Comment spam

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that Dan's comment spam problem had gotten pretty bad, so I dropped him a note apologizing for my journal system not doing a better job (or any job, really) of blocking comment spam. I also noted that it was odd that my, Vardibidian's, and Mary Anne's journals almost never got comment spam.

I spoke too soon; within days after I sent that, all three of our journals started getting regular doses of comment spam, though still not nearly as much as Dan's gets.

I have various possible approaches in mind to dealing with the issue, from providing a mass-comment-deletion function to finally switching over to Movable Type (though I realize that MT has its own comment-spam issues). But I figured I might as well implement the quick-and-dirty approach that initially came to mind: I've changed the internal names of the text boxes in the comment-posting form. I'm hoping that the automated comment-spam software isn't smart enough to figure out what an "Ycleption" text box is used for, for example. (I've done this only on my journal for now; if it has a significant effect on spam volume, I'll implement the change in others' journals as well.)

It's possible that the spamming software doesn't pay any attention to text-box names, just fills in every form it finds on a web page. But it does seem to put semi-appropriate values into the various boxes most of the time, so I'm hoping it's tuned to look for certain key words as form-field names.

Anyway, the real reason I'm posting this is to ask that you let me know if you run into any problems posting comments. I've tested the changes, and haven't run into any problems, so I think the change should be entirely transparent to humans. (Except that if you're used to your browser auto-filling the text boxes, that probably won't work the first time you post a comment using the new system.) But for the time being, if you find yourself writing a long comment in my journal, it might be best to copy the comment into some other application before you click the Insert Comment button, just to be sure.

8 Responses to “Comment spam”

  1. Vardibidian

    After starting this note to test the comment-posting, I realized that since I just posted a comment on the previous post, I’ve pretty much already tested it.
    Ah, well.
    Have you been clearing out my spam? I’ve only seen two myself, but whatever you are doing or will do to keep it down, thank you.
    I don’t really understand why Dan gets hit so much harder than we do, though. I particularly noticed that it started as a blasting of poker spam on a note about the MFQ, which linked to my own (unspammed) note. And if I remember correctly, my note talks about poker, and his didn’t. Why aren’t I spam-worthy?

  2. Jed

    I mostly haven’t been clearing out your spam, but I may’ve deleted a few of them a week or so ago by accident.

    Most of my spam is poker spam too, as is most of the spam we get on the Strange Horizons forum. I think the relevance to the MFQ thing was just coincidence; I don’t think the spammers are searching for poker-related blogs or anything.

    (But as I was choosing the title “Poker face” for that entry the other day, I did wonder whether it might cause that entry to get more spam.)

  3. Susan

    MT has its own comment-spam problems, but there’s a brilliant MT plugin that’s solved about 90% of my comment-spam problems (and made it trivial to solve the other 10% on my own). I’m a big fan.

  4. David D. Levine

    Love the new field names!

    Of course, renaming the fields also means that the Google toolbar (and others) won’t be able to autofill. But if it prevents spam, I suppose that’s a small price to pay.

  5. Jed

    Sadly, renaming the fields has not in fact stopped the comment spam. Still pondering other options.

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  7. Vardibidian

    Hee hee!

    (since Jed will undoubtedly remove the previous message… it’s a poker spam comment all apropos’n’stuff.


  8. Jed

    I was about to remove the comment spam, but then I saw V’s comment and agreed that the poker comment spam was amusingly apropos for this entry. So I removed the URLs and the fake email address to make it safe, and left it in place.

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