Spam comment censor dilemma solutions

Ladies and gentlemen, if you are sitting comfortably, I am proud to present a rather unusual topic for a Thursday which requires a bit of history before you understand the dilemma.

Facts about Blogprefect.com:

  • It is a WordPress Blog
  • It has a Simple Captcha plugin employed to prevent spam commentators (you will see this if you go to make a comment as it will ask some form of mathematical question)
  • It uses Akismet, another plugin, to actively remove spam comments before they even make it for moderation

Occasionally through bad spelling and grammar some of what Akismet classifies as spam is actually not spam. Also through unusual “hair-brained” linking schemes, Akismet throws a fit and tosses out some comments.

Thus I have to vet spam. I do so on a bi-weekly basis because I believe comments are gold dust.

99% of Akismet’s slam dunks are entirely justified. Thumbs up all the way!

But…

Occasionally I get a comment that does make me pause.

Now, before I move on, I strongly urge that this isn’t a character assassination, nor do I see it as a good practice to try to divert negative comment by making someone out to be a laughing-stock. Negative comment can sometimes teach you a lot. There are some reasons, however, why I will not approve this comment and why Akismet was right. I have omitted the contact details of this individual so that as a collective you don’t go and beat this individual up. The only reason I have left in the URL is to display reasons why this comment appears bogus.

 

Pittsburgh electric company

Figure 1, the unapproved comment.

So on the basis that this is indeed spam, there is a lot of evidence that points to this being the case.

WTF tally:

  1. “Pittsburgh electric company”
  2. “spamvilla.com”
  3. The unusual use of a non standard “h” character on the second line.
  4. The unusual use of a non standard “d” and “h” character on the fourth line along with”you” being spelled incorrectly.
  5. The unusual use of a non standard “b” character on the fifth line.
  6. The unusual use of a non standard “h”, “k” and “o” character, and the incorrect spelling of “see”, “they” and “headlines” on the sixth line.
  7. The unusual use of a non standard “o” on the seventh line.
  8. The unusual use of a non standard “w”, the incorrect spelling of “pic”, the unnecessary use of “‘ve” after everything, and the wrong grammatical use of “too” on the eighth line.
  9. The unusual use of a non standard “a”, an unrecognised character for “o”, and the incorrect spelling of “blog” on the ninth line.

First of all, who the hell calls themselves the Pittsburgh electric company? That’s just weird.

Secondly, Spamvilla.com, who on Earth would be fool enough to take out a domain name like that and seriously try to run a business?

Then we have the unusual non used ASCII characters that replace normal ASCII characters in the comment. This almost makes me believe that this has somehow been translated from Cyrillic and if I were to reveal the name of the commentator this would make even more sense.

So the primary analysis proves that this is spam.

The second test is normally the acid test.

Something that WordPress have introduced fairly recently is the ability to preview the links attached with the URLs from commentators. All you have to do is hover. This eliminates you having to go to the website.

commenturlpreview

In this case spamvilla does appear to be a real site rather than something hastily pasted from a Google search. The site however is dodgy. Dodgy with a capital Damn that’s dodgy.

The biggest qualifier of this is the “Bots” element in one of the menu buttons.

All of the “supposed” testimonials are broken at the bottom of the page with no images of people. The contact us page has a poorly written tag line and the assigned contact is a guy called “Kelvin the Champ”. Yes, “Kelvin the Champ”. Okay so maybe I’m just being harsh seeing as I refer to myself as the Headboy. I might as well have titled myself the master and commander. Champ is a bit close to chimp in my book.

Vilification and stern looks to the side, why did I pause?

I paused because the comment had some truth to it. Blog Post Comments: A by the numbers rant was a rather pants title.

Spam comment censor dilemma solutions

You may have a ton of super heroes in your content but it still doesn’t matter if your headline is pants!

Image Source: Flickr courtesy of AngrylambieNo superheros were injured during the taking of this picture

 

The truth is, with a bit of research I could have found a better title for this article. I had bought an expensive marketing tool that still remains fairly unused, which is capable of keyword research, and which many people trying to sell through affiliation, swear blind over.

