Archive for 2009

Comment Quandaries

Tuesday, December 22nd, ©2009 Marcus Brooks

Almost the moment I started this blog, I started getting comment spam. WordPress has a pretty good comment spam filter, and I’ve got it set to hold all comments until I moderate them, so that hasn’t been much of a problem. It’s easy enough to vet comments that are obviously computer generated, especially the many pages of random text mixed with mindless pharmaceutical links. I recall UT’s mainframe had more convincing text generators on its GAMES tape, decades before all the script kiddies were born.

Lately I’ve noticed more comments that resemble human language. Vetting these requires a little more thought. Some are just broad compliments, praising a post’s writing style or content in general terms. I assume most of these are scatter-gun link bait, churned out by insincere net monkeys in a sort of virtual SEO sweatshop. But even insincere praise is nice, so it takes self control to delete them, especially when that’s all the praise I’m getting.

Now and then a comment seems to be sincere and on-topic, but I click the poster’s URL anyway, just in case. So far, most of these almost-passable comments link back to porn or pyramid schemes. Another comment passed the spam filter, had no URL or links, was short, clear, apparently human-generated, and might be considered complimentary, or at worst neutral; but it was so mind-bogglingly wrong that I couldn’t bear to approve it.

Finally, I’ve received and rejected a couple of comments from a lady (apparently) who I won’t name here, although she always includes her full name, address, and phone number in her comments. I think this lady doesn’t quite understand the Internet. A Google search turns up a dozen or so websites where this lady has posted mildly lunatic comments, often not far off topic, but always “off.” Sometimes she posts similar comments over and over. Most of her comments make more or less impossible requests, seemingly to the web at large, asking us to send her TV show tapes, help her with her VCR, change her address, etc. She especially wants to take numerous diet foods and other ingredients out of the aspartame (sic). She usually asks to be called on the phone. She asked one person (by name, broadcast) to give her her cell and pager numbers, promising not to¬† harass and bug her, so she wouldn’t have to press charges against her (again?). (Forgive my pronoun muddle. Call it illustration.) In another post she tags on a request to please not call the police on her, never ever.

The lady’s comment on my Wheelchair: Wheels post essentially said her wheelchair had four big wheels and asked me to call her. A second comment asked me to “publish this stuff” and mail it to her. I’m certainly not going to call her, and I doubt I’ll send her printouts (if that’s what she means). This attitude seems harsh, even to me, but I’ve got to ask: how can I help this lady? Certainly she doesn’t need details about my DIY projects. I’m not entirely convinced that I can pull them off safely myself, and it’s possible I’m more lucid than she is. I rather dread trying to explain that over the phone.

I’m also not going to approve her comments for public display on my blog. My reasons are many, and probably not all valid, but I’ll leave it that her comments here were personal requests, and not entirely relevant to the topic. (Not that many people would see them here anyway.)

What this lady really needs is local attention, not public display or phone calls and mail from thousands of miles away. And I have some hope she’s got it. Certainly someone has set her up with a computer, and kept it running for a while at least. It’s nice that she’s got the gumption to speak up in public. I just wonder if she understands how public some of her comments really are.