Sweeping Bad Press Under The Rug Using Junk Blog Comments

I noticed an interesting comment on this blog while deleting comment spam a few days ago.

1. Jim Mirkalami Says:
February 6th, 2008 at 6:25 pm

I have been a frequent visitor of this blog for some time now, so I thought it would be a good idea to leave you with my thanks.

Jim Mirkalami

It has that “almost certainly spam but hard to be dead sure” feel to it that a lot of spam comments have. Strangely although it is an optional field, he gives yahoo.com as his website. This seemed even stranger when you note he seems to have his own website (jimmirkalami.com) unless there are two single fathers of two with that name in Ontario.

It seems like a pretty uncommon name, so I google for him. The first few links are news stories alleging questionable ethics in Canadian Auctions for jewelry and Persian rugs. Curiouser and curiouser.

Of course, I am only guessing that it is an uncommon name. It could be the equivalent of Smith in the middle east. It certainly seems fairly popular in among Toronto rug merchants.

Here is my theory.

I’d be upset if the first google result for my (fairly uncommon) name led to a page that started “No charges laid …”.

Knowing a little about SEO and the way google ranks pages, I think you could fairly quickly bury those stories by commenting on a lot of blogs. It would be harder if the story was all over major media. Not many blogs have a pagerank that can compete with CNN or the NYT (pagerank 9), but Google ranks local media about on par with a popular blog. There are no shortage of blogs with a pagerank around 5 or 6. Google only gives canada.com 7.

The comments appear to be somewhat targeted. They seem to appear on blogs (but not always posts) that mention the word ‘auction’ or the word ‘Canada’. There are automated comment spam tools that will find suitable blogs for you, or in a little more time you could do it by hand from any of the blog search engines. A few days later he commented on another post of mine that does contain the word auction (because it is about ebay).

The text of that comment is

Jim Mirkalami Says:
February 8th, 2008 at 3:13 pm

I have been visiting this site a lot lately, so i thought it is a good idea to show my appreciation with a comment.

Jim Mirkalami

PS: I am a single dad! 😉

Other ones you will see around the place are:

Tammy kingston, on February 5th, 2008 at 5:18 pm Said:

Jim Mirkalami, the very globally highly regarded auctioneer, is a peaceful man single father of two beautiful children. He is also a regular reader of this blog. Great job you ppl!

Aslan, on February 7th, 2008 at 10:06 pm Said:

He is a kind and very loving man.

I don’t know who Tammy is. I get no useful search results for “Tammy Mirkalami”, but I am guessing she is from Kingston (which is near Toronto). I am guessing the Aslan above is more likely to be Aslan Mirkalami (owner of rugman.com) than a lion king from Narnia.

Does this variety of reputation management work? Sure does. A few days later, and at least the top 10 pages of search results for his name are all blogs. The negative press is presumably still indexed, but has dropped way down the list where only a dedicated searcher will find it. He many have overplayed his hand though, as the first result at the moment is a blogger calling him a spammer.

So here are some morals to this story.

  • If you are going to have dissatisfied customers, make sure you have few enough that only local media cover the allegations.
  • Commenting furiously on blogs will give you Google results that effectively act as noise
  • Try to tailor the comments to the blogs a little. It would not take much more time, and would make the effort invisible.

Oh, and surely you already knew that whenever you buy anything (including rugs and jewelery) valuations from the seller are worth only slightly more than the paper your blog is written on.

You Used PHP to Write That?! – Uh yeah.

I have gotten pretty good at staying out of language flame wars recently. Usually, when some wide eyed neophyte wipes a trickle of Kool-Aid from their chin and says “Ruby is sooooo much better than PHP”, I just say “uhuh”. I can’t be bothered opening a can of Terry Chay on them and I don’t really see the point. I can’t even usually be bothered saying “uhuh, that is why Twitter is the only A-list Web2.0 site built with Ruby and it is down all the time.”

Every now and again though, I just can’t help taking the bait.

You used PHP to write WHAT?! by Kenneth Hess on CIO.com grates. PHP programmers in general are pragmatic. It is not generally a language chosen by purists and zealots who latch onto one tool and claim it to be perfect in every way, and appropriate for every task. There are plenty of people with deep PHP knowledge who could have written an insightful article fitting into the CIO series’ theme that no one language is right for all applications.

Pap annoys me more when it appears in something claiming to be mainstream media than when it appears in some loser’s blog. Traditional media, while possibly doomed, does employ editors and generally attempts to check facts.

Well, sometimes they check facts. Ignoring the subjective parts that are merely the authors opinion, this article has so many simple factual inaccuracies that it is laughable. I assume the author does not have a great deal of experience with PHP.

Given he claims you can port an application from one database to another with minimal effort by running find and replace to swap mysql_query() with mssql_query() it seems likely that he has never written a non-trivial application in any language. So his major claim that PHP does not scale is presumably based on conversations he had with the fairies that live at the bottom of his garden.

Maybe it is just that Java fanboys push my buttons more than Ruby fanboys. Maybe it is just that damning with faint praise is more annoying than overt attacks. Barack Obama is “articulate“. Australia is “lovely” and reminds Bill Bryson of Iowa in 1958. PHP is good for “Creating an intranet site”. Come on!

Actually, it is might not not even be the factual inaccuracies and unsupported assertions that irritated me most. When I hear “enterprise” used as an adjective and not a punchline I involuntarily clench and it is there five times on one page.

Postscript: A couple of days later, Terry Chay could not resist opening a can of Terry Chay on them.