Small Commenting Change

I’ve noticed an uptick recently both in general spam, and also spam that’s getting past the automatic filters on the site. A lot of that spam targets posts that are deep in the archives, so I’ve decided to go ahead and close off commenting on older posts.

Right now the commenting threshold is set to 21 days. I think this is a reasonable amount of time to get comments in. One, the vast majority of comments on any post happen within the first few days anyway. Two, comments that arrive after the first couple of weeks tend to be by flyby cranks who are adding nothing useful in anyway (sometimes good comments get added on late. But there’s much more of the former than the latter).

Because most comments happen in the first few days, I don’t really expect this to present a major change in the site’s utility for most commenters. However, if for some reason it does, drop me a line and let me know; I’ll factor it in for any later tweaks.

35 thoughts on “Small Commenting Change

  1. That’s the pattern I usually see on LJ and since they seem to target specific old posts, I lock those.

    This morning I was not happy to see a couple of dozen spams on a new post….

  2. Makes sense. By synchronicity I wrote this morning, encouraged by David Brin:
    “Transcranial magnetic stimulation?” I said. “Extend the reach of magnetic fields to deeper targets? Shit! I don’t want a plasma beastie flung from Proxima Centauri dicking around in my brain with invisible tentacles.”
    And then I felt something extremely strange.

  3. Usually I don’t post if something has been up two or more days. By that time I figure most people, and yourself, have gone off to another thought and don’t really check back to see any scraggler’s writings.

  4. Yeah, this is a good idea. I’d advise you to ask one of your loyal thralls–I mean, fans–to revise the spam filters every few weeks as well, to help prevent spammers who target new posts. Some sort of adaptive software might be good, too–have a thrall (I mean, fan) mark spam comments that get through as spam, and unspam any real comments that get blocked, so that the software learns what constitutes spam. This ought to quickly adapt to evolving spammers.

  5. Farley, I check the “The Blatherations of Others” list on the side of this blog to see if something has been posted recently in a post I’m interested in. As such, I still check up on the “Ender’s Game, Profit Participation, Box Office” post because there are still people posting there, despite it being 12 days old at this point.

    If it falls off that list, and I’m not actively checking it for other reasons, then I’m likely to miss scraggler’s writings.

  6. I’ve often seen spam on some very old threads, which I report by email. This will help.

    I wonder, can you disable this for particular posts that happen to go on and remain interesting? Or does that just not happen in your experience?

  7. “Comments were left open on Tom Disch’s blog for seven years after his death, as a memorial. The blog itself is still up.” — yes, but I was upset for years because each time he posted an uber-depressing poem, I wrote and posted an OPTIMISTIC poem on the same theme, and he’d delete it. I did not understand that he was on the brink of suicide. He once autographed a book of his poetry to me, adding in the page: “If you don’t win a Rhysling Award in 5 years, we’re no longer friends.” So I did. I miss the man. A rare genius in our field, and several other fields, including Opera Criticism. Brilliant and tortured.

  8. I want to echo Xopher’s remark on the older-but-still-vital posts: there are ‘classics’ that still get linked and flagged and bring in new people from other, non-seweristic parts of the internet. (I think I personally commented on one of the posts about the suckage of teen writers several years after the post had been written.) (I was not trying to sell knock-off shoes or herbal remedies.)

    Examples here are the posts on Unsolicited Financial Advice, Being Poor, and the set on Why It’s Okay That Your Writing Sucks When You’re a Teenager.

    I would like to enter a plea that it would be of real value to allow new readers to comment on these posts, which do attract new readers, whose comments might be of the “OMG, why didn’t I find this post years ago?” type. I sometimes see them pop up on the “Blatherations” list; and every time I link to one of them, and/or re-read one, I notice there are still other people discovering them.

  9. Beth has a point there. I still think that the new policy is generally a good idea, but maybe some of the “classic” posts could remain open? Have a thrall–I mean, fan–monitor them if spam starts to be a problem.

  10. There is a little problem if you use the archives to look at old posts. If I open, say, Sept 13, I get a page of posts but none of them mention comments.

    I know that I can see the comments by opening a post, but unless you know that you might think there are no comments to these older posts.

