Friday, December 21, 2007

The strange world of blog comments

While this blog has achieved decent readership figures, the comment function is still rather under-used. There are several reasons for that: in my experience there seems to be a critical mass of readers vs comments, which I have not reached yet; Blogger's interface does not encourage comments; and also most of my readers do so via RSS feed (250 daily subscribers to the feed).

I do not delete comments, unless they are spam, even if they are critical of what I have written (one warranted criticism here, and one laughable attempt here). The most common type of spam is about Costa Rican property (such as with this post), and about WoW gold farming for obvious reasons, but most intriguingly, this post generates a lot of in-game currency spam! There must be a Korean game named ILAWS...

Despite the lack of comments, there have been some notable exceptions. Some of the most commented posts are on hot topics, such as Free Software, software patents, and P2P. However, there is one post that still generates comments to this day, and it is this post about sex offenders. Given the nature of the comments, I am guessing that the post comes up highly when someone is searching for sex offender registers, or something similar.

However, in a weird sequence of posts I found one that is even stranger, which I reproduce without the names:

"I noticed that you had a variety of sex-orientated posts and they are moderated. Please make sure that when you read this that you don't post it for all to see, I'm a attorney in North Texas and it would cause me and my office manager X all sorts of grief if seen and reported. I'm planning a surprise trip for him, so we can leave between Christmas and February. We're interested in Eastern European countries where the age of consent for same sex is lowered to 13 or 14. To avoid attention could you post a 1 liner, "Fun for boys in Grapevine TX" with the age and county, so that it wouldn't draw any attention, such as "Fun for boys in Grapevine TX 13 Siberia". If you needed to e-mail back to me post the 1 liner, "Fun in Grapevine TX please email me".
I believe a prank (or something nastier) is being played on someone. I googled the combination of names and found a post under this same name in a website advertising gay erotic products. Even more bizarre, the person who is supposed to have made this post is indeed a lawyer in Texas specialising in Family Law, but in a strange twist there are records of disciplinary action taken against him in the Texas bar for, amongst other things, deceit and misrepresentation (suffering a 3 year suspension). As I see it, there are two possibilities here:
  • The comment's author is truly monumentally stupid and decided to leave evidence in a blog of his plans to engage in under-age sex. I find this option highly unlikely.
  • The author is engaged in a systematic smear campaign designed to tarnish a lawyer's reputation through the use of blogs, forums and search engines. The fact that this is a family lawyer could mean that this person has a serious enemy online.
This brings home once more one of the most serious pitfalls in the participatory web. The potentials for misuse of all of these amazing tools is disproportionate. Although these attacks are lost in minor blogs that nobody who knows the person is ever likely to read, the damage would be done through Google. Nowadays we all google potential employees, people we meet randomly, speakers at a conference, etc. Imagine that a person was looking to hire this lawyer. The first page of results shows that he was suspended from practice, and later on he would find some unsavoury pages. The result is easy to fathom.


laurence said...


(only joking!)

Some good highlights from the Technollama archives; I'm surprised ill-informed internet kiddies have come across your blog, but as you say, I guess that's one of the pitfalls of the participatory web -- global village idiots, and Google.

Andrew said...

You've got 5 people reading the RSS feed via Livejournal as well...

Ben Bildstein said...

You could do him a favour and post his name. Then when someone Googles him, there will be a counterpoint to the negativity that's already out there.