Susan shows how PR agents have cottoned on to the value of blogs and linking, and started leaving not quite subtle enough product plugs in comment fields. To he it looks like Ms. Rosenberg is nothing more than a manual version of the botnets that every day leaves 4000 comments into my blog filter, most of them either gibberish or "Good site. Thanks." I want to preserve the ability to have people comment without signing in, but that requires tuning spam filters and doing a quick scan through the 4000 pieces of crap looking for false positives.
The answer to spam messages and comments is, in the long run, not filtering, but following the money and boycotting the companies that pays for them. I have had to turn off Track-Backs, a very useful feature, from my blog, because of spambots. That means I have not direct knowledge of who links to me, something I would like to know. (Yes, I can find this out in Technorati or Google, but I have better things to do.)
As for manual comment creeps, Chris Anderson solved his problem (300 emails per day, many of them from PR folks who didn’t bother to check that he would actually be interested) by blocking them all and publishing his block-file. An action that resulted in furious discussion and, eventually, an admission that Wired was kind of doing the same thing, with paper inserts in their magazines.
The thing is, I don’t mind product plugs. I love Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools (get the RSS feed, about one per day) and Amazon’s sometimes-brilliant recommendations. And if someone posts a note about an interesting piece of software that addresses something I have complained about, that’s great.
The Rosenberg approach is different, in that it attempts to write something pertinent to the blog post and then turn the conversation over onto the product plugged. If this person had been a real PR person, he or she would have found blog posts where MS Office is the relevant answer. That they are few and far between, does not mean that they do not exist – and if she could have found them, she would be a real PR person. Instead, her illiteracy and bad judgment is displayed for all to see.
It is to be hoped that Microsoft realizes the bad judgment they have displayed in hiring her and activate their filtering procedure.