Full disclosure: this blog is not (yet) an international phenomenon.
However, it does get a fair number of comments (but not page visits, puzzlingly) from people based in other countries who would very much like for me to click on their links and probably provide my banking information.
So that’s something like being an international phenomenon.
I have a lot to learn from these commenters. They are expert in the rarefied arts of both marketing and flattery.
Don’t get me wrong: some of them still post treatises about global conspiracies to kill us all through RFID chips, and some are tactless enough to come right out and say that they want me to click on lots of grody links to infect myself.
But many of them, wearing the guise of a credibly middle-America-sounding name like Bob Democracyman, have cleverly decided to provide compliments and no links. Just flattery.
This is not as easy as it looks, especially if you’re a bot trying to provide a compliment warm enough to fool a human, and doing so across probably dozens or hundreds or thousands of websites. You have to provide a compliment so generic that it seems plausible, but still flattering.
For example: “I love the layout of your page. Can you tell me what template you’re using?”
Or, “This post was so full of amazing information I’m going to have to read it a second time. Well done.”
Or, “My spouse sent me this link and I’m amazed at how well you have written this informations.”
(Yeah, some of them need a bit more polishing.)
In spite of itself, my heart warms a bit. Yes, I know these are just malicious computer programs who have wormed their way through the internet to find me, wearing the cloaks of humans trying to confuse me, and none of them have in fact been impressed by my musings on time or the Enneagram or whatever. Still. In these uncertain times*, even this little can count as a fractional thrill.
But, you may be wondering: How do they make any money or infect any computers if they don’t put links in the emails? Well, friend, this is where the marketing side comes in. They hook you with flattery in an innocuous-looking comment, but they register themselves as having come from coronavirus-support-dot-com-slash-bitcoin, or hairstyles-dot-xyz-slash-naked-ladies. They provide email addresses like covidnineteen-at-hard-cheap-drugs-dot-net. I guess the idea is that I’ll be so drunk on their praise that I’ll be interested in paying their site a visit and leaving them a compliment in return, or emailing them to thank them for their kindness.
Now, what is the return rate on this kind of business venture? I can’t imagine they get many replies. But it has to be worth something, or else they wouldn’t be doing it.
And like Carrie Bradshaw I can’t help but wonder: couldn’t at least one of these unfortunate people actually be a real human who loved my layout, even if they (admittedly) hail from a rather eyebrow-raising domain name which they registered just to save a bit of cash? It puts me in mind of the poor Nigerian prince who really wants a good investment opportunity abroad and can’t get any traction because people keep moving his solicitations to “Spam.”
So, I want to get to the bottom of this. To all ye phishers of men, I implore you: If you like this post, please comment below using the code words “hold the newsreader’s nose squarely, waiter,” so that I’ll know you’re truly a devoted reader.