Humor me, just for a minute, ok?
This is only going to work if you’re reading this post on my blog. So if you’re reading this via email, or in a reader, you’re going to have to do me a solid and click through to my blog. I KNOW. I AM SUCH A PAIN IN THE ASS.
“Aaaaaamy, it’s SAAAAAAAATURDAY, I don’t WAAAAAANT to.” Urgh, just HUMOR me.
OK, so you’re here. Scroll on down to the bottom. Ooh and aah over Andreas’ pretty blog redesign while you’re there, no one’s stopping you.
Are you there? Awesome. Right there in the middle. See that? See my follower count?
2,336 followers. (Well, that’s what it is NOW. Who knows what it’ll be when you read this, at the rate things are going.)
Now, if you’re new to blogging, or maybe not a blogger, this probably seems pretty spiffy. And if you’d told me when I started blogging I’d have that many followers? I’d totally have laughed at you. I was thinking the other day how funny the idea of blogging would have been to the me I was ten years ago, and how, if now-me went back and talked to then-me and told her what I’m up to, then-me would tell now-me she was a crazypants. She’d admire her kicky new glasses, though.
Now, you can break this statistic down further, if you get behind-the-scenes in the dashboard. I’m not supposed to show you this, probably. This is probably breaking all kinds of blogger rules.
Eh, don’t care.
Now, first I added these all together and didn’t get the 2,336 and was all WHAAAA? but then I realized they’re not counting the comment followers so that’s alright.
As you can see, I don’t care about Tumblr enough (I know, I suck, I really only use it to post blog posts and never, ever click over there, Tumblr has always confused the everloving hell out of me) and probably I should use my blog Facebook page more (listen, there are only so many hours in a day, people, I do what I can.) Twitter’s ok, even though I’ve been really terrible at the Twitterz lately. I keep saying I’ll go back eventually. It never seems to happen. I HAVE NOT YET GIVEN UP HOPE, HOWEVER!
The blog-follower count looks nice, though, right? Impressive? Look at all my readers! I’m like a legitimate blogger!
Well, no. Not really. And let me tell you why.
That follower count?
About 75% of those people are spammers.
It’s a dirty little secret WordPress doesn’t want you all to know. Or doesn’t CARE if you know, actually; they’re doing nothing, absolutely nothing, about it.
How do I know they’re spam followers? Well, I’ve clicked through to their blogs. Or, at least I used to, before I started getting probably ten of them a day and I just got tired of it. Some don’t have blogs, just Gravatars with shady non-name names. Some have blogs, but with only one post, and it’s in really broken English. Some have blogs with just reblogs. Some have blank blogs. Some have blogs with links to things like “free vacations now” or “iPad giveaway.” sj had one the other day with posts about boxes. No, not the euphemistic kind, which would kind of be an awesome, if porny, blog. Cardboard boxes. Posts like “Boxes vs. Cartons.” Because THAT’S a real blog. (Side note: it wasn’t.)
I’ve tromped with my kickass Doc Martens all through the forums trying to find out a why, and a how, and a WHAT THE HELL CAN I DO ABOUT THIS, and the answer, per WordPress?
There’s no option to delete spam followers, once they’ve chosen you to target. (And it seems they’ve chosen all of us to target.) WordPress says they’re “looking into why spammers have increased lately.” These threads go back to April, and that’s when I started seeing the spammers – March/April.
WordPress also added the option to “like” a post straight from the Reader not too long ago, when they updated the Reader, which means you get likes on your posts IMMEDIATELY upon publication. Well, if you only published a photo, there’s a possibility a like happened that quickly. But if you write at length as much as I do, odds that someone named “trueerectionpillz4u” read and liked my 2,000 word post in .0005 seconds are pretty slim.
WordPress doesn’t seem to think this is a problem. And I suppose, for them, it’s not. It inflates their user count. They can then use that user count to sell ads, to recruit new bloggers, etc. And some of the new bloggers (me, for example) pay for this service, so they make money from us. No, these spam followers aren’t a problem for WordPress.
