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December 1, 2006

I am not content; I am a human being
Posted by Teresa at 07:19 PM *

I have now made the acquaintance of two new internet-based “content management industries”—one that’s less alarming than I initially thought, and one that’s downright sleazy.

This started when Yog and Sofi told me that an outfit called Paid Posting Tools had been trolling for writers over at Absolute Write:

PaidPostingTools - Get Paid To Post On Forums

If you have a strong grasp of grammar and are capable of posting to online forums or blogs in a wide variety of subject matters, then www.paidpostingtools.com is looking for you! Our lineup of available opportunities is exploding and we need many more writers.

Freelance writers are needed to post to forums, blog, place comments on blogs and write custom articles.

Payment is weekly via PayPal.

Current payment structure:
==========================
Forum posting: starting at 15 cents per post
Blog commenting: starting at 20 cents per comment
Blog posting: starting at 2.00 per 300 word post
Article writing: starting at 2.00 per 300 word article.

Many jobs pay more. We are growing at a rapid clip and hope to attract talented writers.

For more information visit www.paidpostingtools.com/writers.asp and apply as a writer.

Current subject matters include:
Internet Marketing
Electronic Music
CSS and Web Design
Webmastering
Poker
Gambling
All Wheel Drive Vehicles
Video Games
Soccer
Electronics
Gadgets
Online Education
Personal Finance
Mixed Martial Arts
Salsa Dancing
Print Graphics
Job Seekers
Automotive Enthusiasts
Gardening

and more - currently over 200 opportunities!

Alternatively you may email support@paidpostingtools.com for more information.

At first I assumed that they were being recruited to post unblockable comment spam, and hated them. Then I took a closer look, and realized they were in a different line of business altogether:
Solutions for your forums posting business.

Thriving online communities require active participants. Forum owners and administrators seek to build post counts by attracting members to become active in their forums. Your business seeks to fill the void of empty forums by providing top-notch writers who fulfill the orders your company recieves.

My current understanding is that there are all these web entrepreneurs out there who run online discussion forums because a forum is the only kind of website that will, on its own, generate a constant supply of fresh content. That’s their ideal: a website that’ll pull in a constant supply of saleable traffic without any work on their part.

The big problem is getting the forums going in the first place. Nobody wants to post to an empty site. Thus Paid Posting Tool’s troop of writers: they post to your forum, making it look attractively populated. Think of them as duck decoys, or as one of those porcelain eggs you put underneath chickens to get them to start laying. Once there are enough real members to keep the place going on its own, the PPT personnel can be withdrawn.

Seem strange? They’re not the only company doing it. There’s also ForumShock, ForumBulge, ForumBooster, The Mad Poster, The Forum Fairy, Forum-Angels, Forum Elevation, 100posts Forum Posting, PostOnMyForum.com, and goodness knows how many individual freelancers. You can find online discussions where forum proprietors recommend this or that service to each other, and sites for work-at-home schemes where they discuss the profitability of writing posts for hire.

Here’s an entire forum for people who are selling or soliciting paid forum posting services, with predictable gaps between rates sought and offered. And here’s a company that runs a post exchange system, whatever that is.

What a bizarre universe I’ve stumbled upon.

While I was researching this, I also found evidence of a more disturbing line of business. Like me, you may have heard about PayPerPost this past summer, and fervently hoped it would die of its own stupidity and cynicism. Here’s the idea:

Advertiser Overview

PayPerPost™ is a marketplace that allows you to promote your Web site, product, service or company through the PayPerPost™ network of thousands of independent bloggers. Advertise on blogs to create buzz, build traffic, get product feedback, gain links, syndicate content and much more. You provide the topic to our blog advertising network and our bloggers create stories, videos, audio or photos and post them in their individual blogs.

Bloggers Overview

Get Paid for Blogging. You’ve been writing about Web sites, products, services and companies you love for years and you have yet to benefit from all the sales and traffic you have helped generate. That’s about to change. With PayPerPost advertisers are willing to pay you for your opinion on various topics. Search through a list of opportunities, make a blog posting, get your content approved, and get paid. It’s that simple.

Publisher Overview

PayPerPost™ is a marketplace that allows you to promote your site and get exposure for your sites content through the PayPerPost™ network of thousands of independent bloggers. Advertise on blogs to syndicate content, create buzz, build traffic, get content feedback, gain links, and much more. You provide the main story to our blog advertising network and they create responses and post them on their individual blogs, linking back to your site for the original content.

There are three problems with this. First, affiliated bloggers aren’t required to disclose their relationship with PPP and its advertisers, and they’re silently paid off via PayPal. Ted Murphy, creator of PPP, has not come up with a new idea. This is plain old-fashioned Payola: a corrupt, dishonest practice and a violation of the reader’s trust.

Following a slew of online denunciations, PayPerPost came up with a breathtakingly cynical response: DisclosurePolicy.org, which automates the process of generating a disclosure policy for your weblog, which you then register with them. However, the degree of disclosure is left entirely up to the weblogger—which means it changes exactly nothing.

(These denunciations were followed by some internettishly predictable responses: Don’t worry, the invisible hand of the marketplace will take care of it; PayPerPost are lusers who run their operation on a Macintosh; Just because I’m standing out on the streetcorner in black fishnets and a miniskirt, offering to have sex with strangers for money, doesn’t mean you can call me a whore; I say yay rah for PayPerPal, the People’s Medium, because the blogs that oppose it get lots more hits than I do; and Hello out there, I’m ready to be bought! … Hello? … Is anybody listening? Also one sensible-sounding response: PayPerPost isn’t evil, it’s a failure. It’s nice to know the standard distribution is still standard.)

The second problem is that PayPerPost just got handed three million dollars in startup capitalization. I sincerely hope the investors lose their shirts.

The third problem is that copycat startups are popping up, hoping to cash in on the same set of dishonest transactions: Blogsvertise, inBLOGads.com, BlogToProfit, Blogging Ads, et cetera.

Bah.

I suppose this means that for a while, at least, we’re going to be seeing gormless weblogs fill up with awkward, unconvincing testimonials to unlikely products. It’s dishonest, but it’s not the end of the world—as long as they keep it in their own blogs. The minute they start getting paid to post that crap in my comment threads, I’m going on the warpath.

Comments on I am not content; I am a human being:
#1 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 08:34 PM:

"I know who I am...and I know who you are...But where did all you zombies come from?"

#2 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 08:57 PM:

Of course, even if they weren't being paid to comment here directly about some widget they'd been paid to advertise, it'd still be to their advantage to comment and comment and comment in as many places as possible, for the Googlejuice. (Okay, less googlejuice now that most places use rel="nofollow")

Even without the googlejuice, I've found that a comment on making light is about half as good as a moderately well-rated comment on slashdot (3 or more) for generating clicks to my web page. (My all-static infrequently updated page gets so little non-search engine traffic that I can look at three extra visitors in one week as a spike) I used to have a page about how my name was so common that you couldn't find me by searching on my name until the third page of hits or so. Blog comments have changed that.

This creates a bias to comment, even if there's no direct per-comment payoff, and the author has little to say.

(And on "nofollow" - despite the name, I've noticed that Google does seem to follow those links, even if such a link doesn't improve the site's rankings. I don't know if this means that a bunch of nofollow links could cause Google to crawl a site more frequently, and therefore provide some benefit, if not the Googlejuice of yore)

#3 ::: Max Kaehn ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 08:58 PM:

It creates more incentive to develop technologies of trust networks. I suspect that sometime in the next two to five years, a big hullabaloo in the blogosphere will be about which groups have mutual webs of trust.

