Thanks to everyone who made suggestions in response to my earlier post about how to manage the spam comments menace. There were some very useful ones from people on all sides of the issue.
The problem that I faced was that people sometimes use the comments feature of blogs seemingly purely to insert hyperlinks to their commercial interests in order to gain visibility for some product or service and to drive up their website rankings, and these pointless comments were cluttering up the boards and wasting the time of people who were trying to follow a discussion.
As the always highly knowledgeable Heidi Cool said, this blog server software already has a filter that flags some comments (using some algorithm) as suspected spam and sends them to me for approval, which may explain to some puzzled readers why their comments sometimes take a long time to appear whereas other people’s seem to appear immediately. My problem was that it was getting harder and harder for me to decide which published comments to delete and which unpublished ones that were flagged as possible spam to approve, and I was spending far too much time agonizing over it.
One solution would be to make the comments board entirely moderated so that I would have to personally approve each comment before it appeared. This would take a lot of time (at least initially) because it would still require me to read all the comments but over time the volume should decrease as it should discourage spammers from posting in the first place as they would realize that the chance of it being approved would be small. I don’t like that solution because that would cause delays in genuine comments appearing.
Another brutally simple solution that was suggested would be to get rid of the box where people can insert a URL. That would definitely solve the problem but I hesitate to do that because I see no real harm with people who are genuinely interested in the blog’s content and want to add something to the discussion also giving a little boost to their own site along the way, even if it is a commercial site. I am sympathetic to the needs of such entrepreneurs and small businesspeople. I have on occasion discovered some genuinely interesting websites because of those links. It is the professional spammers that I want to get rid of.
I think that I have arrived at a policy that manages to achieve a balance and makes it easier for me to police the site. Here are the new comment rules that I am thinking of imposing that will not cause genuine commenters any inconvenience or require them to change anything. I will defer implementing them for a week to allow for knowledgeable people to point out any potential flaws.
- The comments will continue to be unmoderated, so almost all genuine comments on recent posts should continue to appear almost immediately, just as before. If your comment does not appear immediately or even after a few minutes, it means it has been flagged as potential spam because of the appearance of some words that trigger the filter (words which in isolation can be quite harmless but in combination with other words can cause the filter to sit up and take notice) and it will appear only after I have got around to checking in on the filtered comments board.
- In the comment box that says ‘Name’, you must insert a person’s name only. The name can be a pseudonym but inserting the name of a product or company or service is grounds for deletion. So ‘Ann Jones’ or ‘Joe’ or ‘Genghis Khan’ is allowable, but ‘Acme Roofing Company’ or ‘Diet Coke’ or ‘essay writing services’ or ‘Joe the plumber’ is not. Heidi says that putting a commercial name does not add to your site’s search engine rankings anyway.
- You can continue to insert a link to a company or product or commercial service site in the URL box and this will make the name in the name box into a hyperlink to that site, which does contribute to your rankings. This will be the only means by which to advertise or drive traffic to a site or product.
- Any link inserted in the body of a comment is also grounds for deletion of the entire comment unless the link is pointing to information relevant to the post.
- Even if a comment meets all these criteria, I still reserve the right to delete it if I think its chief purpose is to advertise and not advance the discussion. So comments like ‘Great post!’ and ‘I would like to read more on this topic’ will also get the boot.
I hope this new policy will make the site better and my life easier!
As suggested by commenter HP Bryce, here (I hope) is the last word on spam from what triggered the idea of adopting the name of a meat product for this ubiquitous feature of electronic communication.