Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A new kind of Spam

(In this post I quote attempted posts to the blog.
I transcribe them as they are, so if you see a missing period
or awkward language, its not me (this time) its them.)

We moderate comments but do so very lightly.
There is no hard and fast rules but roughly speaking
we block comments that are BOTH offensive AND off-topic.
There may be exceptions- like if its on topic but REALLY REALLY offensive
and adds nothing to the discussion.
There may more benign exceptions- like if I post a question and will block the
answers so that when I reveal the answer the next day its more dramatic.
Of if someone posts information that is not public yet.
In these case we hope they try to post non-anonymously so we can email them
and tell them why they were blocked. There are other isolated cases as well.
All of these are very rare.

Recent attempted comments do not fall into these rules and we had to
decide on them. The following was an attempted comment on my post
STOC 2012-Workshops and honored talks

Hi there STOC 2012- workshop and honors talks Loved every second! Great views on that!
That actually breaks the mold! Great thinking!

This comment is NEITHER offensive NOR off-topic.Its a bit odd- I can't tell if
the Great view is of my post or of the talks I was writing about.
It does sound awkward. Why is that? IT WAS GENERATED BY A SPAMBOT!!!
How do I know this? Because if you click on the author you are directed to a site thatsells you paints for your living room.Hence we block such posts.

So, they think the readers of our blog are into interior decorating.
I am sure that some are, I don't think our readers are a particularly good market for this. Technology is good enough to find our blogs and try to use spambots on them,but not good enough (or there is no incentive) to figure out which blogs are worthtargeting.This is part of a bigger problem I blogged about
herewhere I noted that technology is good enough to know that I am a book review editor for SIGACT NEWS but notgood enough (or there is no incentive) to figure out that I only review comp sci and math books, and not
books on (say) politics.

A borderline case: an attempted comment on the blog
A natural function with very odd properties was

Awesome logic. You truly have some expert skills and enhanced my knowledge on Cantor Set Construction Agreements.

This one did not link to any product so it might be legit, except thatit is awkward sounding and the same person tried to submit,as a comment to Six Questions a about natural and unnatural mathematical objects

This truly enhanced my skills. very helpful Job Proposal.

Clearly spam, though I'm not sure why since there is no link to a product.

These posts are trying to pass a Turing Test- but so far they are not succeeding.

Sometimes they only positive comments I get are from spambots. Oh well.


  1. I notice that you have taken to frequently saying "Oh well" in your blog posts recently. Is this a flourish that you are consciously borrowing from Dick Lipton's blog?

  2. "These posts are trying to pass a Turing Test- but so far they are not succeeding.", well if they in fact were passing, how would you know?

  3. The spam comments without links are probably just posted by a script which is designed for different blogging software, so doesn't set the appropriate form fields.

  4. Anon 8:34: Good catch! Yes `Oh well' is borrowed (stolen?) from Godel Last Letter blog (I think its a Lipton-thing, but Ken may be using it oo).

    David Kofoed Wind- AH, good point- our data is only one-sided, the ones that fail. I've heard it said that criminology should be called Theory of Incompetence since we only study those that are caught (to some extent)

    Anon 9:06- GOOD! we are albeit uninteionally thwarting their efforts!

  5. > Sometimes they only positive comments I get are from spambots. Oh well.

    This truly enhanced my laughing. Very funny ending phrase.

  6. Awesome post. You truly have some expert blogging skills and enhanced my knowledge on SPAM. Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

  7. Lol  Thousands of instructors at on-line universities are eager to press their supple conceptions upon you, regarding the intriguing "SPAM bots" of which you speak! :)

  8. Reminds me of this: http://xkcd.com/810/

  9. I also get this kind of spam. Here is one message that was not filtered by Akismet today:

    This is so interesting. I felt inspired by reading it!
    I think this place will become my most talked about site!

    I always delete this kind of comment. All comments, that are off-topic or comments that don't seem to add something to the topic (thanks-comments) get deleted. I don't want my readers to waste their time.

  10. My suspicion is that the posts without links are actually probes.

  11. Nice to have a blog about computational complexity. I started mine today, but I guess its subject is a bit too broad. My first post deals with comments and shows a trick how to avoid moderators of newspaper websites. Enjoy! https://exwaan.wordpress.com/2015/03/21/the-google-symbol-and-when-to-use-it/