Sunday, April 25, 2021

Fools’ follies

Anyone who has any sort of blog or similar site has encountered spam comments. They’re just another of the scourges of our online lives, a list that includes spam emails, online messages, and even text messages. And speaking of phones, there are also scam phone calls to add to our fun. Every once in a while I look at some of their “efforts”, and, as always, I wonder how on earth any of them would think their methods would work. That is, I think that after I’ve stopped laughing at them.

Yesterday, I had to go to the AmeriNZ Podcast site to do a little manual maintenance, which I’d been putting off. While there, I decided to clear the spam comment queue, something I put off even longer. I shared some of the “greatest hits” on Facebook, saying:
Today I saw a comment left a few days ago at the AmeriNZ Podcast site: "Very rapidly this web page will be famous among all blogging viewers, due to it’s pleasant articles or reviews". Awwwww! Too bad it was intended for a post from January 2013. Amazingly, it was in the spam queue! Of course, WAS is the important word here: My spam queue is now empty. Happy days. 😆
I wasn’t done! I copied more fun and games into the comments, adding my own snarky remarks:

• "It’s the best time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I wish to suggest you few interesting things or tips. Perhaps you can write next articles referring to this article. I wish to read even more things about it!" If I could wish to suggest spammers/scammers bathe in a vat of acid…

• "Everything is very open with a precise description of the issues. It was truly informative. Your site is very useful. Thank you for sharing!" Was intended for a post in May 2015.

• "Hi, this is Irina. I am sending you my intimate photos as I promised." Oh, My! Poor "Irina" didn't bother to read the About page—how embarrassing for her!

• I actually get a lot spam like this: "I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was wondering what all is required to get set up? I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very web savvy so I’m not 100% sure. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated. Appreciate it" (no fullstop). Left for the same post 2013 post as above.

Related (and all these were left around the same days):

• "Hey very nice blog!" Left for my first-ever post on that site, which as dated 2007.

• "This piece of writing is truly a pleasant one it assists new internet visitors, who are wishing for blogging." For a post in May 2008.

• "Very good post! We are linking to this great content on our site. Keep up the great writing." For a June 2007 post—and none of the podcast posts have any real writing, not like actual blog posts.

• "You’ve made some really good points there. I looked on the net for more information about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this web site." For a post in May 2007

• "Hello there! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a group of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us useful information to work on. You have done a marvellous job!" For a June 2007 post.

• "Good day very nice blog!! Man .. Excellent .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your web site and take the feeds also? I am satisfied to search out a lot of helpful info right here in the post, we’d like work out more strategies in this regard, thank you for sharing. . . . . ." For a different June 2007 post.

And finally, another one for that January 2013 post:

• "Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I will definitely return."

And there my fun ended.

I realised I hadn’t checked the Blogger comment queue in ages, and there were spam comments caught there, of course, but there were also a lot from real people I actually know—including several from Roger Green.

The AmeriNZ Podcast site is actually a self-hosted Wordpress blog (which I’ve mentioned before), and it has extensive features to manage spam comments (and also legit ones from real people). Part of that is because I have Aksimet fully integrated, and its spam filters are great.

Blogger’s in-built system, on the other hand, is as bare-bones as it could possibly be: There are no bulk actions, which (on the podcast site) allows me to delete multiple spam comments with two clicks. Blogger doesn’t have a separate spam queue, so I have to click each individual comment to mark it as spam or delete it or approve it. That’s tedious, but that’s also dangerous: A moment’s lapse in concentration, and a real comment can be deleted permanently, something that would be far less likely to happen if it had a separate spam queue.

Long-time readers may remember a time when commenting here was different, back when I used Disqus. That ended in July of last year when I accidentally deleted the code that let this blog use Disqus, and that borked the whole thing, hurtling me back into the distant past where Blogger lives (that’s a little unfair: Not long ago, Google forced Blogger users to use their new, very, very slightly improved version; commenting system improvements were not among the changes).

The thing is, while Blogger can be very annoying, it’s generally easier to use than the free version of Wordpress. The value of both sites lies mainly in that they keep the blog safe from DOS or other cyberattacks, and that’s not necessarily true for self-hosted Wordpress blogs (at one time or another all mine have been taken offline by hacks that I had to fix—one time by talking with the help desk at the site hosting company.

What to do? I have longer-term plans that I’m working on, but in the meantime I’m going to try to get Disqus back online for this blog because that would make my life the easiest of all. That may not be the ultimate solution, though.

I think those spam comments are stupid because they’re stupid: It would be hard for someone to take most of those comments as being real because they’re so transparently fake and irrelevant (the most obvious spam comments, the ones with lots of links, are caught by almost all spam filters). However, I think that maybe spammers/scammers are realising it’s a pretty futile effort: There were 73 comments in the spam queue on the podcast site, and maybe half that in this blog’s all-inclusive comment queue (I forgot to count, but that sounds about right). Time was, I got dozens of spam/scam comments every single day (sometimes many, many dozens). That’s just not happening at the moment. I do think that it could also be because of the very low number of visits the two sites get, but I’d like to think they’re getting sick of doing it. I live in hope.

So, something that started as a bit of fun ended up letting me see that the commenting system on this blog is far from perfect, and I need to fix it. Right now, though, I have no further comment on that, spam or otherwise.


Roger Owen Green said...

Oh, dear. Am I a spammer?

Every once in a while I look at my spam folder. I too have been adjudged to be the greatest blog ever. We should have a duel over it at noon! But I guess it'll never come off because we can't agree on the time zone!

Arthur Schenck said...

Heh. The time zone thing is the bane of my existence. That and geoblocking on videos.