    I’m using Chrome on Android; it might be different on other browsers. It might be different for the blog owner.

  11. I’m still trying to fathom the reason that a spammer would target the comments on a 2 year old post. Do new comments on old posts bump them up in search engines, so that necro-threads suddenly get a higher search rank and more attractive when filled with post-dated ads for Korean shoes and get-rich-quick schemes? There should be a point after which schemes for posting under the radar are counter productive.

  12. Yeah, the teen writers posts are the only ones I think of that might warrant an exception. But I haven’t checked them in a while. They may be totally dead.

  13. You might consider reopening comments on select older posts when you link to older posts or follow up on them in a newer post. That way people can follow your reference back and comment on it directly instead of the new post.

  14. TheMadLibrarian: Yes, partly, if they link back to the page they’re selling (because search engines count how many pages link to a particular page). Sometimes, though, there’s no link, and that we call a “spam probe” — the spammers are just testing to see what blogs don’t clean up spam in comment threads, so if John doesn’t kill those, commercial lings will follow.

  15. Have you ever considered that the most likely candidate for a program likely to pass the Turing test is a spambot trying to get past your filters, and you’re setting yourself up for being the first sent to the disintegration vats when the machine takes over…?

  16. FWIW, I’ve noticed that the vast majority of spam comments that make it through the filters on my blog (a WordPress.com blog, which means it uses Akismet) have facebook.com URLs. Sending those to auto-moderation catches the vast majority of spam (and so far there haven’t been any false positives — none of the facebook.com comments have turned out to be legitimate).

  17. On your “Big Idea” posts, I have been known to go back and comment months after the post, once I had read the book. I think sometimes it’s not even commercially available as of the date the post goes up, right? So I think there is an argument for allowing comment on those for longer.

  18. I like the ability to comment on older posts, especially when they become relevant again, but if the policy changes I’ll just adapt.

  19. but but but the BACON POST. We’ll have to go back to e-mailing you every time we see a new bacon-related news story, product, urban legend, or if we just had some really excellent bacon for breakfast!

  20. you can require people to make an account and login in order to keep spammers out. Id have no problem making an account. Many spammers use programs to post on sites and forcing people to login should cut this down radically. Now some of them may be set up to log in, but creating an account somewhere is not that hard.

    I dont have an account, but Id make one. Its really not a big deal.

  21. I have a really small readership (like, *really* small) but I’ve noticed a relative flood of spam comments in the past 2-3 months. IMO spam = an irrelevant and grammatically-incorrect sentence or paragraph from a username that is a web address, not an actual name. I mark them all as spam, but TypePad apparently has really bad filters that do not learn.

    TypePad sucks in general at the moment (still can’t post photos using Windows 8), but still. My solution was similar to John’s … just went in and closed comments pretty much across the board. People who actually want to say something to me can still use the “contact me” email link.

  22. Picking up on earlier comments in this thread, I think you have a handful of excellent older posts that need to stay open for comment. Teenage Writers Suck, Being Poor, Easy Level for us white males, come immediately to mind. I suggest you create a new sidebar with just those select older posts included, say no more than a dozen of them, and keep the comments open for the select list. Monitoring spam for just those few would not be a terrible administrative burden. You could change the list from time to time. Then close down all your other older posts as you described the policy change for this thread. I always find it interesting to see what new comments come up for these “classic” posts of yore.

    And hey, what do I have to do to put my photo next to my thread comments here instead of the nice graphic your site places for those of us without a photo? Others have photos.

  23. cacha, I’m pretty much in the same situation (except I use Blogger which is pretty good dealing with recurring spam). I have a history blog that gets updated twice a month at best, I call more than 5 comments high traffic, and I _still_ get spam on older posts. Just well I moderate comments anyway.

  24. I’m always concerned that someone will either ask me a question or reply to a comment of mine in a thread I’d thought long abandoned, and I feel like I’m being rude by not answering or at least reading what was said. Closure is welcome.

  25. No worries here. From time to time I feel the urge to add something to a thread that I come to late, but if comments are locked and it’s more than 3 weeks old, I figure I’m just a day late and a dollar short. Plus if I scan the whole thread, I’ll probably find someone who already made that point anyway.

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