Stories to Listen to, Moderating Blog Comments, Teaching Blogging [en]

[fr] Deux ou trois épisodes de podcasts à écouter. Quelques réflexions sur les commentaires de blog (spam ou non?) et la difficulté d'apprendre à bloguer.

Listen to Greetings from Coney Island. I swear you won’t be disappointed. Just don’t make the same mistake I did, and be a bit distracted early on, not realising there are two parallel stories, told by two women with (to me) very similar voices. I actually reached the end of the story before realising I had missed the whole point, so I listened to it all again. It was worth it.

vue cham

Another episode of Love+Radio reminded me of a Moth story I heard quite a long time ago now. It’s about a volunteer at a suicide prevention hotline. That story made me understand something about suicide (which I am lucky not to know from the inside): it’s not about wanting to die, it’s about wanting the pain to stop. Like many Moth stories, it’s beautifully told and very moving. Well worth the small moment of your life you will spend listening to it.

I know, this blog is turning into a podcast review. But not only. See.

One of the challenges I face as editor-in-chief of Open Ears is approving comments. Not so much because we publish controversial articles that have people biting each other’s heads off in the comments (not at all, actually), but more because

  1. spambots are getting better and better at sounding human
  2. some humans are sounding more and more like spambots.

About the latter: people like me have been saying for years that a great way to get your website or blog known is to comment on other blogs. But that’s not quite the whole story. Aligning fluffy or self-promotional comments on other people’s blogs might get your “nofollowed” links out there, but isn’t really going to do what matters, which is encouraging people to actually know you and read your stuff because they’re interested. Clicks and visits only really mean anything if they come from the heart.

So what does work? Well, actually, being a valued member of the communities you are part of. At the time, during the Golden Age of Blogging, leaving meaningful comments on blogs you read and linked to was a way of being that. It’s not about the links, it’s about the place you respectfully take or are given willingly. Add value. Be helpful. Try and make friends. That’s the spirit of “leaving comments”.

Which brings me to an important piece of blogging advice I came up with while trying to teach my latest batch of students the basics of blogging (it was, to put it kindly, a mixed success): blog about stuff that’s in your head. Write about what you know. If you have to google around to factcheck this or that, find a link, or look up a detail, that’s fine. But if you find yourself doing research and reading up to gather the material for your blog post (and the post is not about your research), chances are you’re “doing it wrong”.

Blogging is this weird thing which as at the same time so easy (for “natural bloggers”) but so hard to learn or teach. I think that is because it touches upon “being” more than “doing”. It’s about daring a certain degree of authenticity that we are not encouraged to wear in our school or professional lives. And it’s definitely not how we learn to write. In a way, teaching blogging is a bit like trying to teach people to dare to be themselves in public. This makes you think of Brené Brown and vulnerability, does it not? Exactly. And that is why, I think, blogging is a powerful tool to connect people.

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Pet Peeve: Marketers and Advertisers Cold-Sending Junk E-mails [en]

[fr] Un truc qui m'énerve: les e-mails non-sollicités me proposant des liens ou autres ressources pour mes articles. Ou de la pub pour mon blog.

I’m sure you all get these. They’re bloody annoying. Here’s the last one I got:

Subject: Interested in Purchasing Advertising: http://climbtothestars.org/

Hi,

I need this type of placement could you do this?

1. We will provide php file with plugin source code

2. Webmaster will need to FTP to root folder of blog, then open folder wp-content/plugins

3. Webmaster will need to create folder ‘footerlinks’, then enter that folder and upload php file that we provided

4. Webmaster will need to log into blog admin area, click ‘Plugins’ in left menu, click ‘Installed’ in submenu, find plugin named ‘Footer Links’ and click ‘activate’ link

5. After that links will appear at the bottom of the blog like here [redacted] see our links in footer.

Very simple work just 1,2 minut only,Our links show on your old ABOUT PAGE.

i can give you $200 for uploading our php file for 1 year time period only.

Let me know are you agree if you agree then send me paypal id please.

