Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Attack of the Shills...?

Somewhere around the year 2003, I first began encountering the word Shill in an Internet context. I found that strange. To me, the word had always meant the second man in two-man con game. One guy plays a vendor of something. The Shill pretends to be a completely unrelated bystander who buys into the sales pitch enthusiastically.

According to Wikipedia, the term is a shortening of the Yiddish word shilaber. This was a term for a carnival worker who pretended to be a membe of the audience in an attempt to create interest in an attraction.

The Internet term is not precisely the same thing. An online shill is more like a Spin Doctor, but it has overtones that are somewhat similar.

The theory of shills states that the online world has become the dominant force in consumer affairs these days. Consumers form their opinions of good and services online. Ergo, the things said about a company or its product online are terribly important to the bottom line of any given company. Reputation matters.

Rumor has it that Shills used to invade Computer Hardware sites like Anandtech, Tom's Hardware, [H]ard OCP, and my own haunt: 3d Buzz. I remember when nVidia laid a stinker with the NV30 family of accelerators. All of us were discussing the NV30's problems when suddenly... POP! A Shill from nVidia would pop up and say he was having a wonderful time with his NV30 and there were no problems. Well... it took awhile, but the performance issues were more than proven out. nVidia decided that the strategy of denial wasn't going to work. The Shills quit shilling. nVidia admitted forthrightly that there were serious problems with the NV30. It is now a famous failed product.

Back in those days, my fellow enthusiasts were the first to complain of an invasion of "Shills" in the online world. The alegation was that certain firms, like nVidia, were actually paying employees to surf the web, looking for hotspots of complaint. If they found any, the mission was to argue against it, and spin-doctor to any degree necessary to put the fire out.

I hemmed and hawed at that. I was skeptical. I doubted any firm would actually pay people to do this mission. My buds though I was being naive. I just wasn't accepting "the power of the web to determine the fate of a company." I thought this was a Sasquatch or Chupacabra type urban myth. I just didn't believe it.

The website operators sure seemed to believe Shills existed. Many wrote Shill clauses into their terms of service. If it could be demonstrated that you were actually working as a Shill, the website owners would ban you from their sites. No Shill activity would be tolerated.

I've always had suspicions that these guys might exist, but I have never quite believed it... but now....

Funny things have been happening on the Bleacher Report. I myself have had contact with one or two fanatical fanboys who don't seem much like fanboys. They don't seem that deep in the history of the Rams, yet pretend to be long-time devoted fans. It's easy to take them out of their depth. I do so without ever intending to do so.

The funny thing about these characters is that they back every move Devaney makes, no matter how nonsensical. They are very good at argumentation. They quote formal logic, almost the way lawyers do in court. They seem well aware of how a good argument is structured, and they never allow a premise, no matter how well founded, if it is harmful to the defense of the organization's chosen direction. Stop. Rephrase that: Devaney's chosen direction.

I have never seen any fan who agreed 100% with any general manager. I have never seen any fan willing to defend every action of a GM. I have never seen a fan who was relentless in his defense of a GM. I have never seen any true fan who was so adamant in his defense of a GM that he might deny, deny and deny again even the most factual premise if proves harmful to his defense of the GM.

To believe these... errr... Shills... you must believe that all bad moves made by Rams ended when Devaney took control. The horror we have now is entirely the aftermath of the Jay Zygmunt administration. No mistakes have been made since Zygmunt was fired or resigned. Mistakes are now a thing of the past, as is Zygmunt. No mistakes have been made recently. Devaney is not making any mistakes now, even as I write this sentence.

Several times, I have felt that I was arguing in the court of public opinion with a lawyer whose professional services were retained to defend Devaney (the client). The postulated lawyer would not quit for that reason. The level and zeal found in the defense of Devaney, coupled with a weak knowledge of the Rams, just doesn't seem believable at all. I just don't believe I am corresponding with a real Ram fan. It seems tremendously phony.

Mind you, I am not precisely willing to admit that Shills actually do exist just yet. However, these recent events have brought me a hell of a lot closer to believing Shills do indeed exist. I am actively looking around for proof now.

I have mentioned this to a couple of friends, particularly my buddy Colin. He laughed like hell at me. "I guess you don't believe in the existence of pussy either, do you?" he replied. He said it is common knowledge that Hollywood studios pays good Shills like low-level Lobbists in Washington D.C. Some stars, who can afford it, also retain the services of Online Shills if they feel threatened. Rumor has it that Tom Cruise did this several years ago when he hit the skids.

I am very curious...

Is it at all possible that the St. Louis Rams organization has retained the services of a couple of failed lawyers as inexpensive Shills: One in Chicago and the other in Los Angeles? I wonder? Is Devaney that worried about the situation? Would he deploy one or two Shills to the Bleacher Report to try to prevent public insurrection from forming against him?

I wonder... Certainly the Rams have a catestrophic record over the past 3-4 years. We have 6-42 over the past 3 seasons. Those are Devaney's years. Devaney has 6 wins to show for his his work. Ever heard of just win baby? Not good, baby!

Is Devaney worried enough about the online reputation of his product, that he is willing to do something like this? Maybe he fucking should be.

I'm a loud-mouth. I admit it. If you do something I hate, I am going to make you look stupid. This is for a simple reason: I am rational. Any well-reasoned move is usually acceptable to me. [Selecting Rodger Saffold in the 2nd round or Mardy Gilyard in the 4th, for instance.] Only the stupid, poorly reasoned, moves are entirely unacceptable.

If you make a stupid, poorly reasoned move, I am going to show the world why it was entirely unacceptable. I am not going to pull my punches either. I'm going to break your nose and rub it in some shit. A loud mouth like me, who hits hard, could start a negative trend downward in public opinion about your goods and services... especially if a 6-42 record has left a lot of uncombusted fuel laying around on the ground. Would that warrant the deployment of Shills?


Whether it is true or not, I have decided it is not a good idea to waste time engaging with these two characters. They are not available for an open exchange of ideas, nor are they open to reason. Good Internet conversations are an open exchange of ideas and reason. On the chance that they are professional Shills, it would be a waste of time to communicate with them.

It is the deep off season. There isn't a lot of Ram news right now (outside of camp injuries). Ergo, I am laying low. However, I am going to continue to call it as I see it. If the Rams get off to a bad start, with a terrible offense a-la Shurmur, I'm pulling out the AA-12 and going to work. Devaney's going to have a lot of XHTML holes in his arse.

I will call for his head on a platter.

The... errrr... Shills may be upset by my unwillingness to engage them in discussion at that time. The will be more upset when when I expose them as Shills. You can destroy a guys reputation online with the mere actuations that he is a Shill. You can make him abort his mission by asking key questions that put them on he spot.