#4 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 09:15 PM:

I'm still waiting for my weekly Paypal payment, Teresa.

Frankly, this is too bizarre.

#5 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 09:33 PM:

Don't worry about PayPerPost, the free marketplace of ideas will solve this just the way that the email spam problem is now completely solved. What? Oh.

Seriously, given the "internettish predictable" responses you report, we can expect that a consensus will develop that "This Is Bad" around the time the medium has been almost completely destroyed. There was a time that investors were actively funding High-Interaction Email Marketing firms just the same way, some of whom were indeed out-and-out spammers.

So, just to get on the record before then: This Is Very Very Bad.

Expect it to get increasingly hard to operate even an unpopular blog, let alone a popular one.

#6 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 09:36 PM:

I originally read this as "I am not content [adj.]; I am a human being." I thought it might be a variant of "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention."

#7 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 09:46 PM:

It's hilarious that they have a forum to discuss their issues.

I'm reminded of the village that survived by taking in each other's laundry.

#8 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 09:48 PM:

Serge, I couldn't possibly pay you what you're worth.

#9 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 09:49 PM:

Jen, I was hoping for that effect.

#10 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 09:51 PM:

#3 ::: Max Kaehn wrote:
It creates more incentive to develop technologies of trust networks. I suspect that sometime in the next two to five years, a big hullabaloo in the blogosphere will be about which groups have mutual webs of trust.

Uh, don't look now Max, but this sort of thing's been underway for quite some time now...

#11 ::: PixelFish ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 10:06 PM:

Is it oddly synchronous that I'm right in the midst of reading "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" right now?

I wonder if the prevalence of PPP and its successors would start inhibiting other bloggers from sharing their recommendations, worried that by doing so, their readers might take them for shills. I'm as likely right now to rave about a product I really like as rant over one I hate. For example...floss. Who raves over floss? Me. But I can see somebody else going, "This woman can not possibly have an obsession with Brand X floss, she must be getting paid to blog about this product." And voila....readers slip away, troubled by the perceived taint of commercialism, when all that happened was I found this brand of floss/cerea/jeans/book/video game/restaurant/soap/etc that I really really liked and I thought I would write about it.


#12 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 10:07 PM:

It won't be long before some folks, if they haven't already, begin taking pay from more than one payor for the same posts. What you'll have to watch for are the cleverly worded posts that manage to mention more than one product in the same spiel.

#13 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 10:36 PM:

Wow, it's like paid mourners, but in reverse. Maybe it's more like paying people to clap Tinkerbell back to life.

#14 ::: MWT ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 10:40 PM:

Hmmm.... so.. "we'll pay you to post on our forum" is good ...

while "we'll pay you to post positive opinions about stuff on your blog" is bad (if you're lying)(because if your true opinion is that the stuff sucks, it probably won't get approved :p) ...

and "we'll pay you to post stuff on other people's forums/blogs" is very bad.

?

#15 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 11:00 PM:

I've missed my calling; here I've been posting for free (and often paying for the privilege) since 1979 and I could have been making money hand over fist. And all I'd have to do is sell my soul, one word at a time! That would sure solve my health care vs. groceries dilemma.

#16 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 11:01 PM:

Say, this post reminds me of a great new toothpaste I've discovered!...

#17 ::: RichM ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 11:13 PM:

Maybe if It's a Wonderful Life were set in the present era, one of the proto-angels like Clarence would get his or her wings every time a forum's hit counter ticks over.

#18 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 11:14 PM:

Serge, I couldn't possibly pay you what you're worth.

Now, what did Teresa mean by that?

#19 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 11:26 PM:

This looks to me like the 21st century equivalent of that ancient institution, the claque.

I am more concerned, however, at the ways in which people are being dehumanised and human activity is being turned into something frankly inhuman (this posting is not simply *content*, in the sense, of course, of being contained on this blog, it is also an expression of my thought and thus of my humanity. Of course, having been brought up intellectually in a good, old-fashioned Marxist way I tend to see this as another outcome of capitalism. But that's just me.

#20 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 11:26 PM:

It WAS cleverly ambiguous, wasn't it? But I strongly suspect she actually meant it as a compliment.

#21 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 11:44 PM:

You think so, Xopher? I'm still waiting for the qwatloos to come pouring into my paypal account.

Meanwhile, if someone wishes his/her book to be mentionned frequently on this site, and thus result in many google hits, my rates are quite reasonable. I must warn potential customers that I charge extra not to mention dinosaurs and sodomy within the same post.

#22 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 11:59 PM:

Bah! Foiled by you meddling kids!

(On the internet, no one knows your a shill.)

#23 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 01:00 AM:

MWT: so.. "we'll pay you to post on our forum" is good ...

What an interesting misreading. I think the overall impression I got is "less bad". And, the exact word was "Bizarre".

Neither of which translate to good.

_______________

Nobody could get me on this gig; I can't even get my voluntary reviews for Green Man (of stuff I genuinely like) in on time (I try, then novels suck up my writing time), and the bits I leave in my journal are so uselessly random "Squeee!" as to not count. At least, if I'm paid to write, I'd like to try for a minimum level of quality.

#24 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 01:11 AM:

Earl, a quick look suggests that getting fifteen cents for each posting I've made, during twenty years on the Net, probably wouldn't add up to a thousand papooses.

If I am to sell out, I want a higher price!

#25 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 02:11 AM:

I wonder if Usenet counts as a "forum".

But they're talking about paying in USD, and the exchange rate is tanking. Besides, how many posts per hour does it need to make minimum wage?

The only way to make a decent return on this is to use comment-spam methods. Which is going to backfire badly for a site trying to build a self-sustaining community.

(How long did that take me to write? For 15 cents? It just isn't worth the effort.)

#26 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 02:23 AM:

MWT:

Let's try the ethical questions with houses and spray paint, shall we?

"I'll pay you to paint graffiti of your choice on my house." Could be good, could be not so good depending on artist and house, but it is surely up to the owner of said house. Utterly reasonable as a transaction.

"I'll pay you to paint graffiti of my product on your house." It's an ad, a billboard. There could be ethical problems if it's being implicitly claimed to be fine art and not an ad.

"I'll pay you to paint graffiti for me on other people's property." That's hiring out vandalism.

#27 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 03:11 AM:

MWT (14), I try to be mindful of the general public good; but when you come right down to it, Making Light is what I care about most. Hiring people to post on one's forum is bizarre enough to be interesting, but at the same time it's so alien to what we do here that I find it hard to get upset about it.

The idea of secretly taking money to post positive opinions about some advertiser's product shocks me, because it's a violation of the writer/reader social contract. I'm so averse to sounding like I'm trying to sell something that I have trouble writing about the books I edit. That's why Patrick wound up writing about Spin.

Having people post commercial fake messages into my comment threads makes me furious because it runs counter to everything I value about blogging, and I already have to constantly be on guard against it. I can never just ignore it. If I were to let it proliferate, it would ruin the conversations here. I'd hate that.

Clearer now?

#28 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 03:32 AM:

MWT #14: I think what you're missing here is that the first one has an implied time constraint. Think of it as jump-starting a car; once the car is running, you don't need the jumper cables any more.

As to "who wants to post to an empty forum?", I can verify that reaction personally, from both sides. I tried to start a Yahoo group for a niche market, and found that even the people who were willing to join it didn't post to it, with the result that no one else wanted to join. And just the other day I was checking out a forum I'd seen advertised, found that it (1) was very new and (2) contained only half-a-dozen posts from the forum owner, and decided that I didn't want to get involved with that.

