Defending the Indefensible: Do You Spam? Do You Auto-Bot?

Defending the Indefensible: Do You Spam? Do You Auto-Bot?

Twitter Help: SPAM

In the ancient Book of Changes (iChing) strategies and life instructions are often given in terms of the “great leader” or “the king” and how that wise person would/should go about approaching some situation in their lives. In this case, I was throwing a hexagram to understand the approach to writing, yet again, about the indefensible tactics in use by today’s marketers. Great JOY is the answer I got. So here we go.

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It is with great joy I salute the digital marketers in today’s internet universe. You are powerful and prosperous. A wise man bows down to the greater strength and holds his tongue. Direct challenges to the fortress will fail, arrows will fly, and great armies will be lost. The king, evil or good, will remain in the castle, unchallenged. A wise man waits until he is inside the fortress before arming his bow. When he is closest to the king, his arrow may find success if he is swift and confident in his one shot. Indecision leads to imprisonment or death.

So, why are we still talking about this? The spammers on the net. The spammers of Facebook feeds, Pinterest boards, and Twitter.

Social media is mostly free to engage in, and mostly unregulated and ungoverned. Those of us who have been championing the “trust” web, and trying to become trusted advisors have been counseling against social spamming for years. We’ve written books (Trust Agents and The Macintosh Way) and posts in order to grow our influence and power. And hopefully, to counsel new users to use human tactics and not resort to spam.

What is spam? Let’s define it several different ways.

1. Initially spam referred to incoming, unsolicited email. Most of these messages were so ugly and so obvious we could delete them with little thought. And then the spammers got better at their evil ways and disguised their emails as real messages from real people, but they were the same old shameless plugs for teeth whitening tonics and multi-level marketing schemes designed to make you rich, wildly rich, beyond your greatest dreams. It was easy to see that these offers were too good to be true. But they kept coming. And the spammers used greater disguises and massive email blasting applications that could fire off millions of messages a minute.

2. The spam filter improved and spam also had to evolve. Unscrupulous marketers and charlatans will always find ways to subvert the system to ply their fantasy sweepstakes. And so we enter the age of Spam Posts and Spam Comments. And over the last few years any WordPress site with over several hundred visitors will be located by spam-bot agents looking for new prey, and the onslaught of comment and post spam will begin. Even with great filtering and spam protection programs the problem grows worse each year. And the more successful your publishing platform the more furious the bots will become at trying to place their first published comment containing links to new Oakley Sunglasses or Beats by Dre headphones.

3. In the newest frontier of social spam we now have the turning of these once trusted agents into human spam-bots. (POST LINK) And they  know, if they are indeed human, that their methods are indefensible. They may try to carry on a conversation about why they are doing what they are doing. “Nobody complains, so it’s really only your problem.” But eventually they cannot sustain any honest logic to defend their positions. And, in the case of Chris Brogan, Mr. Trust Agent himself, they will BLOCK YOU. They will silence the conversation as best they can by suppressing your voice. And of course it’s all legal, all within the boundaries of what “can” be done. But is it honest? Is it trustworthy? And while I have chosen to address this egregious problem in terms of how it is destroying Twitter, the same conversation can be had about Facebook, Pinterest, and in the near future, every single social network platform invented.

What has kept these experts at bay for so long? Why have they started spamming now?

Morally there is no defense for spamming, none. However, if you enter into a dialogue (or attempt one) with these guys you will ultimately drive down to the same two arguments.

You use Twitter your way, I’ll use it my way.

If you don’t like the way I use Twitter, UFM.

And then, as with many empty arguments, the conversation is abruptly ended. There is nothing more to talk about. Meanwhile, the coupons for 15% off running shoes, or the incessant nonsensical spam (about porn, or sex, or the many healthful uses of butter) will continue.

I have been defending Twitter for years. I have even clashed several times with Mr. Kawasaki. And while he as agreed to disagree with me, he knows he is a spam-bot. He knows that having an army of tweeters using his Twitter account to broadcast crap to his 1.4 million followers is wrong. He knows it. This is also why he is quick to cut off the conversation. There is no conversation to have. I’ll have to assume he’s okay with his business model and integrity for using Twitter. The author of The Macintosh Way, who signed my book at MacWorld back when he was first exiting his evangelist role at Apple, knows better. He must.

So there is nothing illegal about setting up repetitive tweets to broadcast the same shoe discount coupon 500 times over the next 5 months using a simple piece of software. But how is this different from blasting teeth whitening emails into your inbox?

It’s not.

And I suppose until these rockstars are either brought back to integrity and trust, there will be no decrease in the amount of spam they will fire off into the Twittersphere. After all, we can always unfollow them, of in the case of Mr. Brogan, be blocked by them if we speak up and attempt to question their spammy ways. Fine. This is not war. This is the internet. This is the wild west. And Mr. Brogan, Mr. Kawasaki and all that follow them are being given permission to RIP IT UP. SPAM AWAY. FIRE ON ALL GUNS. It’s just Twitter and you can always unfollow them if you don’t like what they’re putting out.

But what are they putting out? Check it out for yourself, and if you can see that either one of these uber-tweeters are putting our more than 10% original (aka: real) content, you let me know.

90% of what they tweet is bullshit, repeated by auto-tweeting software, to achieve some empty financial gain. Thanks for dropping the ball and giving rise to the permission-based spammer. Yeah, yeah, I know I can always unfollow you.

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)


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