Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Dear Dish Network: Your Spam Makes Me Sad. Please Stop.

Dear Dish Network,

I don’t know how to say this any other way, so I’ll be direct: Please stop with the spam.

I’m talking about crud like this, which you left in the comments of one of my stories:

Personally I’m done with Netflix. They became too much of a hassle, too confusing, and with the price hike, kind of expensive for what I was getting out of it. I have the Blockbuster Movie Pass now, and I like it a lot more. Now I realize I could be called biased since I’m a long time subscriber — and more recently an employee — of DISH Network, but Blockbuster costs less, at $10 a month, and includes streaming to my receiver and computer, DVD’s, Blu-rays and video games (which lets me cancel my Gamefly account too, saving me more money), plus 20 movie channels. And it’s all on the same bill so it’s easier too. So for me it’s a no-brainer.

Now, this pitch, written by “Andrew_K_Anderson,” does disclose that “Andrew” works for you guys. And it’s on a post about Netflix and Dish and Blockbuster and that new rental service you’re launching. So it wouldn’t seem like a completely obvious piece of spam, except that “Andrew” left the comment yesterday. And I wrote this post back on Sept. 23.

Who leaves comments on two-month-old posts? Sometimes it’s a bona fide reader who just happened across something they’ve never seen before. More often it’s a spammer.

In this case, Disqus, the commenting system we use at AllThingsD, makes it quite easy to figure out that “Andrew” is the latter. Because it tells me that “Andrew” leaves the same kind of comment on sites all over the Web.

Here’s another one he left yesterday, on SlashGear:

Now that I’ve had some time with both services, I have to say that I like the Blockbuster Movie Pass a great deal more. It simply provides more options. There’s no additional charges for Blu-rays, you can rent games (a huge bonus in my book) …

Etc.

I don’t know what else “Andrew” does for you, but he was sort of busy yesterday. He left the same comment, taking time to tweak each one by just a few words — I gather this was to defeat the Disqus spam filter — on six other sites, too: The Atlantic; VentureBeat; CNNMoney; the Washington Examiner; and two Time.com sites.

This wasn’t a one-day binge for “Andrew.” Disqus tells me he’s left 188 comments using the same account and, as far as I can tell, they’re all promotional pitches for Dish, Blockbuster, etc. Last month, for instance, he found a four-year-old blog post complaining about Dish competitor DirecTV, and chimed in on that one.

So who is “Andrew”? Disqus tells me he signed in to their system using the name “Ender Chadwick” and a Dish Network email address. Somebody on Facebook named “Ender Chadwick” says he works at Dish, so maybe it’s that guy.

But who knows. Andrew/Ender signed on using an IP address owned by Dish. It’s the same one used by people named “Rose” and “Monica” to write Dish love letters, too, as Gizmo Lovers pointed out last month.

And this gets to one of the reasons this stuff is such a downer: Look at all the calories burned on this petty little exercise, on both sides of the equation. What a waste.

I asked Dish about this yesterday, expecting them to explain that whoever was leaving this stuff probably wasn’t a Dish/Blockbuster employee. Maybe an over-zealous contractor, and that “the wires had gotten a little crossed.”

That’s what Blockbuster marketing head Kevin Lewis told me back in September, when I asked him about a story that seemed to involve the Blockbuster Twitter account offering a free year’s subscription to people who would tweet about dumping Netflix. (I wasted a bunch of time and energy on that one, too. Never bothered to post it. Glad I kept my notes!)

But Dish PR head Marc Lumpkin didn’t try to apologize for Andrew/Ender/whomever, at all.

“We require our employees who post about DISH products to identify themselves as a DISH Network employee,” Lumpkin told me via email. “This appears to be an informative posting describing the options consumers have for getting entertainment and is posted in a discussion of a similar topic.”

Really? I asked. You sure you want me to print that?

“It looks informative to me and appropriate for those Web site discussions. I’m fine with the response.”

Okay. So, Marc, Kevin, Dish Network CEO Joseph Clayton, et al. — we don’t really need to spell out why this isn’t “informative” or “appropriate,” right? Because we don’t need to explain why you shouldn’t show up at funerals for people you don’t know and hand out flyers for term life insurance, either. Right?

But think about it this way: Stuffing BS comments onto Web sites is the kind of thing that low-rent scammers do. You? You’re a big, publicly traded company. You have 14 million satellite TV subscribers, a left-for-dead video-rental brand you want to revive, and big plans to launch a new Web TV service.

That’s a whole lot to take care of. And spending time and money on tacky, clumsy astroturf seems like it won’t help, and could probably hurt. This article, for instance, doesn’t go in the “win” column, right?

Meanwhile! Here’s “Explosion,” by Eli “Paperboy” Reed, which I learned about from your newest ad campaign. It’s great. More of this, please.

[Image credit: Christina Richards/Shutterstock (litter crew);
Wikimedia (Sisyphus)]


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work