As I float like a bee around the internet, here a sip of nectar, there a load of pollen, I seem to acquire, like unwanted hive mites, a swarm of spam emails.
You know the kind of thing. A sender's name consisting of a jumble of computer-generated random letters; a subject line consisting of a random assortment of computer-generated words, forming, with some imagination, a plausible message that will entice you to open the email. And when you do - Bam! You have inadvertently sent all your money to Citibank, or started a war in the Middle East, or destroyed the whole planet. After the first few you spot the tell tale signs of sender and subject and consign them to your trash. And you wonder, once more, what pleasure the creators of such computer programs get from knowing that here I sit, a world away, wasting some of the benefits of my first cup of morning coffee, deleting their garbage.
But these spotty teenage nerds in their basements are not just targeting the inboxes of email users. Among the places where the bee sucks (and so suck I) are climate change sites, as I try to keep track of the rapidly deteriorating state of the planet and the ever gloomier forecasts for its future. And, among the ordinary, genuine posts from those who share my concerns, my thirst for information, my attempts to comprehend, my desire to help in some way, any way, I find yet again the tell tale signs of computer-generated spam.
Easy to spot really. The user names are always anagrams of "Ronald Reagan" or "Ayn Rand" or "Greenie Killer". The posts themselves are sentences randomly formed from a set of words including Arctic ice, Al Gore, Mars, 1970s, Junk Science, Medieval warm period, Chicago, cold, snow, China, Urban, Sun spots, world government, saturation, 1998. The real giveaway of course is that on every thread you will see well-meaning people try to provide answers to these apparent questions or assertions (question and exclamation marks are randomly assigned by the computer), only to be ignored. When "Nay Nard" has been told, yet again, that world temperatures are still rising in spite of it being a cold day in Chicago, "Nagear" will bounce into another thread asserting, with a little chuckle, that snow in Chicago is proof that all the junk science from the IPCC is wrong.
All climate change threads need a Trash facility where this computer-generated spam could be dumped before settling down to read the material from actual human beings. Need to be careful with it though, a click in the wrong place and you can find yourself caught up in one of those mindless computer exchanges that were all the rage in the 1970s. You know "Are you happy?" "What is it that makes you think I am happy, Dave?" You could spend all day responding to a computer which was "answering" you by simply taking what you typed in and moving the words around to form another question.
And while the spotty basement nerd, chuckling, is keeping you occupied, the whole world outside the basement is being irreversibly damaged ("So, you think the world is being irreversibly damaged, Dave?" "Yes I do" "Why do you say 'Yes I do', Dave?"). So, jolly good fun, Dlanor, but the grown-ups have work to do now, time your mother turned off your computer and you went to school to get an education - physics, biology, chemistry, mathematics, geology, all that stuff. Debating computers was fun for a while, but from now on I am just going to dump all your output into the trash can. "Are you sure you want to delete the trash, Dave?". "Yes."
How does it go again? "Float like a butterfly, sting like ...". Wham, Bam, no more spam.
No spam on the Watermelon Blog, but I have been known to sting like a bee.
Follow David Horton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/watermelon_man