#29 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 05:13 AM:

Hmmm, Mr. Google tells me that I posted about 1.22 messages per day for the decade that I was active on Usenet. I know I did more than that on GEnie and while I sysoped the SMOF-BBS. Probably did less than that when I first joined CompuServe. It's hard to ballpark my total online activity over 27 years time, so there's no telling how much income I've lost by not insisting on pay to post. Ah, well.

#30 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 05:23 AM:

A thousand papooses, Bill? Don't you mean wampums? What is the rate for those? I remember once walking by the Asimov's booth and Gardner Dozois was hawking his mag with such vigor that he would accept subscriptions paid in wampums.

#31 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 05:58 AM:

If they'd only asked nicely, there are a couple of members I would have given them...

#32 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 06:58 AM:

Given that Paypal keeps sending me messages about closing an account I don't have and selling things on EBay where I likewise have no account, I will NEVER get rich posting places.

Guess I will have to do it the old fashioned way. Now where did you say those ditches are, T?

Jane

#33 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 07:54 AM:

With PayPerPost advertisers are willing to pay you for your opinion on various topics.

I wish that were true.

"My opinion on Joe Schmoe's Toothpaste: It tastes like toothpaste last I checked, no better, no worse, but I think you should buy from the other guy. They don't sink to paying stealth yes-men on the internet."

#34 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 08:59 AM:

None of the regulars here could make a profit writing for these companies. Correct punctuation, spelling, and grammar--which are nearly hardwired in most folks here--take too much time, even if you ignore the time it takes to compose something intelligent about the topic.

Also, most people here write more than one sentence per post.

Hasn't something like this already crashed and burned as a marketing tool, when some company tried paying kids to rave about their musical groups and start hype that was supposed to draw people to concerts that were staged promotional events? People really, really don't like learning they've been played.

#35 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 09:02 AM:

Correct punctuation, spelling, and grammar--which are nearly hardwired in most folks here

Indeed, Aconite, and we don't use apostrophe's where their not needed.

#36 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 09:24 AM:

Serge, Aconite should have remarked that what we call in this far southern land "taking the piss" is hardwired into most posters here. Indeed, you have provided an excellent example of the art. What do they call it down your way?

#37 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 09:46 AM:

Let me get this straight. There are people prepared to pay me to pimp their product on your site.

Leaving aside that I'm not going to prostitute myself to my friends for 15c a time, not with the way the dollar is going right now.

Leaving aside that the chance of me having anything positive to say about any product likely to come my way by said process rapidly approaches zero.

Leaving aside the fact that I see no reason why anyone should involve me in losing their money for them (however pleasurable the prospect)

Leaving aside the fact that these people are debasing one of the true 'good things' of the last couple of decades, which puts them on the same evolutionary rung as spammers and virus writers (cue excerpt from Bohemian Rhapsody)

Sorry, nothing left to leave aside. Why? I ask again. Why?

#38 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 09:46 AM:

Taking the piss, Dave? I don't know what the equivalent is here in New Mexico. When I was living in the Bay Area (*), I was part of the 'Postrophe Posse, an informal group of San Francisco Chronicle readers who frequently sent items to the late columnist Herb Caen describing our encounters with the misuses of apostrophe in stores and such.

------

(*) Well, not exactly in it.

#39 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 10:23 AM:

There was a cartoon once in Punch of two men in suits looking out of a window in a high rise building at the tiny scurrying figures far below and one of them says "But of course, they're not ants: they're consumers."

That's the philosophy behind "of course you've always promoted products on the net but never got the benefit of it". "I may be human, but you are a consumer".

As usual when I'm trying to get my head around something, my brain conveniently gives me a character it makes sense for -- I think this is a bit like Suzette Haden Elgin's theory that everything is true of something, you just have to find out what it's true of.

So this is a sad story of a poor but virtuous girl who loves gardening. She loves it madly, although she doesn't have any money for it, and so she sells her enthusiasm on gardening forums for 15 cents a post and spends the money on things for her beloved garden. Then at last her enthusiasm has all been slowly dribbled away and she looks out of her window at her beautiful garden and doesn't give a damn.

#40 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 10:39 AM:

Jo, write the story. You can, and I can't, which is alone reason enough. But in your hands, it would become more of a rebuttal of the whole idea than blog thread, even one on Making Light.

#41 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 10:57 AM:

Dave's right, Jo.

#42 ::: Nabil ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 11:22 AM:

I come at this from a slightly different perspective: the forum posting industry is just as offensive (if not moreso) than blogger shills. While it's easy enough to pitch as "we'll get your forums started", the reality is that more often than not, they're hired by companies to go into general forums to shill their product by building (and manipulating) user trust. Within gaming circles, this has been a point of outrage for many months, since several groups were "outed". In particular within the gaming industry, where our media is already so compromised by corporate influence that our only remaining source of even moderately unbiased opinion is forums, this behavior is patently unacceptable.

This, to me, is more outrageous and offensive than putting up on your own blog things you don't really believe. What you do with your web space is your business, and while I'm not in favor of that particular practice, it's your choice. It's not going to generate user confidence if you're constantly shilling products, however, especially if they prove to be unacceptable time and again. The process is inevitably doomed to failure.

Though really, I'd rather see both practices simply go away. It's nice to dream...

#43 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 11:25 AM:

When I lived in the south, I absorbed a few colorful phrases. One was, "he's so ugly his mom had to tie a porkchop around his neck to get the dog to play with him." There's some application here.

#44 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 11:25 AM:

I now realise that I've just promoted 3 films* and a book on my blog, and I didn't even need 300 words to do so. Admittedly, there are only 6 regular readers, and the only one of those who's likely to be influenced, I'd be dragging along to the cinema anyway.

Still, with that post and 95 cents I could have got a cup of coffee at current exchange rates.

* and two of them are bad films.

#45 ::: odaiwai (formerly dave) ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 11:49 AM:

Indeed, Aconite, and we don't use apostrophe's where their not needed.

I think you mean "apo'strophe's", the good old rampant Greengrocer's Apo'strophe.

That part of "Going Postal" still makes me twitch.

#46 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 12:12 PM:

In Dutch, words that end in certain letters (vowels, mostly) form their plurals with 's. For instance the plural of colleague (collega) is collega's.

We learned this in a chapter that takes place at a greengrocer's (in een groentewinkel). I don't know whether it was a coincidence. (The textbook we used is not directed at students who speak any particular language - it's entirely in Dutch).

Something deep within me screams when I see "paprika's".

#47 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 12:22 PM:

This really strikes at the best part of open comment threads, newsgroups, etc. You don't have to start out as a part of the community to be allowed into the discussion, and you don't even have to share your name. You can wander in off the street (off the net, anyway) and become part of a conversation.

Spam has killed that for e-mail already. It's now common to just not be able to find an e-mail address for someone you have a good reason to contact. People have become really careful about handing around copies of their e-mail addresses, and everyone filters their inbox, and they still get loads of spam. This has destroyed at least half the value of e-mail. I hope the same thing doesn't happen for blog comments and newsgroups and such, but I think it may.

#48 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 12:39 PM:

Yeah; it's Spam:The Next Generation, with attempted trust metrics up the wazoo, and social engineering hacks to boot.

But at $2 per 300 words, they're not going to qualify for SFWA dues any time soon.

Is there some way we can set up a blacklist service for known payola-posters? To poison the well, as it were? (Sort of the opposite of a distributed login service ...)

#49 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 12:56 PM:

The worst misapostrophing I've ever see was in the business section of the San Francisco Chronicle. There's nothing like a headline that intends to use the possessive "their" and winds up instead with "they're". Spellcheckers are the Devil's instruments. (But sometimes they reveal the Truth, like when I wrote a resignation letter and the spellchecker, coming across my boss's name, suggested alternatives "valuator" and "violator".)

