The Accidental Spammer

07 Mar

So here’s what happened.  I noticed a spike in traffic on my blog coming in from a site called, and I clicked over there to see where it was coming from – usually that means someone posted my link.

And that’s what had happened.  My link was posted on a comment thread attached to a picture of a new Mazda, (it was relevant – The Spiders From Mazda).

So I started looking around on reddit and found that I could open an account and that there were thousands of other conversations going on, mostly in humor and politics, which are two things I blog about a lot.

So I posted another link, and sure enough, more traffic came in – a lot of it.

I thought, “Huh.”

And then I hung around commenting on a few other posts, and then after another hour or so, I posted another link.  More traffic.

The thing was, I was pretty excited, because reddit is a site that’s more about the written word than a lot of other social networking platforms, most of which tend to be more short attention span-friendly, favoring videos and funny pictures.  A site where blog posts are valued – especially long ones like mine – seemed perfect for me.

The way it works is similar to Digg, which I’m also just figuring out.  You post a link (to an article or anything else really, but there are a lot of articles) and then the other users have the option of clicking an Up arrow if they like it and a Down arrow if they don’t.  The links which get the most Up arrows are the links at the top of the list, so more people see them, and more traffic results.

An all-too-cursory perusal of their guidelines led me to a brief mention about posting your own links – go ahead, if you must, they said, but don’t be surprised if pretty soon, everyone is voting you down.

Okay, so I figured I’d back off when that started happening.  I posted another link in the humor section (The Racially Charged Hobbit Post) and overnight it dragged in almost 2000 hits and got a net 14 Up votes.

I thought – Awww, yeeeahh.  Reddit LOVES Future Tom.  And so then every hour or two for the rest of the night, I selected a post of mine which I thought was particularly amusing, and threw it up there.  More traffic. 

I went ahead and hired a hot secretary and a bodyguard, and bought a new pair of blogging pants with huge pockets for the cash loaves that were on my way, and then I told most of my friends to go screw because I was hitting the big time.

Then long about noon the next day, the traffic stopped.  Because I’m so smart, I thought – Ah, they must want more hilarious links, so I tossed a couple more in there.

Nothing.  It was like Reddit couldn’t even see me anymore.

That’s because Reddit couldn’t see me anymore.  I’d been flagged as spam.

I went back on there and did what I should have done in the first place and actually read their submission policies, and found out that what I was doing was definitely, specifically considered spamming.  Not just “considered.”  I was spamming, no bones about it.

I mean, I could link you to their definition of it, but you don’t need it, because the behavior I just described is pretty much it.

So I started reading more on social network spamming and found out that what I was doing was held in about as much contempt as telemarketing back in the 90’s.  I’ve bonked my head up against this concept before on Twitter and Facebook – where’s the boundary between a blogger’s obvious, honest and understandable desire for exposure, and spamming?

Well, in my case, it’s like I’m sitting in Columbus, Ohio asking about the Canadian border.  I was squarely in the spamming territory, regardless of how blurry the edges might be way up to the north.

On the upside, there’s a way to message the moderators, and so I did.  I just said, guys, I’m an idiot and didn’t realize what I was doing.  I’m reading your definition of spamming and I’m a spammer, and I’m going to cut it out.  I’m really sorry.

Then much to my surprise, several human moderators said, “Oh.  Well all right then, just watch yourself and understand people don’t like that, and we’re squaresville. If you want to use the site properly, we’re all for you.”

So this post is really about two things.  One, I wanted to let you all know about Reddit, this extensive site that’s geared (very generally) toward the written word, and also to let my fellow bloggers know – if anyone out there is half as ignorant as I am on the subject – that you want to err on the side of caution in this regard.

Reddit is a great site and a great resource, and I almost got myself permanently blackballed, all because traffic started flying in and I turned in to Gollum about it.  Don’t let this happen to you, blogosphere.

I think my strategy for reddit is going to be to post a single link to my own blog once a week or so, and make certain that I’m commenting on other links and searching for interesting content elsewhere to share on the site as well.  Because I’m a quantifiable numbers kind of guy, I’m going to say the ratio ought to be about 10 to 1.

Because I really do think some of my posts belong on the site – they really seem to fit right in.  But that doesn’t mean I need to paint the place with them.


Posted by on March 7, 2011 in Writing/blogging


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

6 responses to “The Accidental Spammer

  1. Magnificent Minimalist

    March 7, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    I’m impressed with how you and they handled the spamming situation–thanks for telling us about it!

  2. ecossie possie

    March 8, 2011 at 3:41 am

    Spam is responceable for millions of deaths.Not the only culprit corned beef is also culpable.The old mantra an army marches on it stomach is true.Before the advent of tinned foods.Armys were limmited to perishable supplys that made long term conflicts untainable.With out spam corned beef ect the first world war an all subsqent long protacted wars could not have happened.

    • Tom Chalfant

      March 8, 2011 at 2:21 pm

      He’s right everybody. He’s right.

  3. Kimberly Kinrade

    March 8, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    can I buy those pants off you now?

    • Tom Chalfant

      March 10, 2011 at 5:03 am

      I don’t know I’m kind of attached to the pants..


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