“The Wal-Mart You Don’t Know”

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:22 pm

This amazing article on the business practices of Wal-Mart is really worth a look. My friend Mike sent it to me a while back, and I’ve been meaning to send it around. But this is a lot easier, and it helps to fill up this page.

Fast Company Magazine ain’t no tree-huggin’, dope-smokin’, WTO-hatin’ magazine, neither. They’re a rather respected publication on the art and science of modern business.

So often those of us who proffer the opinion that perhaps giant megacorporations aren’t the most wonderful thing since Penicillin don’t have hard information readily at hand to reinforce our position. Here’s a lovely bouquet of facts to bring to your next dinner-party discussion.

Comment Spam, Revisited

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 5:59 pm

Well, I’ve put a few different scripts and plugins in place that should help with the comment spam. There is an amazing panoply of tools out there to help deal with comment spam, which more than anything tells me that the problem is so hugely huge that an entire commnunity has evolved to try to deal with it. Criminy, what have I gotten myself into?

I suppose I ought to take a moment to explain the concept of “comment spam”, to those not in the know. Like email spam (and if I have to explain that, how the hell did you manage to get to this Web site in the first place?), comment spam consists of junk messages, in this case inserted into the “Comments” section of a blog or online bullletin board instead of being sent to your email inbox. The spam is inserted automatically by software robots that scour the Internet for opportunities to seed their vile spoor.

Some comment spam is designed to increase the ranking of certain Web sites in search engines such as Google. Here’s how it works: Google and many other search engines rank Web sites by the number of other Web sites that link to them. For instance: if there are two Web sites dedicated to the subject of rainbow trout, but the second of those sites is mentioned on ten other Web sites, then Google decides that the second one is more popular—and thus more relevant— to folks visiting Google looking for sites about rainbow trout. Therefore, to increase their search engine ranking, comment spammers will place comments on thousands of blogs, each one containing many links to the site they are trying to promote, so that all those spurious links will be taken into consideration by the search engines that review (or “crawl”) the blogs.

Other forms of comment spam serve as advertisements for various products (mostly of the “male enhancement” variety) or services (such as the Green Card Lottery Spam that started email spam as we know it), and still others are used to promulgate Internet scams of various types, usually designed to cleave the ignorant or gullible from their cash.

What I want to focus on here is the first piece of comment spam I received, a common Internet scam, asking me to help some apocryphal Asian businessman process a large sum of money through my bank account. All I had to do was provide him with my bank account number, and a large commission on the transaction would be mine to keep. Golly, it almost sounds too good to be true!

Now, I fully understand the economies of scale that make these kinds of Internet scams viable to the instigator. Since the entire process is automated, it costs virtually the same to send a million of these messages as it costs to send one. Therefore, if even only one out of a thousand, a hundred thousand or even a million respond, it was worth the investment in time. Pretty straightforward. And I can certainly imagine that, in the vasty deep of the Interweb, there might be ten or twenty people who get this sort of thing in their inbox and succumb to some melange of gullibility, compassion and greed.

What is completely beyond me, however, is the level of stupidity required for someone to see this sort of plea posted anonymously on an online bulletin board, in response to a journal entry on Arnold Schwarzenegger, and say to themselves, “Oh, that poor man! Perhaps I ought to help him with his bank transaction, making a tidy commission for myself in the bargain.”

I mean, statistics aside, is there anyone out there so fully, so totally, so unremittingly stupid that they could conceivably fall for this? The level of idiocy would have to be orders of magnitude greater than that required to fall for the same scam sent to one’s personal email address (and that’s already pretty dim). I mean, if one had never heard of nor deduced the existence of mass-emailing computer programs, one might conceivably infer that the letter was sent to you personally by the beleaguered gentleman in question, thus lending the letter a certain scintilla of legitimacy. But the kind of person who would fall for the same thing posted in the Comments section of a blog entry….I hesitate to call such a creature a person. I’m thinking more of something like a Ficus with hands. Something that types and maniuplates a mouse, but does not think. Perhaps it can’t even see, as we know it. Perhaps the light of the cathode ray tube strikes its leaves, sending sugars coursing through xylem and phloem through the miracle of photosynthesis, and in return this eyeless creature mindlessly twitches its digits, reflexively sending a response that ultimately ends with the illegal appropriation of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Where it gets the cash from, I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s a trust fund Ficus.

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