Comment spam.

Yesterday, while moving through my usual Internet reading routine, I visited Blurbomat and read this post. Later that evening, during dinner, Toby and I had a two hour discussion about comment spam and blogging.

As many of you already know, Toby Joe is a big geek. He wrote this Web site for me using PHP. Each time he updates mihow.com he takes something from before and expands upon it, making it better, or he fixes something he now sees as “incorrect”. (He finally conquered three years of my using Amazon.com links and their fondness for using ampersands, which consequently, used to break this site). I appreciate Toby’s work and his maintaining this Web site more than you can possibly imagine.

One of the best things about having a one-of-a-kind Web site (by “one-of-a-kind” I mean the software it uses) is I haven’t gone through the perils of comment spam. Not only have I not experienced it, but up until recently, after speaking with Missy at Listen Missy and watching Essl foam at the mouth over his plethora of gambling spam, I hadn’t realized how absolutely huge and annoying it’d become. And I’m still not sure I really understand the intensity of the problem since I haven’t experience it firsthand.

Toby seems to think that the community as a whole needs to change and the software behind it and the way it’s designed needs to be reevaluated and reworked. Basically, (and hopefully he will correct me if I’m wrong) the foundation needs to be rebuilt. On the flip-side, I wanted to look at the problem and come up with ways to destroy it.

Last night, as I was trying to fall asleep, I began to think about everything he said. And, like many times after I have a discussion with Toby Joe, I have to chew on his words for a while before the ideas begin to fall into place. (He’s a smart one, that hubby of mine.) And I think I summed it up in my head; If he were a healthcare professional, he’d take preventative measures against future health problems. Not that humans generally practice this, but I think it’s safe to say that many times it’s better to put a lot of money, thought and time into something up front to avoid a frustrating battle down the line.

Perhaps the community does need to be rebuilt from the ground up. Perhaps building plug-in after plug-in, barely keeping up with these spam-bots (which are growing more and more intelligent by the hour), isn’t the right way to go about it.

17 Comments

  1. I would be very happy to build my site from scratch if I could prevent comment spam – and I saw your’s and Toby’s posts on the Blurbomat site: “catpcha”? Cat? What?

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  2. Lana, how does it work? You get them and erase them right away? Because I honestly haven’t seen them. Do you get email notifications? I really am in the dark about all of this.

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  3. Lana – the captcha stuff is when you have to type in a code visible to the user as a twisted, barely discernable image. While it works well, it goes against all accessibility guidelines and best practices where the Web is concerned.

    What I was saying to michele last night is that, while there could be measures taken by MT (such as using a front-controller with a key for the ‘add comment’ action that changes every minute or so) I think the comment-spamming is really a phenomenon defined by the lack of understanding on the part of bloggers themselves.

    By opening up a method for anyone to use your site to publish content with no authentication, you’re essentially giving permission for any use. While the minimal steps to be taken would include adding a disclaimer and providing sort of a user agreement, a la software installation, that would only go towards stating your intent in letting someone publish their words on your site, your server, your dime, and your time.

    It seems to me that the current post-comments blog model is addressing only the tiniest portion of the personal publishing and community problem. The blog paradigm as we know it is a solution born of convenience rather than adept assessment and suave engineering.

    I’ve been working silently for about a year now, off and on, on a publishing system and model that allows for a bit of heterogeneity in the structure and dynamic of personal publishing. I’m at the point of beginning to code it and am having a hard time choosing technologies. While I’d like to create something people can use on their $10 per month accounts, I would rather build something robust and flexible that may require people to pay for better hosting plans in order to get a free publishing system that better fits the needs of people who want to control their own publishing communities.

    I should apply for a grant or something so I can get this stuff done.

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  4. Sorry for this unrelated comment—
    Janice, Norm, Nell and myself will be at the Knitting Factory to see Drive By Truckers and co. on New Years Eve. Do you guys already have plans??? CALL ME!

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  5. Todd! We’re down. Missy will be here, too.

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  6. Get Viagra overnight! No prescription necessary! Go to The World’s Biggest Online Pharmacy!!! … buy now and get a free tube of Boudreaux’s ButtPaste!!

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  7. Actually, I thought you were DonaldEugene. He did once send me some Buttpaste.

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  8. The few spam that were getting past the Blacklist I deleted right away since I get my comments emailed to me.. When I see I have 5+ emails… I know there’s some spam.

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  9. So tell, what does this Blacklist thing do? And isn’t there something requiring a commenter to type in numbers? I have seen this, too. I think mia uses it at MintJelly.com.

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  10. Well Blacklist prevents an identified url or keywords from posting comments… but it’s only as good as the mastlist.. which needs to be constantly updated.

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  11. masterlist even… and crap, keywords can’t post comments! me no speaky the english today.

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  12. is the masterlist put out by MT?

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  13. I love that smart, talented people like you guys are out there thinking this through. Toby, someone should totally be paying you to do this. You go, boy!

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  14. Gina, did you get my long weird message? Please send me your correct phone number at the office. :]

    /now back to the regularly scheduled program.

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  15. The comments feature on my blog was hand built using PHP and the only spam I get are people trying to figure out how it works. Toby Joe is right about what he says. Personally I think that a lot of the spam that generic comment features are getting could easily be prevented with a rewrite of the code and a few extra added features.

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