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October 23, 2003

Yet another angle
Posted by Teresa at 12:27 AM *

This evening I was checking in at Technorati and found I’d been linked to by a weblog I’d never heard of, so I clicked through to have a look. And lo! It turned out to be a new kind of scam. Basically, it’s an ad for porn sites that’s disguised as a weblog.

The site purports to be written by a couple of sex fiends named “W@@D!E & PE&CHEZ” (damned if I’m going to give them a link, and I’m not going to make this mention easy for them to find, either), who love talking about their erotic activities. But mostly, what they do is give links and recommendations to commercial porn sites. Lots and lots of links. Their sidebar is contains of even more explicit links and come-ons for porn emporia.

There are only about half a dozen weblog entries total, and they all read exactly like the letter columns of stroke magazines: falsely casual, falsely confiding, essentially impersonal accounts of improbable sexual encounters. You’d have to be earless, very young, or hopelessly over-motivated to believe they’re real.

Shall I admit that I used to edit naughty books? I did, and very educational it was, too. I can spot hacked-out formulaic porn at fifty yards, even the slickly-written sort; and this is the pure article. In fact, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the text of the entries turned out to have been lifted from old letter columns.

The other thing this supposed weblog has is a titanic blogroll some 3,500 entries long. It’s an utterly indiscriminate list. It links to conservative religious websites, and to weblogs in languages that don’t use the Roman alphabet and haven’t been transliterated, and to random pages on About.com, and to the official website of the California Sociological Association, to name but a few.

It looks like the proprietors harvested the addresses of everything that looked like a weblog and tossed them into their list, not even pausing to weed out the false positives. The links go out, the webloggers learn via Technorati or some comparable site that they’ve been linked to, and they go to have a look.

Isn’t that just too cute for words?

Addendum: Last night, Jaquandor of Byzantium’s Shores posted much the same story at the same time I was, only he was more worried that he might be misjudging the perpetrators.

I say no. That “weblog” is not an attempt to communicate, voice to voice, with other human beings. It’s pure advertisement and deceit.

Comments on Yet another angle:
#1 ::: Jaquandor ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 08:54 AM:

Hey, I literally just got done writing a post about this exact same thing on my blog, here. Is this another opening salvo in comments-spamming or something?

#2 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 08:57 AM:

Almost undoubtedly. See the development of calculus, in mathematics -- communication about these things just happens faster these days.

#3 ::: Feòrag ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 09:12 AM:

Same here, but the good thing about Technorati is the blog authority which, for our sterotypically-named persons, is exactly zero right now (and for our blogs, it's now one higher than it was). As long as no-one actually links to them while complaining, they will never appear to be a well-respected blog. If you must, then a careful choice of words as the link text will make it all too clear...

#4 ::: Edward Liu ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 09:45 AM:

Howdy,

Is there a way to get these on-line pornographers to use their powers for good instead of evil? I'm all for sexually oriented material on-line, but I can find it just fine on my own, thanks. Assaulting me with spam, repeated pop-up ads, deceitful web sites, and cleverly misspelled URLs makes me mad, not turned on.

And, in an effort to get something positive out of this, a question, raised by Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut" (which supposedly got its genesis when he and some other guy were watching a porn movie, and Kubrick turned to the other guy and asked, "Wouldn't it be great if someone made one of these with production values?"):

Is it possible to have intelligent, well-written, well-thought-out porn, in prose or visual form? Or does the nature of the beast tend to shut down other brain functions required for that kind of intelligence or insight? The closest thing I've seen are some of the sex scenes in Neil Gaiman's "American Gods," which got me both interested-in-the-story and hot-under-the-collar simultaneously, but they were only small components of a larger story. Maybe I'm just sheltered.

-- Ed

#5 ::: foo ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 10:27 AM:

Ugh, they've gotten to blogspot. I guess they weren't getting results anymore with their comment spam in Movable Type blogs. I do hope the word gets out quickly, again, and they don't get too many clickbacks. Darn, it's nice to be linked to, but not like that.

#6 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 11:35 AM:

Why would they get clickbacks? The only people who are going to find them are people who (a) use Technorati to see who is linking to their own pages; and (b) check them out. So their effective target audience is people who have blogs and watch them with Technorati.

Jbbql and Crnpurf's blog has a blogroll with 1000 links. If ALL of these bloggers, follow the Technorati pointer to Jbbql and Crnpurf, and the clickthrough rate is something like 0.1% (I'm being generous here), they get ONE CLICKTHROUGH as the result of all that effort.

Frankly, I think their time would be more effectively spent combing city sidewalks for dropped change.

Y'all can be as outraged and indignant as you want. I prefer to laugh at these klutzes.

#7 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 12:33 PM:

Alan, it's noise in the channels.

Edward, I can speak to those questions, but not at short length. Let me think about it.