The suggestions aren’t that bad on reflection. Videos are always good. I generally see a much warmer response when a post contains a video of one form or another, regardless of what platform it is housed on (YouTube, Vimeo, etcetera).

Some of the content doesn’t suit pics as well as you might think. To be a good article it should stand up without images. Images just add a bit extra. Whilst I have waxed lyrical that images are kick ass, you shouldn’t rely on that.

The mention of Yahoo is a fair one. Yahoo invested a lot of time in understanding the psychology behind how people react to certain headlines. Yahoo are one of the big remaining portals that still pump out plenty of epic content. A lot of prolific bloggers swear blind by one particular Yahoo style guide that has sold umpteen copies. But I have to say that is also a bit of a cookie cutter observation.

I humbly admit that there are a number of posts with poor headlines that fail to convert passers-by to readers. For every blog post I write where I get a minimal take up on day one, is another waste of effort.

What next?

delete permanently

Bin that comment but… take on board the critique and try to improve the end product. Avoid making the same mistakes again.

Day 501, The almost Monday Tuesday Post

I have been writing on my blog for 501 days on the date of publishing this post. It was only yesterday that I had a brain wave about my current strategy and it has been formed over the past month during October, one that has proved to be a disappointment on the same time last year.

This is a slight diversion to my philosophical adventures looking more at reasons why I’ve been struggling over the past year and a bit.

Day 501, The almost Monday Tuesday Post

501 days almost monday tuesday post

The truth is, I’m often my worst critic, I am often hard on myself with lofty expectations of what I want to achieve but without the necessary time spent performing that change.

There have also been a number of triggers to this forward decision.

  • I know I can do better

I feel super pumped about this blogging. I love and have always loved writing. It’s coming together.

  • I have to do better

Because upon reflection, the only way is up, baby. (Yes, that is a song lyric hidden in there)

  • I want to break myself out of a “comfortable uncomfortable” situation

This is the kind of work I want to do in future, period.

  • Now is the time

I’ve got no dependents, there is no restriction, the economy is as stable as it can be (touch wood).

  • Lack of the right feedback

Because if I have been doing it wrong, you audience haven’t been saying enough about it. Stop being so nice! Apart from that, there aren’t enough of you!

The core of my issue:

I’m busy. I work 9-5:30 weekdays with a job that already uses a lot of computer knowledge that drains my brain. I like to relax after work with certain shows. I watch Neighbours (an Australian soap) religiously, I am currently watching Defiance, Under the Dome, Gotham, Dr Who and The agents of shield at the moment. I have to cook my own dinner (and I enjoy cooking) but it takes time. I wash and iron my own clothes, go shopping for my groceries and do house related stuff. I often write on diversionary topics because I have come up with tons of great ideas for Science Fiction and Fantasy novels. I also enjoy playing Blood Bowl (a computer game adapted from a Games Workshop board game) and The Sims 4 (which has taken a bit of a sideline recently). Of my YouTube subscriptions, 3 of them involve people playing and reviewing video games (LGR, Angry Joe Show and JackSepticEye).

On top of that I have my study for DD309, the final module of my Honours Degree in Business Studies which I have been working on entirely from home since 2008. The third tier modules are harder, require considerable reading effort and have longer, more involved assignments. So I fit this in where I can and it normally forms a high priority.

Then, to make it more complicated I am the guy who sorts out all of the payments on a shared house. I live with my ex-girlfriend (but not through choice) in a fairly small terraced dwelling. We both have new partners and I tend to romp with my girlfriend to all sorts of places. I enjoy bowling and the cinema with my squeeze and she has quite a record of beating me at both pool and air hockey (grrr).

I also like to see my ma and pa who live 45 minutes away in a place that has one of the worst bottlenecks in the universe, worsened now by a certain supermarket beginning with “W” (not WalMart).

So, it becomes a great juggling act. Often times I am forced to compromise on something and much of the time that is Blog Prefect.

Over the past 2-3 months I have had a rather slim amount of time available. The time that I used to bathe in has been eroded by exam prep, more trips out with my girlfriend and some/most of the listed distractions.

What do I not have time for?

I don’t have time to write a lot of the articles to the depth and level of thought that I used to be able to. I note that my epic, well performing posts, were written when I had plenty of time. Whilst I have written some “Bobby Dazzlers” recently, they pale in comparison to my big guns, two of which were scribed at the very start of the year.

