My “stroke of insight” came suddenly yesterday morning: something fishy is going on with a campaign to promote Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s book, “My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey” published by Viking Adult, part of the Penguin Group.
Over the last two weeks four comments have appeared on my post from last March about Dr. Taylor’s fantastic TED 2008 presentation. While individually the comments might not have caught my attention, collectively they seemed a little too perfect, too polished, too promotional – like they have been through the review process for a press release. Yesterday morning I got curious about them when I saw the fourth one arrive. You can see Ellen, Dwight, Tammy and Bridget’s comments here. (Ryan’s comment is genuine.)
None of the commenters left links to their homepages or blogs. Reverse IP lookups were a bust. Their emails are the usual Hotmail stuff, but Dwight’s is from an @fontdrift.com domain. A quick search for that domain turned up all kinds of references to a fakemailgenerator.com. A site that “changes the domain frequently in order to prevent the address from being banned.” No need to explain what their service provides.
I decided to Google some of the key phrases. Mind you, there are some real winners, but I still think the best is Tammy’s, “I laughed. I cried. It was a fantastic book…” Wow – 833 Google hits! Wouldn’t you know the search also revealed that this exact same comment shows up on 100s of blog’s that reference Dr. Taylor. Only trick – different names each time for the comment author. In fact all four comments show up word for word all over the Web under all kinds of different names. The comment using the phrase above was on countless sites; everywhere from The New York Times (commenter Jennifar) to O’Reilly Radar (commenter Joseph) to The Indiana Statesman (commenter Jocosa) to Peterme.com (who got just the four basic comments including this same one from a commenter Bowman.)
Since the original comment on my site had an Amazon link, I first thought it was an Internet Marketing gimmick focused on increasing affiliate sales. However, I realized there was no affiliate ID in the link URL and no links in the future comments. No Internet Marketer would be that subtle or patient. That got me thinking, this is being done by someone who has an interest in the success of the book at a macro level. This narrows the list considerably.
Something like this requires time, resources and money. This is an organized effort to get these comments past moderation queues, spam filters and all the various preventive measures blogs and sites have. Someone has worked hard to give the “appearance” of being genuine, interested and supportive readers of the book all with goal of tricking you. My understanding is that this book has done quite well on its own and is by an author who is well respected. It is sad that someone felt further promotion warranted employing deception.
Make no mistake about it, whoever is behind this made a conscious decision – let’s try to trick those social media/blog types. However, the fact they went through all this trouble to use fake names and phony email addresses to spread their message about the book just betrays their own understanding of the fact that they are up to no good.
So who is doing it? I don’t know but I certainly have my suspicions. What I do know is whoever is behind it feels just fine using my site and the readers I work hard to serve as part of the playground for their deceptive marketing gimmick. As such, I feel just fine calling them out.
Lesson: I know what book I’m not buying.
[Note: I intentionally did not link to the book but did leave the link live in the original comment for context.]