Note on Handcrafted Spam

So, either spammers are hiring people to glance at entry headlines and then post four-word comments vaguely related to the topic, or their contextual analysis is getting better. Either way, there’s been an uptick in spam getting past Askimet today, obliging me to zap it when it comes along. If you happen to run across it before I zap it, don’t panic. What with the house painters and a neurotic dog freaking out at the house painters, it’s not as if I’m getting anything else done today, so I might as well hunt spam. So I’ll likely get to it in short order.

23 Comments on “Note on Handcrafted Spam”

  1. Well, you know unemployment is pretty high these days. Maybe people have finally become cheaper to hire than computers?

  2. Can anybody recommend a good spam filtery plug-in for a WordPress blog? I’m already getting spam on a blog I recently started up and I worry I’ll be cleaning it out for days should real live human beings actually start reading it.

  3. So, has billionaire bottom-feeder/collections agent Bob Bartmann told you for the fifteen-hundredth time that he’s so glad he found your blog yet?

  4. Make sure as you kill the spam that you sing, in your best Elmer Fudd voice, “Kill the spammer, kill the spammer”.

  5. Sheila, try WP-SpamFree for WordPress. I use it on my site.

    And because I don’t get many comments on my blog, not being a busy and popular author like a certain Mr. Scalzi, they need my approval before they’re published. Helps to catch the more clever spammers out there.

  6. I’m afraid at my blog, I blocked all commenters from Russia. But so far I have yet to have a single commenter from .ru who isn’t a spammer. (Sorry to any Russians who are actual art fans.)

    My spam all reassures me that my post is the best on the topic they’ve ever seen and they’ll be bookmarking my blog as reference. This sort of catch-all doesn’t work when you’re referring to a sketch-art blog. It’s not that I don’t have topics, mind you, but it’s not how most people refer to posted sketches. There’s never any mention of the actual art, or anything that is ever in the post. It’s basically fortune-cookie commenting.


    Pengwynn: I think much the same thing, only in my case, it’s Morrissey singing, “Hang the spammer, hang the spammer, hang the spammer.”

  7. I’ve seen this on a forum I frequent – it’s a bot. It appears to be doing a keyword analysis on the thread it’s replying to, and then grabs a random comment off another forums thread with similar keywords..

    It then posts the comment, which usually appears random and nonsensical, but real enough that it gets it past human moderators. No spam in it. Oh, and also uniformly the comment it chooses is short. It goes for brief because they rightly assume that the longer it is, the more likely the readers are to smell a rat.

    The key is, once it makes it past moderation, it adds a spam sig.

    A little different here, but same idea I’m sure.

  8. I haven’t checked Amazon’s ToS, but that kind of spam seems like a great (in the sense of ‘effective’, not something I actually like) use of the Mechanical Turk. I wonder whether they’ve tried it.

  9. Your spammers are apparently more creative than mine. All my writer’s blog ever sees are the vague, “Read this and enjoyed, hope to see more” from the drug sellers.

    Not even an attempt by a publishing scam artist to get my attention. I’m not at all sorry for this, either.

  10. I’ve been getting a ton of spam of the type that PixelFish mentions on my book blog lately. Sometimes it will even be more relevant than that and say something like “this sounds like an interesting book.” I start to think it is a real comment until I see that the URL is ‘’ or something. Sometimes I kill it, but sometimes I edit the comment to strip the URL and allow it, because I get some sick sense of power from it and find it hilarious to thwart them so.

  11. Rebecca @7 — thanks for the tip! I’ll check it out.

    At this point I’ve been moderating all comments, because they’re few and far between enough to keep up with.

    (Blog is linked to my name in this particular comment, if anybody was curious to see it.)

  12. I know I don’t actually have it to give, but I think Xopher wins an Internet.

    The only place I get spam is on my now mostly abandoned WordPress blog. I know blogger isn’t the greatest platform around, but I hardly ever have to delete spam.

  13. ooh- spam hunting!!! do you use a 12-gauge?? or perfer the Elmer Fudd approach?? My personal favoite is the oversized fly zapper!!!

  14. I second the recommendation of WP-SpamFree. It’s the only thing that works reliably against mostly-automated bots.

    And then there’s the human ones, which are harder, but much rarer.

  15. It is easy with blogger, I make it where I have to approve comments before the come through, but with my new blog with WordPress I am trying to figure out how to do the same.

  16. I have gotten forty thousand spam comments recently. On a blog nobody reads.

    I think I detected one trick, but I am not sure.

    On my stats log there is recorded several searches for the same random non sequitur string, a string that I never typed onto my blog but some spam commenter did.

    I think that someone used that string as a marker that says “we can all pile onto this guy.”

  17. I’ve always hoped that killing the spam URL but leaving their message up would discombobulate the spammers’ checking mechanisms.

    If you get a lot of readers and a lot of spam, encourage the former to watch for and identify the latter. Have everyone cheer for them when they do it, as is only proper.

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