epics, esp. the ones that are backed by Fox Faith and Gener8Xion Entertainment, are actually motivated by the same thing that motivated many of the old Hollywood epics--personal faith. Yet that faith of the 20th century was Mainstream Protestant (the guys who wrote Godspell), sometimes Episcopalean (Cecil B DeMille) or even Catholic (George Stevens), but was NOT high Evangelical/Petacostal. I wonder about the motivation of these new epic filmmakers. I know the motivation of the old epic filmmakers was not to proselytize, but can we say the same about these folks and their new epics?

And does Rupe Murdoch perhaps think that backing faith-based films will save his own immortal soul after what he hath wrought with MySpace?

Lots of questions--tons of kitsch--few answers--much to keep an eye on...

Update 10/8/06: The Unofficial Peter O'Toole Pages! has this to say. Can I get an "Amen, brother!"

Update 10/13/06 The reviews are rolling in...Dear Lord, why must Your most ardent followers unleash such bad movies in Your name? sez Josh Bell of Las Vegas Weekly

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Is Google Really Just One Big Splog??

Think about this: Okay, you're the Belgian Association of News Editors. And you've noticed that Google's been aggregating the content of all your newspapers and not paying them one red Euro for it. What happens next? You lodge a complaint in the Belgian Courts against Google who then find that:
If Google doesn't comply with this month's ruling and continues to publish Belgian newspaper copy without permission and without paying a fee, the Belgian Court of First Instance will fine the company €1 million ($1.27 million) daily, the association said. "It's an infraction of Belgian and EU laws, the newspapers are losing money this way and, above all, Google thinks it is outside the law," the association's Secretary-General Margaret Boribon said.

So there.

But, if you think about it, isn't that kind of what sploggers do--take your content, republish it, not tell you, then make money off of it?

Think about it....

Update: Google drops Belgian news...oh, well...guess all their spare change is going towards paying the AP.

Update 9/24/06 Steve Yelvington dissects the Belgian Court of Steve's points:
Google is sending valuable traffic to publishers, and squaring off against Google is self-destructive. This is not relevant to the question of whether Google's repurposing practices amount to fair use or thievery. But it also isn't automatically true. Publishers benefit from some sorts of Google listings and not from others. Many publishers have a business model predicated entirely on service to a geographically focused community and derive little benefit (and often great expense) from Google-driven traffic. And, of course, publishers suffer when the new summary pages of Google News take away the audience that otherwise would have gone to the publishers' content on their own sites.
It appears that, as I thought, the argument the Belgian papers have is not with aggregating a few lines, but with the article's storage on Google. Once an article is "cached" in Google, that it remains in Google, and that readers never get to the site where the article originally appeared. In this particular sense, not in the sense of aggregating a few lines and then sending traffic to the newspaper's site via a link, Google is indeed acting like a splog. They're holding the content and making money from it in perpetuity. not cool, Google, not cool. Steve concludes: "I'm not eager to see lawsuits against search engines as a primary tool for resolving this issue, but it seems to me that the Belgian ruling is well grounded in the reality of today's Internet. There is a line between fair use and thievery, and it is not Google's to define through unilateral action."

Oh, and let's remember folks: Google is not a public library, and its collecting of content may not be for quite the same reasons as that of a public library.

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Susan Estrich writes for Fox News: Can Newspapers Do Good Journalism And Make Money?

Does anyone other than me see an immense irony in this??
A Sign From Above

go ahead. laugh. you know you want to.

thanks for the heads-up on this Terry!

Monday, September 11, 2006

I'm away...enjoying a much needed vacation...will return on 9/18....

hope the blogosphere can spin without me until then ;-)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Silly Sock Puppetry Roasts Reputation of Lee Siegel

File under What Didn't You Learn From Michael Hiltzik Dept: Lee Siegel has been summarily dismissed from the New Republic for engaging in sock puppetry. The NYTimes illuminates the sad scenario of Journalist Gone Wrong:
Franklin Foer, the New Republic’s editor, said in an interview that he first became aware of the accusations against Mr. Siegel on Thursday afternoon, after a colleague noticed a comment in the Talkback section of Mr. Siegel’s blog that accused him of using the alias “sprezzatura” to defend his articles and assail his critics.

That comment, posted by a reader named “jhschwartz” on Aug. 27, said that “sprezzatura appears only to weigh in on TNR forums to admonish and taunt posters who dislike Lee Siegel” before concluding, “I would say with 99% confidence that ‘sprezzatura’ is a Siegel alias.”

“We launched an investigation,” Mr. Foer said. He added that he was confident that sprezzatura’s posts were written with Mr. Siegel’s “full cooperation,” but declined to say whether the alias was used by Mr. Siegel himself because the affair was still under investigation. “As soon as the facts of the case became clear to me on Friday, we closed down the blog and made an announcement.” Mr. Foer said that while he liked to see blog posts before they were published, Mr. Siegel did not have an editor assigned to his blog entries.

Siegel calls what he did "a prank." Which seems to illuminate even further the disdain that many journalists have for the blogosphere and the people who choose to interact within it. Kos has some spectacular comments on the removal of the sock.

Friday, September 01, 2006

So Many Splogs, So Little Time

The Head Lemur has *so* had it with a particular splogger that he decided to take extreme yet highly appropriate action to deal with him....

And mangaged to get him shut him down...

Interestingly, the splogger responded and basically explained he was trying to set up an aggregator and had sent emails to all of the people he wanted to aggregate. I'm not sure I totally buy it, esp. considering the folks who've said they never received email from the guy (see THL's post for the names).

THL's final words on the matter are here Lemur found the guy, they have exchanged emails--the guy will not use THL's content.

The way the splogger-in-question was aggregating was a bit different from when I first found aggregating my content. There was no "contrubted by" line, which gives the impression that permission was given and the content was contributed. Topix looked like an aggregator and only grabbed part of my feed, according to a certain search criteria, so it was very clear it was only an aggregator.

However, I know there are other splogs that have no contact info and are probably super-hard to track down. If any of y'all are interested in finding who's been splogging you, do an blogsearch of your url. IR seems to find sploggers much quicker/better than Technorati.

What we do next, though, I have no idea....

This is a great outcome, but doesn't totally solve the problem of splogs that have no contact information.