Friday, August 21, 2015

My career as a Putinologist nipped in the bud




What kind of alien creatures are infesting my blog?


How many Russians read this blog? From the data I have from Google Analytics, I thought they were many; by far the largest fraction of readers from non-English speaking countries. So many that I published the data and asked for comments from my Russian readers.

The comments I received from Russia were very few. I reasoned that maybe most Russians following the blog could read English, but had trouble in expressing themselves in English; and that sounded plausible. Then, I noticed something strange: my blog in Italian (Effetto Risorse) also had a large readership from Russia; again, according to Google Analytics. Now, I know that many Russians speak good English, but Italian? Something just didn't click together the way it should have.

I was scratching my head while thinking about this story when I got a message from Allan Stromfeld Christensen (of "From Filmers to Farmers") who asked me, "are you sure that all those visits are from real people?" And he went on to tell me that he had noticed a lot of visits from China to his blog, but that these visits had turned out to be just web bots.

So, I went to check my site with a different analytical tool, "Statcounter" that I had installed but wasn't using so much. Statcounter claims to detect "actual human activity" and, indeed, the data it reports put the number of visits from Russia way down in the list; no more than about 1% or less of the total. My site is infested with Russian bots, and that's it. (or, at least, it looks like the most reasonable interpretation of the data)

You can imagine that it was a very disappointing discovery for a Russophile, as I am. But so is life, and you live to learn. After all, 1% of visits from Russia is still better than 0% visits from Russia. But my career as a Putinologist is ruined!

But the whole story is worrisome. Russian bots, all right, but what else? What are all those bots infesting the Internet? Where do they come from? Even more worrisome, who are you, out there? Are you all bots? Or droids? Or holograms? Or bug eyed monsters? Or little green men? Or what? Is there anyone human reading my blog? Who knows? Mysteries of the Internet.......







39 comments:

  1. Ugo, let me reassure you, at least one warm-blooded Canadian human being reads your blog, religiously!

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    Replies
    1. I wonder how many others are from Our Lady of Snows?

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  2. One reader from Argentina. Because I failed a lot of captchas along the web, I can't assure I´m not a bot.

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  3. Hello Ugo, I love your blog and read it every day. From Seward, Alaska, USA.

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  4. I wonder if Turing realized his test would become a matter of daily importance! It's a strange world we have built for ourselves!

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  5. Another reader from Argentina. More than russians at the moment, isn't it ? :-)

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  6. All right, clever bots! To prove that you are humans; answer this question. They say that in, the old Soviet Union, a female cat had a litter of seven kittens and as they were born, they were all good Communists. But, one week later, they all were Democrats. Why?

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    1. they opened the eyes ...
      estonia, post soviet;
      thanks for the blog

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    2. When it comes to democracy, the ayes have it. ;-)

      ~ not-a-bot-Tasmanian

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  7. Somehow one kitten changed per day... must've been some kind of CIA plot... it was Stalin's cat and he'd take the caviar sent to him by the US embassy and feed it to the cats. Whatever happened to that exploding cigar they sent to Castro?

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    1. After a week, newborn kittens open their eyes. It can take us humans a lifetime to accomplish the same thing.

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    2. An interesting philosophical question you raise. If your eyes are opened sufficient to make this judgment, then "us humans" don't need a lifetime. But if us humans DO need a lifetime to open eyes, how then are your eyes open to make this judgement? Perhaps you are special and your eyes are more open.

      (The reader known as Michael 2 on ATTP and elsewhere. Too many of me so I'm #2)

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  8. I don't know about the cats but I'm disapointed about the Russians. And as usual I'm learning something by reading you. Thanks.(from France as far as I know)

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  9. I'm from Belarus (not sure whether u include ex-soviet states in 'from Russia' here) and i visited ur blog from Moscow from time to time... and i'm not a bot - at least 4 now :)

    looks like i'm one of the 1% (not that 1% lol)

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  10. You caught me... I'm actually a Martian... this planet is too hot, the air is too thick, the sun is too bright, everything is too heavy, and you only get the beautiful red sky at dusk and dawn.

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    Replies
    1. Oh.... indeed I saw your flying saucer parked next to mine.....

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  11. Hi, Ugo! You know pretty well that you have at least 1 Russian follow in "carne e ossa" capace leggere i tuoi blog sia in inglese o italiano e anche scrivere guest posts!

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    1. Of course I know! Waiting for your next guest post!

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  12. I am italian. This summer I spent my vacations (3 weeks) in Russia . While abroad I always found some time to read the blog (even the italian one). Of course this explains only a little chunk of the data but I think it is important to reassure Ugo: not every single hit among the others is cyborg work.
    I am a human being, I teach physics in secondary school. If I could be useful in some way, I would be glad.

    P.S.
    By the way, I observed while abroad that, if I called the usual link
    ugobardi.blogspot.it, there was a response from
    ugobardi.blogspot.ru
    I wonder if it is an author choice to be present with the suffix of certain specific countries.


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    1. That's something that google blogger does on its own - that is, putting the country suffix of where you are loading the page from. Have no idea of why they do it, I think just to add another layer of confusion to the already overwhelming confusion

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  13. Hi Ugo, last time I looked in the mirror I wasn't a little green bot. I'm an Australian human and enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work!

