We don’t need to read your blog to review it. And you don’t need to write it.

On: October 4, 2009
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About Nicola Bozzi
I was born in Catanzaro, Italy but I was raised in Milan. I studied Arts and Multimedia at Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, where I achieved a BA and then an MA in Cinema and Video. I have collaborated with magazines like Zero (www.zero.eu) and Exhibart (www.exhibart.com), writing art and cinema reviews. I was part of the Check-in Architecture editorial staff (checkinarchitecture.blogspot.com , youtube.com/user/checkinarchitecture) and I now work for yskira.com, an online architecture magazine.


It all started by doing what every active internet user does once in a while: egosurfing (or something like that, I wasn’t looking for my own blog – this one here – but for the one I work for).
I googled “yskira.com” and found, at the 8th position on the first result page, a link claiming to be a blog review. The url name read no less than “topblogreview”, so I was intrigued and clicked in hope of a nice comment. It turned out the comment was far more than nice, and even enthusiastic would be a euphemism:

Every post available in the blog is neat, no dirt in terms of inappropriate photos or anything. The articles titles makes you want to read more. I enjoy the widespread reach this site has in terms of its readers from over the world. It’s like the writer has eyes of a hawk not at all missing any point. As soon you read a post you can’t wait to read another one for the tips given. Once you start reading you could not give over.

First of all, such grand terms are so fired up they sound ironic, and second there is no reference whatsoever to what the blog is about.
The category label “photography” under which the review is listed is also erroneous, since yskira.com is mostly an architecture-related blog.
Here are some more insightful details from the review:

I am engaged by pithy and sparkling captions that attract me into the post. It must be appreciated the ease of access one could browse all over certain posts without any problem.

And more:

It’s awesome how the ads are associated and pleasing to the posts. I enjoy how the site is filled with new ideas and thoughts. The articles are allied and helpful. I like how this site is a world in itself. Visitors can have an affirmation and send their comments on each article which is a must for a blog.

Short sentences, vague words, no architectural references, no interest, no idea about the blog content. The whole review looked like a longer version of the many automated spam attempts I trash daily. Just to be sure, I tried reading the previous and following reviews in the site and they both led to similar, pointless reviews.

I tried to investigate some more on the Woogle banner on top of the page, or visiting the topblogreview.com homepage. Turns out the Woogle thing is an April Fool’s WordPress template and also a pretty confusing website, but the automated blog review site remained a mystery, although I found a couple of examples of people sporting a link to their automated reviews (which would be pretty hilarious if it didn’t provide another reason for those reviews to exist).

Then I tried to look for “automated blog reviews” and found this, which opened a whole new world to me.
The article doesn’t talk about automatically-generated content, but it shedded some light on another phenomenon I wasn’t quite aware of: automatic blogs.

I did know a lot of websites automatically index content from others to generate traffic, but the new part to me is the bloggers’ blatant intention to have their sites “look human”, sporting “quality content” (e.g.: random 300+ words articles extracted randomly from a big directory), while at the same time saving a lot of time that would be otherwise be “wasted” while blogging. Bloggers that couldn’t care less about blogging.
Of course the ultimate purpose of promoting automatic blogging products (like this or that) is to sell stuff and earn money by teaching other people how to do the same, which is a pretty common marketing practice on the internet. If 1000 people wanna get rich, ask each of then 10$ and then teach them how to learn 10000$ in no time.

While such recipes for instant success are an old trick existing before the internet era, the way automatic blogs and the aforementioned automated reviews are spreading on the internet is an annoying and potentially self-destructive phenomenon, helped by otherwise useful means like WordPress and RSS.
The self-reflecting nature of web 2.0 information (link in hope of being linked) helps puppet review sites and shallow mirror blogs to flourish on their bulky nothingness, clogging our wires with repetitive stuff and dispersing our own material in a puddle of copycat sites built on scripts and zero content.
The onanist nature of the internet, its compulsive self-referencing, self-linking, self-visiting reflexes manifest some of their most annoying implications in such phenomena.

After last week’s article about tagging and social bookmarking, a couple of questions come to my mind.
1) Will Google eventually find a way to filter irrelevant and bulky pseudo-content out of its first page results or will we always have to skip the bullshit ourselves?
2) How much can social bookmarking actually help us to surf more focused sub-internets, preferential webs only conducting pre-selected information?
The answer to both is probably the same: “Whatever, we’ve always been dodging uselessness on the internet, we are used to it.” Plus, Google is definitely making good money out of the get-rich-fast myth associated with the internet, since they own the game itself.
Maybe in a more pluralized internet, where search engines developed less money-oriented dynamics or browsers evolved enough to filter original content themselves, the automated abominations I mentioned woulnd’t exist. Or maybe again it’s not really important if they do or not, because one or two more links do us no harm, and in fact we can pretend we actually matter a little more in the internet information cauldron.
As for now, we can only leaf through the many internet pages constituting our invisible audience, frustrated and confused.

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