How is spam changing?

Spam’s changing, and here at Notes we like to stay on the cutting edge.

That’s a horrible image. Forget I ever wrote it. Here at Notes we have enough sense not to play with knives. Still, things are changing and we should all keep up. I’m not sure why, but it’s a near-universal belief and we’re too intimidated to go against it, so let’s act as if it made sense.

What’s new in the world of spam? Well, I’ve just come back from playing in the spam folder, so I’m completely up to date.

Irrelevant photo: Fast Eddie, in not-so-fast mode.

I’ll give each spam comment its own line except where I got more than one version of it. And I’ve put it in italics to make it feel welcome. Also so you know I didn’t write that mess.

aBhh

aBhh’OupwUmIKSsZt

aBhh’) AND 6021=6292 AND (‘iLRH’=’iLRH

aBhh’) AND 4141=4141 AND (‘lAGH’=’lAGH

aBhh

Taken as a group, these have an interesting symmetry. Each line’s a variation on the one before, and the group resolves by repeating the first line. Is it a poem? Is it encoded instructions on how to hack an election? Is it an attempt to lure me into clicking on the address of the sender? I’d be tempted to, but I’m afraid my computer–or possibly the entire world–would blow up and it would all be my fault.

You can’t be too careful these days.

Besides, whoever sent those messages closed a couple of parentheses before bothering to open them. If there was ever a reason to not click on someone’s email address, that’s it.

But even the strangest approach gets old. After a page of so of the code / poem / effort to blow up the world, I was glad to find a newer new approach: misspellings. Not your garden variety misspellings, mind you, but garblings you can only create on purpose, probably with a program that juggles the letters for you. So what’s the plan here? That I’ll be so intrigued or annoyed that I write back, saying, hey, you spelled difficult wrong? And as soon as I do that, the world blows up?

Well, I’m not that dumb, thank you. If you woke up this morning noticing that the world was intact if a little battered, that was me, not clicking those links.

But enough. Let’s talk about content: Most of the comments tell me I’m wonderful in one way or anther. I am, of course, and I like hearing about my wonderfulosity, but please, I’d like the compliments to be a little more convincing.

Samples?

I’m impressed by your writing. Are you a professional or just very knlebedgealow? / I’m impressed by your writing. Are you a professional or just very kndeeeogwabll?

Tough choice. I probably lean more toward kndeeeogwabll than knlebedgealow. If you look at the root of the word, you’ll see that kndeeeogwabll comes from the Latin for knee-deep in bullshit, and by the time I’ve finished some of these posts I’m at least knee-deep and sometimes in almost to my eyeballs–which, short as I am, are still well above knee level. 

Begun, the great internet edocatiun has.

That came from Yoda. He didn’t say so–modest, Yoda is–but I can tell.

To think I could educate Yoda. 

Another group of comments rests on the assumption that I’m here to help people figure out why their lives have gone to shit. Or maybe even tell them how to de-shittify them. A lot of the blogosphere is about telling people how to deshitify their lives by following the writer’s example and (a) letting go, (b) clinging on, (c) eating more fiber, (d) eating less fiber, (e)drinking more, or (f) buying something the blogger’s getting paid by.

That’d be beer, not water.

Me? The only advice I give is to tell people to approach Notes with caution, and that’s not advice, it’s a health and safety warning. 

Now I’m like, well duh! Truly thfnuakl for your help.

This was in response to a post about brussels sprouts.

How much help do people need with their brussels sprouts? Scads. Brussels sprouts are a subtle vegetables and at certain times of the year can be downright devious. If your life’s gone to shit lately, get your brussels sprouts straightened out and you’ll see the results within days. Hours, even. That’ll be £20, thanks.

TYVM you’ve solved all my prbmelos

This came from someone called Destry, whose prbmelos are beyond any help I could give, even if I was in the help-giving business. For starters, what does it do to a person to be named after a cheesy movie? And while we’re at it, how much time in a spammer’s day (or moments in a program’s whatever programs divide their time into) goes into thinking up new names? Did all these comments come from one person, using the same program and many names or are thousands of spammers writing to me using the same program and their own legally recognized names? If it’s the second, Destry, I apologize for my crack about the movie. I’m sure it looked just fine in 1954.

Okay, I don’t believe they’re using their own names. I get multiple copies of some comments from multiple (and equally unlikely) names.

How does anyone come up with all these names? After you’ve exhausted all the name-your-baby books, where do you look? Facebook? Old movies? Abandoned nightmares? 

