Ad Sells You

NOTE: This work is fiction. Any resemblance to real persons or entities, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Source of inspiration here.

“Mullenvegg? Is thet you?”

The voice was familiar, but Matt did not respond. Cautiously he rounded the corner, eyes darting in every direction, trying to make out any threatening forms in the murky haze of light from the Bay Bridge. This part of downtown wasn’t so great past midnight, and the fog wasn’t helping. “Should have brought a stun gun or something,” he mumbled under his breath.

“Vhat need for a stun gun, Mullenvegg?” The voice, Russian, heavily accented, came from right behind him. Matt whirled around with a startled yelp, hands instinctively shoving away the black-clad figure who had so silently walked up to him.

“Dammit, Piotr! You know I hate that!”

Piotr Vasilevsky staggered back from the force of Matt’s push, chuckling to himself. “Okay, okay, Mullenvegg, I apologize. Just heving my fun, you know.”

Matt swallowed, trying to compose his wild-eyed face after the startled rush, willing his racing heart to back down out of his throat. “Okay, Piotr. I’m here. This had better be good. Now what do you want?”

“Ah, you Americans, always right to the business,” Piotr muttered, smoothing out his leather bomber jacket. He loved that thing. Sometimes he’d even wear those silly flight goggles that had come with it. Except he liked to call them his “googles.” He thought himself incredibly clever, especially when he sent those anonymous “meet me for marketing” emails to Matt. Why do I keep coming, Matt wondered to himself, and his inner dialogue responded, Because maybe you can make him know what’s wrong with his business. Maybe you can save him from the scourge of the spam industry.

“I hev a new proposition for you, tovarisch,” Piotr said with a wink. “An offer you cannot refuse.”

“Oh God, not again,” Matt sighed, rolling his eyes. “You know the shit I got in for that whole search engine spam brouhaha. Affiliate deals are okay, Piotr. Text ads, banners, maybe even animated ‘shoot the terrorist for free iPod Nano’ banners, as long as they’re not those fake shaking Windows alerts, but not more of this stupid spa-”

“Is not spam!” It was nearly a shout — it might as well have been. One of those ubiquitous San Francisco mendicants yelled from some hidden corner, “Shut up, I’m sleeping here!”

Matt faced Piotr, arms folded, face calm, though the intensity of the Russian web marketer’s outburst had startled him anew. The man did have a wife and a daughter to feed, back in Saint Petersburg — a fact he never failed to remind his “Client 2.0,” as he insisted on calling his favored customers.

“Okay, Piotr, not spam, then. What do you have for me?”

“Great opportunity, my friend,” Piotr began, “very simple, but uses these ‘blags’ that are all the rage now-”

“Blogs, Piotr.” Matt was getting annoyed.

“Blorgs, yes, whatever.” He waved his hand nonchalantly. “Ve hev an application to make blorgs, like that Pressword of yours-”


“Ah, WordPress!” Piotr’s eyes lit up. “Clever, Mullenvegg, to mix the acts of clicking and writing in a name!” He smiled unctuously. “Anyway, ve make the blorgs, no? Then ve post to it vith a bort which you set to-”

“A what?” Matt frowned, starting to see what Piotr was getting at, and not liking it at all.

“Bort! You know, little script you put into cron, to automate task-”

“That’s a bot. I don’t-”

“Bort, yes!” His hands gestured wildly. “The bort gets text from the other sites, modifies it slightly, reposts — instant content! All ve need is the ads! I start on your new with something like tips on gambling in, vhat do they call it, Tennessee Holdem…”

“Texas,” Matt corrected him, but his heart was not in it.

“Yes, Texas, the poker!” Piotr’s face was eager, triumphant. Matt’s was openly dismayed.

“We can’t do that,” Matt said as gently as possible “Not only is it incredibly unethical, but it means copyright and terms of service violations.”

The Russian’s face only grew more agitated. “Ve use the Creative Commons content, then, Mullenvegg! The bort can scan vhat licenses are noncommercial, nonattribution, da? They vill not mind if they do not notice. Ve can call it remixing!” He had taken on an almost pleading tone. “Come now, friend. It vill make thousands! Think of little Sasha in Saint Petersburg-”

“I can’t stand before the community and say I used a plagiarism bot to take other people’s content for money, then just call it art, man!” Matt burst out. But then he paused. “Wait. Saint Petersburg? Which one?”

“Eh?” Piotr frowned, the crafty smile long gone.

“Is Sasha in Saint Petersburg in Russia, Piotr? Or is it the one in Florida? How much is your airfare for these ‘marketing’ meetings anyway?”

“Oh, come now, tovarisch, Russia, Florida, all same, vhat matters is-”

“Don’t you tovarisch me,” Matt said sternly. Suddenly he had lost all patience. “I’m not doing this. I knew you’d try and push another of these damned internet ‘marketing’ ploys on me. Why do I bother?” He turned around and began to walk away. “Forget it, Piotr,” he spat over his shoulder. “I’ve messed with that world, and it’s shit. It’s all shit. Go to hell.”

There was a splash, a click, directly from behind him. Matt stopped in his tracks as something cold and hard poked into his back. Damn that man’s quick, quiet feet! And that gun. From the click, it was probably that MP-446 Viking he had picked up on eBay. Never turn your back on him. Never!

“Perhaps it is not I who is goink to hell, eh, Mullenvegg,” Piotr’s voice rasped, his breath practically on the back of his neck. There was a strong odor of vodka. “Now, do ve hev a deal, or not?”

Matt inhaled deeply, tensing his hands. “Oh, I think we have a deal, tovarisch,” he muttered. And with one quick, fluid motion, Matt whirled around, hands flying, left fist connecting straight with the Russian’s right cheek, the other hand grabbing Piotr’s gun-holding wrist and squeezing that exact nerve which would cause him to drop the pistol without squeezing the trigger.

Two seconds later, Matt was emptying the Viking’s magazine, and Piotr Vasilevsky was on the ground, gripping his right wrist in pain.

“Here’s the deal, Piotr. You never email me again, and I add your IP to the Akismet blacklist.” Matt threw the empty gun and magazine to the ground behind him. “The terms are non-negotiable.”

“You’re losing a fortune, Mullenvegg,” gasped Piotr, scrambling to his feet and backing away from Matt warily. “Ve’ll find other buyers! Maybe Werisign, eh? They vill not be quite so… so honest!” He spat the word out like a curse.

“Go away, Piotr,” Matt said, his hands still balled into fists. “I’m a blogger. You’re a spammer.” That left fist was aching a bit, though. “I am your enemy, not your client.”

Piotr scowled, looked as if he was about to say something, but then abruptly turned around and stalked off into the night fog without a further word.

Matt released a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. He still won’t learn, he thought, he stil thinks it’s about the money. He began to walk in the opposite direction, towards the closest BART station. He examined his throbbing left hand. Ow. I must have hit him harder than I thought I could. Better get this looked at…