Pop Culture
Jun 24, 2010, 07:01AM

The Science of Deception: I Write the Spam

And I'm sorry.

It’s true. Despite being a professional writer and word-throw-downer of some small repute, I’m an intellectual whore. It’s my fault that spam about elongating, reducing and volumizing gets through your meticulously honed e-mail filters, and it’s my fault that a perfectly good Google search on a valid topic will return a completely useless website and waste your time by unconvincingly attempting to suck you into a “free credit report” or a “trial membership.”

As someone who is adamantly against excess, generating the digital noise that are algorithm-confounding sentences and sales pitches is contrary to my nature. I love and live by good writing, so why do I intentionally craft these miniature epics of deceit and obfuscation?

I’m not the one who seeks to destroy the infrastructure of the Internet, but many of my anonymous clients are. I take things that are written in poor English or passages that are already completely articulate and re-word them so that no three words are in the same order as the original sentence, using a mélange of synonyms, tense changes and general word-fuckery. It’s like taking an abstract jigsaw puzzle, deconstructing it, and reassembling to create an entirely new image that means the same thing as the first. The mental challenge of it all, despite the purpose of the end result, is a bit thrilling. It’s like being an evil mini-genius, majoring in selling snow blowers to people in Arizona, or explaining exactly why no one will ever sleep with you if you do not own a Bowflex and work on some muscle group that I just made up. Work those quadritoids, men.

Even the most cleverly written passage will be flagged by Google’s search mechanism if it’s repeated a few times across a website, so there are entire programs dedicated to “word spinning,” which code synonyms into each sentence within a system of brackets, resulting in multiple, similar sentences which will penetrate even your finest digital defenses—but still say nothing of substance. Somewhere out there, a Google tech is fighting back against my verbal onslaught, and I'm not going to fight back. This is a battle I'll be happy to lose. Either way, I still get paid, and that's what it really comes down to. Who here hasn't been a mercenary in the interest survival?

So, am I sorry? At first, I struggled through a serious moral battle about reconstructing 50 “articles” which claimed that the sole definition of masculinity was a dude’s seminal volume, or explaining different techniques to grow taller using search engine optimization patterns, but I started to look at the Internet as a kind of biological ecosystem. I might not be the parasite, but I’m the creature who lives symbiotically with the parasite. I’m not causing any direct damage, though I’m certainly aiding the facilitation of the slow decay—but even the corpses of what we leave behind fertilize the soil. I’m still not sure of what the Internet equivalent of soil is, but half a metaphor, and about nine cents per sentence, is enough to help me sleep at night.

  • I say take the money and run. If they're paying you to do this crap, better than someone else, right? Although I do hate spam (but really who doesn't), I can't blame you for wanting to put food on the table.

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  • Collin David has a very healthy attitude about his "word-fuckery" and making a living. I wonder how many famous or semi-famous writers got their start by writing anonymously for porn sites. Same deal.

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