Lord Maitreya's Internet Marketing Adventures

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A relaxing night

I was sitting by a roaring fire in a silk evening robe with a glass of fine Cabernet Sauvignon, intermittently puffing on a fine Amsterdam shag from a vintage calabash in my living room surrounded by foreign supermodels when I decided to do a bit of leisure reading.

This is what my evenings look like

(Image courtesy of sites.lingeriexox.com)

I had numerous choices of reading material.  I still need to finish Shantaram (if you haven’t read it or aren’t reading it, congratulations, you are uninteresting), I recently restarted an annotated version of Sun Tzu’s The Art Of War (every business major should view this book as compulsory reading), and I’m also wrapped up in the genre-defining classic, Oscar The Grouch Kills Osama Bin Laden In A Cage Match (okay, that last one was made up), but I decided to delve, once again, into the brilliant tome of scholarly genius, The Social Media Bible.

I get the impression that, given the content of the reading this week, we’re kind of nearing the endgame of this book.  It’s been a wild ride, filled with adventure, a few chapters of comically unnecessary length, and a seemingly endless cornucopia of do’s and don’ts to consider whilst bounding along the information super highway.  Today’s post comes to you courtesy of a chapter that’s practically smack-dab in the middle of the book, chapter 24- aptly titled “Social Networks.”

The book has a tendency to only portray the bright side of the internet.  However, as I have said before, not everything on the internet is midget laughter and unicorn farts (although those are both awesome).  I’m not going to go on a whole two thousand word post about the terrifying innocence-destroying stuff that’s online, but I am going to talk about some social networks that get a lot of traffic and perform some functions online that the book either doesn’t want to admit, or overlooks completely.  Yes, the internet has some sketchy back alleys and horrifying hallways, but so does the real world, and people explore the real-world ones just as often as the online ones.

Don't be scared, this place totally isn't crawling with mutated clowns with knives for fingers

(Image courtesy of photos.igougo.com)

Yes, I’ve talked before about online furry appreciation communities and Star Trek fan art porn sites, all of which are social networks, in that they encourage their deviant populace to post media pertaining to the… uh… content…. yeah, content.  But the book’s chapter on social media is essentially a rundown of some of the most useful sites, so let’s take one that this class has opened my eyes to, and do a bit of a spotlight on it.

Before this class, I had never heard of Ning.com.  I do not have a profile on Ning, and I don’t want one.  It’s bad enough I’m on Facebook and AcidPlanet.  But Ning has an interesting formula at work.  Instead of a single, over-arching formula for the entire social networking portal, people set up mini-portals that typically pertain to specific topics, people, or ideologies.  This is a good idea, because it allows the user to essentially customize their social networking experience, and interact with all the people that are (apparently) using Ning.

Now, because I’ve spent a good deal of time on this whole Internet thing, my mind is super twisted and dark, which is why I LOVE horror movies.  There’s something about our modern society that makes a lot of us skeptical, especially when it comes to movies.  I can’t stand it when I’m seeing a movie with someone, and the only thing they ever say is “that’s so fake,” repeatedly.  Well, with horror movies, sometimes it’s the little things that do the biggest jobs.  Computer graphics are simply incapable of rousing that fight-or-flight response when watching something horrifying, which is why I especially love the Japanese-style horror flicks, because somewhere along the line, Japanese film producers learned that a tasteful makeup job and some slick editing goes much farther than expensive computer graphics (see The Messengers. The ceiling-walking scene kept me up for DAYS).  Let’s face it, Japan is one of the world’s most ancient cultures.  They’ve had more practice being crazy than anyone.  A cursory look at any of the various Japanese fetish websites will show you that, for a socially conservative culture, they’re into some WEIRD stuff (much of it involving tentacles).  Add to that their pantheon of deities and national folklore, and you have a fascinating clash of storytelling and downright terrifying horror content.  If you haven’t seen Carved, I recommend it.  That is, if you’re fine with never sleeping or talking to strangers EVER again.

