White crab spider on Dutchman’s breeches, clearly trying to disguise itself as just another blossom in order to net an unsuspecting pollinator. See here for an even better photo of a white crab spider, on a different kind of white flower, with a bee actually in its grip.
At last, comment spammers who don’t insult my intelligence!
Those of you who don’t blog may be surprised to learn that such a thing as comment spam exists. Can it really be worthwhile to leave comments at obscure, low-traffic blogs like this one, just on the off-chance that a few readers might click on the link to the website? It wouldn’t be worth it if real, live people were leaving the comments, but it’s all done automatically, by spam bots.
There are various ways to screen out spam bots. Haloscan – the independent outfit that provided the commenting service I used when Via Negativa was at Blogspot – seemed practically immune. So when I moved to the present location, I was taken aback by the volume of spam that began to pour in, following the incoming links. So far, it’s not been much trouble to screen it out by requiring all comments by first-time commenters to go wait for approval.
But the thing that really annoyed me about the spam that began flooding in was the language it employed – a mixture of crude flattery and awkward English. How could anyone clever enough to unleash an army of spam bots not have the sense to at least comb through the English-language blogosphere and plagiarize some real comments? Instead, they employed lines such as “Your site is very cognitive. Thanks for author!” and “Best site I see! I make link, come back often, continue like that.” I’ve seen hundreds of variations on these, and worse.
The pink lady’s slipper orchid depends on bumblebees for pollination, but gives them nothing but frustration in return. The bees are lured in by the delicious aroma, but find no nectar. The shape of the flower forces them to exit through the top, preventing self-pollination.
So imagine my surprise this morning when I find 17 posts waiting for moderation that actually force me to pause and study whether they were made by human or robot-with-typewriter. The giveaway was that they all originated from the same website, despite having all different (presumably fictional) email addresses. But the messages were, well, cute. “William Safire has just been picked on by a blog with a name that keeps changing. Not too harshly, though. The comment is William Safire, you annoy me.” First out of the block, a meta-comment! “Frivolous bastardisation of our punctuation is one of the key witnesses to the current decline of our wonderful nation,” writes another. And that nation would be Great Britain, I’m guessing.
“God save the Sex Pistols
One means it, subjects
We love our boys
A punk poem, employing irony! Nice to see some recently graduated English major gainfully employed, isn’t it? In my favorite non sequitor from the overnight crop, “EBONY” asks, “I wonder what the society for the advancement of formal structures would make of this site about natural language parsing?” This was a comment to my May Day post.
Oak apple gall on a red oak. Worldwide, over 700 different species of insects – most of them small wasps, as with the apple gall – have learned how to manipulate oaks into growing them a brood chamber from their own tissues.
In this morning’s email, someone who has just linked to Via Negativa had what I thought was a slightly unusual request: not for a direct reciprocal link on my Reciprocal Links page, but for a link to another, related site. “In this way we both get a one-way link which is better than a reciprocal link as far as search engine ratings go,” he wrote. Since both sites were non-commercial (and seemed to reflect quite lofty idealism), I was happy enough to comply. But in my response, I did include a brief and (I hope) friendly rant about the quest for search engine rankings.
Personally (I wrote), I’m not too concerned about search engine rankings, since I feel that traffic volume is not a real guarantee of attentive readers. The site statistics for my old blog seemed to bear this out. A couple hundred unique page views a day courtesy of the search engines had no perceptible impact on the 40 or so people (not counting subscribers to the feed) who stopped in every day or two for five minutes or more. In my view, the best way to find and retain the sort of readers I’m looking for is by leaving comments on other blogs, or by reading their comments and following the links back to their own blogs. Not that that’s my primary motivation in leaving a comment, though. When I read something that moves me, it’s wonderful to be able to respond and know that the author and other readers will see it, and can respond in turn if they so choose. It’s this kind of inter-linking – the building of real human relationships – that interests me.
On re-reading my reply, though, I’m afraid it makes it sound as if my motives are more altruistic than they are. For me, it’s still all about the writing – though amateur photography has turned out to be a fun and complementary avocation. Read SB’s post about how and why she writes poetry (linked also from the Smorgasblog) if you want to know my own feelings about writing, too. “A poem is my way of discovering (dis-covering) what I feel; sometimes, what I think.” Precisely. And sometimes it’s galling what the world makes of us, what strange winged creatures ultimately emerge.