#50 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 01:30 PM:

Abi (#46), if I remember my Dutch, the plurals with 's are of words borrowed from other languages, mostly English. Regular Dutch words don't end in vowels and form a plural with -en, e.g. vrouw (woman) => vrouwen. But if you've taken "colleague" and made it into "collega", the plural "collegen" doesn't work, and "collegas" wouldn't sound right, so the apostrophe in collega's is a little stop, as in some Arabic words written in Western letters, such as Qur'an.

#51 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 03:21 PM:

Y'all go easy on Aconite's apostrophes. She's one of the white hats.

Nabil, can you tell us more about these abuses? As I said in my original post, my first thought was that these paid posters were a spam delivery system. I'm pretty sure now that they aren't, if only because the tiny amount they make per post is still more than spammers want to pay. However, they're well within the budget of astroturf campaigns.

(We need a new word. "Astroturf" should be restricted to fake political action groups and storebought comments from individual citizens.)

I'm thinking that if shill comments start showing up on Making Light, I'm going to instantly delete the obvious ones. Questionable cases will have their body text removed. That's because Movable Type won't let you insert a new comment into the chronological sequence. If the poster protests that they're honest, I can restore the text. I intend to put Making Light on the "don't bother to post there" list of every one of these creeps.

After that, I'll talk to a very good intellectual property lawyer I happen to know. This is my weblog, and its comment threads are in theory for discussions (highly digressive, but still discussions) of the material posted here. I have trouble believing it's legal for some pseudo-advertising firm and its clients to hire random internet dweebs to come here and post what are essentially paid advertisements, any more than they'd have a right to paste up ads on the side of my house and set up billboards in my yard, or stuff copies of their own newspaper into another newspaper's vending boxes, or operate a pirate radio station that transmitted commercials on the channels used by popular local radio stations.

Comment spammers only get away with the crap they pull because they're posting anonymously from foreign countries. A firm can't be anonymous if it:

1. Publicly advertises its ability to field platoons of comment-writers.

2. Solicits writers to do this work.

3. Tells the writers where to go and what to talk about.

4. Keeps close track of its writers and their posts, and reports this information back to the clients.

5. Collects payment from its clients.

6. Pays the writers on a piecework basis for specific posts on specific topics.

7. Pays its writers.

If it can be demonstrated that this form of advertising is illegal, these firms can be ratted out at any time by their freelancers or their clients.

Let me extrapolate here. I think that if this line of business continues to exist, it must eventually fall into the hands of firms operating outside the First World, and employ writers of similar ilk. The quality of their work will be so poor that legitimate companies wouldn't dream of using them to advertise. It will turn into something like spam: the work of people you do not and cannot know, done on behalf of companies that operate outside the law.

If so, it follows that none of the people currently engaged in doing this will be around to rake in the profits from the business in its mature form. They'll have done all the startup work, and their writers will have labored long and hard for pennies per hour; but none of them will get rich off it. They'll nevertheless suffer right along with the rest of us when our open forums are made unusable by a never-ending rain of spam comments in broken English, which advertise dubious and/or distasteful businesses, and are posted by writers delighted to get their few pennies per post.

#52 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 03:23 PM:

I'll post (*here*) without much provocation, since if nothing else it's handy as a bookmark to find where I left off when I come back the next day (easier than jotting down numbers in threads). Of course, now we can all preen a bit for our unselfish voluntary participation. "No, no, I didn't take one thin dime!"

#53 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 03:29 PM:

Now watch me flinch because I have advertising on my site.

#54 ::: Cathy Krusberg ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 03:44 PM:

Jo Walton @ #39 writes: I think this is a bit like Suzette Haden Elgin's theory that everything is true of something, you just have to find out what it's true of.

What Elgin refers to as Miller's law says: "In order to understand what another person is saying, you must assume that it is true, and try to imagine what it could be true of." In her Livejournal entry of Sept. 5, 2006, Elgin gives the source as "Giving Away Psychology in the 80's: George Miller Interviewed by Elizabeth Hall," Psychology Today for January 1980, pp. 38-50 and 97-98; on page 46.

Broader versions of the adage may also work, of course.

#55 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 03:49 PM:

Teresa, 53: I have to disagree. You're deriving a benefit from renting the space, and you get to decide who becomes a renter. These payola guys are stealing space. It's not at all the same thing. (See also "breaking the social contract for fun and profit.")

#56 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 04:20 PM:

These payola guys are potentially breaking the site, and all the other sites like it. They are misusing it for their own commercial purposes. They are procuring fraudulent acts, and selling them, in wholesale lots.

#57 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 04:30 PM:

Oh, what a tangled Internet they weave
Who want to pay for shills to viral-post.
Thus do they practice, seeking to decieve,
Dilution of the thing they value most.
I mean our trust, because if this thing spreads
We'll read with extra care -- and question more --
Their zombie-filled and advert-bloated threads
Until we learn which posters to ignore.
Whoever dreamt this folly clearly knows
The cost of every post, the worth of none.
They pay a listed price for posting prose,
But not for verse, and no one's paid to pun.
I challenge you: illumine what we see.
Be not content to simply content be.

#58 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 04:41 PM:

Teresa: You were flinching about having ads. Your ads are not the same as their ads, is all I'm saying.

Abi: Wow.

#59 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 05:03 PM:

abi #46: In Paramaribo, Surinam(e), there are places that dispense prepared foods from the different cultures that were combined there by the Dutch.

For those who like Indian food there are 'Roti Shop's' and for those who like Javanese food there are 'bamiewinkelen' That's the sort of thing to be expected in a place where one of the main streets is called Rust en Vredestraat (a trap for the unwary Anglophone).

& #57: Excellent.

#60 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 05:08 PM:


We've got to have a strategy, a plan of attack,
to bring the punters in to this web-page;
let's try that well-worn device, the claque,
once just a relic of a long-gone age.
We pay the posters to express their views
in hope that none of them will be inane,
and pray this will encourage folk to choose
this site in order for their minds to entertain.
We must remember that the object is
to put some money in our bank accounts;
we don't care if our workers take the piss
as long as dosh comes in in large amounts.
Ethics be hanged, this is all about money,
that others might object would just be funny.

#61 ::: Elaine ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 05:29 PM:

I believe I have had one of these paid shills comment to my read-by-very-few-people web log. I had put up a photo of some phlox that had finally bloomed in my garden. A few months later, someone made a brief comment which was on-topic to the post, but just seemed a bit odd. When I followed the link to his or her "web log" it was a pseudo web log which linked to a bunch of commercial sites. I removed the link, but left the rest. Akismet (Wordpress comment spam plugin which usually works quite well) didn't flag it as a spam comment.

#62 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 06:00 PM:

I have 5,444 posts on Absolute Write. I'm not very good at math - what does Mac owe me? She's going to faint at Maestrowork's bill...

This topic saddened me. I love my forum home because of the community and conversations. I hate the idea that it could be the target of some parasitical money-making scheme. Even worse, that these sites are trying to recruit writers from amongst us.

As one of the supermods over at AW, I have recently spent a large chunk of time tracking down and banning outsourced spammers (who all have the same birthday and are posting from the Marshall Island time zone...it makes me imagine some kind of Pacific Island based clone army all sitting in rows at keyboards) that keep popping up on the members list. I don't mind doing it, it's an honor to be able to help out at AW, but I feel sorry for newer forums out there that might find that almost their entire member list consists of either paid forum shills or spammers from some virtual atoll.

