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In the forum http://forums.finehomebuilding.com/breaktime/ (same forum that was one of the subjects of this thread) we're seeing a lot of "spam" of a curious sort. Obvious non-native-English speakers make posts that are vaguely on topic but seem pointless. Eg, this one:

Installation of vapor barrier depends upon the climatic conditions where you live. when moisture passes from the wall it can cause mol and mildew on the walls. Vapor barrier insulation can be installed towards the living space.

These people will drop in, make a handful of posts, and then disappear. (Though occasionally, if called "spammers", they will vehemently object.) And the posts no doubt take some time and research to compose -- it's not a bot.

Any idea what they're trying to accomplish (other than annoy us)? About the only thing I can think of is that it's a game (or maybe even class assignment) for English students to see if they'll be "outed". Or perhaps training for soon-to-be-spammers who aren't yet allowed to use links.

(I suppose some might think that such posts will "trick" the spam blocker into accepting the user, but, honestly, the Mollom spam blocking software is so crummy that this isn't necessary.)

Here is another example, in response to a brief query about (construction) project management software:

Using a software will always streamline your work. It is nicer to having your systems in palce so that you do not waste too much time with a pen and a paper and organizing and managing your work. It is important to go through the reviews of the softwares before shortlisting. Also it is required that you take a demo of each and see what suits your needs and organization the most. Be sure of the trining and service of the software providers.

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In both examples it seems the text is from some semi-official source on the subject. –  Ramhound Oct 4 '12 at 15:23
    
Known problem. Wondering too! Perhaps they just need accounts (for linking to their site on their profile maybe, I don't know) and want to prove that they are human? –  Luc Oct 4 '12 at 15:41
    
@Ramhound -- Yeah, it may be that they're copying the text from somewhere, but some effort is presumably going into it. And there are typos (like "mol" rather than "mold") and grammar errors that indicate that the text has been retyped and likely edited in some way from the source text. –  Hot Licks Oct 4 '12 at 21:59

3 Answers 3

Sometimes (not in the specific example you linked to) these nonsense posts are not about the content but about the poster link. The clickable link indicating who 'posted' the comment points to the website being spammed.

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Except that many of these have no links. There is no link in either the post or the user's profile. –  Hot Licks Oct 4 '12 at 22:02

It's possible that they are trying to increase the counts of some words in search engines, although I cannot imagine why. If there are patterns in the submissions that may be the key.

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That behavior suggests to me a bit of reputation building. In order to gain access, credibility, functionality etc for some web apps a requirement is to be validated as a real user, either by posting or by having other valid users vouch for you.

This provides a bit of that reputational history to enable social engineering attacks later.

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+1 for rep building. Some forum software disables features like posting links or displaying a homepage url on a user profile page until a certain number of posts are made. –  AlanBarber Oct 4 '12 at 13:57
    
Yeah, but the crummy software (Mollom) on this forum doesn't do "reputation building" to any visible degree. Many first-time posts are blatant spam (with links), while many long-time users get their posts rejected by the "spam filter". –  Hot Licks Oct 4 '12 at 22:01
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@HotLicks - A bot doesn't know there isn't a reputation feature on the forum. –  Ramhound Oct 10 '12 at 14:17
    
@Ramhound -- Yep, but a bot doesn't make stupid spelling errors either. –  Hot Licks Oct 11 '12 at 17:42
    
(Right now I'm going with the theory that it's Chinese students practicing their English -- perhaps as a game of sorts, to see if they'll be detected.) –  Hot Licks Oct 11 '12 at 17:45

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