Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Without irony

There are moments of humour in my neverending war with spam comments. Well, humour is probably too strong a word, but they make me at least smirk in what is otherwise a pretty dull business.

The other day, I checked my comment queue, as I do every morning, looking for any legitimate comments held for moderation and to delete all the accumulated spam comments. It was a banner day for the enemy.

I found 66 comments in the moderation queue—all of them spam, of course, because I’ve never had a real comment caught in the comment waiting room. Awhile back, I turned on moderation for comments placed on older posts as part of the war on spam, and it’s helped—somewhat.

Blogger’s built-in spam detection is fairly decent—not nearly as good as Akismet, which I use on my podcast sites, but not bad. However, if I hadn’t turned on comment moderation, those 66 spam messages would have been posted to the blog. In fact, nearly every day I have to delete one or more spam comments that get posted (usually to the most recent post).

What made me smile, however, is that without a shred of irony, all but eight—58 spam comments in all—were intended for this particular post. The spam queue at that same time held 68 spam comments, 14 of which were intended for that post.

I know they’re placed by bots, not real people, and those bots often seek out particular words, so it’s this, not irony, that’s made that single post the one with the most page views of any post I’ve ever published. In fact, when I looked this morning, that single post accounted for nearly four percent of all the pageviews of my entire blog going back more than six years. Those are clearly pretty determined spambots.

I’m not bothered by the stuff in the spam queue—I usually just scan them quickly for anything real caught there and delete. Takes a few minutes. But the stuff held in the moderation queue annoys me because I can’t see any appreciable difference from identified spam (they’re all placed by “Anonymous” and they all include links—sometimes nothing but links). Worst of all is that some of them get through and are posted. This is why I check a few times every day.

There are two possible solutions. First, I could re-enable word verification, which would pretty much end spam attacks because they can can’t get through. Or, I could enable comment moderation for all posts, which would prevent any spam comments from being posted.

The first option is really unpopular with readers (in part because it’s buggy). It also would mean a big drop-off pageviews, not that I care (spambots are not readers, after all). The problem with the second is that it takes away the immediacy of commenting, especially for folks in the time zones most different from my own: It takes me awhile to see them.

So, I’ll shorten the period during which comments are unmoderated, perhaps gradually, to see if that at least slows the number of spam comments that get through all the defences.

Like I said, it’s a neverending war. But at least it keeps me busy—wait, is that a good thing?

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

no good answer. I do comment moderation; just easier.