Trolling Marketers for Profit and Pleasure

Composed on the 16th of January in the year 2015, at 5:10 PM. It was Friday.

Marketing departments have a tough gig, especially if they're honest. I can barely bring myself to show enthusiasm for the prospect of living another day; marketing teams have to get people excited about new pillows. Sales and marketing in general require certain personality traits that I don't have, because the thought of delivering a pitch for anything besides the empty truth of a godless universe is as appealing to me as having my eyeballs replaced with spiders. So I respect them and sympathize with their tribulations.

But not enough, because the opportunity to make their lives harder turned out to be so tempting I spent two hours putting together a way to mess with them while snickering unattractively.

See, marketing people and SEO people and whatever people doing their branding and paradigm shoving and optimizing through pipelines or down funnels or up pyramids of pigs with too much mascara, they often rely on Google analytics because Google makes everything easy once you've given up the notion of a private life. An important part of tracking where and wherefore people come unto whatever it is the marketers are selling is sometimes stored in the browser url in the form of utm parameters. You may have noticed them up there in the location bar: utm_source=facebook, or utm_campaign=are_they_clicking_me_yet. It's occasionally amazing how much data is sent through urls, because the thing about a url is anybody wandering around the internet can edit the url however they like.

The original idea was not mine, but belonged to the gloriously evil mind of my secret chatroom's uber-troll hacker. I'm blanking on her real name, but multiple websites have begged her to stop doing whatever it is she does to their APIs. Anyway, she pointed out that you can just change the utm parameters to whatever you want. Most of the time it won't affect your experience of the web page, but it will throw some odd data at the analytics page, so the "Twitter" campaign suddenly loses a couple of clicks to the "YourMother" campaign.

I started doing this to all the links I shared among friends whenever I saw a utm parameter, but this seemed tedious, and one day I remembered I program javascript for a living and could probably automate the process.

So I made a bookmarklet,1 which was a term I had to look up, cringing almost as hard as I am now at the fact that spellcheck has no problem with the word. You put the bookmarklet in your bookmarks and if you happen to notice a utm_something in your url, click the bookmark, and it reloads the page after liberally editing the utm data for a more enriching analytics experience.

Of course, that takes a whole extra click, so my friend Elliott repackaged it into a chrome extension, which automatically changes the url as it loads, no effort necessary.

In summation: it turned out to be too easy to troll clickbait links for basic human decency to stop me. Also, I lied about the profit in the title, this is about being a dick.

IMPORTANT: The "utm_source" replacements are all websites you really do not want to see, so I caution against satisfying your curiosity on that point. Also, it will occasionally look like you're into child porn. But of course you're not, so you don't have anything to worry about, do you?

Smug bastard.

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