Bloggers Declare War on Comment Spam
USC Annenberg’s Online Journalism Review has an interesting piece today entitled, “Bloggers Declare War on Comment Spam, but Can They Win?” It details the techniques used by spammers to boost their Google rankings by spamming weblogs with bogus comments containing their URLs and the manifold countermeasures employed to stop this practice, including a good discussion of Jay Allen’s MT-Blacklist, which I used to good effect when OTB ran under Movable Type.
Inevitably, the discussion turns to the question of whether comments are worth the aggravation:
More recently, the godfather of blogging Dave Winer, former CEO of UserLand, told me that comments are not an intrinsic part of a Weblog and have basically failed after a brief honeymoon period in the early history of blogs. “I think a blog is a publication, and publications have proven that letters to the editor are useful,” Winer said. “But blogs with comments are not letters to the editor. Letters to the editor are edited, they’re selected, and that selection process is a very important aspect of it.” Instead, Winer thinks commenters should simply run their own blog if they want to comment. While he thinks that all the war tactics by bloggers will ultimately fail, he says that Google itself could solve the problem by adjusting PageRank so that it doesn’t weight links from comments as heavily as links within blog posts or on other pages.
Duncan Riley, editor of the Blog Herald in Australia, thinks the dynamic will likely shift in the blogosphere, with mid-tier bloggers abandoning comments altogether. “Blogging will survive comment spam, however the blogosphere as we know it today will not be the same as a result of it,” he told me via e-mail. “The ability to comment on blogs has been a large part of the phenomenal success blogging has had over the last few years. Expect a correction in blog numbers as the industry suffers from burnout, suppliers fold, are bought out or merge, and as the novelty for some wears off from newer distractions, less time and intolerance of comment spam.”
I agree that comments aren’t an essential feature of a blog, given that some of the most popular bloggers (Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan, Josh Marshall off the top of my head) don’t have them. And, as I’ve noted in earlier posts, comments don’t seem to work once a blog reaches a certain critical mass of readership (20,000 daily visits maybe?) because the comment section devolves into something aking to usenet group.
While spammers will likely be able to circumvent any countermeasure over time, I’ve found a precipitous decline in comment spam on OTB since leaving Movable Type and switching to WordPress. Requiring two steps for comment posting (making “preview” mandatory) seems to help a lot as well.
Hat tip: Jeff Quinton