My Google+ Hegemony, the place I have been doing best in my Social Media entry to the site, has died down considerably. I need to improve my methods, my scope, my participators, my reciprocal sharing, my circle penetration, reinvigorate the blog prefect community page and otherwise kick ass.

Twitter is doing well at the moment, I have picked up a ton of new followers, all of them appear to be awesome and I have some of my fellow bloggers to thank for this. However, my Twitter critical mass is miniscule. I pull about as much weight as a sickly parrot. I need more time to be a boss and take over the world. The branding on my Twitter needs work.

Tumblr, despite my efforts, is not pulling its weight. It is not pulling in the punters. I need more time to discover what works better. I already know the answer is images but I don’t have frickin’ time for images!

Facebook is currently a dead loss. I currently feel that any time spent on this is a waste because with my limited time, I can’t sustain the required impact. Many have complained that Facebook is a bit Facebroke and I can’t afford the time to spend on this platform. I’ve never been a big fan of Facebook but many of the experts cry red, black and blue murder that Facebook is liquid platinum.

StumbledUpon was an experiment but I don’t have the high-end articles required to really shine there. I often look with envy at what is kicking about on SU because I need to have the time to craft that epic shiz too!

LinkedIn was started but I felt nervous in going further so it has gathered dust ever since. I could probably make this place work but don’t have the time.

Besides all that…

I actually hate adverts. This is why you may find my site contains nothing in the way of Adsense or Adwords. There aren’t even any affiliate links here. I did for a time run a Fiverr advert for my own service, the service idea was a flop and so I let the dust gather on Fiverr. I need to do better at presentation of my awesome.

Social Media Marketing & Networking are not areas I’ve mastered

I managed to get my followers (with some supreme help) in Google+ to 1,800+, very few of those interact with my stuff but it is mostly because I haven’t been a great participator myself. I’ve been taking a bit too much recently and not giving back which has led to a drop in my overall G+ activity. My community page for Blog Prefect never reached any mass so I stopped updating it a long time ago.

Twitter has some momentum but because I have tragically little time I can’t capitalise on it. In truth Twitter sat dead for almost a year because I had a brain freeze on how to use it effectively. It was only when one of my friendly bloggers and my sister added me that I started to get momentum, up until that point I had no movement at all.

There are lots of other areas I’ve partially explored with poor results including; StumbledUpon, Tumblr, Facebook & LinkedIn.

There are many more social time sinks that have not yet been explored but I realise will swallow my precious time if I even step foot near them.

So what does this all mean and where am I getting to?

Blog Prefect is one of my joys to write for and this is not some veiled announcement that I’m going to be shutting up shop. If anything, Blog Prefect has got me through some hard times because it is the one consistent element of my world that I feel in control of. Being the boss is ace!

However, I am going to take a period out of my standard schedule to work on an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). I make no earnings from Blog Prefect and at time of writing it has only turned in a loss (through the hosting, domain name and Market Samurai). I believe that at the crux of some of my issues is the lack of a product. This feeling has been galvanised by seeing so many of my compatriots make a better fist of the importance of sales.

I want to have a go at an eBook and have a strong lean towards this as the next piece of cement to my infrastructure. I want to be able to start learning about the marketing involved around my own product and actually make Blog Prefect pay for itself.

The most fun I’ve had in recent time is collaboration with other bloggers and this is something I will be concentrating on going forwards.

The policy of avoiding politics

Politics may conjure a picture of dread, boredom and anguish as you read it. Politics is not only resigned to government but starts to invade any organisation where power is involved. The power to escape office politics through running your own business has been seen as an appealing draw for many entrepreneurs but how practical is that notion?

The policy of avoiding politics

the policy of avoiding politics

Image Source: Commons by Jsnape40 – No owner link available

A definition of politics:

“Activities aimed at improving someone’s status or increasing power within an organization.”

Why then, is working for yourself more fulfilling than working for an establishment?

  • You can negate this rather tiresome aspect of working in a hierarchy where your best interests are not always served because you become top of the pyramid.
  • Often you will be working peer-to-peer or business to business, business to customer, eliminating the bureaucracy that you may have been used to.
  • As a dictator you can decide on your tradeoffs, decide where the line is drawn on what you will and won’t do.