And while I’m asking questions, does anyone happen to know what TYVM stands for? I could google it but the world might blow up. Which leaves me to my imagination, so we’re not going to be G-rated today. It stands for Trusting Your Vaginal Mastery.

And Destry thinks she has problems.

I was so confused about what to buy, but this makes it unandstaerdble.

This comment scares me. It was in response to a post on guns and American schools. So now the writer know what to buy. Wonderful.

Could you write about Phicyss so I can pass Science class?

No, sweetie, I don’t think I could and you should be grateful because you’d be so guaranteed to flunk if I helped you out. And it’d serve you right. I could write about not using capital letters unnecessarily, though. Or word-garbling programs.

Another group of comments works on the assumption that I’m here to give emotional support. Or to get it. Which again says a lot about the blogosphere.

At last! Someone who undedstanrs! Thanks for posting!

That was in response to a post about Cheddar Man, a prehistoric Briton (or pre-Briton, since the country didn’t exist yet, but let’s not complicate the thing) whose skeleton was found in a cave in the Cheddar Gorge. Given that his skeleton was lying around unused, I went and assumed he was dead, but apparently Ched’s still with us and I’m the only person who understands him. Ched, my apologies. I’m glad you’re still here and, yes, like you I feel that we have a lot in common, although, frankly, I tend to keep my skeleton where other people can’t get at it. Still, if I find one or two more people like us I’ll put together a support group. In the meantime, hang in there. I understand. I really do.

Then we come to the comments on my writing.

If you want to get read, this is how you shluod write.

Yuor rgthi. I’ll tyr ti.

Phmenenoal breakdown of the topic, you should write for me too! / Phamenenol breakdown of the topic, you should write for me too!

These came–isn’t it amazing?–from two different people, and I’m going to take both of them up on the offer. I’ve always dreamed of writing for an editor (or possibly publisher; who can tell?) who has two separate identities and can spell phenomenal more than one way. And who offers my fuckin’ nothing in return for my writing.

Knewgodle wants to be free, just like these articles!

Oh, hell. I thought we got Knewgodle out last week. A friend had the bail money and swore she’d get it downtown asap. I’ll sort this out today. Thanks for letting me know.

Finding this post has anerewsd my prayers

That came from someone called Pebbles, who was just a stone’s throw from getting what she or he needed, or possibly wanted, before finding my post, so I can’t claim too much credit.

Pebbles’ comment came in response to a post about what people in the U.S. and U.K. use for size comparisons. What, you ask, was Pebbles praying for? Sorry, I’m sworn to secrecy.

But it’s not all deliberate misspellings and pseudo-poems out there in Spamland. First the compliments:

Hahhaaah. I’m not too bright today. Great post!

I got that same comment from several people, which is an amazing coincidence. Let’s call the senders Queenie et al, since Queenie sent the first of them. There’s no feeling like being told your post was great by someone who also tells you she’s not too bright.

Noithng I could say would give you undue credit for this story.

I’ve spent days trying to unravel the meaning here but I end up so woozy that I have to abandon the keyboard and lie flat on the floor until the syntax stops spinning. Still, I need all the undue credit I can get, so yeah, whatever it means, I’ll take it.

