Archives for spamming

Validating your Spam

Spam being cut with a knife

Are you sending spam before you even know the person?

Finally, a good use for True Twit Validation! As you may know, I do not like True Twit Validation. In my opinion it is the most commonly accepted form of Twitter spam. However, today I received a True Twit email that actually made good use of the application.

 

True Twit advertises itself as helping you ward off spammers, and keeping your DMs and newsfeed free of spam bots. However, the only way it will do this is if you auto-follow people back.  You cannot receive DMs from people you don’t follow, and only people  you follow are in your timeline. So now are  you sending an unwanted DM to the person who is trying to follow you – thus you are essentially blocking their follow, and being annoying for no real reason?

But there’s a change. I received a True Twit email that said:

Please verify your Twitter account so they can follow afterwards.

That little bit at the end was the first time I felt a validation email gave me some reason to reply. If you auto-follow people back, you are ensuring that you do not auto-follow bots. However, you are now giving the person a reason to validate because you are promising a follow back.

I still think that True Twit is spam. I still think that no one should use it and the only reason most people do is because they get really tired of filling out the stupid CAPTCHAs. There are still many people out there who will never fill out the validation and would rather not follow you than go to True Twit. So even if you are using it to vet your auto-follows, you are still propagating spam.  If you are willing to start off a Twitter relationship with spam, will they believe that you will continue to send spam for as long as they follow you?

If you really need to vet all the people you follow, use a tool like socialoomph.com which lets you do that without clogging their email boxes with spam.

paper.li – The Daily Spam

Paper.li SPAM Dailypaper.li made a big splash on Twitter last fall. By December, everywhere you looked there was a new paper.li. For a while the popularity grew so fast that we began to wonder if they were going to be the new Follow Friday? But as I saw more of them being posted, I also began to wonder:

  • Are people actually reading them?
  • Do they have any effect on SEO?
  • Would they actually drive traffic to my site?
  • Do the people posting even realize they are posting?

I gave it a try to see what I thought about it, and one question was answered right away. No, I did not know when they were posting. I would see the occasional re-tweet and thats when I would realize that my paper.li went out.

The traffic question did not take long to answer. As more of my stories were being caught in the paper.li generator, I watched my traffic sources to see how many billions of people were coming to my site because of this paper. Well, the answer was zero billions. In fact, I was not receiving any traffic from the tweets.

So then I began to wonder if anyone was actually reading them.  I don’t – when I see them come out, they just filter through my newsfeed like other auto-posting spam. The only time I open them is when I see my name mentioned, then I check the story and re-tweet. I don’t usually look at the other stories; about 1 in a 100 times I see one where I actually decide to click the link. I figured if I am not reading them, the likelihood that other people were reading them was pretty slim.

The other issue is auto-content generation. I recently wrote about why auto-blogging is bad – well, paper.li is not much different. It automatically pulls content from specified users or keywords and then puts it together in the form of original content.  The author credits are not always right, and if they are wrong there is nothing you can do about it. Once created they are posted to your account, jamming up the timeline with paper.li posts.  Usually we call posts that jam up the timeline with content that we ignore spam;  why is this any different? Oh wait, it isn’t!

I read a great post about why paper.li is spam, even if it is a non-traditional form. There is plenty of great content out there to share and retweet. Overall I like the concept of being able to put your favorite articles in one location to share with your followers, but I think the paper.li execution is a bit of a #fail.

Spam Tag, You’re It!

Can of spam with a tag on it that says "Tag..You're It!"

Tagging is great for engagement but can also be used as spam, which can get you deleted.

I was recently tagged in a picture of shoes.  I’d been friended by someone who runs a Fan Page.  When they held their next big sale, they posted a picture of a shoe, and then tagged me and a dozen other people in it. This is not a good engagement technique nor is this a good sales strategy.  This is called spam tagging, and it can get you deleted.

What did this do?

  • Posted in my newsfeed
  • Posted the pic on my wall
  • Posted the pic on my photo-strip (since it features your most recent photo tags)
  • And posted on my friends’ news feeds that I was just tagged.

Yesterday we talked about new opportunities for business engagement using the Use Facebook as admin” option that is now available. But just because you can does not mean that you should.  This technique of tagging people just to get real estate on their walls and news feeds is not new, but it is still as obnoxious now as it was on the day someone thought it up.

Tagging can be a great way to interact with people.  If you have pictures of fans on your page, tag your fans.  If they put up pictures at your business site, or images of your product or you, tag those. But just taking a photo of a product and then tagging people you have friended is not engagement, it is spam.

If someone reports you for doing this and Facebook sees that there is a pattern of this behavior, not only will your Fan Page be deleted, but your profile might be deleted as well.

What’s the difference between engagement and spam?

Spam is blatant and unwanted promotion.  The only reason you are reaching out to the person is to try to get them to click your links.

