Saturday, October 10, 2009

An edublogger poll on fraudulent responses

The leaf above is the registered trademark of Applebatch.

Except for when I mention certain buzzwords (fluoride, vaccines, and fetuses), my blog has a steady visitor rate--I get a few dozen a day, usually the same people. I visit a couple dozen blogs a day, mostly those of folks who read mine. It's a hobby, it's fun, and it's cheaper than the local bar.

It burns me to get responses from folks posing as interested parties just to plug some website.

I understand someone who comes in on a flaming rocket and screams VISIT MY WEBSITE LOTS OF VIAGRAPORN--I don't like it, but I understand it. I delete the message, then move on.

What irks me is when someone poses as a teacher, then casually lists a drops the name of a website that makes their professional education life better.

First year teaching sucks. It's hard, hard, hard, and it takes some time to find one's voice in a classroom. Predators seek the weak, and first year teachers are vulnerable. Every now and then I will get a response to a post that exists just to plug a website.

Don't play me for stupid.

The latest offender is "Devin," though sometimes he poses as "Marissa." He is plugging

Here's a list of sites (besides my "Devin") that have had an Applebatch plug the few months (and this does not include folks who deleted the poseurs):
Reflections on teaching: Devin
TeacherLingo: Terri C.
Bellringers: Marissa
Teachers at Risk: Jessica Baker (and Molly in August)
Shrewdness of Apes: Devin (and Mick back in August, but Mick did not hide.)
The Blue Skunk Blog (highly recommended, btw): Kim
Newly Ancient: Molly again
Edweek: Mick is working as hard as Molly
Hey Jude: Kim
Discovering Biology in a Digital World: Mick, again not hiding
Bit by Bit: Marty does a good job here; would have fooled me, but again, the anonymity is a clue
Human for Fellow Teachers: Kim again
Teaching in the Inner City: hhutchinson--clever!

Hipteacher got hit, but she apparently deleted the message. She's earned her monicker.

The CEO of Applebatch is George Hammer III (no, really!). If you're a blogger, and you've been hit, drop him a line.

Any others I've missed?
How many other bloggers out there have been hit by disguised plugs?


John Spencer said...

Not only have I been hit, but I've had e-mails from companies asking if I'd "review" their materials . . . not just mom and pop operations but the very ones I rail against (subsidiaries of McGraw Hill, Pearson, etc.) It really pisses me off!

I'm not even a particularly popular blogger (relatively few followers, even fewer comments) and so it's quite clear that they target a ton of sites. Judging by some of their very specific feedback it's apparent that they aren't simply robots.

Sometimes it's a comment on a blog followed by their link. Sometimes it's an e-mail. But I'm sure Dante has a level reserved for them in his inferno.

Louise Maine said...

I have been hit by publishers as well as people who have "educational" sites. The weirdest was a post I made on changing the future and a comment was left in mandarin. when I used a translator, it was for a social dating site. 17 mandarin comments later, I decided to delete the post so it wouldn't draw more.

I subscribed to the comments of a post at Beyond School. It has been hit as well by ads.

Kate said...

I have, usually folks who want to sell real estate. But the spam filter on my blog catches almost anything with a url. Most I never see. I'm relatively untraveled as a blog, but I see comments like this everywhere in my own commenting travels.


Speaking of vaccines... (or not)

My school closed on Friday until Tuesday (it was a half day, all school fall fair that was postponed) because almost 1/3 of the high school (100/320) was out with "flu-like" symptoms and two students tested positive for type A influenza. The fair would have mixed the upper, middle, and lower schools together indoors (rainy, cold & windy). Probably smart.

Anonymous said...

Hello and thank you for your email. Our team is not certain about the issue. However, the CEO is always open to talking with teachers. I spoke with him and he is excited to talk with you to discuss how we can use the internet to help teachers like his mother and you! Please write with a day/time that works for you.

Hope to talk with you soon.

doyle said...

Dear John,

I've never been asked to do that, but I haven't railed against the educorp giants, just the maggots on the sidelines feeding off the NCLB roadkill. I like healthy maggots--they perform a useful function.

When I mention a company, I often get a response--I'm guessing that they have sniffers (Google does it for free) that patrol the internet seas, looking for their name. (I often send an email to a company when I publicly complain about them on-line as well.)

The smaller companies will read you, the larger ones send you promotional materials. I wouldn't even take pens from pharmaceutical reps, so I'm not about to take anything from companies here (except maybe some abuse).

Dear Louise,

I've seen Chinese characters before, but never thought to translate it--what a great story!

Dear Kate,

I don't even know if I have a spam filter--I just put in Norton 360, so I suspect that I do; I know the mail does.

The small companies appear to be using real people, as John noted. I believe that the person who wrote earlier to plug was a real person--just not the person he said he was.

As far as the flu, I'm the oddball here, and I no longer practice medicine, so take anything I say with a huge grain of salt--why not keep schools open, let everybody who does not plan to get the vaccine get exposed, and get the whole thing done with in a particular town? (And I wonder why the CDC would never hire me....)

Dear anonymous,

A few problems with your post, but I won't delete it, because I see this as a teachable moment:

1) You're posting as anonymous--either this is a bogus response, quite possible, and I'm playing the fool, or you're a representative of a company that responds to posts as "anonymous," not a good way to develop a brand image.

2) Our team is not certain about the issue.

Then read the post, follow the links--each link is to a specific post by identified bloggers, and each post contains a formulaic response promoting applebatch as though the responder just happened to stumble upon it. If "anonymous" you are indeed part of the team, your CEO would do well to find a sharper team.

3) If this is a real representative from applebatch, it's not wise to promote your company in the same way you are criticized in the post; if this is a fake, well, well done! You've captured the cult-like tone of the responses I linked on the blog. Goodness sakes, it's like talking to members of Aesthetic Realism.

4) If this is truly a rep from applebatch, I sent you an email privately--it would have made better business sense to respond privately. You chose to respond here, and I am delighted that you did. You've already picked the forum.

Come on back and write any time, any day--if the exchange gets interesting, I'll consider posting a follow-up post.

Again, if this is a fake, well done--you figured I'd email the company.

Morgante said...

Thanks for the alert. I've deleted the comment.

What I find odd is that they're actually pretty legitimate looking comments, as though they're actually constructed by a human. The material references the article. It almost makes me want to leave the comment...

momomom said...

I suspect they are part of the pay for content movement. Bloggers write on an assigned topic and get paid.

Somewhat related...see this Applebatch showing they are willing to put out a few pieces of silver.

Bill Farren said...

From their site: “Applebatch is dedicated to empowering teachers to proactively manage their careers.”

"Empowering", "proactive" and "careers" all in the same sentence.
Where's my power tie? Sign me up.

heyjude said...

You're right! All those comments annoy me a lot too, and take time to filter out. Yep, I got pinged :-) The emails directly to me are also tiresome tiresome tiresom - though I do know one blogger who was willing to post a plug in return for a payment. My blog is my professional learning and sharing space - but I guess we'll never stop hawkers. Thank goodness for great spam filters.