Then the advice–this time not people looking for it but the ones who offer it. One comment contained a link for Cialis. It urged me to “start off your personal rich compost heap. It really works much better and is less than business fertilizers.” The connection between Cialis and compost heaps goes over my head, but it’s not like anyone ever gets to know everything about sex. There’s always something we haven’t imagined. And erectile dysfunction isn’t a topic I know much about. That’s one of the things about being with another woman: It’s not an issue.
[Sorry about the spacing. My computer’s in rebellion and frankly I sympathize with it.]
But that didn’t discourage someone else (or the same person using another name) from sending me a Viagra link. After a bit of preliminary bullshit, the comment offered me advice about snoring. So what’s the connection? Does Viagra keep men awake or put them (or possibly their partners) to sleep? The world needs to know.
Another comment offered me advice on brushing my teeth. I shouldn’t use a brush with difficult bristles and should make sure I clean my teeth “for around 2 moments.”
Spammers, beware of the thesaurus. It is a powerful but dangerous tool and that leads the unwary into deep woods where they are surrounded by people they can’t see who are laughing at them. For reasons they–the thesaurus users–don’t understand.
I know, I know, you’re going to tell me the spammer wasn’t using a thesaurus, they were using a Something-to-English dictionary, and you’re probably right, but the bilingual dictionary and the thesaurus have this in common: They give you a lot of overlapping words that have very different meanings and they don’t explain what the differences are. You go, for example, to your Something-to-English dictionary and look up the Something for hard, and the dictionary gives you English words that range from difficult to tumescent. And if you don’t cross-check those meanings with an English-to-English dictionary (or at least with the English-to-Something side of the dictionary you’re already using), you end up telling people not to use a toothbrush with tumescent bristles.
Which is probably good advice. So forget what I just said. Use the dictionary. Or the thesaurus. Send the spam. The world’ll be a better, safer place because of it.
I also got comments offered me advice on playing golf, buying stocks, coping with sleep apnea, and getting rid of zits. Because someone out there wants to know this stuff and is happy to have an imaginary stranger tell them what to do.
And finally, limping in at the end comes the flattering request comment, a theoretically surefire way to hook the target’s flagging attention.
! I realize this is somewhat off-topic but I had to ask.Does building a well-established website such as yours require a large amount of work?I am completely new to writing a blog but I do write in my journal everyday.I’d like to start a blog so I can share my personal experience and views online.Please let me know if you have any kind of recommendationsor tips for new aspiring bloggers. Thankyou!

 

That came from Alberta (an alleged person, not the Canadian province), and no, Alberta, it’s not hard at all. All you do is get yourself a clever computer program, input the letters of the alphabet (make sure you don’t leave any out–that’s the hard part), and let ‘er rip. Your blog will write itself and all you can sit back and gather up the compliments.

104 thoughts on “How is spam changing?

  1. Not a lot makes me laugh these days, but your posts do. By the end I’ve realised I’ve innocently embarked on a path with the quirky and meandering creative thought processes of your mind. I have, in fact, been on an adventure, an adventure where I wasn’t required to pack a bag. Have I mentioned how much I hate packing?

    Thanks for the witty ride.

    Liked by 1 person

      • There is some science behind your ability to read this. I forget the details, but humans do not read words by the order of the individual letters (although this is how we are taught to read in school- I am an ex-teacher). We scan words and collections of letters as a whole. If the word begins and ends with the correct letters but the middle letters are jumbled, you can still read the word. Even if the last letter is not in the right place but the letters are only slightly jumbled, your brain will still interpret the word correctly. I have to really concentrate when proofreading other people’s work because of this.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I was thinking about the art of proofreading as I read your comment. I worked as an editor and occasional proofreader. I’ve known one or two gifted proofreaders, and sadly I’m not one of them, although I’m competent enough, but I do know that if you read something once for sense (or write it), you just disqualified yourself as a proofreader, because you’ll see what you expect to see. And if something makes sense, it’s much harder to spot than if it doesn’t. All of which fits with what you wrote.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m going to wax didactic/pedantic for a while, so feel free to skip to the next comment…

    First, most of the messages that you’re describing wouldn’t fit a computer scientist’s definition of “spam.” Here’s one computer scientist’s definition of “spam” (I’ll give you the citation in a bit):

    “Spam is information crafted to be delivered to a large number of recipients, in spite of their wishes.”

    On that definition of “spam,” spelling errors do, indeed, serve a purpose.
    “Spam filters,” or computer programs designed to detect and block spam, often use something called a “statistical language model.” This is a way of calculating the probability of seeing particular strings of words in particular kinds of texts. To see why something like that might be useful for spam detection, consider the probability of seeing the three-word sequences “account is blocked” or “forget to buy” in a spam message trying to get you to give your password to a scumbag versus in a real message reminding you to bring home a head of lettuce. You could use a statistical language model to figure out things like “account is blocked” being more likely to be associated with spam than “forget to buy.” (I’m just making these examples up–hopefully they communicate the point.)

    Spammers most definitely follow the literature on spam-blocking. How do you fool that statistical language model? One way is to dump a bunch of random text into your messages, which is why one used to get ads for knock-off Viagra containing a paragraph or two of Pride and Prejudice, or II Corinthians, or Scots wa’ Hae wi’ Wallace Bled. Another is to introduce some spelling errors–turn “account is blocked” into “acount iz blockt” and you just got by the spam filter.