Let’s then throw in the “e” bomb

Entrepreneur, sounds sexy French doesn’t it!

Entrepreneur

In reality all it means is a business owner. It doesn’t mean genius, it doesn’t mean hero; it means business owner.

Many people wrongly presume that Entrepreneur means successful, winner, awesome. The truth is that you can be near bankruptcy and still be an entrepreneur because all entrepreneur means is business owner.

There can be successful and unsuccessful enterprises.

But one thing that entrepreneur does mean is a tip of the spear, top of the pyramid, devoid of politics because the only politics that evolves is that beneath you, when you start to have employees.

But is politics completely devoid of a blog owner, a sole trader?

An important word to consider when asking this question is “Position”.

As a business to avoid competition you position yourself into a market that gives you enough honey to be a well fed bear. With that position follows the greasy unwashed smell of politics. The position is known as a “niche” or “sub niche” (which you should be familiar with if you are a blogger) and basically all that equates to is a market position, a place to eat some honey. As niches become full and you get less honey for your efforts you diversify into “sub niches” to capture a more unique “segment” of the market.

How does this equate to the notion of politics?

Through having to find a position, you are fighting an establishment, those who came before you (incumbents). This establishment may place a boundary on your reach to your audience and limit your growth.

You have to gain acceptance from others in order to become an authority (domain authority or DA being a measure that search engines depend on).

This requires an increase in “Status” and “Power” and thus these are key indicators of e-politics in action.

What introduces the notion of e-politics?

The easy answer is search engines and social media exposure (or lack therein).

Where does the politics originate? It originates from the actions of the audience. They choose the voice they feel provides them the most warmth and has the highest trust based on a very quick analysis.

This analysis is based on pleasing factors, weight of number and general ease of presentation. Most searchers don’t look far past results page one, it is an unpleasant fact. The only time someone is prompted to look past page one is if the keywords they used resulted in an abstract result where page one bears no resemblance to what they were looking for.

You can guarantee that the analysis will involve some form of popularity assessment.

Thus politics is the popularity contest.

Impositions such as negative reviews and negative comments can have a negative political outcome for our blog or quite the opposite depending on the strength of our status and power.

Which leads to “Talking a good game”

Because talking a good game is more evidential than playing a good game, even though you have to play a good game to talk a good game, are you with me?

If you don’t spin a good yarn, people won’t be interested. Often black and white isn’t good enough. Dramatic flair pays dividends.

Yet talk is not enough, fandom is key!

Followers or acolytes are needed, engaged supporters as they are better known. They don’t have to agree with your views but they have to show a “numbered” presence because when you have enough support, passers-by are far more likely to join in, call it a collective pressure. Whilst many expert bloggers might try to figure out a tipping point, I strongly believe that each article is unique and the tipping point of comments from community required to spur visitors into action varies.

It’s the law of queues!

If you see a queue for something where many people are waiting expectantly, you might be tempted to question what they are waiting for. You might be further tempted to join that queue even though you have no idea what awaits you at the end of it.

In a theme park, you know the best ride is normally the one with one of the longest queues.

If you flipped that onto blogging, some of your best articles may be those that have the most social shares and comments. (This doesn’t always follow, depending on the content, as certain content by its nature attracts more comments and social activity.)

Your power and status will determine when and how that queue forms.

You have to be a leader to have followers. The meek will not inherit the Earth!

Being the top of the pyramid means you have to make choices. Not all of those choices are good ones and sometimes you may be answerable to a community by not providing what you had intended or in the time that you had specified. Expectation has taken on a different shape since computers can run 24/7 and since communication is decidedly more instant.

Tricky examples:

You might decide to use images that have a defined copyright that certain owners protect rather fiercely, in which case you might have to expect that this owner will find you, contact you and ask you to cease in the best case scenario. In the worst case they could sue you for breach of copyright which could carry a court case and a large fine. Even attribution may not be enough, if the image has restrictions on its licence.

How you decide to respond to trouble maker commentators may have negative ramifications down the line. The saying goes; “Don’t feed the troll!”

