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October 22, 2003

Keen are the eyes of the Elves. From what I can read through the layers of hype, Internet Seer is a service that offers to “monitor” your web site at regular intervals to make sure it’s still there. Presumably someone is willing to pay money for this, and if so, I’d like to know who they are so I can alert them to several other exciting business opportunities, beginning with “Look, your shoelace is untied.”

Anyway, so all-seeing is the sightly sightfulness of Internet Seer that in the wake of our recent downtime, dozens and for all I know hundreds of people who have left comments on Electrolite and Making Light are now getting baffling email from the Seer informing them that “their” site—here follows the URL of one or another of our individual-post pages—was recently unreachable.

In other words, Internet Seer, a business that wants site owners to pay it dozens and for all I know hundreds of dollars in order to perform services that could be accomplished with an MS-DOS batch file, to say nothing of a few lines of Perl, can’t tell the difference between the email address of a site’s owner and the email addresses of people who happened to post comments on the site.

We’re sorry about this. If Internet Seer’s FAQ is on the level, what we’ve just done with our .htaccess file should prevent this happening again. Meanwhile: sheesh. [11:48 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Keen are the eyes of the Elves.:

Maureen Kincaid Speller ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 12:58 AM:

In which case you will be less than amazed to learn that Interseer has indeed also come to me, desperately concerned about the state of nielsenhayden.com. Good to know that they 'care' so much.

mattH ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 01:11 AM:

I got one related to www.matthewyglesias.com and just assumed that they confused the name. It was a good laugh at the time, but a bit disappointing to now find out it was a blanket spam. Oh well.

Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 01:14 AM:

I was also contacted about nielsenhayden.com.

After the first shock, I found it amusing. Almost as funny as the next spam in my mailbox, which began by informing me that "1. Employers prefers people with college degree."

Since my experience is that employers also prefer people with a sense of noun/verb agreement, I passed on that one as well.

"If we couldn't laugh we would all go insane."

I ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 05:43 AM:

Dear NielsenHayden.com

As you can no doubt be fully aware, Employers in the U.s prefers people with college degree. I have college degree of astounding veracity, that is right, I am contacting you NielsenHayden.com because I, the former the pronoun of President Grignr are am fallen on desperate traits, and need your cash with the utmost speed.

In return for your speedy cash, I will transfer valuable college degree of me to you.

Please contract me in normal business hours.

bryan ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 05:45 AM:

My understanding is that Internet Seer completely ignores a sites robots.txt, and tries their darndest to sneak in as a normal browser.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 09:24 AM:

Well, their FAQ does say their user agent is named InternetSeer.com, and suggests blocking access by whatever means you normally use. We added the appropriate lines to .htaccess; I'll be curious to see if it works.

eric ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 10:29 AM:

I host a few legacy domains that are all but ignored by the world, except for internet seer. At one point when I checked, their crawler accounted for 80% of the hits to the site.

Of course, they're blocked now.

Kristjan Wager ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 11:06 AM:

It's nice to know that mails from InternetSeer is spam, and not just misdirected mail. Now I'll report the mail I got about Wampum to the anti-spam services.

Jim Meadows ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 11:11 AM:

Yeah, I got one of the spams, too. It didn't take long to figure out it was some sort of spam. I thought at first it had reacted to one of my web-address typos, until I noticed that you really don't have a "www" on your address.

CE Petit ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 12:06 PM:

Unfortunately, the .htaccess trick—which does keep InternetSeer from seeing what is on the site—does nothing to keep it from repeatedly pinging the site in an attempt to get it. Apparently, its software is not smart enough to understand a 403 error.

As you can imagine, this plays hell with site statistics. I am also a HostingMatters user, so I know exactly what you're going to see at the end of the month…

Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 12:38 PM:

Interesting. I think this was the outfit that bugged me about offthekuff.com the other day; I just forwarded the mail to Chuck Kuffner and then deleted it. I'm not sharp enough to inform the spam filter services about it, nor my ISP. And I don't have the message anymore. Oh well.

Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 01:33 PM:

David, reading his email yesterday, said, "I've got a message saying that there are 73 women waiting for me."

I replied, "Yes, and they're all holding novel manuscripts."

julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 01:47 PM:

do you think an evil hacker untied my shoelace?

Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 03:08 PM:

If Internet Seer can do this, so can any other spammer.

Be very afraid.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 04:54 PM:

Be very afraid of what? Spammers finding out my email address? Sorry, but it’s a little late — that one just doesn’t make me shiver these days.

Anyway, most of the spam I get these days — this stuff aside — is from programs blindly hitting the mail server with every common English proper name and every reasonable-sounding combination of letters they can come up with. Trying to protect my email address hardly seems worth the trouble, any more.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 04:55 PM:

Oh, and: Patrick, Teresa — There’s no need for you to apologize for this. Not your fault. Don’t worry about it.

Simon ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 07:49 PM:

What's particularly annoying is that the spam came addressed not from the company, but with a person's name on it. No way to tell that it wasn't a private reply from some reader to a post here.

I reported it as spam using Yahoo's great new "Spam" button.

spacewaitress ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2003, 07:41 PM:

Some of my readers got this one, too.

Oddly enough, the actual owner of the blog (i.e., me), didn't receive it.

Mr Ripley ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 11:49 AM:

Upon receiving the Internet Seer email, I boasted to several friends, "Hey, I was mistaken for Patrick Nielsen Hayden!" Heck, when a creative writing prof later that same week said, "Look at this sf story my best student submitted --it's almost too good: I fear it might be plagiarized. Do you recognize it?" I replied, mindful of my very limited knowledge of sf stories, "You're asking the wrong guy --but you're not the first person to have mistaken me for Patrick Nielsen Hayden."

(It turned out that the brilliant story was indeed the student's own work, if you wanna know).