Using Comment Spam to Measure Blog Rank
Using the Technorati Rank as a measure of blogging hierarchy is so 2005. Deciding if a blog is part of the top 100 purely by the number of other blogs linking to it is one way to measure popularity, but there must be other ways. In nature you can track the population increases of Bambi, Thumper and friends by the co-related increase the number of hunters going around killing their mothers. Could there be another way to measure blog worth other than Technorati?
If only there was some parasitic relationship that fed off the blogosphere the way predators feed off of prey?
Of course! Spam.
I’m joking about quantity of spam as a measure of blog worth. But what I’m not joking about is how much more spam I am getting now compared to a year ago. I’d like to think it’s because my blog is so much more popular now, but the sad truth is that spam is an epidemic that’s affecting bloggers from all walks of life. Even Robert Scoble.
The War on Spam
Comments spam is an infection and it is spreading further and further. It attacks our blogs and stands out like a rash. There are several over the counter remedies to comment spam, but sometimes the medicine is worse than the disease.
- Force users to login to a verified account
- Which means no one will bother to comment unless the login is part of a larger network like a Google account or Typepad account
- Captcha image response algorithms
- Which means no one will bother to comment because they are impossible to read and a complete pain in the ass
- (I’m talking about you, Typepad)
- Simple captcha (math, unscrambled word)
- Works except for the 90% of the time I forget to fill it out
- Akismet filtering (what we use at wordpress.com)
Akismet – Building Spam into Haystacks
One of the limitations about being hosted at wordpress.com is that the only vaccine I have for fighting off comment spam is Akismet. Which is great when it works, but, uh, not so great when it doesn’t. Akismet does a very good job of identifying ham from spam, but the problem is that it doesn’t do anything to decrease the sheer volume of spam you get. Akismet will help you lead a normal day-to-day life, but it won’t keep you from having the occasional sore on your lip for all the world to see.
I get around 1500 spam a day now. Sometimes Akismet isn’t strong enough or isn’t vaccinated against a new strain and I’ll have between 5-15 spam sores to manually delete for that day. Other times Akismet gets overzealous starts attacking the valid comments as spam (which often happens on blog posts where I ask people to post links). It’s easy enough to correct the situation if I can find out it happened. But finding that one valid comment is like trying to find a beauty mark on a leper — it ain’t pretty no matter which way you look at it.
That’s why I created the Akismet Auntie Spam for Firefox extension to make the anti-spam (ham) stick out more from all the obvious spam. In an update I never officially announced, our little old Auntie will now mark all Akismet-marked comments that have common spam words in red so that we can completely skip over them while dumpster diving through the caught spam folder. Akismet Auntie Spam helps me heal the lepers.
How to Reduce the Volume of Spam
But that still doesn’t stop the fact that I’m getting 1500 spam a day. For someone who likes to write about productivity and making the most of your time I am wasting entirely too much time being a good netizen and monitoring spam. We often call it the War on Spam but it’s a war I’m not winning. The only intelligent decision is to stop wasting my time and energy and to pull out. Like any social disease the underlying problem is that I’m being way to promiscuous. Everything I’ve ever posted to my blog is tarted up in a short skirt on a dark alleyway, just waiting for trouble, with nothing but Akismet and hope to avoid the clap.
It’s not working.
So I’m following in the footsteps of many other members of the wordpress.community and I’ve turned comments off for all posts that are over 60 days old. It isn’t because Akismet doesn’t do the job, it’s because even with Akismet doing most of the work, that last little bit takes too much of my time. It’s time for me to take my blog posts off the street and into a private school and hope they start running with a better crowd.
If the spam rash clears up appreciably, I’ll create an automated program like my Tag Cloud Generator for disabling comments on older posts so that everyone can enjoy having one less thing to worry about.