Engagement happens when you are joining or trying to start a conversation with someone.  It is based on the idea that you actually share something in common, you want to have a conversation with the person or page, and you’re interested in what they have to say. Engagement is not all about promoting you, though it can include that as long as it is done in a subtle and/or appropriate way. It is about building relationships with people first and promoting yourself second.

Engagement is key to growing your network and generally maintaining a successful presence on Facebook. With the new options available, be careful that you are actually engaging and not spamming.  And never EVER arbitrarily tag people in posts, notes or pictures.

My name is John. I am your Spam Bot.

A robot saying: Hello my name is John Bot

Image Credit: Red-Revolver on DeviantART.com

Since I started using a contact form instead of an email, I receive a barrage of spam every day.  I have invested some time into figuring out if there was an easy way to stop the spam and keep the form.  I settled on a compromise; keep the form and reduce the spam with a Captcha. However, in my battle with spam, I noticed something about the sender.

My spam bot is named John.

Every piece of spam I get is from John.  Sometimes it is John1 or John2, but it is always John. This is not his email address, but it’s the name that appears in the “From” field.

Who is this John?

  • A play on John Doe, the poster boy of anonymous.
  • On Wikipedia, John Bot is an automated tool used to do repetitive tasks.
  • On World of Warcraft (WoW) Farmer John Bot is an automated tool for auto-leveling.

Apparently John the Spam Bot has many different careers.  But lately he has been most active sending me nonsensical emails through my contact form.

I wonder if other people have spam bots with other names?  Is there something special about me that I have John the Spam Bot paying me such devoted attention? Or does he just get around to everyone’s email box?

Contact Form Spam

A can of spam with robot legs, arms and head

How much of your email is form spam? Is your form driving more contacts or giving bots something to crawl?

I switched over to a contact form a few months ago.  Over the months I have noticed an increase in email contact and an increase in spam, something that I never received before. This left me in a bit of a conundrum. I am glad people are contacting me more frequently. I don’t like the spam.  So I set out to see what I could do to remedy the situation.

Why I use a contact form

  1. Captures information – You decide what  is important to you, like name and website, then incorporate that into your form.
  2. Build an email list – Everytime someone emails you, you are adding to your database of emails.
  3. Always gets to the right person – Sometimes on a business website, when you send an email, you are not always sure it is going to the right person. Or if the email is going to the president or owner, you might be reluctant to email because of the person’s position. The form makes sure that it is going to the right person and removes the intimidation factor.

Since I have started using the contact form over just a simple email address, I have started receiving more emails from people. Whether it be people interested in guest blogging, potential clients or people who want to network. Previously my contact page was my general email address (info@smcubedconsulting.com) but it seems that a general “info” email address is too impersonal. It does not seem like the email is going to a real person, whereas a contact form is directed.

The spam has been driving me crazy!

Say no to Spam

The most common way to eliminate spam is to use a Captcha.

Captcha

Captcha

Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart – oh yes, that is what the acronym stands for. Now you know why everyone just calls it Captcha.

How it works –  an image on screen is a combination of letters and/or numbers. You type what you read into a box.  When you submit the text, if it matches the image you are verified.

Problem – Spam bots can now use this too. It was only a matter of time before spam bots would figure out how to recognize the letters and numbers. So this is no longer a foolproof way around spam, because bots are spydering the forms and getting around the Captcha. Many people find them to be annoying and frustrating, so you might have people who do not email you because of your Captcha.

Benefit – Though it does not catch all spam bots, it does significantly reduce the number of them that can successfully crawl your site. Since I have started using it, my spam email has decreased by 70%. It is also easy to use. Most of the contact form widgets integrate easily with Captcha.

Images are also being utilized for Captcha, where you are asked to identify a picture from a word or phrase.

They are also working on SAT style Captcha where they ask you to pick out a word that does not belong in a set.

Math

The newer way to identify humans is to offer a simple math problem.

How it works – Incorporated into forms is a small box that asks you a question like:

2 + 4 = ?

You simply do the math and answer the question.

Problem – The problem with this is it is not available in custom form plugins.  You can use it in comment forms on registrations. But you cannot assign it to a set page, or integrate it with a contact form through a plugin.  You can integrate it if you are willing to do the CSS coding, but if you are using widgets you are out of luck.  The widgets are currently only integrated with Captcha.

Benefit – The bots don’t seem to be able to do simple math.  You will eliminate your bot-based form spam.

My solution?

I added the Captcha to my contact form because it did reduce about 70% of my spam.  I would have preferred to use the math, but since I choose to utilize plugins to increase the ease and functionality of my site it won’t integrate.  This is a shame, but in the meantime I’m satisfied with reduced spam and the knowledge that I am a source of frustration for some Spam bots!