A wholesom family film

(Image courtesy of lh6.ggpht.com)

And I don’t just love scary movies.  I’ve been a huge fan of the Resident Evil video game series since I was in middle school.  I remember the first zombie in the first game.  I ran out of the room.  Literally.  I was eleven.  I also love Silent Hill, which is a little more hokey, but the point is, that I love horror movies with a good plot, a terrifying antagonist, and a good conclusion.  The best part about Japanese horror movies is how they often portray the monster or creature as something that is either trying to warn people, inform people, or get some kind of revenge on someone who actually deserves it.  Sometimes, you wind up rooting for the monster, not because it kills people in awesome ways and scares the living daylights out of you, but because it’s actually the good guy.

As you can see, I’m a passionate horror fan.  I’ve seen every Saw movie, I went to see Hostel opening night, and I can sit through Night of the Living Dead without flinching.  But where can a guy like me find some like-minded people to discuss movie murder and mayhem?

Ning, that’s where.

Ning has a community called the Fans of Horror Social Network. Seems simple enough.  But it’s actually surprisingly comprehensive and deep.  Of course, there’s a “front page,” with a collage of scenes from iconic horror films and some updates and discussion, but there’s also a forum with a surprising array of content.  Here you can discuss horror video games, movies, and books, and there are even posting areas for non-horror content, and even a section to post your horror dvd’s for sale or trade with other members.

Now, what does any of this have to do with the book?  Well, let’s break down some of the features of this Ning group, and see what’s what.  First of all, it’s free.  This is important, because it allows like-minded individuals a quick and FREE way to stay in touch and discuss.  While we’re on the topic, it encourages members to post information pertaining to the multifaceted world of horror.  On top of that, this encourages user-generated content in the form of fan art, photoshop images, and Youtube videos.  Seems like a pretty complete package for the horror fanatic.  But there’s another thing.  Even though this community is rather small (137 members), they are all devoted fans of the genre.  It would be in the interest of any producer making a horror film to get some buzz going in this little community, which would generate interest that could ripple outward into the word-of-mouth sphere, spreading through Facebook and Myspace (does anyone REALLY use Myspace anymore?)

So there we have it.  A community built for an existing market that allows fans of a relatively small genre of movies to interact and share information on Ning.

To play us out, a screenshot from Microsoft’s new horror game, Alan Wake, which hits shelves in less than two months.  I have been following this game since 2006, and it’s finally upon us!

The graphics have already won numrous awards

(image courtesy of thatvideogameblog.com)

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March 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Riders on the STORM

Have you ever wondered where spam mail comes from?  It’s actually underwear-soilingly horrifying.  You’d think that it all comes from guerrilla marketing firms who get paid a few cents for every response to an email that they generate.  That’s… kind of true… but most of it comes from this guy:

This is the face of the biggest douche on earth

(Image courtesy of cracked.com)

This man is Leo Kuvayev.  He is one of the most powerful men on the internet.  It wouldn’t come as a terrible surprise to me if you haven’t heard of him, but it’s good that you’ve heard of him now, because this man is thought to be running the largest malicious botnet on EARTH, known as the STORM botnet, which consists of tens of MILLIONS of infected computers (and yes, Macs too).  He is thought to be the Russian spammer who took down Twitter, Facebook, and other sites with D-DOS attacks over the past few years.  He’s wanted in numerous countries, and is thought to be currently operating under the alias, “Alex Rodriguez,” and has set up numerous domains under that name, sending spam, peddling illegal pharmaceuticals, and probably any other awful thing you can imagine on the internet.  He is still known as the Spam King online, or simply as “Leo,” and some speculate that he is responsible for 20% of the world’s spam.  (All information from Wikipedia and various articles)

I would jump at the chance to knock his teeth out for all the stupid La Quinta Inn spam I keep getting, but there’s a reason he’s still out there: he is dangerous.  He is a real-life supervillain.  It gets a lot worse than you think.  All those computers in the STORM botnet aren’t in underground bunkers all over the world… they’re in your living room.  That’s right, STORM sends out BILLIONS of messages per day, many of them laced with malware that busts right through your antivirus software and converts your computer from an atheist right into the STORM religion.  And you’d never know that your home computer is partially responsible for the spam people are getting, but that’s exactly how it works.  And, to put it lightly, that’s just him messing with people and getting rich.  He sells D-DOS attacks and spam campaigns.  But if he wanted to, he could topple entire economies.