You risk alienation for providing a contrary view if in reflection your contrary view of a topic was wrong. Further still you might have to make an announcement that you were wrong which in turn weakens your legitimacy on the subject. Whether you conform to the rule of “never apologising” or being “humbly apologetic” bears some reflection on your political stance. The difference between being cavalier or upstanding is a decision for you to make but it pays to be consistent.

Conclusion:

So you can’t avoid the politics, you just change where you sit at that politics and how much autonomy you have. Are you a natural leader or are you meek?

Should I be thinking about money when blogging?

Whether new or old to blogging, whether 3 days in or 3 years in, sooner or later you’ll be thinking about money. It is inevitable…. …but there lies the initial question:

Should I be thinking about money when blogging?

 

Blogging as an activity is gaining more ground by larger numbers of the general population on a daily basis. Many people blog for the fun of it and for the enjoyment of sharing writing, sound, images and video on a frequent basis. It can be a very personal and very community based activity.

However…

Businesses are increasingly adding blogs to their websites in order to interact with community. This is mostly because protest groups form on the Internet and businesses can stem some of the anger by spearing off the trouble before it gets out of hand. “Community managers” are appointed to conduct transparency and deflection on the corporate blogs and social media linked with them. This change has also come about because of the fact that each article has the potential (with SEO/SERPS) to return a potential customer towards their website and with suitable optimisation, lead them to products and services.

There has also been an influx in “have a go heros”; Ordinary people who, with a great idea, have been able to carve out extraordinary profits. I could list hundreds but breaking from my tradition of listing you some names I’m sure you have your favourite bloggers who’ve turned a tidy profit. You know who those people are and you wish to emulate them.

As to the question in hand…

Should I be thinking about money when blogging?

This really depends on why you are blogging.

If you started out blogging for fun and have done so on a free platform like Blogger, Blogspot or Tumblr, you may not be thinking about money as much as somebody with a hosted CMS on their own domain such as WordPress or Drupal. People who have shelled out for something more committed have a much higher taste for monetization. They have paid for a domain with the intent of returning on their investment because hosting, domains and other ancillary services cost yearly or monthly fees.

If you started out with the idea of making a business, becoming an entrepreneur, you are in it for money. Whilst it may be based on a subject you have a passion for, or you enjoy the way you produce it, it is still with an eye on the money prize.

So should I be thinking about it?

It’s not a crime to think about making money through blogging. Many people do make modest incomes from their blogging activity. The important part is that they have to work at it. There aren’t so many passive streams (unless you put in some heavy groundwork).

There are some problems with money ruling your destination!

Money itself is not the problem so much as how it motivates you. So I will talk about 5 issues that I think rest at the top. I’d be grateful if you can highlight more in the comments below or tweet them to me at @blogprefect

Issue 1: Over production

You may start working a schedule that is way beyond the frequency that you might have worked to if you were not motivated by money. This will put pressure on you to perform to the same quality.

There is something to be said about natural versus artificial. Natural takes longer but produces a more genuine picture to your audience. Artificial methods draw question from your audience, being dishonest can be detrimental to your status, and to your audience’s ability to trust you in future.

Stupid mistakes make you look stupid, simple.

I often get invited to events on Google+, many of these events I avoid because of their forced, artificial nature. Nobody wants to waste time being sold something. You don’t naturally go in search of advertisements. You naturally go in search of answers.

Issue 2: Making it work “The square peg in a round hole”

Sometimes whilst you put in a sterling effort to push the sale home, you are going to be doing a lot outside of your comfort zone. Some solutions will not be of good quality and they may come across in an abrasive fashion, ill-fitting and inconsistent with your blog’s ethos.
heathrobinsonYou can often set out to make something work. The saying “Heath Robinson” relates to a man named W. Heath Robinson, an English gentleman born in 1872, who was renowned for drawing crazy rickety machines that required constant maintenance. An American by the name of “Rube Goldberg” also had similar styled madcap drawings. These machines could stand a chance of working but the rather unusual method of their construction made the illustrators names synonymous with half-arsed solutions.

