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Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Horse of a Different (Off) Color

(This might be a little over the top but I think its relevant to the whole discussion of print and social media.  The title was going to be a pun on "trojan" as in span/spywhere/virus/hacker and "Whores" versus "Horse" - in fact its posted that way on the personal blog.  But this is serious business here so I made up a new title.  I originally intended it for the personal blog but after some thought I think it belongs here - especially since it illustrates just how different the old ways are from the new, modern ones.)

If your a guy like me you likely find them these Trojan Whores, er, Trojan Horses all the time, lying around silently in your inbox, for you to open the gates and roll them in.  No amount of anit-spam ever sends them away.

Now we're not talking about the traditional Trojan Whores that you might find down at the U or in the classic urban dictionary, either.  At least for me, I never saw the appeal of all those greek letters, at least outside ancient greek class (I even still have the dictionary!) No, these contain things that you may no want to see (well, you might depending on your own personal situation but in any case probably not at work, or at home, or at your mom's house... sigh)

This is new urban slang, yes, created right here before your eyes, to describe the all to common event.

The unsolicited (f)email "friend request".

That's right femail.  There, I said it.  Its a guy thing.  (In the days of snail mail guys did not often get unsolicited mail from women they didn't know.)

So I work with plenty of women and I get work-related email all the time - I even "Friend" them on Facebook.
But this is different.

How come?  Because, just like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, you never really know what's inside:

Is this really as it appears?  Just an innocuous friend request, maybe some band fan hoping to strike up a dialog, a faithful blog reader, somebodies kid sister, your mom' s best friend, some woman networking to find a job in order to feed here small children? 

Who knows - and that's where the rub comes in.

(Now we're not talking about the usual parade of potential Russian Bride requests, either.  In that case I imagine that you only find out what you are getting after you pay to fly them to your city...)

Just like classic a Trojan Horse this little box of goodies can have all kinds of unpleasant surprises inside.

So, like the bomb squad, you break each one of these down - bit by bit to see what makes them tick.

The first clue is whether the email reply address looks like something real from Facebook.  Real ones look like this:

See, pretty simple.

If they're fake you will usually see the femail friend request is from you (as in your own email) or maybe

who wants me to "Reply To"

(Peggy Finnegan is a local new caster.  I doubt she sent this... or, if she didn't it wouldn't have been from old ThanhBoyd's account).

There is often a hidden URL (Uniform Resource Location) connected to "Confirm Friend" that will jump your browser to God-knows- where - perhaps right in front of your significant other or boss.  So its best to treat this like the choice you see in the moves about whether to cut the "red or black wire to the detonator" first.

Sometimes its obvious but often it isn't.  (Unlike the fake credit card company emails with a 400 character return URL.)

And sometimes it could look like this:

<-- -->

If you follow this you will end up in a Canadian pharmacy selling - you guessed it - Viagra.

So, like the classic Trojan of old this horse just might in fact be something of legitimate interest.  Well, just like that package lying around the airport might by someone's forgotten lunch.

If its not a totally obvious ruse to direct me to the nearest web-based Viagra pharmacy I usually try and check them out with the following screening:

Paste the name provided into Facebook and see if the same person comes up.

This is a good test because it tells me the email is really real and not some disguised spam. 

So let's see who it is...  And, being an the old geezer that I am - always in a hurry - this one caught me.

Sure enough this is some sort of musician.  Usually these fall into the same categories as male (no pun intended) musicians.  There will be some set of MP3 songs, a band thing of one sort or another, ans so on.

So, you listen to a few songs - do you hear legitimate singing - hopefully on key?  Look like a real person?  No - this is a Facebook band thing - so you have to "Like It" as opposed to "Friend" it.

(Which is good because these are not really friends, after all.)

Seems legit?  Bingo - hit the "Like It" button and move on to the next thing...

And this is where I stepped on the rake.

(Well, I had a nice rake picture but Blogger is buggy and its busy in the background trying to lose this entire post...) 

Little hooty tooty turns out to have a whole long skreed about some sort of "nekked" activity. 

I missed that.

I wasn't looking for that.

I was busy listening to an MP3. 

I usually move off to something else while listening - no point in just sitting there staring at the screen.

Quite honestly I don't care at all what hooty tooty does "nekked" - hell, for all I know little hooty tooty is a guy.  In fact "Big House Pete - I guy I know who stops down at the Witches to play guitar now and then - has a song (BIG Parental Advisory) about this very situation.

So what does good old Facebook do when you accept someone as a"Like It"?

Why they paste up a big chunk of text from the page you supposedly "Like" - carrying - you guested it - the entire "nekked" screed.

Of course this immediately pops up on my Facebook page.

Well, we'll just say hall monitor didn't take this well.... and that its gone now.

Next time there will be a lot more checking "under the hood" as it were...

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