I haven’t had a good rant in a long time.  Trust me, I’ve had plenty to bitch about but I’m old and tired, and Cole keeps me occupied enough that I just don’t feel like spending the time.  But, after moderating another round of spam comments I thought I’d pipe up.

I learned the hard way that without any form of comment moderation a web site will be overrun with useless spam comments.  Automated bots nailed UrbanPotato a couple of years ago and added over 20,000 comments in week.  The comment administration UI couldn’t handle it – I had to go into the SQL back end and delete them myself.  That was the end of comments on UrbanPotato.  First I just deleted the comment UI so no one could add comments.  This did nothing to stop them:  spammers were crafting custom postbacks to my site and encoding comments anyway.  Then I deleted the contents of the stored procedures used to add comments to the database.  That took care of my comment problems.

With the new blog engine I wanted to enable comments again.  I knew I needed a moderation mechanism.  I’m not a big fan of captchas so I went with full moderation with automatic approval through Akismet.  This blocks a fair number of spam comments but leaves some of the more clever spammers for me to moderate by hand.  Some spammers are clearly reading posts and crafting comments designed to slip through automatic approval mechanisms.  Clever and labor intensive, but it won’t work:  I check every one and I’m very hard core about what I allow to stay.  At first I was apprehensive about deleting comments.  Blogging is about inviting others into your world, and part of that is sharing dialog.  It’s bad blogging etiquette to delete comments you don’t like. People do use comment links to help drive traffic to their blogs and some comments are hard to tell real from spam.  That said, comments need to remain topical and if they do link to another site, that site needs to be somewhat relevant.  Despite the high percentage of bathroom humor on this site I’m pretty sure there is no need for a link-back to a web site focusing on natural colon cleansing.

According to Google Analytics spammers are my main source of traffic (perhaps bathroom humor isn’t worth what it once was).  You can tell a spammer’s search easily:  they’re looking for a particular blogging platform and one or more keywords.  Here are some examples:

  • welcome to blogengine.net 1.5.0.7 inurl:/post/ 
  • furniture"notify me when new comments are added" 
  • holidays"notify me when new comments are added" 

Sadly, no one found my blog by searching for “colon”. 

The thing I don’t get is why people still do this.  Yes, I understand that if the comment stays for a period of time and gets indexed by search engines it can help the search rankings of the web site embedded in the comment.  But, spam comments are so prevalent on the net that you either aggressively deal with them or you get buried by them.  Sites that get buried lose legitimate visitors because no one wants to wade through the spam.  In effect, spam comments are like a virus that kills the host.  That doesn’t help anyone’s search rankings.