The STORM botnet is widely believed to be powerful enough to knock entire countrywide networks off the internet.  If that doesn’t scare you enough, I can bet that this video of the initial 8 hours of the STORM worm’s outbreak will quickly terrify you.

There’s even more to it than that. According to Arstechnica.com, STORM has gone on the offensive, and even attacked the root servers of the internet, of which there are 13. Guess what? It severely damaged 2 of them. STORM has countermeasures and defenses that are probably more sophisticated than the Pentagon’s.  And even more terrifying, according to Wikipedia, there are bits of STORM for sale, meaning you could start your own botnet with a little tech know-how and a lot of guts.  If the internet was planet Earth, this would be just like selling nukes to anyone who wants them.

And then there’s the bandwidth that this network of zombie computers needs.  Think about it this way:

Imagine that, in your community, there is a den of evil sorcerer spider men from Mars.  Everyone knows where they live and who they are, but they turn you to dust if you come within a hundred yards of their lair (which is on Maple street, in case you were wondering).  On top of that, they come and raid every grocery store in town every day, taking stuff EVERYONE wants, like kitty litter, canned peaches, and those bags of Mexican-style four-cheese medley.  And everyone lets them, because even LOOKING at them wrong will instantly and unexplainably kill you and your whole family.  Would you mess with them?  Didn’t think so.  It would take an army of men willing to be reduced to fine powder to even get close.  Now imagine that the stuff they’re stealing is the finite resource of internet bandwidth.  Or, to put it a different way, it takes up a friggin TON of internet space.  That’s the STORM botnet in a nutshell.  It attacks people who even HINT at tracking them down.  I’d rather be a pet than cattle, so I’m just going to submit to my digital ruler and get it over with.

As if STORM’s existence wasn’t bad enough, it’s only operating at 10%-20% capacity.  That’s right.  If the whole thing came online, and a customer purchased a D-DOS attack (because that’s actually how that stuff works), no entity on the internet could conceivably counter the attack.  If a customer decided they wanted all of Texas to be blasted back into the 80’s, Leo could easily do it.  He can target specific addresses, cities, or whole countries.  If he even caught a whiff of authorities coming for him, the amount of damage he could do in a few minutes could plunge much of the earth into chaos.  And get this… they think he’s either in Finland OR Tahiti.  So, what they’re really saying is, he could be ABSOLUTELY ANYWHERE.  But does it matter?  Does it matter where he is when he could easily trigger deadly cyber-warfare attacks from prison with nothing but a phone call? STORM has undoubtedly collected credit card numbers, Social Security Numbers, and other information on hundreds of millions of individuals across the globe.  Imagine if it just went Fight Club on us and reset EVERYONE’S credit score to zero.  That would RUIN the world’s economy overnight.  Even if he got caught, Leo runs an international cybercrime ring.  He could trigger the worlds most catastrophic disasters from behind bars.  I’m sure he has some awesome code word to start the attack from prison… something like…

"Baby make wee-wee. You know what to do"

(image courtesy of archives.seacoastonline.com)

So, how do we fight a real-life supervillain?  Do we wait for a real-life supernerd Superman to show up?

Don't worry, this guy's got our back

(Image courtesy of randomfunnypicture.com)

NO.  The best defense is almost none at all.  If you don’t want your computer turned into a zombified husk that sends deadly messages to other computers, DON’T OPEN MESSAGES FROM SENDERS YOU DON’T KNOW.  I know, we hear that all the time, and we think it’s a load of hogwash (need to start using that word more), but it’s true.  Don’t open messages from unknown senders.  Study how botnets work.  I think that using the internet is like driving a car.  Some people are better at it than others, but everyone needs to know some basic rules, and one of them was just discussed.  If you take anything away from this post (which you won’t, because you didn’t read it), just take away that one piece of advice.