#63 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 06:56 PM:
If it can be demonstrated that this form of advertising is illegal, these firms can be ratted out at any time by their freelancers or their clients.
You'd think so, wouldn't you? Except that there is right now a thriving market in illegal ads in New York City. You've probably seen the "Equinox" ad that was on the construction scaffolding around the Flatiron Building. I know I walk past a block-long illegal ad for Citizen's Bank along 58th street every time I go into my employer's midtown office.

I think that this implies that the "free people will eventually rat out advertising scum" theory has holes in it somewhere. Mere illegality isn't sufficient to keep ads off physical landmarks; I doubt it would suddenly be more effective online.

#64 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 07:08 PM:

There's a gruesome thought, Dawno: like Eliza talking to Eliza.

The thought of AW or Making Light or any other worthwhile forum getting hit with spam/astroturf paid for by bastards who don't care what they're destroying is painful for me, too. I was there on the GEnie SFRT when it got sold and the new management wrecked the place in nothing flat. It had been an extraordinary community. The new guys had no idea how valuable it was.

Earlier today I went over to that forum mentioned in my initial post, the one where people buy and sell forum posting services. Since that whole site is about running forums, I figured that if these people were having significant interactions with the forums they run, somewhere on that site they'd have to be discussing moderation policies and techniques. Know what? I couldn't find a single mention of that set of issues. They're all about content management, not the particular and specific content of their forums.

No wonder they think it's reasonable to hire shills to come in and post.

#65 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 08:03 PM:

Speaking of content, I wasn't aware before today that comments on this website were indexed by bloglines.com via co.mments.com. I'm going to have to tone down my comments because of that.

#66 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 09:06 PM:

Teresa,

Your ads are the equivalent of sponsorships, or top-of-the-hour ads on public radio:
"The Teresa and Patrick Show is brought to you tonight by Discordia and the Sony Ebook Reader. With special guest Jim, and a cast of thousands."

You have an ad system, so there's a chain of connections- of contracts and legalities- going from you to Blogads to the advertiser.

Shills are a guy with a megaphone yelling out names during a radio broadcast of Handel's Messiah.

#67 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 09:37 PM:

Serge, if you've seen posts under my name that misuse apostophes, and weren't just taking the piss (as it were) with your comment, please let me know where. There's an obnoxious twit out there who may be posting under my name again. I'll take the blame for my own mistakes, but not hers.

#68 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 09:53 PM:

A fine solution made in Abi's verse;
As I perceive, a fifteen-penny tawdry
Won't hack it, and would surely stay more terse,
Revealing thus, by difference, their oddly-
crafted missives of imaginary worth,
That virtuous kind may take them well to task,
And banish these foul creatures of ill mirth
Arriving undisguisèd for the masque.

(...Maybe not quite a Spenserian stanza. Next time.)


#69 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 11:12 PM:

No, no, no, Aconite... I never saw anybody using your name to misspell or misapostrophe anything. You had made a comment about people here not likely to make such mistakes so I had the lame urge to make those very same mistakes. Sorry if the joke fell flat.

#70 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 01:02 AM:

Woo, A. J. Luxton. Even a stab at a Spenserian stanza is a fine thing. I have to think Abi beareth away the palm this time, though -- that last couplet of hers is perfect:

I challenge you: illumine what we see.
Be not content to simply content be.

#71 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 01:35 AM:

Variation on a theme. The original post.

Plans like this turn my stomach. Fortunately, I keep a supply on hand of soothing, pink Pepto-Bismol, the only leading medicine that relieves five stomach problems.

#72 ::: Pantechnician ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 01:56 AM:

Some cynical part of me thinks it would be fun to pose as an interested client and ask to have your (non-existent) product advertised, thus outing anyone who recommended the phantom product as a paid shill. There'd probably be a variety of legal issues involved with that, though.

#73 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 02:15 AM:

...or spammers from some virtual atoll.

Dawno, you owe us another sonnet.

#74 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 03:09 AM:

Thank you, (Teresa -- Ms. Nielsen-Hayden -- or whatever the correct polite form of address is from one who does not know you personally but is lurking around at your lawn party making stray pentameter. I'm always terrible at these things.) I'll strive to do up an actual one later.

Pantechnician, #72:

ask to have your (non-existent) product advertised, thus outing anyone who recommended the phantom product as a paid shill

Unless the company has a clause in their contract declaring that no one using their services lampoon them, I wouldn't actually think it hard to do up a website selling, say, little slips of paper rolled into tubes or tin-can phones or something else along those lines that if someone actually bought one you could easily supply; give the site and the product fancy names ("Zelda's Strange Goods & Sundries", "Can Communique") and go to. Nobody's actually going to go around on people's blogs seriously and earnestly recommending a tin-can phone. Okay, maybe some surrealists I know.

#75 ::: MWT ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 03:51 AM:

#26 Clifton Royston
#27 TNH
#28 Lee

I think that we're all on the same page when it comes to spamming unrelated third-party forums/blogs with ads. I don't know that there's much anyone can do about them; I used to be one of those severely outraged people demanding legislation against email spam, and that sure didn't work out so effectively...

But I'm not entirely convinced that it counts as selling my soul if someone wanted to pay me to help them jumpstart a new community (and, once it's established and going, the paid posters quietly disappear). I understand the reasons behind why someone would want to do that, which are basically the way Lee described. Especially on a forum, it's a drawback when only three people write 90% of the posts. And even if one of those three is a heavyweight that lots of people want to read and talk to, there would be an equal number of shy people who find it intimidating to talk to them, without being surrounded by other 'commoners.'

Blogs have it slightly better in that regard, since they tend to be focused around a specific small group of people in the first place. (And heavyweights get lots of readers and commenters.)

Having said that, though, the listed pay rate would have to go up quite a bit if I were going to spend a lot of time helping start a community that I wouldn't otherwise be helping for free.

On the other hand, if it were a place I'd be interested in enough on my own, getting paid for it sounds like a nice bonus.

By the same token, if someone wanted to pay me for my true opinions on their products, I don't see that as bad, either. I would hope that anyone who lies on their blogspaces would be discredited pretty quickly as reliable info sources. Whereas if I said stuff that I actually believed, how is it bad if they're paying me for it?

There's a website called epinions.com which does exactly that - pays people to write reviews of things in something they call "e-royalties." They have a lot of good reviews there (both positive and negative), and a fairly solid community of people who do it.

On the other hand, the rates are terrible, and when last I wrote anything there they had a clause about not being allowed to post your reviews elsewhere. Also it annoys me that they actually take away your royalties if you fail to log in regularly - which is one of the main reasons I've decided to stop participating. But the general principle seems sound enough.

The above (and my initial post here) are my thoughts-in-progress. I'm not so much trying to argue as I am trying to understand. Please don't hurt me. ;)

#76 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 05:25 AM:

Dawno, since you're one of AW's very few mods with the distinction of catching and banning spammers before they've actually posted, I shudder at the thought of trying to pay you what you're worth. I'll have to indenture my next three incarnations.

I wasn't around during the GEnie transition, though I've heard some stories. Community continuity and stability have been a huge topic of concern and interest during the AW transition, to the board regulars, the mods, and all the way up the chain--I suspect at least in part because of the cautionary tales about the GEnie SFRT.

Teresa, I'm not really surprised that they've no concept of community ethos at that forum. Sometimes I wonder if there aren't more people who just don't get it, than the ones who do. The people who get the fundamental concept of community, though, are worth a baker's dozen of the other kind--and a good thing, else we'd all be overrun.

#77 ::: Rebecca Borgstrom ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 05:54 AM:

Darn it, Mr. or Ms. or Dr. Luxton, I'm not even a surrealist you know and you've got me wanting to advertise tin can phones on blogs.

Rebecca

#78 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 06:29 AM:

You may have been exposed to my case of creeping surrealism, contracted by hanging around with Discordians and other shady malcontents. I won't lie and say I'm sorry.

#79 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 07:17 AM:

Fragano @60
AJ Luxton @68

Well done...they may even think it's a movement.

You both, incidentally, demonstrate why I love poetry the way I love photography. You can give 100 photograpers the same camera and the same scene, and get 200 different interpretations of it, each a marvel in its own right. Verse is clearly the same.

Now who's going to venture the first pun? Shill I?

Teresa @70

Thank you. I wish the rest of the sonnet stood up to the couplet, or that I knew where that actually came from so I could do it reliably.

AJ Luxton @74:

The traditional item, I believe, is a professionally engraved cameo image of Abraham Lincoln executed in copper plate.

#80 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 07:55 AM:

Late again...

When I consider how my time is spent
in commenting on other posters' words
and what might be the possible rewards
if I could sell them even for a cent,
I wonder, shall I ever be content
to post where words alone are currency
and value is placed on transparency
and truth above all else? But I relent
as reading through the comments I discover
that what makes stuff worth reading is the care
and effort you put in to get it
right.
And so I shall permit myself to hover
here in the background, yet myself declare
a proud contributor to making light.

#81 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 08:23 AM:

candle @80

Something that good is never late. Very peaceful. Is that an echo of Larkin I see?

#82 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 08:24 AM:

Dawmno, Mac... At the risk of betraying my ignorance once more, would you mind telling me what Absolute Write is? My blogging days began only 2 years, with Making Light. (I don't count a brief stint 10 years ago when San Francisco's alternative weekly, the Bay Guardian, set up their web site. It was quite fun, and I remember the discussion about Space: Above and Beyond, which then drifted into what the complete lyrics were for the 'song' about how Comet makes your teeth turn green and how it tastes like gasoline...)

#83 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 08:53 AM:

Serge, it's a good sized writer's forum. We're at absolutewrite.com/forums, if you're inclined to take a look.

Jim Macdonald has the excellent "Learn Writing with Uncle Jim" thread there, which is three years old and still going strong--essentially an online master-class in writing novels (with some terrific recipes and even some short story advice and the occasional bit of silliness.)

#84 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 09:04 AM:

Thanks, Mac. I'll have to go take a look. Does one have to be a writer to join in? I don't think that two unpaid fiction publications in a non-professional magazine about 25 years ago would allow me to qualify, nor would my being married to a writer. What do you think?

#85 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 09:09 AM:

abi: Thanks! Milton was the intention, although the occasional deliberate anachronism may not have been quite in his spirit. I can't see him writing "stuff", after all.

#86 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 09:12 AM:

Serge: It didn't fall flat. I took it as the joke you intended, until it occurred to me that I'd better check that something else wasn't going on.

#87 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 09:13 AM:

A.J. Luxton #68: Nice. As Teresa Nielsen Hayden says even a stab at Spenserian stanza is a good thing.

Abi #79: Thanks.

candle #80: Milton! Thou shouldst be with us at this hour.

#88 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 09:18 AM:

Serge @84
We'll miss you.

candle @85
It's a shame for a good Scotsman to admit it*, but I'm not up on my Milton.

-----
*What that has to do with me is anybody's guess

#89 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 09:18 AM:

Serge, not at all. Dawno still swears she's not a writer, for instance...

#90 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 09:37 AM:

(blushing)

#91 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 09:39 AM:

abi, of course we know what your comment about Scots and Milton is all about.

#92 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 12:55 PM:

Anyone tried filling out their form and seeing what Johns come your way?

(I have been paid to blog, but in a very different context: I ran and wrote for the official Wolfram Science blog covering their New Kind of Science conference. And shortly I will be paid to blog again. Good gig and no secrecy about the fact that this a job.)

#93 ::: Andy Baker ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 02:02 PM:

I'm really tempted to sign up with PayPerPost, get assigned a product, trash it publicly, get sacked and repeat. If enough bloggers did that...

#94 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 06:24 PM:

Just wanted to say what a fascinating thread this is. I've been sitting here with a freshly opened container of [Product Name] and laughing my head off. It's witty intelligent writing like this, and fine products like [Product Name] that make life worthwhile.

Ah... [Product Name]. I'd rather disemvowel than switch!

#95 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 09:03 PM:

#73 Nicole - A sonnet? Me? ::faint::
#76 & 89 Mac - No worries - I'm going to try and get a tax deduction instead. As for being a writer - we could start a very long discussion about that, which would be off topic. In my mind people who write because they have to, because of their inescapable passion for it, are writers. I dabble. When it becomes an overwhelming, unsatisfied need and I can, say, replicate the 50k words in 18 days I did for NaNoWriMo simply because I.Have.To - then I'll say I'm a writer.

#96 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 09:13 PM:

As for being a writer - we could start a very long discussion about that, which would be off topic.

What's wrong with a little off-topicking, Dawno?

#97 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 10:04 PM:

Well, Serge, I'm famous for it at AW, so I'm probably the wrong person to ask. :grin:

I thought that to take the comments off track to discuss whether or not Dawno is a writer, would be kind of rude. And embarassing, too. But any other off-topic topicking? Sure!

#98 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 10:08 PM:

Well, as tin can phones go, I just love the Cup Communicator which I saw right here! It's easily the best wireless tin can phone around, and honestly, I'm not just saying it because they pay me.

(This is the Internet - did you actually believe there wouldn't be a wireless electronic tin can phone around already? Took me longer than I thought to figure out where I'd seen it, though.)

#99 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 12:00 AM:

I think I have a slight tendency to go off-topic too, Dawno. So, what is it that you do that has Mac consider you a writer even if you don't? Based on conversations I had elsewhere, I don't know that all writers write because they have to do. It may be the way they're best at to express their creative urges. I'm a computer programmer and that's how I best express my need to create. Is that something I have to do - beyond the fact that my boss wouldn't be happy if I didn't do it? No, and if that stopped being possible, I'd have to find some other way to create, but currently I still call myself a programmer.

#100 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 01:52 AM:

(#94 (Ubik, it refreshes.))

Just wanted to say what a fascinating thread this is. I've been sitting here with a freshly opened container of UBIK and laughing my head off. It's witty intelligent writing like this, and fine products like UBIK that make life worthwhile.

Ah... UBIK. I'd rather disemvowel than switch!


I'm suddenly amused at the possibility to confuse people by advertising ubik. Even in places where reality holds. Or not.

#101 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 02:04 AM:

You know, while I was browsing the supermarket shelves today, looking Another Fine Safer Sodomy Product For Dinosaurs(TM), I thought about this thread and wondered if we were about to develop another running gag.

I wonder if I could get product placem... No. Let's not go there. The world does not need romance novels with product placement for condom brands.

#102 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale(tm) ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 02:16 AM:

@100,

mmmmm, Coffiest. Nothing opens up a thread's meaning like a hot cup. If you can't live without blogging, be at your Blogiest: don't forget your Coffiest.

#103 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 02:21 AM:

RE: Serge #84 You don't have to be a writer to find Absolute Write congenial; I'm not a writer, and the writers seem quite willing to put up with me.

#104 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 06:31 AM:

The cup communicator is great, but I'd like mine professionally engraved, preferably with an image of Queen Victoria.

If there were tin can telephones, one engraved with Abraham Lincoln and one with Queen Victoria, I'd advertise that for free.

