For three days I have been immersed in an investigation that has led me to be deeply concerned. In following an extensive “digital breadcrumb trail” to and from the startup Entertonement, I discovered what appears to be a massive spam campaign, either being conducted by them or by others acting independently. The evidence of spamming is conclusive, and whether or not principals of the company are involved, such blatant disregard for site owners, communities and even vested interests is damaging to everyone, including Entertonement.
Entertonement was founded back in 2006 and initially targeted MySpace and the ring tone market. Their initial funding efforts by Redpoint Ventures principal and Entertonement co-founder Fouad ElNaggar eventually led to a $5 million round in late 2007. Subsequently, ElNaggar stepped down as CEO and co-founder David Aronchick (a former Microsoft executive) stepped up to the helm.
I spoke with Aronchick briefly about this vision and the current road map for Entertonement. The man was friendly, obviously intelligent, and his vision carried weight with me in as far as Entertonement monetizing. Entertonement has created a massive sound clip repository, which allows users great flexibility in using sound clips by; uploading, sharing, publishing and even editing them, but as far as being a top-notch, refined platform, Entertonement can only be described as “effective.”
Regardless of how perfect Aronchick’s road map is, I began to wonder, “How did a startup with a mediocre interface and literally no news, attract between 70,000 and 127,000 users (depending on the metrics source) in just over a year?” I asked my partner Mihaela Lica to do a preliminary SEO report on the Entertonement site to help answer this question. Those results revealed the proverbial trail of crumbs, which I will allow you to evaluate.
Wikis and Way Beyond
What follows are a series of screenshots taken from StumbleUpon, Digg, Twitter, Reddit, prominent blogs, and ultimately, Entertonement itself. From here on, I will simply make notations, followed by a summary. But first, perhaps the most descriptive and potentially damning comment on all this comes from some of the editors in the Wikiquote community, where a whole section is devoted to Entertonement. I’ll quote an excerpt:
They’re still coming. I’m removing them from everywhere I can, since after a few weeks, nobody’s argued for them to be kept; they’re spreading pretty insidiously everywhere…
The most obtrusive spam for bloggers does not reside in their inbox, but in their valued comments. There are literally thousands of these comment spam instances across some of the most influential blogs in the world. For the sake of brevity, I include just a few, but from Huffington Post to Robert Scoble (where Fouad ElNaggar himself links to Entertonement) and beyond, the SPAM has been unrelenting.
Digging into one of the two profiles above reveals any number of comments by one possible spammer. Other screens reveal still more comment linkages from notable sites, as even Reuters is not immune to these “serial sound clip spammers”, whoever they may be.
This “rabbit hole” of link spam goes much farther than I had anticipated. Any skilled social networker, consultant, blogger, PR or even developer knows that blogs and other social destinations provide invaluable visibility, conversation and general community involvement. However, abuses are detrimental to the host sites and ultimately those that infringe upon them.
At least three stumblers have an inordinate number of Entertonement stumbles on their profiles. Any site is welcome to promote themselves on SU, but I am surprised these profiles have not been banned or terminated all together given the numbers and types of entries. One stumbler, Spiderbaby appears to be digging for Entertonement as Spiderbaby on Digg. However,the big culprit on StumbleUpon seems to be EnvisionThis, and a third appears in the screen below.
Twitter is possibly the most vulnerable site when it comes to spam of this type. One of the traced links in the SEO inquiry led to this profile. This individual (or bot) has over 12,900 updates containing links to Entertonement.
The End! … For Now Anyway
The data you see here is just the tip of the iceberg, if you can believe it. There are so many back links, comment links, Twitter updates and links from other sites, including Mixx, BuzzFeed, Propeller, ABC News, WebProNews, CNET, Wired, Think Progress , and even Eddie Murphy’s Wikipedia page, that it is actually astounding.
These links bear an SEO value for Entertonement on Yahoo!, though the no-follow links probably do not effect Google rankings (and Google does not seem to value Twitter links very highly). Overall, however, these incidences of SPAM seem to be part of a multi-pronged effort to pollute the discussions on high profile blogs with back links under dubious authors (like “Chief Editor“). It represents a shotgun approach to spamming social networks, and gaining favor on Yahoo! search via valuable dot org links from Wikipedia and other sites.
As I said, I will leave the judgment of this episode to our readers. I’ll leave you with two more screensshots, one of links to the domain Entertonement.com, and the other of Reddit, where users have recognized the Entertonment spam and voiced their outrage. It should be noted that no current spam relating to Entertonement is apparent on Reddit, so this community must have purged all attempts, and probably banned the domain.
Author’s Note: I welcome a response from the management of Entertonement. From my impression of David Aronchick, it seems highly likely he knows little or nothing about all this, but I have been wrong before. Person or persons at work, with an interest in Entertonement beyond simply loving their sound clips, is clearly evident here. I should also point out that I have made every attempt to withhold even an inflection of my personal opinion. If any such “opinion” is perceived, it is obviously my own and should not be construed as that of SitePoint.