Is it just me or is social networking, in fact, being overrun by bots? I hope it's just me, but I fear the truth is more of the internet version of War of the Worlds or Invasion of the Body Snatchers or maybe even Predator.
Here's the problem: We are all communicating with each other without actually seeing each other. I saw an episode of George Lopez yesterday where the boy Max is chatting with a girl from Chicago (I'm pretty sure this episode was to promote a doomed sister sitcom.) George and the father of the Chicago girl are convinced that each kid on the other side is a sick pervert pretending to be a kid. Of course there's no pervy happening anywhere except in the fathers' minds. Having a father's mind, I know how they feel.
The point is it doesn't take much more than the luke-warm imagination of a sitcom writer to come up with this scenario.* Folks with less moral stamina, more greed and maybe a bit more time on their hands (no kids?) have used the ever expanding AI processing power at their disposal to create the bots.
First there were the spambots. These sweet little nuggets spread E-mails across the globe with such staggering numbers that some of the original spam E-mails sent a dozen years ago are still bouncing around the internet today. The first spam E-mails were relatively harmless I think, like snail mail chain letters threatening bad luck and general malaise if ten of your bestest buddies didn't get a copy. But then the links settled in, the shadow websites, the requests for account numbers... kaboom, you've got an industry.
Twitter has its Tweetbots. You might be a computer-driven tweeter if: 1) Your profile picture is a nice looking young woman or a kindly grandma type. 2) You are obsessed (almost mechanically) on one subject, which is often a product or a promise of masterful Twitter marketing. 3) You have somewhere between 5,000 and 200,000 followers. 4) You tend to follow me when I say keywords like iPad or MartinSheen in my human tweets.
The idea here is that tweeters earn money (somehow) for having more followers. The irony of this idea is that the more followers one has (unless you are celeb) the fewer the dedicated readers... and the more bots. It's like we used to own the house, but now we hang out in the bedroom closet (at least it's still a walk-in) and the rest of the house is occupied by bots who talk to each other constantly. Because they talk to each other constantly, the owners of the bots get checks every month. Someone has decided to call this marketing.
And now the blog-bots have landed. There's a Twitter (grandma pic) person known as ezyhelper. She/it posted a story about autoblogging for money. In this scenario there is a company that will set up your site, design your blog, get the right keywords and stuff to get you on the right search engines and then they'll even send you content. You literally don't have to do anything except probably send them some money upfront. And then you get money.
Hmm... where have I heard that one before? Oh yeah, it was in a spam E-mail I got in 1996 that asked me to send money to a kindly foreigner so he might get his million dollars into the states. In return for my consideration I get 10% of the million. What a deal!
By the way, ezyhelper has 165,000 Twitter followers and is following 171,000 people... well, not people. Mostly other bots.
You seeing the insanity here? We're setting up a network of computers who blog and tweet other computers and someone is making money off it. And in the process the wonderful world of social networking is being overrun. It's like the housing bubble.
It kinda pisses me off.
All that said, I'm going to keep following the people I follow, having the friends I have and reading the blogs I read. The real people. I hope they're real. You're real, aren't you?
Even if you're not, you have a terrific profile pic!
Thanks for reading, off to write!
* I'd cut off my toe for a sitcom writer job.