Quite a few readers offered theories as to what these messages mean and who is behind them. My own (half-serious but fun to entertain) theory is that they are messages sent back and forth by spies, and that the five- and seven-digit numbers are instructions to carry out parts of a covert operation. Since I screen every comment before it gets posted to Mad Professor, I thought it would be fun to change the numbers before posting them, but what if the random number I inserted happened to be instructions to drop ricin in a subway system or something else bad? I've decided the best thing to do is just delete these comments as they come in.
Anyway, here are the thoughtful and entertaining theories you've emailed in so far. Thanks!
I've found that many times innocuous-looking comments with no url are used to sneak past sophisticated blog-spamfilters (I use Spam-Karma-2 for WordPress). Many of these filters give a 'karmic boost' to commenters who already have one approved comment. By not posting any links at all, they have a better chance of getting their foot in the door, thereby a higher probability of getting their profitable spamming accepted the next time they hit you. -- Michael
Nobody said all spammers were good at what they do. This one probably just forgot the URL (and the posting bot has never been altered to correct the mistake). Happens in email spam from time to time, too. -- Christopher Null
I can tell you that these are NOT zip codes. Several of them are not recognized as valid zips at USPS.gov. -- Mike
If the spammer, Gidts, can attribute these numbers to a particular blog or email address, they can see which sites are 'hot ones'. It is the same concept used by infomercials, that are often running 24 hours a day on some channel, that insist you "call now for extra free value" (although this may mean less in a post TiVO society), or codes on coupons or in classified ads... they let the 'advertiser' (spammer), know what is working... where a particular 'ad' has been picked up or found a response.
Of course in this case, it isn't exactly tracking click throughs, as much as it is finding exactly where their shit sticks to the walls. -- R Jones
Hi, Mark. I read boingboing quite often (and adore you guys) and saw the story about the odd comments by one "Courtney Gidts". I'm not sure how to submit comments directly to a certain story and I apologize for being such a low-knowledge-of-high-tech reader, but I was discussing this with a friend and he mentioned "Number stations". Now, I'm sure you already know about this phenomenon (phenomena?), but I had not heard of it. In walks Wikipedia. So, I found it an odd, if not only in a funny way, coincidence. Here's the direct link to the Wikipedia entry. -- Laura
I've long suspected that spam is (or could be) used by spies or (more likely) terrorist cells. There is so much NOISE in email, it's the perfect place to hide SIGNAL.
Compare the "numbers" radio stations - unlicensed radio stations that only play recordings of a voice reading what sound like random numbers. (Apparently one was featured in Jean Cocteau's film "Orphée.")
Shortwave Numbers Stations are a perfect method of anonymous, one way communication. Spies located anywhere in the world can be communicated to by their masters via small, locally available, and unmodified Shortwave receivers. The encryption system used by Numbers Stations, known as a “one time pad” is unbreakable. Combine this with the fact that it is almost impossible to track down the message recipients once they are inserted into the enemy country, it becomes clear just how powerful the Numbers Station system is.
Typical actual recording.
I'm sure the numbers stations have been featured on BB, tho! -- Andrew Tonkin
It looks like those messages have been automatically (via script) posted on blogs and forums so that those people can harvest email addresses. Later the addresses will be used for spamming and various scams, mostly Nigerian variety.
They used to sign them Prof. Mugu (Nigerian for idiot) so that they can easily google for them later and collect more email addresses..
Best of luck! -- Vadym
After poking around, and finding a similar set of blog posts by Betsy Markum ("I can't believe it, my co-worker just bought a car for $70815. Isn't that crazy!"), I stumbled onto this.
Apparently, there are other inexplicable blog spam posts as well. The link contains a filter to eliminate the so-called '5-digit spammers,' but unfortunately little insight as to the origin or purpose. -- Sam
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects