Monday, June 30, 2008

Web Whores

(A brief aside: If I used Google AdSense ads, I shudder to think what sort of advertisements would be scrolling along my blog with this post title.)

I don't consider myself an Internet addict. I feel that is important before I say that I am a registered member at Digg. I peruse the first page or two of stories and read any of interest about 3-5 times a week depending on how much free time I have and how often I'm shackled to my computer doing phone work. However, I don't make it a point to check it all the time nor do I vote on most articles. Occasionally, I'll make a comment and read other comments on articles of interest. I feel the need to clarify my habits in this regard because, if you know Digg's community, you know that it is full of people who appear to spend every waking moment glued to the screen writing comments and digging or burying every listed article. What I'm saying is, I'm not one of these people.

As is the case with most people, I have areas of interest and my attention gravitates more often to those than other articles. Fortunately, Digg allows you to filter by topic so I can avoid the approximately 50,000 pro-Obama articles that get "Dugg" every day and anything about sports. It's not that I have anything against Obama, but the articles are all the same and the bias of the commenters is transparent. Nothing is added to the conversation in that area.

I do take an interest in some of the Japan articles. In particular, the PR pieces which are churned out by legitimate news sources pique my interest and often incite me to comment. It's shocking how often NPR or the Washington Post will regurgitate some bit of drivel which paints an aspect of Japanese life as utopia incarnate. One would hope and expect such news sources to provide a balanced view or at the very least investigate to make sure the story included all the details of the situation. Unfortunately, the stories appear to be direct from the Japan tourist board or political offices and tend to be quite one-sided.

While I don't want to Japan bash, I also get irritated when one of these articles gets 500 comments from people who don't know any better saying they want to live in Japan and that Japan is so much more enlightened than the U.S. A month or so ago, one of these sorts of pieces was about the health care system and how it was so cheap under the socialized medical system that physicians couldn't make enough money on certain procedures like stitching up a wound. The article made it appear as though you could skip into any doctor's office and drop a few coins on the desk and receive expert health care for the price of a cup of coffee at Starbucks. There's no mention of the fact that you wait in a cattle call room for hours or that the doctor doesn't pay any attention to you and spends 2-5 minutes with each patient nor that they prescribe a cavalcade of medications arbitrarily to get more of your money as they own part of the pharmacy you're likely to get your script filled at.

When I encounter these fantasy articles, I read through the comments to see if anyone else has already spun the article's misleading statements into something resembling reality. Often times, it seems I find someone who says something to the effect of 'I've been blogging about Japan for x years and I talk about topics like this all the time,' and then they link to their blogs. This is what I call "web whoring". These people are so desperate for an audience that they troll high traffic sites looking for ways to insert links to their blogs. And, to be clear about this, it isn't only those who do Japan-based blogs. A lot of people do this sort of transparent self-advertising in all areas.

While it's annoying to encounter thinly-veiled spam (or attention-seeking), what irritates me more is that some web sites will not post any comment with a link in it (even a very appropriate one) due to this behavior. I once posted a link to a specific recipe for a sugar-free dessert in a comment I made on someone else's web site about sugar-free cooking and my comment was rejected, no doubt because so many people use comments as advertisements. I wasn't even trying to draw traffic to my (former) site as I didn't have a cooking blog anyway and the audience wasn't the sort that would have stuck with me.

To me, the best way to draw traffic to your site is to make really good comments on other people's blogs that embed a link to your site via your name. It's unobtrusive and people who are intrigued by your viewpoint can choose to click on your name and see what you've got to say back at your own site. It's subtle, but I know from experience at my former site that it works as it drew a lot of readers over from other sites. So, if you're willing to be sincere, authentic, and show your interest in other people's blogs, you can get the same result without looking like a pathetic web whore.


CMUwriter said...

I love that you have a post about digg on here. I have been using digg for about a year, and pretty much rely on the site to give me weird and unique news about stuff. Although I wouldn't say I'm addicted to the site, I do go there a lot to kill time at work (seriously when there is nothing else do do, and I don't feel guilty about it) I have noticed there are an amazing amount of trollers on there who just want to bash comments and digg you down for stupid shit. One thing that annoys the living hell out of me is getting dug down for a small spelling error or something similar. I don't have time to carefully edit my posts all the time, and I am not a grammar nazi, so that sort of activity bugs me, but what are you going to do? Anyway good site, and good post.

I liked reading your previous blog (and this one) because it seems to cut through the whole "Japan as a utopia" bull that you get. That way when I read a story about Japan I can get the average citizen's perspective.

Orchid64 said...

I used to surf during down time at work as well. I think everyone does it. Companies know there is such a thing as down time and that it's part of keeping wage slaves shackled to the desk for the duration of the work day, but they pretend that you're only not busy if you're slacking. It's really pretty stupid.

I've been dug down for having the audacity to believe feminism doesn't mean the downfall of motherhood or the idea that being a bad mother isn't caused by feminism, but by simply being a selfish person who cares more for herself than for her kid.

I sometimes wonder if people get a kick out of the power they feel when they dig someone down. They might even get cheap thrills out of sending someone down to zero so they disappear from view.

By the way, like you, I also don't like to meticulously proofread everything I post. It feels too much like work!

Many thanks for the comment. :-)

badmoodmike said...

Believe it or not, I've never used Digg. Many of the sites of that ilk seem to have way to many trolls that do nothing but work to try to hide stuff or bash anything that is outside their viewpoints. Really annoying, that. It is amazing, too, how many people will bash things with opinion that are completely off base or completely wrong.

Just goes to show that you have to take the interwebs with a grain of salt.

Shameless whoring: badmoodguy in paradise

CMUwriter said...

@Badmoodmike: The nice thing about digg is if you have a troll on there, you can just digg them down, and their comment will disappear. I would at least try it out, there are a lot of good people on there, and once you get in on some of the jokes it is a lot of fun. One of the things I love about digg is it allows me to keep a handle on some pop culture things without having to experience the media. I trust the opinions of some of the people on there, so when they say "Don't go see The Love Guru" I will take their word for it. BTW go see "Wall-E", it was amazing. Trust me.