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More Blog Changes

In the ongoing effort to curb comment spam (50 more today before the IP address was banned!) the following changes have been made to the blog:

  1. Entries older than 12 days will automatically be closed to comments.
  2. The comment link has been changed to “Discussion”
  3. When clicking the Discussion link, instead of a comment popup window, your main browser window will be redirected to the comments section of the permanent entry page.
  4. In order to comment, you will first need to preview your comments, then post them. Commenting becomes a two step process instead of a one step process.

So, the blog takes a few minor usability hits but I hope the result (less spam) is worth the effort.

Many sites advocate turning off comments altogether. One argument in favor of this says that blogs should be less interactive and more like a read-only station. However, for me at least, part of the fun of the blog is having commenters discuss the topic. Without input from others, the blog is nothing more than a soapbox. So I believe that turning off commenting altogether is not really a worthwhile solution.

Another recommendation I frequently see is turning off HTML in comments. I’m holding off on that one (for now) because of the minor inconvenience of having to cut and paste a URL instead of clicking the link.

Another measure that we can take is registration. This, to me, is no solution because, as I understand it, the reg info is kept in a single MT repository for all blogs. That means the spammer need only take a few moments to create a new user name (easy to do) and then he can spam away. Bottom line: no effect.

Yet another measure we can take is to force human interaction on a comment post. That is, we would display some machine-unreadable code that the user would type every time he wanted to comment. While this is a bummer, we could keep the nuisance level low by making the code short, say 2 characters.

Anyone have any opinions on this?

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

11 Comments on More Blog Changes

  1. I’ve been using MT-Blacklist for over a year on another blog of mine, and have found it takes care of all the issues. Sure, an occasional one slips through, but I can quickly delete and add through the MT-BL interface.

    Have you not had as much luck as I?

    Evo.

  2. I don’t think the changes you have made are all that bad, but I wonder is there a better way. There was some discussion about updating to the next version of MT, but I don’t know if that will solve the SPAM issue. If we have to type in an additional code to be able to comment on the blog, I would do that to prevent the current crop of crap showing up on our blog. Also, I never thought of this as a one way blog, but through the use of comments has allowed us to be more like a discussion group with soapbox like tendancies…

  3. Evo,

    We do use MT-Blacklist and it works great if the URLs are on it. We check the file daily for updates. Alas, when a spammer does get through, he posts up to 100 comments on postings dating back to the blog’s first post. And when he does get through, then we have the maintenance of banning the IP address, updating the balcklist and de-spamming. All of it is more work than I personally want to spend on it day in and day out. I think that the blacklist approach is a losing battle. (does it really completely eradicate stop email spam?) It’s too easy for the spammer to use new IP addresses and URLs and we cannot block it until after an attack – which leaves us with a mess of cleanup to be done. Argh!

    Tim,

    I’m glad to here you think those changes would not significantly impact the blog. I feel the same way. It’s a very small price to pay, imo, to avoid Episode II: Attack of the Ass-Clowns. (Crafty way I worked the sf theme in there, eh? OK, maybe not 🙂 )

    I’m not sure of the anti-spamming capabilities of the newer version of Moveable Type. If it successfully blocks email, I’m in.

  4. Can someone enlighten me on how not using a popup curb spam?

    As for the two-step posting process, I would think the image verification method would be easier seeing how you’re on the posting page already — it’s an extra field as opposed to a whole new page.

    Nonetheless, I usually preview my stuff before posting to check for typo and readability anyway…

  5. Now that I think about it, spam bots can easily be altered to post in a two step process — where as the image verification is much more difficult to spoof…

  6. The spam bots check for the standard MT window popup. Not using it foils that. They will find a workaround only when enough people do it to make it profitable for them to do so. This is one of the toips suggested in the anti-comment-spam article posted elsewhere.

    The “new” comment methods is not really new – there is no new page. The only diff is that the POST button is removed from the standard comments form thereby forcing the user to preview. The comment preview reamins unchanged with a POST and PREVIEW button.

  7. I like all the changes except the 12-day limit – it keeps people from posting their opinions later – say on books after they’ve read them, for example. Can we keep it open and see how much spam we get?

  8. Oh, and did you decide that a manditory field, like say the poster’s age or favorite color wouldn’t help?

  9. The 12-day limit is imposed because spammers mostly target older posts. My thinking was that the main group of SF Signal contributors have posting rights anyway…they could just link to the original review if they wanted.

    On the other hand, as you suggest, I have not tried implementing a mandatory field. I’ll give that a try asap.

  10. Comment spam does indeed suck. I’ve found that recently MT-Blacklist has been working for me. I get comments mailed to me, so if they are spam I can just click on the despam link and it gets deleted.

    Having said that I agree that the blacklist approach is a losing battle. The real winner in comment spam is Blogger. Comments on Blogger add no value to a page’s PageRank. But that’s something you can only do if you’re owned by Google. My personal blog has had no comment spam.

  11. John,

    I agree with Scott on the 12-day closure rule. We’re the ones who start the threads and usually, we don’t have late-breaking comments; but, its the non-regulars who usually have late breaking comments.

    This will probably cheese off Kevin, but an example is the “BS, BS everywhere, and not a drop to…” thread that JP closed recently. It was closed due to its controversial content, but I really enjoyed seeing a comment after 2 months of inactivity. Also, there are times when I’ve found that I would rather added a comment to someone’s older review rather than posting a new topic just to link to the older post — if that happens, we’ll just be polluting the main page with old topics.

    So John, I implore you to lift the 12-day rule.

    The mandatory field seems like a good idea. I don’t know how a spam bot works, but don’t they just fill in whatever field they want with spam? I still like the image verification idea.

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