Gaming the System with Comments

Filed as Features, General on March 15, 2007 8:00 am

It has often been argued that a blog without comments is not a blog. But what about blogs with comments that were paid for? I don’t mean spammers. I mean comments input by people who are being paid to leave a relevant remark. It’s a business of gaming the system. In some cases, it’s as harmless as a blogger who wants to feel good, It can be an organized effort to kill a cause. Just yesterday a friend pointed me to a blogger who for purposes of page rank and money bought reviews and comments.

Did you know that there are companies out there that are willing to pay you to leave comments in forums and on blogs? If commenting on what other people write, expressing your opinion and visiting different forums and blogs is what you already enjoy doing, you can get paid a little bit to do what you have already been doing.. . . . If you post a lot of comments on different blogs, there are companies that are interested in having you comment under their name and will pay you to do so. Paid to Comment

I first discovered this paid commenting phenomena when I was writing daily about Net Neutrality. A practice called astroturfing began to affect my blog, when folks who disagreed with what I posted would write detailed “talking points” comments in response. Much like what is mentioned in this post from Assorted Stuff.

Someone must be monitoring Technorati pretty closely. Less than twelve hours after the previous rant on net neutrality, I got two comments, both strongly critical of the concept.

Both, however, neglected to mention they were being paid to comment by some very well-funded groups with a big stake in the issue.

Big issue, hot political topic, you think. I thought so too.

Then I found this post about paid comments made to sound like happy customers.

. . . . They hunt for people who want information on cellular service and offer well-written (and not necessarily true) commentary in the form of email and blog replies. . . .

I’m confused by all of this. I know a famous blogger who buys comments and reviews to move up in the rankings in a famous index. But that famous index has problems keeping things in order. So what does it mean to game the system in that way?

I asked the question on my blog most folks agreed that getting paid for comments would somehow change things.

Now I’m back to where I started at the Blog Herald months ago – authenticity and transparency. What good are comments if you buy them? It seems a lot like buying friends.

Explain to me, please. What does a company or a person think comes from paid comments? It can’t be long-term useful. Not really. The system itself is faulty.

Friends bought aren’t authentic. That fair weather friendship shows itself eventually. I want friends who will stand with me. It seems that once you start buying comments, you become a slave to that system? – Stop buying and the comments stop coming.

I care about the people who read and offer legitimate feedback.

I want conversation not paid comments.

If a blogger pays for comments, how legitimate is that blogger’s content?

Liz Strauss writes for people at Successful-Blog, where things are authentic and transparent.

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  1. By Mark posted on March 15, 2007 at 6:22 pm
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    This is really a big problem. Also on places like tripadvisor- it’s so hard to know which are genuine reviews. Even offline, airline companies are filling up their own feedback forms. I can’t explain it to you- as I agree, long-term the truth will be out.

  2. By Chris Cree posted on March 15, 2007 at 7:50 pm
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    Everything good and wonderful has a dark and evil side, it seems.

    We live in a twittering, microwave, ATM, instant society. And too many are only out for short term gains without regard to potential long term consequences.

    I agree with Mark. Eventually truth will win. Eventually.

  3. By Liz Strauss posted on March 15, 2007 at 7:56 pm
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    Hi Mark!
    You’re so right. People are stuffing the ballot box so much so that the top reviewers are becoming celebrities in their own right, because we tknow them.
    It’s a short-term goal, people will find out a shill in a crowd eventually, no matter how artfully they disguise themselves.

  4. By Liz Strauss posted on March 15, 2007 at 7:58 pm
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    You’re right, Chris. There are two sides to everything.

  5. By Rich DeYoung posted on March 15, 2007 at 10:17 pm
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    I had a similar experience while blogging about Net Neutrality. A commenter named HOTI (assume “Hands off the Internet”) was leaving canned messages refuting my opinions about reinstating and defending the rules of Net Neutrality. A quick search of Technorati and Google revealed that “HOTI” had been very, very busy across the blogsosphere, dropping the variations of the same canned arguments against Net Neutrality.

    This is actually called “Sock Puppeting” in the UK. New laws have been instated that will publicly shame any advertisers for the practice of posing as a satisfied consumer for a particular product. I wonder if the same laws will apply to political action committees?

  6. By Liz Strauss posted on March 16, 2007 at 3:49 am
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    Hi Rich!
    I don’t know if laws are happening, but I sure wish they are. Authenticity is what makes the virtual community worth it’s salt and substance. There were several like HOT1 around when I was blogging Net Neutrality and I eventually just quick accepting their comments.

    In some ways, it seems that spammers have more integrity. At least most of them don’t pretend to be what they’re not.

  7. Bloc de blocs - Ús dels blocs en Educació Superior » Comentar, votar o comentar y votar?March 20, 2007 at 8:40 am