Take a look at this Akismet graph charting the precipitous rise in comment spam across the blogosphere over the past few months, and you’ll see one reason Subtraction.com has been recently besieged by similar problems. Whatever percentage comment spammers are finding in what many might consider a sisyphean activity, it appears to be enough incentive for them to persist, and persist, and persist still, and their commercial litter is everywhere.
I thought I had my comment spam problem more or less locked down late last year, when my friend Su from House of Pretty helped me install AutoBan for Movable Type. That managed to tamp down the flood of comment spam for a while, but as per the aforementioned Akismet graph, the Internet-wide volume of this crap has increased nontrivially in just the past three months.
Right: Spam-a-lot. Orange indicates comment spam caught by the Akismet anti-spamming service, a number which has increased dramatically in the past several months.
Keeping Out the Riff-Raff
So I’ve added a few more measures to my Movable Type installation: Akismet itself (not just for WordPress anymore!) and some client-side scripting trickery that, hopefully, will shut out most automated comment spam assaults.
These have been in place and active as of about twenty-four hours ago, and so far, the results have been positive, maybe too positive. Junk comments have been reduced to zero, which actually makes me a little nervous. Perhaps the measures are too restrictive, and legitimate comments aren’t getting through? If you find that’s the case, my apologies, and would you email me at the link embedded into my name at the bottom of this page? I want to make sure everyone gets their say.
The Spam Innovators’ Dilemma
This absurd war of attrition, in which comment spammers chip away at each new round of preventative measures that bloggers put into place, is wearying. It’s the last thing I want to be spending my free time on, and it nearly makes me wish I was running Subtraction.com on a hosted service along the lines of Blogger, Typepad or WordPress.com — can’t I pay someone else to make this their problem, instead of mine?
You’ve got to hand it to the spammers, though. Whatever one thinks of this insane S.E.O. game they’re playing with their conversational detritus, they’ve made serious commitments to playing it very well. That goes for all spammers, actually. I’m continually amazed by the sheer volume of ingenuity they bring to bear against new anti-junk measures; the innovations in spamming we’ve seen over the past four or five years are a marvel of human will. If we could just put some of that cleverness to work in the name of good, imagine the problems we’d solve.