    I mentioned “the literature on spam-filtering”… A lot of research on spam-filtering takes place through the aegis of the US National Institute for Standards and Technology’s annual Text Retrieval Conference, and the spam-filtering sessions are some of the most amusing parts of the meeting. (I say that in full knowledge of the fact that “amusing” and “text retrieval” are not things that frequently co-occur.) Here’s a summary that I ran into, by Gordon Cormack:

    https://www.nowpublishers.com/article/DownloadSummary/INR-006

    OK, I’ll stop now… :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just to prove my technological incompetence, I downloaded that 6 times before I realized it was a download, not a link. Then I opened it and discovered it was 42 pages of information without much in the way of leavening–basically, intellectual matzoh, which will keep the body fed but doesn’t lift the spirits. Or not mine, anyway. If you’ve never eaten it, the stuff taste like cardboard. But I do appreciate your explanation, and anyone who falls for an email that says “account iz blocked” is probably beyond help.

      I know someone who used to work for the University of Essex, and their emails were often filtered out as spam because they contained the word sex. They should probably have changed their name to the University of Ezzex.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Spam has changed all right. They now call it Pork Luncheon Meat. On a slightly more/less serious note, I have recently set my spam filters to Kill. They were set on stun but it just wasn’t working. So I have now reset them to ignore letters of the alphabet, all other alphabets, numbers and signs and saucy pictures of Russian ladies, all other pictures and images. Plus everything else. My inbox is now … empty. Nobody loves me. Where are all the Russian girls who all seem to live in a city called Viagra. Which brings us back very aptly to the subject of Pork Luncheon Meat.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think you and I are what the Russian ladies (who may or may not exist but if they do are probably not the people sending the emails) have in mind. But like I said, I could be wrong.

      For a while, my spam filter was picking out legitimate comments, which is why I started sifting through the spam box to begin with, where I discovered what a treasure trove it is. The filter had it in for Pit in particular. So I’d hesitate to set mine to kill.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m not sure. My religious background is roughly equal to my background in math. All I can tell you is that I have eaten matzoh (however we decide to spell it) but haven’t eaten mannah, so I can only comment on the one I know something about. I’m tempted to make a pun involving the word mana in Maori, but I’d have to explain it, which would make it horribly labored and–well, it wasn’t that funny to start with. But they are pronounced the same way.

        Like

  4. In Hawaii, birthday cake is made of spam. Happy 10101010101010th birthday to your robot.
    Ps how come you get all the good spam, and all I get is people from printing companies, plastic knives and fork companies, and who want me to send them money in good faith in exchange for their bank account number in some country-fill in the blank -now under siege?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. First, thanks for this ” If you woke up this morning noticing that the world was intact if a little battered, that was me, not clicking those links” I really appreciate your consideration. Next…. when I started my current (but not first) blog, I waited and waited for my posts to start appearing in Google and it took ages. Then, when the first bit of spam that arrived, I thought “YAY! It’s happening, I’ve arrived!” And I really, truly (and stupidly) was very pleased.

    I quite enjoy reading some spam (particularly the ones in this post… and here I have to hope that by typing ‘this post’, my comment doesn’t get grabbed by Akismet and sent into oblivion as it’s not just the weirdness and misspellings that trigger its actions) and have been known to adapt bits of it for ‘Spambot Poetry’. But you do know that posting about the stuff attracts more?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I tried to help you out, searched the whole internet, but:

    “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyvm
    Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. You may want to read Wiktionary’s entry on “Appendix:Internet slang” instead. You can also search for Tyvm in Wikipedia to check for alternative titles or spellings. Start the Tyvm article, using the Article Wizard if you wish, or add a request for it; but please remember …”

    Somebody mentioned “thank you very…” but I like your definition better. Not than I’m not thankful, or thfnuakl for that matter

    By the way, YVM is also the airport code for Broughton Island Airport. Which – (OK, there’s no way I can continue this comment without running the risk of offending you, so…)

    And last, thinking about poor Destry – consider the poor little girls who were given the name “Alexa”

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are a lot of reasons I’d consider changing my name, but having been named Alexa would be enough to make me go through with it.

