The Museum of Hoaxes
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Man flies by own lung power, 1934
Old-Time Photo Fakery, 1900 to 1919
Can a bar of soap between your sheets ease muscle cramps?
Dog wins art contest, 1974
Tube of liquor hidden in prohibition-era boot, 1920s
The boy with the golden tooth, 1593
Swiss peasants harvest spaghetti from trees, 1957
Samsung invents the on/off switch
Loch Ness Monster Hoaxes
Snowball the Monster Cat, 2000
Spammed by the Disinformation Company
Authors love to read reviews of their books, especially positive ones. So, as an author, it's difficult to resist the temptation to periodically check out the Amazon page for your book, to see if readers have posted any new reviews of it. However, in Hippo Eats Dwarf I pointed out the danger of taking such reviews too seriously because so many of them are posted either by friends of the author -- or by rivals. In fact, I actually invited people to post fake reviews of Hippo Eats Dwarf. (You need to go to the early reviews to find the fake ones -- they're obvious when you see them.)

Inviting people to post fake reviews seemed appropriate for Hippo Eats Dwarf, since that book is all about fakery, but it didn't seem to fit for Elephants on Acid. So I never asked anyone to post a review. But when I last checked Elephants on Acid's Amazon product page, I discovered that a fake review had found its way on there anyway. Or rather, a spam review. But the identity of the person posting the spam surprised me. Here's the latest review of Elephants on Acid, posted by "DISINFO CEO":



The review follows the tried-and-true formula of comment spam. A meaningless platitude, followed by a plug for the product the spammer is trying to promote, which in this case is a book by Mark Pilkington. But if you check out the page for Pilkington's book, you'll discover that DISINFO CEO has posted a review there as well -- and in that review he pretty much reveals that he's the publisher of Pilkington's book!



In other words, someone who appears to be the CEO of the Disinformation Company is leaving comment spam on Amazon -- on the page for my book! I've never had any contact with the Disinformation Company, but I am aware of them and had always thought they published some interesting stuff, which is why it really surprised me that THEY, of all companies, would do something that tacky. The irony here is that DISINFO CEO, on his profile page, claims his nickname is "DeathToSpammers".

The possibility that DISINFO CEO is actually someone with no affiliation to the Disinformation Company crossed my mind, but what would be their motive to do this?

I clicked the link to flag DISINFO CEO's review of my book as inappropriate, since I think it's obviously spam. If Amazon agrees, the review may no longer be there by the time you read this.

Update: Amazon has deleted the spammy review. An irony is that I actually thought Pilkington's book sounded really interesting, so I ordered it -- but I ordered it from a used bookstore, so the Disinformation Company won't get any money from the sale. Ha!
Categories: Literature/Language, Miscellaneous
Posted by The Curator on Fri Dec 07, 2007
Comments (6)
Ah, I have fond memories of Mark's semi-regular newspaper column. They've been collected into a book you say?

That's another item on my letter to Santa!

[* The author disavows any connection to the author, M. Pilkington, or the publisher, Disinformation. He further acknowledges that there are many sources of unlikely science available to the reader, e.g. New Scientist!]

[** The author also disavows any connection to Santa, and the submission of a letter to this person by the author should not be construed, in any way, as a public endorsement of his present delivery service!]
Posted by David B.  on  Fri Dec 07, 2007  at  02:19 PM
I don't think this was intentional spam, just over-enthusiastic stupidity. Looking at all his reviews you'll see that this the only one that can be looked at as a spammy message. That doesn't mean it's right, putting a link to a competing book in this fashion has got to be unethical at the very least. It certainly isn't right, but there is no history of doing so.
Posted by catwhowalksbyhimself  on  Fri Dec 07, 2007  at  05:29 PM
Strange. It was removed while I was looking at it. At any rate, it's gone now; apologies for the double post.
Posted by catwhowalksbyhimself  on  Fri Dec 07, 2007  at  05:31 PM
If the guy had given an honest review of my book and then said, 'by the way, I'm the publisher of a similar book that might also be of interest.' I wouldn't have cared at all. But I got the sense he hadn't even bothered to read my book, but decided to give it three stars just to bring it down a bit, while puffing up the book he had published. That wasn't called for. But yeah, the review is gone now. So it's all water under the bridge.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Sat Dec 08, 2007  at  12:36 AM
I've met Pilkington, he used to work for the Fortean Times. Turned up at one Skeptics in the Pub meeting in London and then went off and formed his own rival Forteans in the Pub meeting. It flopped quickly. I'm not a big fan of his and wouldn't have put his book on my Christmas list regardless of this incident.
Posted by Robert N  in  Croydon, UK  on  Mon Dec 10, 2007  at  10:43 AM
Bless you for shopping the used-book store, Alex; I've sold a number of copies of Hippo and Elephants here in our used-book store, and, while you don't make any money off it, I always make it a point to apprise the customer of your other book whenever she or he buys one.
Posted by Farmisht Phoenix  in  Vista, CA  on  Thu Jul 03, 2008  at  01:15 PM
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