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I won the battle

Apparently, WordPress has taken issue with my caustic wit and dry humor.  I received a nicely worded- and by that I mean automated- message in my Gmail inbox stating that WordPress has “concerns” with the content I’ve been posting on my blog.  I’m not sure what specific thing they’re referring to.  Sure, I’ve made references to interspecies pornography and other horrifying things on the internet, but that’s because that stuff is all PART OF THE INTERNET.  No marketing major should discount the fact that there is material on the internet that will make you run in sphincter-loosening terror.  I say this because, who knows, you may wind up marketing some of that stuff someday.  Don’t forget rule #34 of the internet, “if it exists, there is porn of it.  NO EXCEPTIONS.”

NOTHING IS SAFE

(Image courtesy of knowyourmeme.com)

I’m not really sure what to talk about in this blog post, seeing as how I just got posting privileges back on my blog (that goes for comments too).  I’m glad that my constant pestering got my posting rights back.  I don’t understand why they blocked me in the first place.  I never posted anything illegal, just alluded to the fact that the illegal stuff exists.  Sure, I had a whole post on the foul and illegal things on Bit Torrent, but I didn’t post links to popular illegal files.  Yeah, I referenced some less-than-reputable stuff on this blog.  The very fact that I’ve SEEN some of this stuff is enough to ensure I’ll never have a girlfriend for the rest of my life, but that’s the price you pay when you learn that people pay money every month to join a website where the only content is women in boots pressing on a car’s brake and gas peddles.  Don’t believe me?

Pedal-pumping.com

And content of this quality runs you $20 a month

(Image courtesy of theworldisinsane.com)

As I’ve stated over and over again, the internet is an enormous place.  I don’t think the human race realized how strange and twisted as it actually was until the internet came along and let anyone with an interest in ANYTHING have instant access to whole databases of questionable material.

Which is why I’ve been wondering why WordPress was after me.  I’ve visited WordPress blogs that can only be described as homemade porn dumps, and they’re still operating and posting material, which begs the question, “Does WordPress think it’s worse to talk about it or just blatantly post it?”

I’m going to say this once:  I’m not going to post any of the stuff from the internet that haunts my dreams on this blog.  Sorry to disappoint.  There are things that people are willing to do for money that would leave your jaw permanently earthbound.  Trust me, the internet is wonderful in so many ways, but it has a dark side that’s worse than Darth Vader on prison-quality meth wielding a lightsaber blindfolded in a pediatric burn unit.  Some of it is simply THAT bad.

This picture is freaking ADORABLE compared to some other things I've seen

(Image courtesy of Craphound.com)

But the big thing about a lot of that horrible material is that some of it is simply so awful and twisted, the best (and often, first) response is to simply break out in fits of uncontrollable laughter.  Some of this stuff is so terrible, so unbelievably ridiculous and absurd, that it’s HILARIOUS.  At least to me.  And keep in mind my statement above: don’t discount its existence.  With the job market the way it is, us marketing majors might wind up doing Adwords campaigns for… well… I won’t be specific this time.  I’ll be good, WordPress.

But I think that’s enough for my catch-up post.  I have to work on our AdWords campaign.  To play us out, here’s a picture of an adorable munchkin shorthair tabby (my favorite domesticated cat breed), another thing I like on the Internet that seals my eternal status as a single white male.

Wook at his wittle wegs!

(image courtesy of cdn-write.demandstudios.com)

(By the way, that image is not photoshopped.  Munchkinism is a common genetic defect in house cats that causes their legs to grow 1/3 the normal size.  It happens in all breeds of domestic cats, and the cats are perfectly healthy.  I love lowrider animals, so if I had one of these and a Welsh Corgi, I’d be pretty happy)

March 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment