Thursday, August 09, 2007

[Ethics] Troll comments

Those of you who have guidelines that prohibit self-promotional comments on your blog might be interested in this one:

We got a comment today on a Drink of the Week post from last September. The comment itself was so ridiculous (suggesting the use of a top-shelf gin for a gin & tonic) that it raised my b.s. alarms and sent me into sleuth mode.

It took all of 2 seconds to track the IP address to a marketing agency, another couple of minutes to determine that the named brand was a client, and a few more minutes to determine that our purportedly male commenter was actually a female employee of the firm.

I can't imagine any of their clients -- some of which we were actually planning posts about, sadly -- would be happy to know about this, and I'm going to mention as much to the president of the firm when I get ahold of him.

In the meantime, be on the lookout for suspicious comments on any of your booze-related posts. Our 'friend' used the pseudonym "Aaron" and -- given that she's clueless enough to post from her work IP address -- she's probably not clever enough to think of other fake names.

This Post was written by Anita from Married... with Dinner


cookiecrumb said...

Awesome detective work. I wouldn't even know how to track an IP address. I'm impressed (and stupid).

cybele said...

What you're talking about it is not necessarily trolling but "sock puppeting" where someone goes out pretending to be an innocent consumer ("regular reader") with an opinion.

I suspect that those chatty visitors to food blogs that have been mentioning the free Dove chocolate giveaways are sock puppets (I can't imagine why I'd get a comment about free chocolate in Nashville from someone in the Philippines otherwise). Or perhaps just on a "mission" from one of those marketing programs where you get points for posting comments.

When I get these on my blog I just "call them out" and sometimes I delete them. More recently I had to ban a particular IP address because of their chronic abuse of my site for promotion of their products (and later sexual advances via email).

I'm definitely curious to hear some other stories from the trenches!

Anita said...

Cookie: Wordpress actually tells me the IP of everyone who comments (even you! ;) ) From there, it's just a matter of cross-checking the number on a site like this:

Cybele: Thanks for the terminology correction. I'm obviously behind the times :D

cybele said...

Anita - I only learned about the term in the story about Whole Food's CEO - John Mackey was caught doing it!

maki said...

I had people from a site about diet-through-hyposis comment frequently on one post I had about diet-oriented blogs...It got so annoying (they'd change the wording and the commenter, and the IP was different each time) that I had to close off comments on that particular post, which I rarely do (since I often get questions posted on old posts). Very annoying indeed! (I have no feelings one way or another about the effectiveness of hypnosis for weight loss, but the spamming tactics have lowered my opinions at least of that particular site.) This is one of many reasons why I have comment moderation on regardless of other safeguards.

nika said...

I use wordpress and my akismet and SK2 catches truly about 99.99% of these.

If one gets through I dont get upset, its just part of the game. Its not like they hacked your site.

Hit the delete button and get on with your next urgent bit of business (maybe checking stats?).

Be a duck, let it roll off.

Kalyn said...

I've been comtemplating lately whether to start using comment moderation, since word verification doesn't always catch these type of comments. Right now, I just delete a comment immediately if it seems to be promoting another site rather than adding anything to the discussion or providing some information that is useful to my readers. It's annoying indeed.

Sheryl said...

We tend to get a lot from Conde Naste for some reason.

I've also seen ads under the Writers category on Craigslist Toronto looking for people to write comments in various blogs, especially food blogs, which is how they get around the word verification.

Tana said...

Anita, as soon as I read this, my spidey senses got tingling and I found a comment for a sock puppet (heh) for the EatWellGuide (aka, whose weblog I've subscribed to).

There's more to it than that, but I got the creeps from the deception. Of course, my bullshit meter is running on red-alert since I've been investigating marketing and public relations. It's a slick world out there, and slick isn't always glossy and pretty.

I think "sock puppet" is the equivalent of a "shill." Now I often promote people on my blog who are also my clients, but I don't take clients unless I can be rapturous about their work. That is why I no longer work with Outstanding in the Field: they do not do business in a sustainable fashion. (Yes, I will be muckraking about all this on my weblog.) I don't consider what I do to be shilling, since I'm up front about my relationships, and since I don't work for clients unless I love what they do.

I would so much rather rave than rant, but gosh, sometimes SOMEONE just has to put the bell on the cat.


: D

Sam said...

Does anyone know if there is a way blogger bloggers can track the ip addresses of their uses - since we don't get that service from blogger.

Kalyn said...

Sam, you can get the IP addresses from Statcounter if you use that. I believe most stats programs would have it. The only catch is that you will have to look pretty quickly because statcounter only stores so many pageloads at a time, depending on what version you have.

The way to do it would be to notice the time on your comment, then look for a visitor at that exact time in statcounter under "recent visitor activity" or on the map if you have premium statcounter.

The Skinny Gourmet said...

Good grief. Somehow I am neither so innocent to believe this wasnt going on, but also not so jaded as not to be irritated and disappointed.

Although I'm just a small fry, so not exactly worthy of slickster sock puppets :)

Almost Vegetarian said...

Amazing that you were able to track that back to the source. PR is getting sneaky, sometimes, and not smarter. But they will, due to the likes of you. Oh yes, I believe they will.


Karina Allrich said...

I usually delete any comment that promotes a product. But recently, a sock puppet left a promotional "review" and link of a product (some teff gluten-free wraps); and I decided to keep it. Why? Because the wraps sucked.

I had tried the product a few weeks ago. So I responded and said I had tried it. And mentioned it was awful. That it had a funky odor and taste. :) Which, by the way, is true.

If they're game enough to promote themselves, they better prepare for some bad reviews. Their approach just might backfire.



SaltShaker said...

I'll second Kalyn's approach above. Between stuff like this and comments that get "posted" without the poster registering on my site... how do they do that??? when I require registration to comment... I just simply turned on comment moderation and delete anything that isn't really related to the conversation about the post.