Monday, July 28, 2014

Robot recognition and the arms race of spam

I have two blogs: this one, and one over at byteblacksmith. I'll admit I'm not as prolific as I need to be to attract and retain followers. (Not like my friend Roger Lanctot who blogs to his personal and company blogs, posts four articles to LinkedIn, then tweets them all before he has his morning coffee.)

Since I don't have a lot of followers, I get rather excited when I get emails saying there's a new comment on one of my blogs. However, the comment often looks like this:

If you want to be set up barricades outside the funeral supplier may be difficult in the majority of our sites are mobile responsive, meaning how your own arrangements, unless some of you. First key to getting traffic as long as you are experiencing the sadness of a complete mess. That way, you may need to be so-so at best and everyone's going to be disposed of in a timelier manner than if the deceased. Just having a negative review with no money?

Take a look at my web-site ...

I've got most of the moderation and spam rejection turned on, but I still get these lame-ass attempts at BlackHat SEO coming through. Sigh.

Now I really hate CAPTCHA although it exists to screen out these terrible automated spam attempts. Half of the tests are unreadable by humans. I'll often decode a CAPTCHA only to get it wrong multiple times in a row. The "Top 10 Worst Captchas" has some entertaining examples; here are my two favourites:

Good thing they didn't use Chinese.

Are you seriously thinking I can solve this better than a computer?

However CAPTCHA done well is actually pleasant. I appreciate what those fine people are doing to keep evil spammers at bay. Here are two great examples of CAPTCHA done right:

Areyouahuman: You run a little game that makes you sort images based on a verbal description. uses it for URL shortening.

Actually fun to do, and no misinterpreted results.
ASIRRA: This has the user pick pictures of adoptable cats or dogs from the millions of animals on (A "live" example is at the bottom of this blog.)

Fun, cute, and socially responsible!

Let me offer a great big thank you to all those industrious people trying to keep my blog's comments actually relevant!

Believe it or not, I suspect that most comment spam is unintentional. Many naive or technically unsophisticated people are desperate for their website to rank high and they don't know what they need. They don't know or can't create great linkable content nor can they intelligently promote it. Instead, they stumble upon a service that promises they can "magically" improve their page rank.

Guess what? THERE IS NO FREE SEO LUNCH.  If you don't have any content, you can't magically improve your SEO. To do SEO without any content, someone has to generate links to your page. And they do that by spamming blogs all around the world with your web link.

Why do I know this? Because I look at the links that comment spambots are trying to insert. Some are for casinos or male enhancement drugs, but many seem to be legitimate small businesses. Clearly, here are people who are clueless what happens when they ask someone else to improve their SEO.

If you're trying to improve your rank, don't contribute to world evil. Create good content instead.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Android Auto + CarPlay: Makers and Destroyers

Everyone recognizes that Google and Apple are going to change the infotainment game. There's been some distressed discussion on the potential damage that Android Auto's free software platform will do to the Tier ones by commoditizing their existing infotainment business. However, there's an industry subsegment that is going to benefit immensely from these competing consumer electronic giants that seems to be overlooked.

And that's the Aftermarket space. 

Of course, there are some interesting things going on aftermarket today independent of Apple and Google's direct influence. A new crop of startups are forging a link between the car's OBDII, your smartphone, and their cloud services. Companies like DashCarvoyant and mojio have a great opportunity to build a new category of aftermarket devices that are using your smartphone to augment your car.

But I'm really talking about the aftermarket old guard: folks like Pioneer, JVC Kenwood, Alpine, and Clarion. It hasn't been an easy run for these guys over the last few years. Functionality is continually migrating either down into the OEM infotainment or telematics systems or up into the smart phone. The aftermarket makers are continually playing catch up, making a consumer aftermarket purchase less and less likely.

Do you remember when systems like this were all the rage?
Have you seen one lately? No? Exactly.

But with Car Play and Android Auto, Apple and Google are creating an opportunity to make aftermarket not only relevant again, but potentially displace the automaker head units. Aftermarket companies have an ability to move faster and update the technology as soon as it evolves. The OEMs, no matter how fast they can trim their development lifecycle, will still be tied to releasing products coincident with vehicle shipping schedules.

Pioneer is a first mover with their CarPlay solution (shown below). But expect that all of the big aftermarket brands will offer CarPlay, Android Auto, or combined solutions in short order.

What do you think: can a revitalized aftermarket compete again in the head unit space? Will the differences between aftermarket and Tier1 head units be erased?