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  14. Because the cats lived in east germany in 1990 lol, ok no. well, Im very sure that Im not a robot XD,
    Greetings from Cd. Juarez, Chih. Mex

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  15. And (at least) one reader from Romania. As for the kittens, they must be having an acute sense of landing on their feet politically speaking :) Communists are not trendy these days and "democrat" doesn't mean what it used to anymore!

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  16. Another aussie here, but wish i was Russian. It'd be nice to have a leader who isn't a cretin.

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  17. Well, I see that some of you are not bots - or anyway, you are very clever ones! The answer is, yes, that the kittens ceased being communists and became liberal democrats because, after a week, they had opened their eyes!

    Apart from Communist kittens, it is an old science fiction trope that we are invaded by aliens looking and behaving exactly like us, and so how to recognize them? And we ARE invaded by aliens in the form of Internet bots. I have the impression that in several cases, some of the most outlandish denialist comments about climate change are not coming from human beings, but from denier bots loosened in the Web space by the dark forces of denial. Jokes are probably the last line of defense against alien bots and many could be adapted as sophisticated captchas. At some point, however, I fear that bots will become smarter than us. Wonder what kind of jokes they will tell to each other!



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  18. Mr. Bardi,
    I'm an avid reader of your blog hailing from New York City! I can assure you that I'm very real :D

    I'd also like to let you know that I get a lot of visits from Russia as well, but I was told by a fellow blogger(who also happens to be my sister-in-law) that any visit from Russia is most likely spam.

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  19. Once you gain a small measure of notoriety, MOST of your website hits come from Bots. I run all sorts of tools to track this stuff. I regularly get hits from places like Myanmar, St Nivens/St Kitts etc. In fact, of the 193 or so nations represented with the UN, the Diner appears to have fans in 173 of them! LOL.

    First off, the likelihood of having english speakers with web access AND clearance (since many of these places are highly controlled) is slim and none. So what is going on?

    Well, EVERY last country just about has a Security Agency with a few Code Jockeys who run bots and spiders to crawl over the whole web looking for data worth mining. Obviously, the Ruskies have a very well developed security agency doing this sort of stuff.

    Trying to figure out how many real Homo Sap eyeballs are on your site and where they are coming from i an exceedingly difficult task.

    RE

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  20. Hi Ugo, at least one guy from Germany is real, too, and though I didn´t know about the kittens, I do regularly read your blog!
    Greetings from Germany

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  21. The curious thing is that after I published this post, the Russian bots (or whatever they are!) completely disappeared from Google Stats. I wonder what attracts them but, evidently, there is something that repels them. Perhaps Putin's picture as a borg? Or the term "Putinologist"? More mysteries of the Web.

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    1. Ahhh .... google ... when will google become a mystery even to its google creators and repeat endless sets of uncheckable factoids?

      My wife's new google account kept telling her that changes to her account were being made from different towns in Scotland we had not visited in years. Her PC had not moved from the room. The security check kept asking if this was suspicious. When we decided that each activity (password change) was only something she had done herself - we could verify that - she decided to reassure google and proceed.

      But your Russian bots or somebody posing as a Russian bot can actually understand the meaning of your article? Might even get your jokes? Spooky!

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  22. You have a reader also from Romania.

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  23. Your depiction of Putin as a cyborg raises an interesting question. Where do cyborgs come from? In the case of the Obamaborg the history is quite clear. His 18 year old body was found on a Hawaiian beach stoned out of its mind. It was shipped to an advanced neurophysiology lab in Chicago where a complete cyborg control system was grown upon the existing drug-addled neural skeleton. This was but one model of several groomed for political success and held in reserve to be deployed as need by the Masters of the Universe. It is a bit puzzling why they choose to deploy their black skinned model when they had a perfectly groomed Hellary bot available that had been tested and found to be 100% reliable as a prostitute.
    I guess that the 2008 financial temblor had them spooked, and they elected to go with a model whose circuitry could be controlled directly.

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  24. I read all your posts from an RSS reader on my phone, equipped with AdAway, which blocks most ads and analytics tools. Thus I may not even appear on your stats... Or may appear as reading all your posts before I even see them...
    I also noticed that websites logs are full of bots from everywhere visiiting all kind of websites. Detecting them is not that easy, but the majority of website traffic is generally not human. I also never knew why googlebot dares to download the same page hundred of times per day even though it doesn't change at all. I thought the bytes didn't rot so fast on their servers...
    From France. Thank you for your blog.

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  25. This may be the answer to the russian bot visitors:

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/maxseddon/documents-show-how-russias-troll-army-hit-america#.vfb7r9vw0
    https://euobserver.com/foreign/127174

    Since you don't question or critize russia no trolls follow the bots to write comments on your blog.

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  26. I am a human reader. I read from across the spectrum. How much time I spend on a blog depends at least in part your alignment with "four legs good, two legs bad" which is a bit simple-minded.

    Sometimes I read for amusement. Expressing contempt for others while considering oneself superior is extremely common on left wing blogs; the farther left one goes the more pronounced the phenomenon. Since the phenomenon is so common it is worthwhile to be "literate" in the many ways that people feel, think and express themselves. Blogging is wonderfully democratic in this regard.

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  27. I'm an other "real reader" from Argentina. You do a fantastic Job!!!

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Who

Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome and the author of "Extracted: how the quest for mineral resources is plundering the Planet" (Chelsea Green 2014)