Google has announced that it and other blogging software companies will be implementing a new html attribute to reduce comment spam; this new attribute — rel=”nofollow” — will keep Google’s spiders from following urls left by people who comment on someone’s blog entry, thus reducing the motivation for spammers to leave comment spam for Google page rank purposes. I don’t know that this makes a difference for this site, since I’ve disabled HTML in comment text areas anyway (I figure you all know how to cut and paste a URL), but if it gets spam comments down overall, I think that’s groovy.
This is some interest to me because recently I’ve noticed an upsurge in comment spam activity here — I’ve been having to clear out close to 100 posts a day. The good news is that it’s pretty darn easy to do in Movable Type 3.11; I cleared out about 70 this morning in three minutes. But of course, it’s still annoying, and there is the unfortunate side effect that while clicking the little boxes to remove comment spam, I occasionally and accidentally remove a legitimate comment, too. I hate it when that happens. I could make my life even more easy by implementing the MT Blacklist functionality, but that involves installing things, and I can already hear my database screaming at the thought of me tinkering with it.
If I were to make a wishlist of things I’d like for Movable Type to implement to make it easier for me to combat comment spam, here’s what I would wish for (and if you know these things exist as add-ons or part of the native MT functionality, please let me know):
1. The ability to delete comments from the actual comment thread, as opposed to having to fire up the MT backend to get at it. Interestingly enough, AOL Journals user have this functionality — they see buttons to delete comments right there as they read; the functionality is keyed to their screenname so no one else can delete anything, of course. Could see MT doing something similar using cookies on a specific browser or through some sort of sign-on implementation.
2. The ability to semi-moderate: I’d love to be able to let messages without HTML coding go through but sequester off html-laden comments until I approved them. This would mean general conversation would continue, since very few “real” commenters here reference URLs, but comment spam would be blocked from showing up at all in the threads; I’d throw them out before they got there.
3. The ability to ban commenters not just by IP (which is pretty useless these days if you’re not running MT blacklist) but also by commenter name. I doubt any real person is name “Phenteramine” or “Online Poker.” This would be a temporary stopgap, of course, as spammers would pick up on it fairly quickly. but what would be reasonably effective is the ability to ban by phrase: That is, have the MT scan through the text and if a specific sequence of words pops up, either block it or drop it into a moderation queue for approval. Since those “phrases” could include URLs which would be constant over many many comment spams, this could be very helpful.
If MT were to implement any of these, it would make my online life easier. Implementing all of them, of course, would make it a joyous skip through the park.
Update: As it happens, Six Apart (who make MT) have recently put out a guide to comment spam which notes a useful plug-in for quasi-moderating: MT-Moderate, which automatically puts comments as “pending” if they’re attached to entries past a certain age (the default is seven days), on the (largely correct in my experience) theory that older entries aren’t likely to get actual comments, they’re likely to get spam (the plugin also notes when a comment has been approved for an older entry and backs off a bit on moderating that particular entry for a day or two to let real-time conversation happen — a nice touch.)
I’ve gone ahead an added MT-Moderate, so if you decide to comment on an entry that’s more than a week old, be aware that there may be a time lag before it shows up, since I’ll need to approve it. But the flip side for me is that comment spam will largely be gone from the site. I love it when a plan comes together.