Waiting for your Answer

Thanks

And another:

Subject: Interested in Purchasing Text links Advertising

I am basically interested for business reasons. I found your site:”http://climbtothestars.org/” really enchanting and would like to buy a number of text-links on your website. Let me know if you would like to hear more of this.We will provide php file with plugin source code.i need links on your old Post.Give you all instructions.I can offer you a good price.

Or:

Subject: Partnership with an OTA

Dear Editor,

I would be interested in buying a simple text based advertisement on your website.

The advert will be text, not a visual banner. It will appear on a single page of your website.

The text link will be Travel related ( ex: airplane ticket,airfare, etc.. )

We pay an annual fee to you as soon as the advert is live. It is a straight forward process and we work with you to make sure we fit naturally with your site.

If interested we can also provide you with Unique Travel Articles.

Please let me know if you are interested and I’ll send you more details.

If Possible can you send me a link of the page where you would accept advertising on?

Here is one of the latest, which prompted me to write today:

Subject: An Inquiry About an OpenCourseWare Database

I’m reaching out to you because I was extremely impressed with the content that you have created on digitalcrumble.com/post/306596904/the-copy-editors-old-bugaboo-about-not-using. As a writer and researcher in the education field, I sometimes find it very difficult to track down good web resources for prospective students–I just wanted to say that you’ve done a great job with your site.

Do you have any interest in adding a supplemental resource that provides your readers with links to hundreds of OpenCourseWare classes? I think could be really valuable for your site’s visitors because the classes are free and cover a wide variety of subjects.

If you’re not the right person to contact, can you let me know who is?

Adding insult to injury, my silence resulted in three follow-up e-mails over the last months. Three! Sure, following up is good. But at some stage it morphs into pestering.

Follow-up #1

I wanted to follow up with you and make sure you had received my email I sent a little bit ago regarding my research project, [redacted].

I had contacted you initially because I believe the readers on your site would find our OpenCourseWare informative and valuable. It would be great to have you include a link to the resource somewhere on your site. Do not hesitate to get back to me with any questions!

Thanks, I look forward to working with you!

 

Follow-up #2

I hope all is well! I am writing to follow up with you about the resource — [redacted] — I sent you a few days back. Let me know if I can answer any questions for you in regards to it or myself.

Thanks for your help. I look forward to hearing back from you!

 

Follow-up #3

I hope this message reaches you well. I am following up with you to see if you had the opportunity to review the resource that I sent you?

Please let me know what you think, I look forward to hearing any feedback you might have.

In your book, do these contact attempts qualify as spam? For me, they aren’t technically spam, as they seem to have been sent out by hand and by human being robots, and therefore do not really meet the criteria for automated mass-sending.

But the end result is pretty much the same. They’re just noise. How do you deal with them? Respond, or straight to the spam box? Or ignore, at the risk of being pestered?

If you know more about the (misguided?) process that results in this kind of junk arriving in blogger mailboxes, I’d love to hear about it.

Here are a few other choice morcels for you, and I’m out to enjoy the Spain sun a while.

Subject: Education News Resource Inquiry

I recently came across your page at digitalcrumble.com/post/306596904/the-copy-editors-old-bugaboo-about-not-using.

I am emailing you because I am a contributor to the online education publication, EducationNews.org, and have been active in spreading the message about it. The site is a vast resource of education news from K-12 and higher education policy and politics all the way to education technology. The editorial efforts of the site have been cited by the New York Times, Washington Post and Cato Institute while also being added as an educational resource in the New York Times Education section.

Given the quality of our writing and breadth of topics discussed, I thought this resource could be of interest to you and those who frequently visit your site. Please let me know what you think; if interested, it would be great to see it listed on your site for others to read and refer to.

Thanks for your help and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

 

Subject: Graphic on How Taking a Break is Saving Your Life

My name is Kayla and I came across climbtothestars.org after searching for people that have referenced or mentioned workplace health. I am part of a team of designers and researcher that put together an infographic showing why skipping out on your work break might be killing you. I thought you might be interested, so I wanted to reach out.

