Sunday, October 23, 2005

UPDATED: Bloggers getting more and more restrictive with comments...

And it's definitely not good for blogging business.

I recently implemented the word verification tool on this blog after a weekend spam attack (over 400 comment spams within 24 hours.) When I encounter such a tool I consider it to be a minor inconvenience, but a small price to pay for posts free of comment spam.

But twice recently I wanted to leave comments on blogs that had such restrictive policies in place that I couldn't.

The first is a new blog, The R's Project, which wrote a post about client hip & zen. I wanted to thank her, and let her know we're now blogging. She only allows comments from "team members", so no go. Sounds sort of like that exclusive Lifehacker/Gawker invited commenters deal.

Similarly, I wanted to leave a comment at this blog, this time to thank them for mentioning my client, Browster, and again, mention that we're blogging now.

This time the blog requires a wordpress log-in to comment.

I know some people do this who have Typepad blogs too. Since I too use Typepad, I do happen to have a Typekey registration. But I don't feel like registering for wordpress, of whom I'm not a customer, to comment on wordpress blogs.

So spam is destroying, or at least inflicting significant harm on, what most people consider a vital part of what makes a blog, a blog: the conversation. It seems like most spam-fighting tactics focus on creating barriers that impact spammers and non-spammers alike. We all know blocking IP addresses is virutally useless, so the solutions seem to be to requires people to jump through hoops it's assumed the automated comment spam bots can't jump through. I haven't a better idea, but I wish there was a way to go after comment spammers that didn't treat us all the same.

All these great minds musing about Web 2.0 might want to spin some mental cycles on this problem, or Web 2.0 will consist primarily of automated comment spammers commenting on splogs, while the rest of us take our interactive, disintermediated toys and go home!

UPDATED: You should really check out the comments on this post as there are two interesting points there:

#1: Word verification does prevent those with vision impairments from being able to comment. You may see some sites that provide an alternate link for people to click if they can't read the word verification word, but neither Blogger nor Typepad offers this. I'm pretty sure that makes all such blogs non-compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. (And please note that when I said in the comments that I'm not a government contractor, so it "doesn't matter", I meant that I can't get in trouble for not complying with the Act...not that it doesn't matter that visually impaired people can't participate.)

#2: Ironically, I have a comment that looks like comment spam on this post. But it does link to what looks like a real post by a real person singing the praises of comment spam, and how we should all love to get it. I kinda hate to drive traffic to that post, but I have never seen anyone have the cojones to make that argument before. I found it pretty easy to poke holes in his argument (also in the comments here) but I'm sure some of you could point out even more flaws in the idea.

Comments:
I don't like the idea of so many restrictions, but unfortunately as you point out, spam has made them a necessity. I now have a Typekey, but only because my MPOW has a blog with Typepad and thus I am registered. Otherwise, I would not have registered, and I am not planning on registering for anything else just for comments. However, this seems a way to go with the larger bloggers: having some kind of registration requirement.
On the word verification, I don't mind it as much. However, a recent study by the American Foundation for the Blind found that obstacles like word verification create a hindrance to people who are visually impaired since tools like JAWS cannot cope with the squiggly words. It was something I had not even thought about when I turned on my word verification after the spam was getting unbearable. However, I am not planning on turning the word verification off.
 
I did think about that. I've noticed that when you buy tickets online, for example, there's always a link to click in case you can't "read" the verification word.

I'm sure we're not meeting the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing an alternate. (But since were not government contractors I don't think it matters.)
 
Do you think that blog spam is a problem?

Then you should read today's blog article.
Is there such a thing as spamming a blog?
 
Well I must say that Bruce's post presents a totally different perspective, albeit one that doesn't convince me at all. I do have word verification turned on, so it would seem to indicate he didn't use his auto-geenrated comment software to leave this comment, but he freely admits doing that elsewhere.

I don't think it's Bruce's job to tell people the "real point" of why they're blogging...and therefore state confidently how often they should post, or who their "real" audience is.

I also think Bruce is naive if he thinks that Google and other search engines aren't going to continue working to ignore spam links in comments, just like they've tried to dis-incent people from creating link farms and other ways to "game" the system. All of Google's identity and credibility is based on "relevancy." So ultimately spam comments wll likely ruin the Google "juice" impact of all comments.

When I get spam comments that are based on keywords, but are completely irrelevant to what the actual content of the post was about, it's not adding "fresh" content to my site.

OK, so those are the holes I'm going to poke for now :)
 
A big problem with comment spam is that it chokes out comments that aren't spam. Auto-generated comments cannot add to the conversation; those programs just don't pass the Turing Test (see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/turing-test/). It's like trying to carry on a coherent dinnertime conversation when constantly being interrupted by telephone sales calls.

cehwiedel
"Kicking Over My Traces"
http://www.kickingtraces.com/
 
Slightly off topic, but after changing my blog template people had problems commenting.
So I had to provide an e-mail alternative for comments.
On the old template I had the word verification on, it did not prevent comment spam from ads.
Although I get better than average blog traffic I simply find that people won’t or don’t comment as much. Its a familiarity thing.
I am a strong opponent of registration. I know some people feel they need to do it, but mostly people who do this try and “control” comments. This is just “wacked”

Peace Snoop
 
Flooded Lizard Kingdom has written a great post about this issue, at http://www.lizardkingdom.org/archives/2005/10/comment_spam_su.html.

Incidentally, Bruce has removed his post, and he has changed the options at his blog so that comments are not allowed.

Thought you'd appreciate the irony.
 
Sour Duck: Yeah, I saw Flooded Lizard Kingdom's post, which prompted me to update my own. And no, I did not know that about Bruce's post..ah, that is ironic.

Snoop & cehwiedel: I have never been a blog reader who found comments to be the most instructive parts of a blog. They always seemed to cluttered with "you rock!" or "You suck!" messages that didn't add anything substantive to the conversation. Comment spam has just multiplied that aspect 100x...and yes, I think it's killing comments,
 
I noticed you liked Dick Hardt's presentation at BlogOn and was wondering if you had a chance to talk with him about sxore? It's Sxip's new identity & reputation system for bloggers that solves comment spam and trackback spam. It's still in beta, but we'd love your feedback on it once it's available. Hopefully you'll find it less onerous than other mechanisms currently in place :)
 
Hi Lori:

No I didn't get a chance to talk to Dick personally. And haven't checked out your product. Sounds a little bit intriguing...although I'm about to write a post about how Google trying to force me into being one single uber-identity is really screwing with my client work.

Is the product in open beta, or do I have to wait to check out what it does? :(
 
I thank you for your comment.
 
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