The number of comments, likes and followers of this blog remains modest, which at times can be disheartening, but then many would consider that I am writing about a boring subject under an uninspiring title. Thumbing through the back copies of the International New York Times that had accumulated during my trip to China, I found two articles that seemed relevant. One by John Grossman on April 25th, implied that I should use a risqué or funny name, such as the scaffolding company in Toronto called Mammoth Erections, but I suspect that this might attract the wrong sort of attention! I was encouraged by a second article, on April 21st by Nick Bilton, to abandon the competition for ‘likes’, ‘page views’ etc., since Nick reported buying 4000 new followers for $5. These new followers are not real people but pieces of virtual engineering, known as ‘bots’. They are pieces of computer code designed to mimic the behaviour of people on the internet and they are getting better and better at it so that they are harder to spot. The internet is populated by millions of them inflating the popularity of many celebrities and companies, and perhaps most worryingly political parties. You can buy software for less than $1000 to create and control your swarms of bots.
This is one type of virtual engineering that I will not be espousing. Instead, I am resigning myself to perpetually low statistics for this blog by attempting to keep it a Bot-free zone.