If this is the correct email and you’re interested in using our content, I’d be happy to share it with you. 🙂

 

Subject: Infographic about How Plastic Bags are Suffocating the World

My name is Kayla and I came across climbtothestars.org after searching for people that have referenced or mentioned the importance of living green. I am part of a team of designers and researcher that put together an infographic showing why plastic bags are ruining the environment and the impact of plastic bag bans. I thought you might be interested, so I wanted to reach out.

If this is the correct email and you’re interested in using our content, I’d be happy to share it with you. 🙂

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Google Alerts Trick to Monitor Website Health [fr]

[en] Un petit truc pour être alertée immédiatement si mon site recommence à servir à Google des pages truffées de mots-clés pharmaceutiques: une Alerte Google qui cherche ces mots-clés uniquement sur mon site. Fûté, non?

As you can guess, I’m now a little paranoid about getting hacked and having my blog pages stuffed with pharma keywords for the benefit of search engines. I’m keeping a close eye on my site now, but logging into Google Webmaster Central each day to “Fetch as Googlebot” gets old quickly.

So I had a bright idea I’m pretty proud of and want to share with you.

I simply set up a Google Alert for spammy pharma keywords on my site, like this:

site:climbtothestars.org keyword1 OR keyword2 OR keyword3

Given I don’t blog about those meds (or any pharma-related stuff, actually), any alert that shows up will be a sign that Googlebot has been served spammy content from my site, which should not happen as it is now supposed to be clean. And if it does, I will know about it immediately (you can easily set alert frequency for your alert in Google Alerts).

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On Being Hacked [en]

[fr] Hackée, et voilà, moi qui savais justement pas quoi faire de mon beau dimanche après-midi ensoleillé...

I’m currently battling with a hacked WordPress installation. You won’t see anything if you view source, but Google unfortunately sees a whole lot of spam right at the top of each of my pages.

Result of being hacked on CTTS

Here’s some information in the hope somebody may have a bright idea to help me root out the hack.

  • I’m running 3.0.3 and would like to find the source of the problem before upgrading to 3.04 (bad idea?)
  • I’ve tried disabling all plugins, and the problem is still there when I do that.
  • I’m using the vanilla default Twenty-Ten theme
  • I’ve looked in the theme header (header.php) for anything obvious, and also in wp-content, wp-plugins, etc. for anything that looked out of place to my eyes
  • I’ve run greps for base64 (anything here look suspicious?), spammy keywords, and other things I could think of
  • It does not seem to be this pharma hack (have failed at finding any signs of it following the instructions there — wp_option keys, backdoor files…)
  • I have searched my database for spammy keywords (also backwards) and haven’t found any aside in spam comments caught in Akismet

I will update this post as I find out more. Thanks for your suggestions.

Update: at least a partial solution… running find . -iname *.php -print0 |xargs -0 grep base64 allowed us to identify a problem in l10n.php, which was promptly replaced by a new version (evil version available on request). One of my pages as viewed by Googlebot now looks like this. So, the site is cleaner, but are there any backdoors left?

Google Webmaster Central is definitely a place to visit regularly — I would have spotted this way sooner if I had, rather than wondering what was wrong with my robots.txt file when I stopped being able to “direct Google” my posts. View more scary screenshots.

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Identifier commentaires et tweets douteux [fr]

[en] Not sure whether a tweet/comment is legit or spammy? A few tips.

Une chose que je fais et qui ne va pas de soi, je me rends compte, c’est filtrer et identifier le contenu “douteux” dans les commentaires de blogs et parmi les tweets (non, on ne dit pas twit(t), à moins de vouloir passer pour un imbécile) qui vous sont adressés. Voici quelques trucs pour identifier ces malvenus et y réagir adéquatement.

  • Premier signal d’alarme: le tweet ou le commentaire provient d’une personne qui vous est inconnue.
  • Deuxième signal d’alarme: le contenu est banal, un peu (ou carrément) hors sujet, particulièrement flatteur ou (plus rarement) méchamment négatif.

Si un tweet ou commentaire déclenche ces signaux d’alarme, il vaut la peine d’investiguer un peu pour en avoir le coeur net.

