A look behind the scenes of the Swellesley Report

From OpenClipArtOne of my jobs at the Swellesley Report is to delete the spam we get.  Spam, as you probably know, is all that usesless email from people who want your attention.  At best, they just want to sell you something.  At worst, they want you to open up their messages, thus leaving your computer susceptible to viruses.

Typically in a 24-hour period, over 1,000 spammers vie for my attention, and it makes me sad, because these suitors do not wish me well.  They have goals: 1) they want to slow down my computer.  2) They are trying to send me political messages.  3) They are amusing themselves on my time, although I’ve never figured out what’s so funny,  Or, most nefariously, 4) they want to demonstrate a vulnerability in the software we use, and then smugly sit back and say, “You’re welcome,” as we scramble to clean up a mess they’ve made.

Fortunately, we have a crackerjack spam catcher on our side, so this cat-and-mouse game goes nowhere so long as I, the mouse, refuse to engage with the cat, ie:, the spammers.  What that means:  I never ever open spam, no matter how deeply discounted the Michael Kors bags claim to be, no matter how cute the kitty video must be, no matter how handsome and rich the Nigerian prince sounds.

Here’s how I do it: I log on to my computer, go to our site’s dashboard, and it’s always the same thing, “There are 1,574 (at least) comments in your spam queue right now.”

I don’t care how nicely they’re waiting in the queue.  Acting all British and well-mannered will get them nowhere with me, so no, I will not give each spam message my full attention in the order in which it was received.  Here’s my idea of equal attention to each spammer: with one keystroke I empty my spam mailbox. There.  Goodbye, spam.  And that’s that.

Admittedly, its hardly a “job.”  I hit a button and the spam disappears allowing me to move on to more important things like changing our Facebook cover photo or posting about the latest doings in town.  But it takes about 10 seconds for the process to occur, and in that time, more spam appears.  If I were OCD I would never be able to move on to the other stuff, I would just be stuck all day, deleting spam.

All this spam experience has led me to a few insights that I will share with you, along with some “best of” from the spam files:

Truth Number 1:  Spammers are friendly and complimentary

“I am going to go ahead and save this article for my sister to read later on tonight.  Keep up the superior work.” (There’s often a sister, a cousin, or a grandmother.  Spammers don’t want you to think they are some basement dweller with no family.)

“Great website you have here.  It’s difficult to find quality writing like yours nowadays.  I seriously appreciate individuals like you!  Take care!!”  (The double exclamation points are a nice touch.)

“Can I simply say what a reduction it is to find somebody who really knows what they’re speaking about on the internet.” (Why thank you.  It is a reduction to find somebody who finally appreciates us.)

Truth Number 2:  Spammers need MY help

“Hey!  Do you know if they make any plug-ins to help with SEO?  I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords, but I’m not seeing quite good outcomes.” (At this point, I am supposed to enter into an exchange with the Spammer.  Never gonna happen.)

Truth Number 3:  Spammers want to help me score designer goods, cheap

I never thought I’d pity the purveyors of prestige products, but that day has come. Poor Nike, Ray-ban, Michael Kors, Vivienne Westwood, Dr. Dre, and Coach. If you ever wonder why these designer brands are so pricey, I’ll tell you why.  It’s because spammers across the globe are trying to rip them off, all day, every day.

Truth Number 4:  Spammers want to help me score drugs, cheap

“Nice blog.  I think good quality Vicodin does not show up on drug test.”  (Lately, it’s always Vicodin or Zoloft.  I wonder why Percocet recently fell out of favor with Spammers.)

Truth Number 5:  On the rare occasion that Spammers are negative, they are only saying that stuff for my own good

“The very next time I read a blog, I hope that it does not fail me just as much as this one did.” (I am cut to the quick.)

I talk a good game of swagger, but the truth is, I can’t help but take all that spam personally.  Because make no mistake, theses spammers are out to get me.  As I see it, each and every one of them wants to take down my site.  It wears on me that over 1,000 people want to do me harm every single day.  I just can’t compartmentalize it all.  For them, it’s just business.  For me, it’s death by 1,000 cuts.

I often find myself wondering, well, what could really happen?  What if I opened up just one teensy spam message, just to see what it was all about?  Then I remember the hapless souls before me who just had to try the forbidden.  Eve took a bite of that apple, and it was Paradise Lost.  Am I ready to jeopardize the paradise that is Swellesley?  Of course not.

Pandora opened the box, and out swirled the problems of the world.  Here at Swellesley, we like to think we’re SOLVING the problems of the world, not unleashing them.  If I opened up spam, I might think I was unlocking the secrets to deeply discounted designer goods, but in reality, I know in my heart that it would be all knock-off Louis Vuitton handbags made by child labor in a sweatshop somewhere.

No, I must resist that urge to behave like the toddler who touches the hot stove after repeated warnings.  I know spam would disappoint, or even hurt me.  So I just don’t go there.

And here’s the result.  All this spam that gushes over how fabulous we are, with their multiple exclamation points and their gratitude for our outstanding weblog, has turned me into a suspicious shrew who can’t take a compliment.  Now, when my husband says, “I like what you posted today,” I can’t imagine why he would say such an awful thing to me, his ever-loving wife.  “What do you mean by that, ” I snap.  “No, really, it was just great,” he assures me.  “How could you?” I ask, as I run sobbing from the room.  I despise the high-maintenance blogger spammers have turned me into.

And so, my relationship with Spammers is destined to remain, as they say, complicated.  They’ll continue to send it. I’ll continue to delete it.  And here at Swellesley, we will blog on.

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