"Celebrating over 140 years of transatlantic entente, this professionally engraved collectible objet, from a limited edition of 10,000 is both practical and beautiful! You too can experience the thrill of intercontinental communication between the Widow at Windsor and Honest Abe! Only $44.95 plus post and packing! Order now to receive before Christmas!"

Also: Maybe the Lincoln one should be engraved "My Captain does not answer".

And that's quite enough from me.

#105 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 08:15 AM:

Julia Jones: I wonder if I could get product placem... No. Let's not go there.

But Julia, product placement is what Another Fine Safer Sodomy Product For Dinosaurs(TM) is about.

#106 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 10:17 AM:

I'm not a writer, and the writers seem quite willing to put up with me.

Thanks, Lisa. I'll definitely have to go take a look.

#107 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 10:18 AM:

"Is it real, or is it UBIK?"

#108 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 10:50 AM:

Er. You guys know about Soup Scenes in books published in Germany?

#109 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 10:56 AM:

No, I don't know about Soup Scenes, Teresa.

#110 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 11:42 AM:

I just saw an article at c|Net about "dubious Internet marketers are planting stories, paying people to promote items, and otherwise trying to manipulate rankings on Digg and other so-called social media sites like Reddit and Delicious to drum up more links to their Web sites and thus more business, experts say."

Many good links in the article.

#111 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 12:04 PM:

Teresa at 108: Yes, I know about Soup Scenes. :-) The product placement line came out of an unholy collision between those and James Bond.

#112 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 12:05 PM:

So here's the thing: I write for PayPerPost.

You may all call me evil now, if you really like to jump to conclusions.

Every post I do for them is clearly marked as such in no fewer than three ways.(1) I don't do posts requiring a positive review unless I really think the thing in question is worthy of it; I don't accept any of the occasional posts that don't allow me to tell the readers I'm being paid. And since I'm using my regular blog, which is mostly concerned with knitting and roleplaying games, when I post something about winter camping in Manitoba it's generally pretty clear that this is something I'm being paid for.

Also I genuinely don't get the rancor that's been directed at PPP. They're a broker--all they do is match up advertisers with people willing to write ads. The vitriol ought to go to the bloggers who write the ads but don't tell their readers what they're doing (which is stupid, because any readers worth having are going to figure it out eventually and then they won't read any longer...).

I agree that the disclosure policy thing was a bad call, though I think they honestly thought it was a way to look good for their detractors--never attribute to malice, etc.

I'm not coming up with a good summary of my thoughts on this matter--I'd need a much longer comment, I think. :)

(1) The title says so, the category the post is in says so, and the first line of the text says so.

#113 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 12:28 PM:

I think the reason PPP is getting slammed is the same as the reason that fences get slammed. Thieves would still steal if there were no fences, but the existence of fences certainly facilitates theft.

#114 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 02:40 PM:

Thank you, Jim, for implying that I am engaged in an activity of the same moral weight as theft.

#115 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 01:00 AM:

Clearly, the advertised product of choice for this should be the breakfast cereal Pipenta. (Though we may need to rename it; how does "Filboid Studge" sound?)

#116 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 07:13 AM:

Bit touchy there, Carrie.

The vitriol is being aimed at PPP because they deliberately set up a system where bloggers don't have to mention that they're getting paid to write stuff. For the advertisers, that absence of acknowledgement is the real value of the bloggers' writing. Does anyone imagine that what they're looking for is a bunch of amateur copywriting? Non-disclosing blog posts look like unprompted personal testimonials, which have vastly more credibility than any sort of ad. That's the whole point of the "viral buzz" thing: what we perceive as person-to-person recommendations slide right past our well-developed immunity to advertising.

Is it natural for you to write in praise of PPP's clients' products so often that this arrangement is worth the time it takes to collect a couple of dollars per post?

#117 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 07:18 AM:

Julia Jones @ 111 wrote: Teresa at 108: Yes, I know about Soup Scenes.

I still don't know what those Soup Scenes are. I also don't remember seeing one in the latest James Bond.

#118 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 08:09 AM:

I've heard about soup scenes from SF writers who've had their work published in translation in Germany. Apparently there's some German soup manufacturer who's got a long-standing advertising arrangement with German publishers. They get written in. Partway through the action of your book, your characters will all sit down and enjoy a nice hearty bowl of soup together. Then the action recommences.

#119 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 08:22 AM:

That's what those Soup Scenes are, Teresa? The word 'silly' comes to mind. And why does this all remind me of The Truman Show?

#120 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 09:25 AM:

Serge @ 119:
It's reminding me The Truman Show, too, but for some reason I'm also reminded of Repo Man, with all its prominently featured "generic" products. It's the Dada version of product placement, methinks.

#121 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 10:45 AM:
I've heard about soup scenes from SF writers who've had their work published in translation in Germany. Apparently there's some German soup manufacturer who's got a long-standing advertising arrangement with German publishers. They get written in. Partway through the action of your book, your characters will all sit down and enjoy a nice hearty bowl of soup together. Then the action recommences.
So, what happens if soup is already consumed in the course of the book? For example, if Dzur gets a German edition, would the publisher likely add a new soup scene, add the German brand name to the existing scene (how that would work, I don't know), or not change anything? (I am assuming the brand name is included, otherwise it doesn't seem like much of a marketing effort.)
#122 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 11:18 AM:

There was a soup scene in 1991's The Rocketeer...

#123 ::: Jen Birren ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 01:36 PM:

Does it count if the characters take time out from Mortal Perial to reminisce about enjoying a nice hearty bowl of soup?

#124 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 01:54 PM:

About as much as people reminiscing about sex in a romance novel, Jen.

#125 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 03:55 PM:

TNH @ 118: Partway through the action of your book, your characters will all sit down and enjoy a nice hearty bowl of soup together. Then the action recommences.

Even if your characters run on photosynthesis or internal nuclear power? I guess soup does cure all. Especially Progresso brand, fortified with organo-phosphates and enriched with heavy water.

#126 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 12:02 AM:

In mid-November, I set a personal goal for myself: Write something original every day on my blog. Something I did, something I thought, something I read, something I saw on TV.

It's tough. Not the time -- I'm a busy guy, but I also write pretty fast. The hard part is coming up with something to write.

I work from home. Not a lot happens.

So, today, I fixed myself a 4 pm snack of Campbell's Soup, and I said to myself: Why don't I write about soup? So I did.

And, about when I was done, I felt all self-conscious, thinking about this thread. So I put a disclaimer on the subject line about how I didn't get paid, I just felt like writing about soup.

And the even weirder part is that I had only read part of this thread at that point. I didn't read the discussion about the German Soup Scenes until later.

#127 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:12 AM:

I've blogged a soup recipe, and it's that post that gets me the most random strangers calling by (because it's based on something I saw a famous chef do on TV; they actually want this version.

In mid-November, I set a personal goal for myself: Write something original every day on my blog.

I tried something similar. For a couple of days I was reduced to putting up a dream diary. Then I had a day when I woke up and couldn't remember any dreams. So I put up a post about that.

One of my friends told me that they didn't think it was possible for their friends to waste his time, but with that post I managed it.

#128 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 07:19 AM:

I speak as one who has had books published in Germany, and they didn't put a soup scene in. Unfortunately, I had one in already. Even more unfortunately, the soup was vile. Oh dear...

#129 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 07:47 AM:

In mid-November, I set a personal goal for myself: Write something original every day on my blog.

I tried that at first, but work got in the way and I had to choose how to use what free time it left me. Should I blog or else incur the wrath of my very few readers? Should I pull the weeds that were getting more and more numerous? Should I spend time with my very patient wife?