Pour un commentaire:

  • Regardez le nom laissé par le commentateur: semble-t-il réel ou bidon?
  • Regardez l’adresse e-mail associée au commentaire: semble-t-elle correspondre au nom donné, ou bien est-elle également bidon?
  • Est-ce que le texte du commentaire contient des liens? Si oui, sélectionnez l’adresse de destination de ceux-ci (c’est plus prudent que de cliquer) et allez voir si le site semble publicitaire — c’est souvent le cas.
  • Faites de même avec l’adresse du site web de l’auteur du commentaire: est-ce que c’est un site publicitaire/commercial, ou clairement le site d’un individu?
  • Est-ce que les sites liés sont bourrés de publicités? Que pensez-vous de leur contenu?

Aucune de ces questions ne permet d’évaluer sans erreur la légitimité d’un commentaire, mais en faisant ce petit tour d’horizon en cas de doute, vous récolterez certainement des informations qui vous aideront dans votre décision.

Voir aussi: Les commentaires d’un blog ne sont pas un espace de pub!

Pour un tweet:

  • Cliquez sur l’identifiant de la personne vous ayant adressé le tweet pour aller lire ses derniers messages.
  • Si les derniers messages sont tous similaires à celui que vous avez reçu, mais adressés à des personnes différentes, vous avez à coup sûr affaire à un robot/spammeur/marketeur paumé!

Dans ce cas, je proposerais (suivant la gravité de l’affront), les mesures suivantes:

  • éviter de cliquer sur le lien dans le tweet, pour commencer
  • ne pas suivre le compte en question
  • bloquer le compte en question
  • le dénoncer comme spammeur (lien se trouvant sur la page du profil)

A vous d’évaluer l’action à prendre!

J’espère que ces quelques petits conseils vous aideront à y voir clair la prochaine fois que vous n’êtes pas trop sûr si un commentaire/tweet est du lard ou du cochon.

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Les commentaires d'un blog ne sont pas un espace de pub! [fr]

[en] I'm tired of people using blog comments as advertising space (it's particularly a problem on the ebookers.ch travel blog that I manage). I've decided that I was tired of racking my brains to figure out if this or that slightly fishy comment was ham or spam, so in future, people who sign comments with brand names (or any non-human name, for that matter) will not see their comments published. Ditto if the URL provided with the comment points to something resembling a commercial site (well, anything that is clearly not that person's site).

Y’en a marre! Le spam mécanique qui nous assome de Britney peu vêtue et de Viagra dans nos commentaires de blog, c’est déjà pas drôle, mais il y a des filtres à spam genre Akismet qui font assez bien leur travail.

Mais là, ce qui commence à me sortir par les trous de nez, ce sont les personnes (au pire malhonnêtes, au mieux mal informées) qui s’appliquent à laisser des commentaires “pseudo-intelligents” à droite et à gauche pour promouvoir leur site/blog/produit.

Ça va de la remarque vide genre “super article, merci!” ou “j’adore ton blog!” au commentaire un peu plus réfléchi et même parfois pertinent, en passant par le franchement publicitaire plus ou moins subtil.

Les auteurs de ces commentaires ont parfois un nom d’être humain, mais souvent pas. Et leur URL n’est clairement pas celle de leur blog ou site personnel.

C’est particulièrement grave sur le blog de voyage ebookers.ch, dont j’ai l’honneur d’être “blogueuse-rédac-chef”. Environ la moitié des commentaires que nous recevons sont entre le douteux et le franchement commercial. Quand quelqu’un qui s’appelle “blog voyage” laisse un commentaire sympathique 2-3 fois par mois, on se pose des questions. Ou bien alors l’annonce pour une location d’appartement dans une rue de Paris dont nous parlons dans un article. Les liens vers d’autres sites de tourisme ou de voyage. J’en passe.

Alors bref, y’en a marre. Voici ce que j’ai décidé.

  1. Déjà, pour commencer, si vous n’êtes pas capable de signer votre commentaire d’un nom humain ou d’un pseudonyme clair, je ne publie pas votre commentaire.
  2. Si votre commentaire se complaît dans la banalité et sent de façon suspecte “l’excuse à lien”, il croupira dans l’obscurité de la file de modération sans jamais voir la lumière du jour.
  3. Si vous utilisez un nom d’humain et qu’en plus votre commentaire est génial, mais que le lien fourni laisse à penser qu’il est commercial, alors je le publierai, mais en supprimant le lien.

Méchant? Oui.

Je comprends toutefois que de nombreuses personnes (et agences, parce que je me rends bien compte qu’il y a des professionnels qui se lancent dans ce genre d’opération misérable) agissent ainsi par manque d’informations. Ou se basant sur de mauvaises informations provenant de soi-disant experts en marketing 2.0 ou que sais-je, mais en fait qui n’y comprennent que dalle.

Donc, du coup, je vais vous expliquer.

Oui, laisser des commentaires sur d’autres blogs est en excellent moyen de promouvoir le vôtre. Mais seulement si vous ne le faites pas dans le but premier de faire de la promotion. Paradoxal? Pas tant que ça.

La raison pour laquelle les commentaires vont faire connaître votre blog, c’est parce que ces commentaires vont vous faire connaître. Ils vont vous faire connaître à travers l’intelligence de vos propos, la vivacité de votre esprit, le tranchant de votre plume clavier. Les commentaires d’un blog, c’est l’espace privilégié de la conversation, et donc de la rencontre entre êtres humains. Comme j’aime le dire, on ne peut pas avoir une conversation avec un communiqué de presse — on ne peut pas non plus avoir une conversation avec un robot publicitaire, même si celui-ci s’appelle Juliette.

Et j’ai une mauvaise nouvelle pour les robots publicitaires: on les repère de loin dans la foule des humains.

Quelques exemples. (J’ai omis les cas tout à fait évidents d’un côté comme de l’autre.)

  1. Un article portant sur la bonne manière d’organiser sa valise: j’y laisse un commentaire vantant les mérites des shampooings solides de chez Lush. Je n’ai pas d’actions chez Lush, ce n’est pas un client (sinon je le préciserais, du coup), je n’ai aucun bénéfice direct à en parler, si ce n’est que je suis un fan de produits Lush et que j’ai envie de partager ça. => publié.
  2. Un article parlant de San Francisco: Ben (je sais qu’il s’appelle comme ça grâce à son e-mail et à une signature en fin de commentaire) laisse un commentaire avec une petite info supplémentaire et un merci pour les photos qui lui rappellent de bons souvenirs. Ça s’annonce bien, sauf que dans le champ “nom et prénom” il a écrit “blog voyage” et que le lien qu’il fournit est celui de Enroutes!, une plateforme de blogs de voyage, justement. Ajouté aux deux autres commentaires du genre laissés sur d’autres articles, ça sent fortement le “j’essaie de faire connaître un site en laissant des commentaires à droite et à gauche”. => pas publié.
  3. Sur l’article “Trois destinations de rêve“: quelqu’un laisse un commentaire répondant à la question posée dans l’article. Problème? Son nom est “Ces petits riens”, comme le blog donné en lien. Du coup, alerte rouge. Je vais visiter le blog en question, je fais un peu d’analyse de texte et… cela semble effectivement a première vue être un blog personnel écrit par une personne. Un conseil pour la blogueuse en question? Se choisir un pseudonyme qui ressemble plus à un nom qu’à un titre de publication, si elle tient à rester anonyme. Son commentaire a failli ne pas être publié. => publié, mais ça m’a demandé du boulot de vérification et j’en ai marre.
  4. Enfin, l’article donnant quelques trucs “santé” pour voyager malin: “Rando” (ça commence mal) laisse un commentaire pour préciser qu’en effet, il ne faut pas oublier de prendre une trousse de secours pour ce genre de destination… avec lien sur la page de vente de trousses de secours d’un magasin en ligne de matériel de randonnée. => pas publié.

Avec ces quelques exemples, j’espère que vous voyez où est le problème avec ce genre de commentaire “trop promotionnel”: on ne sait pas vraiment qui est en train d’écrire le commentaire (le proprio du magasin en ligne? le créateur de la plateforme de blogs de voyage? l’employé d’une agence de comm?) et clairement, le commentaire est laissé plus pour la valeur qu’il leur apporte que pour celle qu’il nous apporte. C’est pas très désintéressé, comme qui dirait.

Pourraient-ils procéder autrement? Oui.

Par exemple, Ben pourrait signer les commentaires de son nom et laisser en lien son propre blog de voyage au lieu de celui de la plate-forme. Cela éviterait de donner l’impression qu’il essaie simplement de placer un lien vers la plateforme. Ou s’il est le créateur de la plate-forme et qu’il cherche à promouvoir celle-ci, il pourrait nous écrire pour nous suggérer de faire un article à ce sujet pour nos lecteurs (ce qu’on ferait ou non, c’est une autre histoire). Dans les deux cas, la communication serait claire et transparente.

Quant à “Rando”, il pourrait nous dire simplement dans le commentaire que son magasin en ligne vend des trousses de secours, et peut-être nous expliquer en quoi les siennes sont tellement plus extraordinaires que les autres que l’on pourrait trouver. Il nous donnerait son nom, et un lien qui nous en dise un peu plus sur lui. Ça passerait ou non, clairement, aussi en fonction de son engagement dans la micro-communauté du blog. Si c’est son seul commentaire, bof. Si c’est un contributeur engagé (et authentique!) régulier, on lui passerait probablement ça, parce qu’il aurait accumulé assez de capital social pour se le permettre.

De façon générale: payer quelqu’un (à l’interne ou à l’externe) pour aller arroser les blogs de pseudo-commentaires dans l’espoir de faire connaître son site (ou le faire soi-même) est une mauvaise stratégie, qui finira simplement par vous ranger dans la catégorie des spammeurs et pollueurs.

Ici, comme avec tout ce qui touche aux médias sociaux, ce n’est pas l’action (laisser un commentaire, envoyer un tweet, faire une page sur facebook, publier sur un blog) qui est importante. C’est l’état d’esprit dans laquelle elle est faite.

Et pour cela, encore et encore, lisez le Cluetrain Manifesto. Oui, même s’il faut vous taper la version anglaise.

En attendant, moi, je vais devenir impitoyable dans la modération des commentaires des blogs que je gère. Si vous n’avez pas un nom d’humain, passez votre chemin!

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Six Twitter Tools [en]

[fr] Une série d'outils/sites autour de Twitter que vous trouverez peut-être utiles.

This is just a small list of links to more or less useful Twitter tools and sites, that you can use (amongst other things) to figure out if this or that new (or old) follower is a spammer or not. I find that kind of information useful when deciding to publish or not “Twitter comments” here (they come in through BackType Connect). None of these ask your your Twitter password, they all use OAuth (you should not be handing out your password to any third-party service, by the way).

  • TwitBlock goes through your followers and tells you (with extensive details) how likely it is that they are spammers or bots. You can block them directly from the site (be careful!) You can also just ask it to check one specific account (this is how I know that there is very little likelyhood that @stephtara is a spammer, cool!)
  • Tweet Blocker also goes through your followers to chase for spammers, giving each of them a grade (I’m an A+ student). I find the explanations given for each evaluation less clear than with TwitBlock. Again, you can block people directly from their site — don’t go overboard.
  • Foller.me gives you information about a given Twitter account, which can also come in handy when trying to figure out if somebody is ham or spam. Again, example with @stephtara.
  • Follow cost is rather basic, and will tell you how “chatty” a given user is. This is how I know that I average 13.6 tweets a day (ouch!).
  • Favstar is interesting, as it centres on favourites, telling you which of your tweets (or any user’s, for that matter) were favourited by whom. I’m less excited by their “100+, 50+, …” leaderboard (the popular just get more popular).
  • When did you join Twitter? tells you exactly that. (Me? December 8th, 2006.)

Any other ones you find useful? Link to them in the comments. (Yeah, there’s a wave, too. Who’s going to write a plugin which creates and links post-related comment waves automatically?)

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Google Groups Pain in the Neck [en]

[fr] Google Groups trouve qu'il n'est pas raisonnable de vouloir ajouter plus d'une dizaine de personnes à la fois à une newsletter nouvellement créée.

I’ve used Google Groups to set up a [newsletter for Going Solo](http://going-solo.net/2008/04/30/going-solo-has-a-newsletter/).

