Friday, October 06, 2006


Being an author, one gets used to a good deal of criticism of one’s work. It goes with the territory and, needless to say, in the opinion of the subject, it is all pretty worthless stuff. Thackeray would snipe at Dickens and Ben Johnson had some nasty things to say about Shakespeare’s efforts, none of which had any effect – they just kept on writing anyway.
Now I realise that many of you may have much the same feelings about the deathless prose I write here for you to read at breakfast time over the cornflakes. And if the aforesaid cornflakes went soggy yesterday morning for lack of a good read, I apologise.
For I awoke to find a message in my mail from the fine fellows who host this rubbish. It read:

“This is a message from the Blogger Team. In order to maintain a free, high quality service, we use an automated classifier to identify spam blogs.
This system has detected that your blog has characteristics that resemble spam. Since you're an actual person reading this, your blog is probably not a spam blog. Automated spam detection is inherently fuzzy, and we sincerely apologize for this erroneous result.
You won't be able to publish posts to your blog until we review your site and verify that it is not a spam blog. To request a review, please fill out the form found here:…….”

Needless to say, in high dudgeon, I fired off the form together with a suggestion that it would be advantageous to all if they reviewed the blog prior to accusing one of spamming.
But this, I note, is a modern tendency. By apologising in advance it assumes that this negates the implied insult. Rather as if you accuse your neighbour of being a child molester but add that, if he isn’t, you’re terribly sorry and all that for calling the authorities on him. In this case he will have most likely taken the matters into his own hands by means of a baseball bat and your only hope is that he turns out to be a Muslim in which case you can accuse him of anything you like.
However, in my case, the offenders are sitting in California and have other things to worry about, such as the San Andreas Fault.
Having got over my initial irritation, I then turned in an idle fashion to see their helpful hints on what constitutes “spam.” And this is when my normal sensitivity to criticism of my work boiled over. For I find that the critic is, in this case, a computer programme, dignified with the title of Automated Classifier, which has analysed my writings. It says of Spam blogs:

“Blogs engaged in this behaviour are called spam blogs and can be recognised by their irrelevant, repetitive or nonsensical text……….” It goes on to say that these are also characterised by having many links to other sites – mine has none, other than to my own, so I think the machine has been drinking or doing something else and is in serious need of counselling.

Many of you will probably agree with this analysis of my work, but to be told by some dumb computer programme that one's work is irrelevant, repetitive or nonsensical, I find a bit much.
But of course, the programmers have apologised in advance should they be wrong, so that makes it all better, doesn’t it? Even so, I wish I could take a baseball bat to the Automated Classifier. That would give me some satisfaction, rather more than the apology in advance.
I just hope the cornflakes didn’t get too soggy, although by the time they wake up in California, I’m afraid they will be.


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