Decisions, decisions...

#130 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 10:11 AM:

My understanding is that the characters weren't made to actually eat the soup, only that the advertisement referred to the situation in the text it so rudely interrupted. ("Around about now our heroes must be pretty hungry and what better than a nourishing bowl...")

The Pratchett Archive has an example, but I don't read German that well.


Serge, I don't know whether or not there is any soup in the latest James Bond film, but I took Julia's "unholy collision between those and James Bond" to have taken place within her own head [insert "I bet that hurt" joke here] rather than in the external world.

#131 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 10:19 AM:

Also, since I see nobody's made the distinction yet: it was only one particular German publisher. (And the soup company whose logo is visible in the example I mentioned is itself actually Swiss.)

#132 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 12:09 PM:

I'm trying to post every day as much for myself as anyone else, as a way to exercise my mind and creativity in a new direction.

I've found that summarizing the day isn't a good idea unless you're Joe Haldeman or Sullydog. Best to pick one thing, or a few things, and focus on that. Or those.

The fact that I have very little time to do it is helpful -- forces me to work fast when I might otherwise be tempted to linger over the thing.

Some of the posts have been embarrassingly bad. That's ok, too -- as adults, I think maybe we're all too afraid of being embarrassed.

#133 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 12:37 PM:

"I bet that hurt"

Paul A... Can't be as painful as what was done to Mr.Bond in the recent movie.

#134 ::: Jonathan V ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2006, 03:45 AM:

gormless? what is gormless? should I aspire to gormfulness?

#135 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2006, 03:32 PM:

The definition I always used - from $random_pagan_book_I_can't_remember - was that "gorm" is the clear blue colour of a summer sky. (Am not responsible if your summer skies are not gormful, or indeed not blue. Your Climate May Vary.) Looking at it in actual detail, it's an Old Irish colour covering deep blue, cerulean, green, and somehow or other black and fiery red. (Opposed on one hand to glas, which is grass-colours (glaswellt, or glaswair, is Welsh for "grass" - modern Welsh uses 'glas' exclusively for "blue") and on the other to uaine, which is, er, the other kind of blues and greens.)

On the other hand, checking the only dictionary I have readily available (Webster, 1913) says that gorm is axle grease, from the Icelandic "gormr", ooze or mud.

It's also a verb, "to daub with anything sticky".

There's also a Gorm, dubiously called "the Old" (authority for the nickname is disputed - perhaps they called him "Gorm the Greasy" instead) who was King of Denmark in the tenth century CE, the father of Harald Bluetooth and "first King of the Vikings".

I'm sure that Gorm often took the opportunity for a nourishing, if oozy, bowl of grey-green (greasy) soup in between viking. Which is presumably why Harald's teeth turned out gormfully blue - unless one takes a less Lamarckian view and assumes he just gormed them.

#136 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2006, 03:58 PM:

Gorm is an Old Irish word; it is completely unrelated to the gorm of gormless, which is a direct descendant, of gawm, sense, from Middle English gome, notice, from Old Norse gaumr. It's Northern, and really, more Middle Scots than Middle English in terms of the texts that include gormless and gawm.

Gormless is equivalent to daft, though the implication is more one of native stupidity than daft suggests.

#137 ::: Drew ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 01:35 PM:

Great information. I had a forum on one of my sites and reluctantly took it down due to a lack of interest. By having postings and interaction we could resurrect the site again. Thanks for your information.

#138 ::: PixelFaerie ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2007, 06:30 PM:

Is it more dishonest for copywriters to writing advertising for products they have never tried? What about press release writers being paid by companies to write interesting 'articles' for newspapers and magazines? Your own blog has Google Adsense on it, which at times has promoted scams. No, you're not writing about it, but you're promoting it. If you want to talk about responsible writing, you might want to take a look at the advertisements you use.

Let people have their fun, and make their money. They are not hurting anyone and right now, most paid to blog companies are requesting people admit they are posting paid posts or that they have sponsors. Spend less time complaining and write about something that is actually helpful. ;)

#139 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2007, 07:24 PM:

PixelFaerie, did you actually read for content the posts in this thread? For that matter, did you read the original post for content? No, I didn't think so. You had something you wanted to say, whether it was applicable or not, and you were going to say it regardless of whatever was actually going on in the discussion.

Congratuations. You now look like an ass. And yes, I'm being rude to you on purpose, because your blithe "they're not hurting anybody" was one of the stupidest fckng statements you could have uttered on a blog where the power of words and the harm done to discourse by the misuse of words and of trust is frequently discussed in depth.

#140 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2007, 07:51 PM:

PixelFaerie, who's paying you to come and drive-by troll this blog? Aren't you supposed to admit it? Defending semiotic vandalism is not likely to play well here.

Go look up 'semiotic' and see if you can figure out what I mean.

#141 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2007, 09:14 PM:

"Let people have their fun, and make their money. They are not hurting anyone and right now, most paid to blog companies are requesting people admit they are posting paid posts or that they have sponsors. Spend less time complaining and write about something that is actually helpful. ;)"

PixelFaerie did you by any chance actually read to the end of Teresa's post?

"I suppose this means that for a while, at least, we’re going to be seeing gormless weblogs fill up with awkward, unconvincing testimonials to unlikely products. It’s dishonest, but it’s not the end of the world—as long as they keep it in their own blogs. The minute they start getting paid to post that crap in my comment threads, I’m going on the warpath."

Looks to me like she agreed people getting paid to post wasn't hurting anyone. But when the companies start targeting and paying for posting spam in forums or paying people to come spam in comments on other people's blogs, then it's a whole different thing.

#142 ::: Ali ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2007, 05:02 PM:

I wrote for ForumBooster and didn't get paid what they said I would and then they locked me out of the system.

Ali

#143 ::: Kathy ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 07:30 PM:

Help, I have a problem. I am a long-term writer (and follower of AbsoluteWrite.com) that started a business and am looking for people to blog my site. I don't have the budget to bring on board a full-time moderator or blogger. *sigh* (or the time to do it myself) If I don't go through these paid bloggers companies, what other options do I have?

Does anyone have a solution?


#144 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 08:02 PM:

Kathy, have you visited the blogging forum at AW? There are a couple of people who are regulars there who might have some good suggestions. If you have tried, please PM me at AW, I'll see if I can get you some responses.

#145 ::: Kathy ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 08:16 PM:

Dawno-

Thank you! I will check the blogging forum right now. (I was just looking for a way to contact you and was on one of your sites. *funny*) An additional problem is that I have never really joined a forum before - even though my website requires one. So, showing my ignorance here ... how do I PM you?

#146 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 08:24 PM:

Kathy, if you are a member of Absolute Write you can go to my member profile and you'll see a link that says "send a private message", click there from that point on it should be pretty easy to figure out the rest.

If you're not a member of AW yet, just email me. You can get that info off my blog (just click my name on this post and it'll send you there).

#147 ::: Tsu Dho Nimh ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2007, 11:41 PM:

Coming in really late to this ... this explains a lot of the "writing" offers at rentacoder.com for people to make blog posts, creating multiple personas to do so.

And the offered pay is peanuts.

#148 ::: Spam deleted ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:31 AM:

Spam from 59.91.206.66

#149 ::: Spam deleted ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2008, 04:50 AM:

Spam from 122.167.21.188

#150 ::: spam deleted ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2008, 08:06 AM:

Spam from 81.200.16.36.

#151 ::: Jen Roth sees comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2008, 08:15 AM:

I am not a spammer; I am a human being

#152 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2008, 08:36 AM:

Indeed you are. Two points to Jen Roth.

I think it's time to close this thread.

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