[Here it is](http://groups.google.com/group/going-solo-news/), with added proof (if needed) of my hopeless lack of design sense.

When I set up the group, I did what most normal newsletter creators would do: went through my contacts to invite those who might be interested in joining. I selected 30 or so people to start with.

My action triggered a flag for review, as I might be a potential spammer:

> **Your request to invite X new members has been flagged for review by our staff.**

>In order to protect our members from unsolicited email, Google manually reviews invite requests which meet various criteria. Your request will not be reviewed unless you provide us with more information in the form below. Reviews generally take 1 – 2 business days.

>Please provide an explanation for where these new members come from and why they would want to be part of your group. Note that Google takes a very dim view of Spam. The people you invite must know you and be expecting your message. If they complain, you will be banned from our service and your group will be deleted.

Great.

Well, I wrote up an explanation, saying I was setting up this newsletter so that people could stay informed about [Going Solo](http://going-solo.net/) ([registration](http://going-solo.net/registration/) is closing soon btw), and that I was going through my address book to let people know about it.

Anything wrong with that, in your opinion? I think not, and Google obviously didn’t think there was anything wrong either, because they let my invitations go through after a few hours.

**BUT.**

Now, each time I invite even **one single person**, my request is flagged.

Google Groups: Threatening!

What a pain! I’m going to be inviting people many times a day over the next week, as I dig out e-mail addresses. And obviously, just announcing the existence of the newsletter is not enough to get people to sign up — ever heard of lower the barrier to entry? If I’m creating this newsletter, it’s because I’m finally coming to my senses (!) and realising that not everybody [follows Twitter](http://going-solo.net/twitter), [subscribes to blogs](http://going-solo.net), hangs out on [Facebook](http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=8828618221) or [upcoming](http://upcoming.yahoo.com/event/407911/), and that *good ol’ e-mail* still has some good days before it when it comes to getting information out to people.

I am really annoyed at Google Groups for making this so difficult. Shouldn’t there be a way for me to get the limit “lifted” for my group, by offering proof I’m not a nasty spammer, but a businesswoman (OMG!) who is very much aware that she will very quickly use up her social capital if she spams her network with irrelevant stuff? And therefore, that I actually *need* to send out invites to a few hundred people?

Also, look at this form:

Google Groups invite members

Don’t you think that “e-mail addresses” field invites a reasonably large number of addresses?

I went through the help, and it wasn’t very encouraging, but I did learn a few useful things:

– [the “flagging limit” seems to be **10** invites at a time](http://groups.google.com/group/Managing-Your-Group/msg/034a807378fbdfd5) (talk about being unreasonably low for newsletters, bound to trigger TONS of false positives)
– you can [create a Google Groups account easily](https://www.google.com/accounts/NewAccount) even with a non-Gmail address (I think I had grief with this last year when I was struggling with Google Groups not wanting to send e-mail to the client I was setting up the discussion list for)
– messages from staff in the relevant threads seem to focus on [filling in the fields](http://groups.google.com/group/Managing-Your-Group/msg/d8efc2db78fc1502), which I’ve been doing, of course
– I’m not alone in thinking the [language Google uses for the warning message is a bit over the top](http://groups.google.com/group/Managing-Your-Group/browse_thread/thread/b5d34348c034b6e9), particularly given the number of false positives their low trigger limit is going to create (and the fact there is no warning that such a limit exists when you fill in the [**huge** field for e-mail addresses to invite](http://www.flickr.com/photos/bunny/2456715554/))
– [I’m not alone.](http://groups.google.com/group/Managing-Your-Group/browse_thread/thread/eca163d042772868/31512ccb7cb93d80?lnk=gst&q=)
– There doesn’t seem to be an official Google Groups blog.

So, please. If you have friends working on Google Groups, please draw their attention to this post and issue. It’s a bloody pain in the neck.

Oh yeah — and [please sign up for the newsletter](groups.google.com/group/going-solo-news/subscribe). I’m going to have trouble inviting you 😉 — going-solo-news-subscribe@googlegroups.com also works.