Being professional you never want to stand by substandard work but often if you are forced to find a solution to support you in the meantime it will be a less than perfect fit. The fact is that you can put a square peg in a round hole and you can put a round peg through a square hole but you shouldn’t really. It gets the job done but there is a difference between doing a job and doing a job well. The truth is that you don’t want to get known for half hearted solutions.

You don’t gain a lot of trust from the audience if they doubt your solution’s end results and 90% of the time a person comes in search of an answer on a search engine.

Issue 3: The “smell of sell”

Smell of sellLeading on from making it work, the “smell of sell” is the point you encounter when what you are reading is an advert with no neutrality, you are either bashing another product to sell another or singing the praises of what you have to offer with no flaws at all. As there are many varied ways of selling on the Internet there are many ways that you can come across in a negative light to a passing reader. The smell of sell becomes stronger as you succeed more, along with it, comes an ego, a position and an establishment.

The smell of sell is okay if people come to you because you are an honest seller who does expose weaknesses, provides hints and tips and does their best to match the product or service to the right target.

The smell of sell is not okay if it has no place in what you are trying to do.

  • Pushing your luck will lose you custom.
  • Hard sells are unattractive and scream of desperation.
  • Cold sales don’t inspire repeat custom.

Issue 4: Damaging your relationship with what you love

Through performing an activity in a more focused way and more aggressively than you were used to, there is a risk that all passion can flow out of what you love doing. This is especially common with hobbies turned into jobs. Whilst many successful people regale about the success of turning a hobby into a job, very few admit when the opposite outcome was the case. There are not so many people who indicate that they lost all passion for that once loved hobby, but don’t be under any illusion that they don’t exist.

Actions performed over-frequently without the reward become stale, unsatisfying and tiresome.

As your relationship with what you love is tarnished by unhappy circumstances, the malaise (unease) of the day-to-day grind and an over familiarity, you’ll begin to lose the original cheer from your rare treat. Some things should just remain a hobby, a happy pastime for you to cherish in your down time. Such things should be preserved to remind you that living is fun.

Issue 5: Working to burn out

Burnt out kittyMaking money can be an addictive process and often to make satisfying amounts means many hours with the nose on the grindstone. Often that time spent can never be returned and you can endanger relationships with your family, friends and loved ones (including pets).

As you bond yourself more to the process you may begin to lose grip on the healthy elements needed to conduct your life in a balanced fulfilling way. You might be working 18 hour days or worse.

Working to established 8 hours days (or if working shift, 12 hour days) has been proven to be more efficient over the long run. You lose efficiency in what you are doing by the phenomenon of attention drift or target fixation if you work outside the norm.

Such a scenario might be a logger (lumberjack). Such a man (or very burly woman) would never choose to work a 15 day stretch with a physically gruelling work schedule ahead of them with no down time. Why would you do the same on a mentally gruelling schedule?

To add to this burn out dilemma, those who stack the dice and place their whole faith on blogging turning a profit (because they are out of traditional work or because they are living on the limit of their finances) will be more critical of their offerings placing more pressure on themselves to be perfectionists. This magnifies the effects of failure if they do everything right but don’t hit the right spot. The Internet is not always fair, the Internet is often just the Internet, electronic soup to the masses.

Writing in general can provide a great area for burn out. Stringing together successful topics over long durations and at oppressive frequencies can eventually empty the tank of creative juices. Sooner or later you will hit a dry spell but with working harder you’ll reach the dry spot sooner and through being worn out this arid time is likely to last longer. Writing and researching can be mentally draining; this can be heightened when working long hours and to tight deadlines. Pressure from clients and the audience can also stack further mental pressure on the process.

In Conclusion:

Remember: A shroud has no pockets. What I mean by that is, if you die, you can’t take your valuables with you so you should enjoy life while you can.

It is no crime to earn money while blogging but it shouldn’t be the only reason. That is to say that you shouldn’t start a venture as a fraud. You should have some interest or passion in what you are doing.

You are here often to help people. When people go searching on Google or a whole selection of search engines, they may be looking with some form of urgency. By being dishonest you aren’t doing these searchers any favours. If you believe in karma then you’ll treat others as you want to be treated and to spell that out, fairly and with good information. A shop that you will return to is one that gives good information and helps you solve your problem in the most efficient way, not the one that sells you things you don’t need at exorbitant prices.