The nicest word that comes to mind is “lazy”

I suppose a peril of moving in primarily IT literate circles is that you forget how many illiterates there are out there: not necessarily in terms of grammar and the ability to construct coherent sentences (though to be honest, there is quite a close correlation) but just in terms of etiquette.

Fr’instance, a post two days ago on Terry Wogan and various domestic issues drew the following well-targeted comment, all entirely sic including the unclosed opening inverted commas:

“Hi:

Two things

1) I’d like your permission to (re)print your article on ‘Torchwood’for our website

2) I was hoping we could use your ‘scribing’ talent for our website.

The Best Shows Youre Not Watching (dot) com [all one word]
‘Torchwood’one of our featured shows. We’re hoping to round up a few people who can occasionally contribute perspective (via an article/blog) on the shows – maybe a recent episode, future direction, plot shortcomings etc.

What’s in it for you?
Primarily a larger audience back channeled to your blog. We don’t pay but the site has a lot of promise and we’re pretty excited about getting it off the ground. Let me know what you think.

[I redact the URL because I’ve already given the name of their site and have no intention of making life too easy.]

Intriguing, because while I could swear I’ve mentioned Torchwood more than once, a search on the blog only uncovers one article, written nearly three years ago when the series began. Anyway. To save you looking it up, I devastatingly replied:

First, convince me you really are after my scribing talent as a result of a personal evaluation of my ability as evidenced on this blog, and that this isn’t an automatic spam generated by a bot searching on the word “Torchwood”.

Why might I suspect the latter case?

1. The only article I’ve written on Torchwood is nearly 3 years old.

2. There’s a clearly visible link in the left hand column saying “contact Ben”, and yet you drop a comment into a totally unrelated post. The nicest word that comes to mind is “lazy”.

How you go about this convincing of me I leave up to you, but the clue is in point 2 above.

It’s not just web spammers but any kind of direct marketing: the key word is clue, people. If you want people to take you seriously, show you have one. Honestly. Do you really, really think that this kind of so-obviously mass-produced, badly worded twaddle is going to convince us of anything, other than the fact that you so clearly haven’t gone through our site in a search for exactly the right ‘scribing’ talent to suit your needs? Put another way: is it really an advert for your site that it’s going to be ‘scribed’ by the kind of people who either write or respond to this kind of thing?

I thought I would test my theory that the commenter may not be 100% inspired by my personal brilliance. A quick search on key phrases of the comment shows:

  • US TV critic Alan Sepinwall got exactly the same, in a post about American Idol and Ellen Degeneres. As a follow-up comment points out, he’s apparently a high-profile critic in the US and doesn’t exactly need the back-channelled larger audience.
  • Journalist David Kirkpatrick in an article on nanotech. At least Mr Sepinwall has actually written articles on Torchwood. In Mr Kirkpatrick’s case the requested article was about The Clone Wars. A quick search shows that Mr Kirkpatrick has previously written exactly two lines in different posts about the Clone Wars: on 7 January 2009, commenting on wii games: “Hell, the Clone Wars lightsaber game is downright tiring“, and a link to the show’s trailer.
  • Finally, writer Kat Richardson got done with a comment that starts off about Medium but then segues for no apparent reason into The Clone Wars, again. A good ‘scriber’ is at least proficient with cut and paste and the ability to read their own spam.

And there are others, but I got bored.

Good grief, this is the kind of thing people were doing back when the web was young in the mid-nineties. I may even have done it myself, though I hope I didn’t. Is a whole new generation that doesn’t remember the mid-nineties now making the same mistake?

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