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Twitter Advertisers and Friend Collectors [en]

[fr] Sur Twitter (voir mon guide si vous êtes perdus!), je laisse en principe qui le désire me "suivre". Par contre, je bloque sans merci ceux qui n'ont rien capté et qui utilisent Twitter pour envoyer des messages ressemblant à du spam, et ceux qui collectionnent les gens à suivre comme des trophées (à moins que ce soit des gens de "mon monde" que je connais). Donc, oui -- non seulement je ne m'amuse pas à suivre ces gens foncièrement inintéressants, mais en plus, je ne désire pas figurer dans leur tableau de chasse.

I’m approaching 500 followers [on Twitter](http://twitter.com/stephtara). That means that nearly 500 people have asked to be able to track my updates — and I haven’t blocked them.

I’ve blocked many people from following me, even though my updates are public, and anybody can read my tweets/twitters on the web.

Who do I block? Blatant advertisers and friend collectors.

When I get a notice that somebody is following me on twitter, I quickly go to check out their stream (sometimes a backlog builds up, but that doesn’t change much to the process).

If I know/recognize the person and I want to keep track of them, I’ll follow them back (I’m pretty loose about who I follow on Twitter, though I do stick to people I know in a way, people I’d like to know more, or people that seem very interesting in what they tweet).

If I don’t recognize the person, the first thing I do is check how many people they’re following. If they’re following 500+ or 1000+ people and their name doesn’t ring a bell (ie, they aren’t one of the 2.0 mass-networkers gravitating around my world), I block them. I see no interest in being part of their faceroll collection. None at all. So yeah, of course, I get less followers, like that (but I’m not in any race or anything).

If they don’t get busted because of my “friends limit”, I take a quick glance at their twitter stream. If it’s tweet after tweet of self-promotional crap or ad-linking, I block them too. Why anybody would use Twitter to try to convince people to follow their spam is beyond me — probably, they haven’t got a clue what Twitter is about, and are trying their same old spammy techniques there without realising they’re mostly useless. Anyway, I’m not interested in being associated with people like that, so I block them too.

Who is left? Well, normal human beings. If you’re reading this and you have a clue (ie, you don’t believe in spamming people or making collections of people/links/whatevers to win the contest), then you run very little chance of being blocked :-). Feel free to [follow me on Twitter](http://twitter.com/stephtara)!

*PS: [Robert](http://twitter.com/scobleizer), [Loïc](http://twitter.com/loiclemeur/), [Jeff](http://twitter.com/jeffpulver), and other authentic super-networkers out there: you’re part of my world, I don’t mind being in your collection ;-).*

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Arghl! Du spam par SMS! On fait quoi? [fr]

Il y a quelques minutes, la sonnerie de mon portable m’informe qu’un nouveau SMS m’attend. J’avoue que c’est assez fréquent, avec [twitter surtout](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/09/13/manuel-de-survie-twitter-pour-francophones/). Mais bon.

Je regarde mon SMS, toute curieuse, et… Un message m’invitant à obtenir des SMS gratuits ou que sais-je, depuis un numéro court.

Reviennent des souvenirs du temps où je bossais chez Orange: des histoires de numéros courts qui se comportaient mal, de clients spammés…

J’appelle Orange, service clientèle. Je demande à qui appartient le numéro court, ils me donnent le nom de l’entreprise et le numéro de leur service clientèle.

J’appelle, j’explique (poliment!) que je viens de recevoir un SMS du numéro court xyz, et que j’aimerais savoir comment ils ont eu mon numéro de téléphone. La gentille dame au bout du fil me demande mon numéro, fait quelques recherches, et m’informe qu’en 2006 j’ai envoyé un SMS contenant la lettre “b” au numéro zxy, et que j’ai reçu en retour un SMS en anglais disant ceci et cela. Et bien sûr, elle a spontanément dit qu’elle allait faire stopper les SMS publicitaires.

Nickel!

Je récapitule:

– prendre note du numéro court en question
– appeler son opérateur pour demander leur numéro de contact
– appeler le numéro de contact associé au numéro court et demander comment ils ont eu notre numéro (si ça nous intéresse)
– demander l’arrêt des SMS.

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