16 October 2013

Blog Outrage and Viral Indignation

DISCLAIMER: This post may contain a bit of a rant. All opinions and experiences are this blogger's own. No small animals were harmed in the making of this story.

If you visited my blog in the past four days you might never have come back again. In fact, it's a miracle you are here at all and I am breathing many sighs of relief.

If you missed it, or if you follow in a reader or subscribe by email you will have missed the excitement, the drama, the teeth-grinding frustration of having my beautiful blog infested by ugly green adware hyperlinks.
Did you spot them? Did they annoy you? Did you think I'd sold out and was letting some company turn harmless words like "young" "family" and "fun" into pop up video ads for Fiji holidays?

Let me say this and say this once: IF YOU KNOW ME YOU'LL KNOW I WOULD NEVER DO THAT.
It wasn't me.

Somehow an evil script had invaded my blog, and I was mortified, terrified and horrified all at once.

Calm down, Simoney, the more phlegmatic of you may be thinking. It's only a blog. It's only annoying pop-up video ads that could turn away your readers forever...


I was at a loss. Where was this plague coming from?
The only thing I could think that I'd added recently was the Rafflecopter gadget for my Tupperware giveaway. I googled for answers, I posted on the PONZ online blog forum, I turned off all my Google chrome extensions. I painstakingly went through my last four posts and eliminated the words that were being spammed. And through it all I blamed Rafflecopter.
Poor innocent Rafflecopter. Almost as soon as I emailed my outraged complaint to their help desk I received a reply. From "Greg", one of the founders, no less.
He was so sympathetic. So helpful. So genuine in his outrage ("That would be illegal! We would never do that!") that I was convinced Rafflecopter was not the culprit. I withdrew my accusation, apologised profusely... and then sat there stumped. Perplexed. Heart sick.
I mean, I know this is "just a blog" to some, but to me it represents five years of painstakingly building trust and rapport with a community of readers. It represents years of blog-tweaking, learning skills, sharing my life and creativity here in what is to me a kind of home.

I felt invaded. I worried that my readers would be so turned off by these bloddy annoying popups they would leave and never return, thinking the worst.

I knew it wasn't a browser issue, because these awful green links were only visible on my blog, nowhere else. It must be a script. Something I had added unwittingly that was doing this from within. But what?

I ran back through everything I'd installed, everything I'd signed up to. In my mind I went back months, and just before I blinked off to sleep, I remembered: Viral Planet.
Months and months ago I'd been approached by a company in the UK called Viral Planet. they were doing a Huggies Little Swimmers campaign and wondered if I'd like to have a video on my blog. Some passive income. Sitting unobtrusively in my sidebar, bothering noone. I checked it out. It looked legit. I'd done a similar thing through eBuzzing with Persil. Very above-board.

"To make our videos run properly on your blog you need to install this piece of code" I was told.
So I installed the code. Emailed them to say, it's done, now what?

I forgot all about it. Until the night I was laying in bed trying to discover which piece of script might be causing me so much grief. Viral Planet.

The next morning, I went straight to the computer, found the piece of Viral Planet code, removed it and HEY PRESTO. Problem solved. Nasty green hyperlinks vanished. Infestation over.

You can bet that the very next thing I did was go to the Viral Planet website, delete my account and write a strongly worded email to my contact there. Not that I expect a reply, or think it will do any good. But it was such a relief to discover the source of the problem, get rid of it and lambast the culprit's representative.

I'm sure this is highly illegal. Taking over someone's blog without their permission, spreading dodgy links like a virus through someone else's property. It's cyber vandalism and guerrilla tactics at their worst.

So bloggers be warned: Whatever you do, avoid "Viral Planet" at all costs. No matter what they offer you and how tempting it might be to make a bit of passive income through their scheme, don't do it. They are dodgey as heck and their script will infest your blog with nasty pop-up ads (without your permission!!!) like it did mine.

I'm just glad I got rid of it before I lost you all. You are still here, aren't you?
Hello??? Hello???
Anybody out there???

P.S. Did you see those nasty green hyperlinks? How annoying were they to you? What did you think was causing it? Did you think it was me trying to make a quick advertising buck or did you know better? Just curious.

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