#8 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 01:14 PM:

Hmm. The more I study the history and techniques of con artistry, and the more I live through the development of the 'net/web, the more convinced I am that most of human commerce tends toward a state of rule by con artistry... though the artistry part is always debatable.

#9 ::: Paul Hoffman ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 01:15 PM:

You are overlooking the search engines. They all try to use some metric of number and value of links in and links out to rank pages. These esteemable people (who is in fact probably just one person) are gaming the system so that their blog goes higher on the search engine pages, and hopefully appears in more search engine results. When they start putting more ads on their highly-rated pages, they get more money. Simple, no?

#10 ::: Feòrag ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 02:55 PM:

It wouldn't work as a means of gaming search engines as it's basically a page of outgoing links. No-one is linking to it, which means that Google isn't going to think it an important site for any search term.

#11 ::: Dave ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 03:42 PM:

I've seen "referrer spamming" happen on my weblog. Some bot will load a few of my pages. In the referer part of the HTTP request is some page of no relation to me and that doesn't actually contain a link to me. The bot hits it a few times in quick succession, enough to show up in the dynamically generated list and then the bot is gone. When I see a new site that I don't recognize, I check to make sure it isn't one of these and if it is I block that host from the referral list.

This is just one more technique of throwing it all against the wall and seeing what sticks. Each of these is a low probability play for driving up traffic, but it is cheap and quick and probably helps with googlesque rankings. It's true, the street does find its own uses for things.

#12 ::: Jaquandor ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 05:19 PM:

I actually wasn't that worried about whether they were legit or not. It's just that, isn't this a bit labor-intensive for what is probably going to reap little reward, if I'm understanding things correctly?

#13 ::: Bacchus ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 05:54 PM:

Very interesting subject to me since I run a sex blog and I've gotten negative feedback a few times from folks I've linked to.

First, to Ed: There's an argument to be made that the blog format IS "using these powers for good" in the adult industry. I've got a bunch of readers who think being able to surf adult material without ever seeing a popup or a deceptive link is just peachy. (Well, almost never; I'm not that perfect and links change behind me sometimes.) The adult industry has polluted the search engine well so thoroughly that search engines are now nearly useless for finding adult material of quality - they lead only to an endless parade of pop-up hells and sterile tours for boring cookie-cutter pay porn sites.

Which is why I think sex blogs are exploding. There were only a handful when I started mine a year ago; now there are hundreds.

This latest entrant is not an example of any new thing. In fact, I see about one new porn fake-blog a week. For all its sterility, this one is one of the better efforts; a lot of the others are nothing but lists of raw referral links with the odd "Hey, check out these hot chicks!" stringing them together. Usually, instead of stealing a random list like these folks, they just cut-n-paste my blogroll. (I wish I was making that up.)

The only thing that's new here is the huge list of links to non-sex blogs. And that, I'm guessing along with the rest of you, is an experiment that's doomed to fail.

Finally, speaking as someone who reads dozens of sex blogs every day (hey, it's a tough job etc.) I concur with Theresa. The actual "blog entries" are utterly fake. A lot of sex blog entries are imaginative works to be sure, but honest sexual dreaming, even when presented as fact, reads very differently from the packaged commercial fantasy material. And there's none of that honest voice at the site in question. It just screams of plastic fakery.

#14 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 06:59 PM:

Edward,

Terry Southern's Blue Movie was written with Kubrick in mind--Southern and Kubrick were friends, but Kubrick never got around to shooting it, which is a pity.

It's a very funny book, and it would've been a great dirty movie.

#15 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2003, 04:09 PM:

Jaquandor, it wasn't all that labor-intensive:

1. Use a standard weblog template.

2. Lift some old material from the lettercolumn of a naughty magazine. Slightly rewrite the letters so they're all by and about the same characters. Use them as your weblog "posts".

3. Harvest a bazillion weblog URLs and automatically reformat them into a blogroll. (This would explain the non-transliterated titles; also the weblog titles where they accidentally incorporated contiguous bits of ASCII art.)

4. Voila! Your Trojan-Horse weblog is now ready. Insert a bunch of links and ads, and put it out on the web.

And why would someone be harvesting bazillions of weblog URLs? Most likely in order to spam them. Perhaps someone in the online porn industry has compiled such a list and is selling it.

Interesting, Bacchus. I hadn't known there were that many sex blogs out there -- I mostly know yours -- but it's a logical development. So are the fake ones. The weblog under discussion has reconfigured its blogroll, so perhaps they've figured out how to steal yours.

We're in agreement on the voice there. It's amazing how much difference there is between real human sex stories, real human sexual fantasies, and the horrible plastic voice of hack pornography. The existence of that writing style -- and the huge amount of commercial porn written in that style that's gotten into print -- speaks volumes about the appalling conditions under which porn has gotten published, and the strength of public demand for even a hacked-out version of it.