And, technically, they’re not really a problem for us bloggers, are they? Not really. They aren’t DOING anything there. Sometimes they randomly reblog our content on their shady blogs, and their weird Gravatars show up in our likes, and they’re there inflating our follower counts, making us look fancy and popular. And who doesn’t like to be popular, am I right? I mean, when I started blogging, I’d look at that follower count on other blogger’s blogs and think, whoa, THIS person knows what’s up.
But they’re lies. That follower count is lies. Most of our followers aren’t real people; they’re not reading our content. They’re not interacting with us. They’re just kind of…there. Weirdly lurking. Sometimes they hit “like,” which I assume they think maybe would get someone to click their spammy blog. Sometimes they don’t do ANYTHING. And that’s a little disconcerting, isn’t it? It’s like having this weird silent army stalking you all the time. You don’t know what the hell they WANT.
Now, WordPress has been oh-so-helpful in telling us that we can report each and every one of these spammers to them, they’ll “look into it” and “maybe delete the accounts.” Well, if it was just one or two spammers, fine. But who the hell has the free time to check up on, and report, probably 700 or so fake bloggers? And why is it MY job to do this? Shouldn’t these people have to prove they’re not spammers on WordPress’ end?
Another end result of this? Some of you new followers, who very well MIGHT be real people? Well, I wouldn’t know. Because I no longer have the time to weed through all the spam to get to the real blogs. So I might be missing some awesome new blogs I should be reading. I WOULDN’T KNOW. I used to be able to check out all the new blogs that followed me, and now I can’t do that. So, new bloggers, if you ARE a real blog, say hi. Comment, or say hi on Twitter, or send me an email. SOMETHING. I can’t promise I’ll follow your blog – I read a LOT of blogs, and my time gets more and more limited daily – but I can promise if you’re a real blogger, and not a creature made of spam, I’ll at least check you out.
I’ve also stopped following other blogs in the WordPress reader. I used to do a courtesy follow every time I followed a WordPress blog. Why courtesy follow? Well, I hate the WordPress reader. I refuse to use it. So I use an alternate reader. (Feedly, if you must know – it’s no Google Reader, but nothing is. Sigh.) But I *used* to click the “follow” button on any WordPress blog I was following in my reader; that way, the blogger knew I was following them, and maybe they’d return the favor, and we could all go ’round the mulberry bush. NOT A EUPHEMISM. I don’t bother anymore. I assume most WordPress bloggers aren’t bothering to even check out new followers anymore, so why should I do the extra step? I follow on the sly; if I like the blog and have extra time and feel I have something worthwhile to say and am not too daunted, I comment, and then they know I’m reading, I suppose.
What’s the solution to this? Well, there isn’t one. Not until WordPress creates one for us – and they’ve shown no interest in doing that whatsoever. And like I said, this really shouldn’t bother me. And I know I’m kind of biting the hand that feeds me by even blogging about it here – WordPress doesn’t like you to complain about them on their own service. (Or at all, actually. Too many complaints, I’ve noticed, they stop responding to you in the forums, or their most vocal volunteer, whose name I won’t mention but I’d be willing to bet anyone who’s come in contact with this person knows EXACTLY who I’m talking about – will snark at you, seemingly in the hopes of making you…I don’t know, quit asking for help? Quit WordPress? I’m not really sure.)
(Side note: as I was writing this, I just got another spam follower. Don’t think I didn’t note the irony. I’m like a magnet for such things.)
So, you either move to Blogger (terrible service, terrible functionality) or you self-host (and lose the community you have on WordPress, because there really are real people in there, among the spammers) or…you, I don’t know, go to LiveJournal? Start writing furiously in notebooks and taking photos of the pages and putting them up on Instagram? Your options, they are somewhat limited, friends. WordPress is by far the best blogging platform, and they know it. And when you’re at the top of the food chain, you don’t have to listen to the little guys saying “help, help, I’m being oppressed,” now, do you?
I don’t have an answer for you. I don’t have anything. I just have a huge cloud of spammers following my blog, is all. Like gnats. Like pesty, pesky gnats. I’d ask them to stop following me, but we all know they’re not reading these posts, so there’s no point.
I can tell you, based on the way this, and many other things, have been handled, if another comparable blogging option ever opens up, I’d be one of the first ones to jump ship. Hell, it’s either that or the random scribbling in notebooks.
Which, sometimes, seem like a very good option.
Shoo. Shoo, spammers. Shoo.