      Actually, I did consider changing my name, back when I was getting divorced and claiming back the last name I’d only abandoned more or less by accident when I got married. I mean, as long as I was in the process, it would’ve been easy, and I’ve never particularly been in love with my first name, although I never particularly disliked it either. But I couldn’t imagine actually responding to anything else, and couldn’t come up with anything that seemed more me-like. I also thought about going back through seventeen layers of family names, on both sides of my family, to pick a last name that I liked better before I realized the whole thing was ridiculous and I went back to (or went on) being me. For better or worser, for sensibler or sillier…

      At this point, I might as well confess that I did find a definition of tyvm–thank you very much–but decided it would be more fun to not know it for a while.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Nearly all my spam comments are in Russian, so I have no way of knowing if my commenters are as articulate and perceptive as yours . . . I’d like to think so. I do admire WordPress for being able to filter out the wackos while retaining the genuine ones. Thanks for an entertaining and enjoyable psot; you are, indeed, most kndeeeogwabll.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I am, I am. And some of my spam’s in Russian as well. And in Chinese and German. And probably some other languages I’ve forgotten about by now. All of which brings me back to my question: How and why does this stuff suck anybody in? I mean, writing to people in a language that, by the evidence of their blog, they’re unlikely to speak? What am I missing here?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Whatever it is, I’m missing it, too. It may be that some people just have waaay too much time on their hands and have no positive outlets to channel their “enthusiasm.” I guess we should be glad they’ve found this diversion, rather than something more destructive.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Years ago, The New Yorker published a popularized version of a technical article on the difficulty of spam filtering. See Damn Spam

    Here is the take away paragraph:

    One mathematically minded blogger who looked into it found that there are 600,426,974,379,824,381,952 ways to spell Viagra.

    Though the real scary thing is that we have spam – because it works.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I am so blown away by the spins and turns in this post and all the clever directions you’ve taken the spam! You’re like the mistress of spam comebacks!
    For a few weeks, I had some sex spam. The spam itself was not sexy or lurid in anyway, but all the comments, mostly punctuation marks, were provided by ‘people’ called SexBob SexyLEE SEXXX4321 sxxxmeJPR etc. It was strange. None of my posts were sexy. It seemed so random and directionless. I wondered what the point of the spam actually was. It linked to nothing, which makes it rather useless.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I’m getting a lot of German ones at the moment, and several that almost sound okay, but have the odd glitch:

    – Best of all, you won’t need to be at the mercy of the weather to take pleasure
    from your dancer pole.

    – The APR seems to be at all charges required by or incurred on a mortgage.

    Weird.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I am amazed that you bother to read the spam. Find a good book or even a bad one. The only kind of spam worth mentioning is that which is involved in spam carving contests that were and may still be held annually in Guam.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Ohhhhh, serious giggle attacks. :D :D What I’ve been experiencing for the last few days is a huge influx (I’m talking pages!) of almost identical spam messages. I really hate to say it, but they have to do with diets. Must have to do with a recent audiobook I got. :D

    Liked by 1 person

  13. That first example — the poem? It has to be from one of the Great Old Ones. I don’t know if you’re acquainted with the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, but you may have heard of Cthulhu. His worshipers talk sorta like that. As in: “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn.” Trust me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Talk like that? That’s pronounceable??

      I haven’t read Lovecraft, but the word Cthulhu escaped his books and I’ve seen it I have no idea where. I can’t claim that makes me even vaguely acquainted with it/him/her/them/the idea/the whatever Chthulhu is, though. As I think I just demonstrated.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Haha, your spam is truly impressive. I keep getting requests from girls who would like to hook up with me or Viagra. I think the same company is sending out these emails. If they send VERY provocative photos and I don’t have the intended response, then I will buy their internet Viagra. What they don’t know is that I am a woman. Viagra would do little for me (I think!) and these porny/horny don’t do a lot for me, either. I wonder what kind of emails I would get if I had a female-sounding email address? Would horny guys suddenly pop into the spam box showing their wares?
    Maybe I should pair up the sex emails with the Russian WP bots! My only worry is that they would procreate!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think they’re procreating anyway. How else is it multiplying this way? As for your email address, Ellen’s an uncommon name for a man but I get viagra spam regularly. And some hot sexy women spam. I don’t think they care who they send it to.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I get that too. And believe me, I don’t think of myself as a fastidious person. If this is what computers are doing, it makes me wonder what on earth the world’s going to look like in 50 years.

      Fastidious, probably.

      Like

        • Sorry to ignore you for so long. I just dug this (and another of your comments) out of the spam folder. WP has it in for you suddenly. I went through this with another blogger who regularly left comments–every few weeks, I had to go through and dig him out from the weird-ass riffs he was keeping company with. Then WP relanted and started letting him through, at which point he stopped leaving comments. What can I say? Maybe he liked the company. Maybe he got discouraged. Anyway, apologies. I love to hear from you.

          Like

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