It's remarkable how many published writers have a manuscript tucked away that they've never even tried to get published. What's the point? You'll be poorly treated, worse paid, scarcely copyedited or proofread, unreliably accounted, and shelved in bad company.

It's also remarkable how much a writer's first (or at most second) porn novels differ from all the subsequent ones. The first one or two are for real, and hot. The later ones are distasteful fakery. Colette's description applies: "First you do it for fun, then you do it for a few friends, then you do it for money."

There are a few writers who can keep writing decent erotica. Pat Califia comes to mind. But most of the decent material that's ever been published was written by amateurs.

#16 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2003, 04:27 PM:

T, do you feel this applies to the Circlet Press authors? I've mostly found Cecilia Tan continues to actually _care_ about the characters, and tries to make sure when she's editing that her authors do as well. Much of it's not to my taste, but there's usually been that touch of authenticity that makes the difference. Which was not true with (e.g.) the later material by several authors (David Meltzer springs to mind) on the Essex House list (and even the last Farmer feels a lot more formulaic than the earlier ones).

Another point here -- often, the first book I read _by a specific author_ seems to be more authentic, no matter where in their porn career it is. How much of this is hitting the limit of the integration of (personal voice) and (limited subject)?

As on another thread, I approach serious geekiness by asking the question. I seem to find real LitCrit fun, especially when walking with folks as _au courant_ as those here....

Cheers,
Tom

#17 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2003, 04:49 PM:

I'm getting a little tired of the influence/ripping off of Anais Nin. She was trying to be twee. She said so. She did a fine job. People who aren't wearing private school uniforms and sucking their fingers or ripping the buttons off of riding master outfits must be having sex, or the world would be less crowded. Before civilization ends, maybe someone will write about them.

My hopes are not high.

#18 ::: Bacchus ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2003, 05:51 PM:

Theresa, I may have been stretching the point when I said "hundreds" of sex blogs. There are perhaps a half a dozen vigorous ones with more or less daily updates, frequent links to other sites, etc. Then another couple dozen with regular updates on a slower schedule - many of which are introspective or narrative and not much interested in linkage. You get above a hundred by including sites updated less often, or sites with fetish (especially BDSM) themes that are imbued with sexual power, but where sex per se may not be much discussed. And (based on the fact that I discover new-to-me sex blogs about every other day) I'm assuming there's still a host of them out there I haven't found. Huge numbers of them are semi-private, meaning shared among a small group and not much linked to.

#19 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2003, 06:15 PM:

Here's what I think they're up to: a certain number of blogs, mine included, have some links that are automatically generated as reciprocal links (exaple: the referrer thing I use). So, indeed, it is another spam tactic.

#20 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2003, 08:27 PM:

Hmm...an interesting question. Do we know which Donald E. Westlake, Lawrence Block, or Robert Silverberg sleaze novels were their first? Edward D. wood might be an exception, but then the man had a passion for angora...

#21 ::: Rachel Heslin ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2003, 08:47 PM:

I was trying to find a specific site that I knew had mentioned both me and and friend of mine, and in the list of Google returns I found one that, sho'nuff, showed both our names as keywords -- and was a link to a porn site. That was unexpected.

#22 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2003, 02:51 AM:

Almost undoubtedly not, Robert -- and if you know Block and Westlake's pseudonyms, I'd love to hear them offline. We do know Ellison's only book published as porn (S. G. by P. M.; it's referenced in Currey's bibliography IIRC, but I'd rather not list it out in public), and can probably figure out Andy Offutt's first, Barry Malzberg is probably determinable, and I can't remember whether IMAGE OF THE BEAST or LOVE SONG was PJFarmer's first.... What I'm trying to say is that we actually have quite a few out there we could test on.

Cheers,
Tom

#23 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2003, 01:48 AM:

Porn and Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror? Ummm, I stuck some comments about that 6 years ago in my big SF Movies page, specifically in "X-Rated Sci-Fi/Fantasy Videos" at:

http://www.magicdragon.com/UltimateSF/movies.html#Film-X

Is that in any way related to the fact that I've been expanding my online Ultimate Romance Fiction Web Guide? Romance overlaps SF/F/H so much that there was an event recently (in kansas City, I think) jointly sponsored by SFWA and RWA.

Market-driven, but many writers are quite sincere...

#24 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2003, 03:30 AM:

Tom--sent you an email but it got bounced back. Is your right email minus the "spam"?

#25 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2003, 12:02 PM:

Actually, minus both sets of caps, to make it slightly more complex for bots that watch for NOSPAM (not that I know they're out there, just believing in making the playing field more complex for nonsentient entities).

#26 ::: Julia Jones finds comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 03:59 PM:

persistent little spammer...

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