Putting the fun back in fundraiser

When you run a large community, you invariably get some members rising to the top in terms of participation and reaction from others. It’s a natural part of any community and as fast as you can dream up ways to temper their contributions or wait for them to leave out of boredom, someone quickly fills their place and the cycle starts again. Eventually their personalities grow large and everywhere they move in a community they are treated with equal parts love and hate from the rest of the group.

Over the past few months, a couple members have kind of been in the spotlight due to their strong viewpoints and strong ways of expressing it and today Jessamyn had a brilliant idea.

“You should do a fundraiser. ‘how much would you pay for a week without user x/user y‘”

Then it hit me that yeah, it would be pretty easy to do thanks to dropcash and the money could go to a non-profit charity, like Creative Commons. I emailed two members that seem to polarize the community and much to their credit they were both in. Not every member of a community — especially the strong personalities — has a sense of humor about themselves and their online persona so I commend the guys that participated in this.

A few keystrokes later and the fundraiser was launched. It’s essentially a charity dunk tank, with the people you love to hate raising $5 for every softball lobbed at their perch. What’s great is that after just a couple hours one side is over 30% towards the goal and the rest of the community is congratulating them for being good sports about the whole thing. With any luck, when this is all over both members will likely be seen in a different light for having gone through this.

Blogger on spamblogs

Blogger Buzz: On Spam describes Google/Blogger’s ongoing fight with spamblogs I wrote about a few days ago. They’ve even published a blacklist of spamblogs to help indexing services weed them out.

I forgot to mention it in my earlier post, but the big white elephant in the room is WordPress and the affinity spam bloggers have for the WP platform. This is no slag on Matt or the community he’s built, it’s just the tool they like to use after Blogger. Blogspot is an easy punching bag because it’s one giant source host and Google’s behind it and has the resources to stop it, but what can we do about the thousands and thousands of wordpress spam blogs republishing RSS feeds from others, loading them up with Adsense banners, and being hosted all over the web? WP is released under GPL and any spamblogging plugin, extension, or tweak of WP code can’t really be stopped (this isn’t an argument against GPL, but I’m just saying the problem can’t be stopped at the point of software being used for bad things).

Do you go after their webhosts? Is the act of gaming search engines with spam blog linkfarms and creating empty content (with others’ RSS feed excerpts) adsense sites the same as anti-spam rules in webhosting terms of service agreements?

In other words, when the (single-webhost) blogspot problem gets licked, how on earth do we combat the (many hundreds of webhosts) powered-by-Wordpress spamblog problem?

Set TiVos to stun

Don’t forget like I almost did: The Colbert Report starts tonight, so you might as well set that season pass to grab it after the Daily Show when you get home.

People that say they are a badass usually aren’t

Apropos of nothing, one of the best pieces of advice Meg ever gave me was to impart a big lesson she learned as an english major writing fiction: show, don’t tell. When writing a story, don’t talk about how bad a character is, write a scene where they do terrible things and the reader will come away with the point you were trying to make.

Now, me not being an english major and not having to write much fiction, I didn’t think the advice would help. Over the years though, I’ve noticed it comes up in a lot of things aside from writing fiction. I think about it when working on my resume or portfolio, when I wrote the realtor description for our last house, and whenever I met someone for the first time. I’m highly dubious of people that tell me a lot of amazing things they have done but have little to actually show for it.

Show, don’t tell. It crops up time and time again and is some of the best advice I’ve been given.

When it rains, it pours

(67spamblogs, originally uploaded by mathowie)

I have an ego feed I check every few days for my last name (fairly rare) from technorati. On a normal day there might be one or two mentions of my last name and it’s not always about me, but it’s useful for finding blogs that mentioned me or are talking about a post I made.

This morning, I had 67 matches for the term which is really unusual. Looking at the results painted quite a picture. It looks like one monster spam blogger has unleashed a boatload of new blogspot blogs, always in the form of keyword-(random number).blogspot.com (like lottery-123123.blogspot.com). They suck in RSS feeds from blogs like mine and boingboing and others, then insert random phrases into the copy, with a link to their own sites using phrases they want to game google with (screenshot of one).

This has been going on for a while, commonly known as “blog and ping” tools that automate google gaming by sucking down any RSS feed and reposting to a spammer’s blog. But I’ve never seen someone unleash possibly hundreds (at least 67, probably many more) of blogs in such a short time. I suppose there are scripts that work a level above tools that merely suck down a RSS feed and repost it to a spam blog, unleasing hundreds of rss feeds on hundreds of spam blogs. I don’t envy the work Google and Blogspot have to do to curb this kind of behavior but at the same time it’s lame to see weblogs become another tool in the search engine spam toolbelt.

update: oh bonus — looking at a few of them reveals that every spam blog seems to have been created by a different blogger user account. So not only is the sucking down of RSS feeds and reposting to a blog filled with spam links automated, not only is doing this reposting to hundreds of sites automated, but it appears publishing all these hundreds of posts to hundreds of blogs with different blogger login credentials is also automated, making it more difficult for Google/Blogger to weed out the single person behind it all. Search spammer/spam bloggers sure are resourceful little bastards.