Facebook Not-Mail: Part 5 The opposite of preferred is Spam?

Cartoon with a man saying "You should check your email more often, I fired you three weeks ago."

There is one glaring issue with the new Facebook email – spam.  There is no spam folder, only an “other” folder. Though we might tend to think this is the same thing, it isn’t. The “other” folder is really meant to filter emails that do not belong in your preferred email box, like bills, newsletters, and annoying friends who only send you forwards with inspirational quotes, etc.  The preferred box is supposed to be for people you really want to hear from. However the opposite of preferred is not spam.

The first part of your email address is your vanity URL.  So if you are www.facebook.com/lauren.macewen  then lauren.macewen@facebook.com will be your email address. These URL’s are crawlable by spam bots which means that any spam bot will easily be able to figure out your email address.

Any spam emails will automatically be put into the “other” box. So, now are you at risk of missing those emails that aren’t spam but aren’t preferred?

Facebook Not-Mail: Part 2 How the email works

stick person shooting an email with a slingshotOne of the biggest reasons Facebook decided to launch an email system (aka Not-Mail) is that more than 4 billion emails are sent through Facebook every day. Mark Zuckerberg feels that they traditional system of email is anachronistic. On this issue he might be right.  People are increasingly use mail rooted in their social network, ie. Facebook Messages, Twitter DM, Linkedin In Mail, text messages, mentions, wall postings are increasingly becoming primary sources for communication. Traditional email is becoming the way of the past. People are wanting their communications to be linked to one another and with higher functionality than type, send and read.  People are moving towards a complete integration of their communication technology.  This is why my calendar is linked to my other calendar which is linked to my Tungle.me which sends me emails that I get on both my computers and my phone. Though this seems complicated, when one is updated it is all updated. Ultimately this makes things easier because everything is interconnected and it doesn’t matter where or how I access it. Facebook is trying to do this without having 10 different applications and sites necessary to accomplish a high level of inter-connectivity.

There are a lot of questions about how the basic email function is going to work. Basically the essentials will be just like email. I type in your contact info, my subject and body and then send.  You receive and respond back.  This will not be that different.

The best change that will make conversation tracking much easier is that all your conversations with a person will be kept in a singular history.  Currently the messages in Facebook do this for a singular conversation but does not for all communications between two people.  The change will keep all conversations with one person in a singular history, and will do this for everyone in your contact list. This includes friends not on Facebook.

As Bos, the senior engineer at Facebook, said at the live announcement, he could track his entire relationship with his girlfriend through the email history.

What makes this so different from the standard Facebook messaging, outside of being able to email people who are not on Facebook, is that people can send you an email to an address and have it go to your Facebook message center.  All users will be able to get an username@facebook.com email address. So whatever your name is on Facebook will be your email address, for instance mine would be LaurenMacEwen@facebook.com. This means that people can send you emails to your facebook email from any email client, and you can email them back.

Soon IMAP will also be supported, meaning you will be able to use your new @facebook.com email address on your mail client, taking Facebook mail completely off Facebook.

Read the overview of Facebooks “Not-Mail” messaging system here

Tomorrow I will talk about the cross-platform integration of Facebook messages, SMS, IM, and Facebook Chat.

Facebook Not-Mail: Part 1 the complete overhaul!

letter that has the Facebook logo and "To the world" written on the front

On Monday Facebook announced their new email solution, also being called “Not-Mail”. This is not a traditional email where write an email and send it, with some spam filtering and maybe some folders for organizing.  As Mark Zuckerberg has said, “this is not email.”  The modern messaging concept is going to involve multiple platform integration, complete conversation history and the incorporation of social mapping for email sorting.

Still wondering what this means.  Here is the break down:

  • When you receive an email, it will pop up in a message through Facebook messaging. It will also be in your email box. If you have and iPhone you will get a push notification. If you don’t have an iPhone you will get a text message.Essentially you will be connected as your emails happen. Don’t worry you can control the types of notifications you receive so you don’t feel like your technology just exploded.
  • The email will keep all of your communications with a singular user in one stream.  This way you can easily see every email between you and that person since the dawn of time…well, at least since the dawn of Not-Mail.
  • Social mapping is something that Facebook already does with the newsfeed.  The social map determines who you interact with the most and who it thinks are the people you are most interested in and then posts their updates on the wall. A social mail box will be the same.  Facebook will use the mapping algorithm to select who it thinks you want to receive email from.  The people not selected by the algorithm will be put in an “other” folder. You can assist the algorithm by adding people to your your “favorites” mail box, or by moving people into the “other” mail box.  The idea is that your friends and family will get priority via the social mapping and your bills will get put into the “other” box for you to look at later.

Over the next few days I will go into more detail about these features.

Facebook is positioning itself to become the center of your online social experience and focusing communication through the site will help accomplish this.

Will you use Not-Mail?