Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Spittle Awards - Conversational, Social Media Spam as a Second Language

Taking this old blog in another direction, strictly for fun…

Practicing both the art and science of Digital Interactive Marketing (i.e. marketing and advertising using the Internet and its wealth of customer engagement technologies, including social media, online games, website discussions, multimedia interaction etc.), the topic of Spam comes up on a daily basis. It’s a pretty ubiquitous topic for most anyone using the Internet, where information you receive through email, online advertisements, blog comments and other feedback mechanisms contains unwanted messages hoping to lure you into clicking a link, engaging in some kind of “phishing” scam, or otherwise wasting your time and exposing your privacy.

In our business, we spend time and effort not only identifying and stopping spam, but also designing our own messaging and marketing techniques so as not to ourselves appear as spammers. The definition of “Spam” as “unwanted or unsolicited advertising and marketing information” includes not only the actual message content, but the means with which it was delivered and presented. Stupid, blatant advertising pumped into a discussion forum promoting deals and coupons isn’t necessarily spam, but this same advertising cloaked as a brief conversation-starter on a blog is pure spam.

Conversational social media spam is usually easy to spot - from the simply “Excellent Post!” to the more legitimate, but still obviously spammy “There is great information on this page. I am in love with your blog so far.”

If you’re a native, American-English speaker with routine experience reading and posting using social media tools, you probably immediately sensed the strangeness with the conversational blog comments above. “Excellent” is a distinctly east Asian expression assigning far too effusive gravitas to the accompanying message (where native US speakers would probably use terms like “cool” or “nice”), and the absence of conversational contractions (i.e. “I’m” vs. “I am”) is another less obvious but actually very typical flag of AETL spamming. AETL? We assume that offshore spammers may in grade school have learned proper, British English as a Second Language (ESL), and are now practicing in their spamming an unfortunately-derived dialect, “American English as a Third Language”. (See this posting for more quick examples of AETL “flag” words.)

Some of this bad conversational blog spam is simply wrong and easy to filter, using keyphrase lists, standard Bayesian filters or experience-based tools like Akismet. Some just rubs you the wrong way, and is instantly noticed as “trying too hard to fit in” to the American ear – and some of this is (not including that obviously generated by reverse automated translation software) truly comedic, very funny.

Some of our all-time favorites are apparently deserving of what we’ll call our "Spittle Awards". SP from “spam”, “tle” as a juxtaposition of the “English as a Third Language”, and “IT” (as a stretch in artistic liberties taken to create a helpful acronym) possibly indicating regions of the world (seemingly expert in AETL) to which many low-cost information technology jobs have been outsourced. (Well, that’s what this blog was originally created to help with.) Plus “spittle” seems be exactly what this nonsense actually is (vs. “spam”), in terms of online social media dialogue – written spittle, perhaps, vs. hawked.

Here, then, are this month’s candidate “Spittle Awards” for starters – those conversational social media comments that are un-obviously spam though disguised in a very AETL package. You choose who wins!

Entries are judged (by us) on: (A) originality, (B) funniness, (C) trying too hard, (D) creative alignment with the subject or theme of the host post, and (E) superior, expert application of AETL. All comments are accurately reproduced as in the original spat.

1. “Buddy” – “I dont know what to say. This web site is amazing. Thats not truly a actually substantial statement, but its all I could come up with soon after reading this. You know a great deal about this subject. Much making sure that you produced me wish to understand additional about it. Your web site is my stepping stone, my buddy. Many thanks for that heads up on this theme.

2. “Frank” – “You absolutely deserve a spherical of applause in your post and a lot more specifically, your blog in general. Quite good quality material!”

3. “Betty” – “I love your site, but honestly tell you that you need more for him to monitor those who commented with your records”.

Disclaimer – we are huge fans of the show “Outsourced”, an equal-opportunity multi-cultural comic offender on NBC. This posting aspires to its obvious success. We also aspire to offering fame and prizes for the best Spittle (authenticated via its actual posting as a public comment) – probably a t-shirt and accompanying SEO benefits!