When I was a kid, no film frightened me like The Last Man on Earth. Most people had a similar reaction to Night of the Living Dead, George Romero’s excellent fright-fest (which itself was based at least upon Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend, if not its first film adaptation—that Matheson co-wrote: The Last Man on Earth). But to me, the combination of zombies and being entirely alone made The Last Man on Earth far more frightening (even though, I must admit: Night of the Living Dead is a better film—and the remake is better still). If you don’t know The Last Man on Earth, check its trailer:
The Last Man on Frankly Curious!
Why do I bring this up? Because I feel like I am the last man on Frankly Curious—fighting off hundreds of zombies attacking me every night, trying to break in. Ben Cortman may not be leading them, but I hear their yells, “Moraes, come out!” And “Moraes! We’re going to kill you!” Who are they? Spambots! And what do they want? To drink of the blood of my Google Rating!
Every night a couple of hundred spambots try to post here. And every night one or two get through. And every morning, I gleefully drive a stake through the hearts of these bloodsuckers. What the posts say doesn’t really matter, but they are kind of interesting. There are three kinds of spambot zombies; you can tell by what they post:
- Simple ads: “Winter is when the mice, rats and other pests all try to get into the warmth of your home. Do you have the right pest control products to stop them from infesting your home. Visit our online pest control products at http://www.SomeEvilFuckingCompany.com to get the best pest control and free technical support at http://www.SomeEvilFuckingCompany.com.” Note: this posting was not for a company selling pest control products; it was for one selling outdoor gear. Go figure.
- Fake humans who just loved my article: “Excellence article I must said :) …Thank you for your information, I’ve been looking for this information for a long time. very useful” (I actually really like the syntax of that first sentence!).
- What Michelle Delio calls Random acts of spamness: “Daphnia blue-crested fish cattle, darkorange fountain moss, beaverwood educating, eyeblinking advancing, dulltuned amazons….”
Google: Release the Zombies!
And what do they get—all these zombie spambots? Certainly not clicks. All their attacks are an effort to put links on my pages so that Google will think that an article about Don Quixote translations really does link to a penis-enlargement site. And so, in this way, at least, Google is being evil—or at least encouraging evil with its algorithms. But what can Google do?
Brad DeLong provides two sources claiming that the spammers are winning the fight with Google. I think this is an over-statement. When it comes to the things that I search for, Google does a great job—better than any other search engine. The people commenting on DeLong’s post seemed mostly to be complaining that when they search for consumer products, they get a lot of spam. One guy complained that he had given up looking for reviews of consumer goods. What does he expect? I suggested that he subscribe to Consumer Reports.
Google: Release the Plagiarizers!
Another commenter noted that with so much plagiarism on the Internet, it was hard to find—for example—his original article on setting a wristwatch. (Now I know this sounds a bit trivial, but I get the impression there is something substantial here. For one thing, it isn’t like idiots read Brad DeLong. And for another, I’ve found the Internet hugely useful in learning how to do things my father should have taught me, like tying a tie.) I haven’t found a bunch of plagiarism on the Internet myself. Even on my hugely popular site (I don’t like to talk about it), I have only found one instance of a site totally ripping off an article (not that I look around for it; I have more important things to do like write this very unimportant article).
There is one way in which Google promotes plagiarism: Wikipedia. As any informed person knows: Wikipedia has a really bad search engine and Google is its de facto search engine. Try it yourself: go to Google and search for just about anything and Wikipedia will be in the search results above the fold. In my experience, Wikipedia is about half plagiarized. I recommend that anyone creating content on the Internet not link to it, and instead do a little research to find which website any given Wikipedia article (or part thereof) was stolen from. I can assure you, it is rare that any of the Wikipedia “writers” go so far as to look up something in a book—except, of course, the Harry Potter books. (If anyone thinks this series will really end at seven books, I have four words for you: Anne of Green Gables.) Please note: my wrath does not extend to the relatively small number of professionals—especially grad-students and post-grads—who provide the site with its few stellar pages.
(I should point out, that because of the nature of this site, I assume a lot of students plagiarize me, but that is between them and their teachers. I do hope that any harm that this site may do in this area is made up for in fostering a love of learning—at least in a small minority of my young readers. Anyway, I know that any student would have to at least rewrite what I had written; I have too definable a style: silly and snobbish simultaneously—that’s not easy to do! Oh: and arrogant too.)
Google: Release the Kory Stamper Fans!
I can’t be mad at Google, though. The truth is, they bring me a lot of traffic—almost all of it relevant. Google is the only search engine that does a good job of cataloging Frankly Curious—providing search results for the majority of my articles. Only Yahoo! comes close, and they catalog only 19 pages—not even articles! Bing may use the same database as Yahoo!, because they have the same pages cataloged. But Bing doesn’t even generate the tiny amount of traffic that Yahoo! does, but then, why would it? After all, I’m not selling microwave ovens.
But Google has released another creature on me: the Kory Stamper fan. Since I wrote my article about this hardly famous grammarian changing her hair color, I have been overwhelmed by her fans—or at least, people interested in her. They aren’t zombies or plagiarizers, of course. They are—I assume, because I count myself among them—the best people on earth—people who care about what is really important in life: grammar, etymology, and lightly caffeinated hot beverages.
As James Brown never sang (but somehow, I hear it in my head), “You got to take the good with the bad! Papa’s got a brand new bag!” (Okay: he sang some of it.)
Update: Last Night’s Zombie Attack!
There were only a few Kory Stamper fans last night, but I had me a big stake-driving morning. Early, there was the following twice from the same spammer, “this is one of the coolest websites i ever visited , nice job ,consider having a new reader.” (I have considered having a new reader, but I prefer to keep my old ones.) Then there was, “alarm watch Wow, this Post is really helpful! Thanks!” (Did it pick up on my reference to that commenter’s wristwatch article? Are my zombies that smart?!) And finally, there was, “cheap wedding dresses Wow, this Post is really helpful! Thanks!” If I wrote my articles for spambots, I would be glowing with pride!
Update: Good-Bye Zombies!
Shockingly, I have stopped receiving zombie attacks. Pretty much over-night, no zombie comments get through and my usage statistics have changed from roughly 300 per day to around 70 per day—which is roughly the number of unique visitors that I estimate based upon search engine and normal links. I have no idea why this has happened, but I’m not complaining.
More Stamper! More Brewster!
Want to know more about Kory Stamper, Emily Brewster, and the whole Merriam-Webster crowd? Then you are in luck (and in need of a proper life). Here are some other articles that may interest you.