Tag Archives: comment spam

Akismet blogging compliment spam election electoral college exact phrase search Google Google Webmaster Central nofollow PageRank plugin presidential election SEO social engineering social software spam trust webspam WordPress

Blog Comment Spam is Not Solved

With all the comment spam, trackback spam, and pingback spam out there, developers have created some pretty powerful anti-spam tools. So why did I create a small, not-so-powerful anti-spam WordPress plugin like O RLY?

Here’s a screenshot of my pending comments a little while back. Notice the second comment, which slipped past Akismet:

o-rly-spam-comments1

Apparently some dude named Casey Fronczek wanted to let my readers know about his fishing trips. I clicked on the O RLY button, and here’s what Google had to show me:

o-rly-spam-comments2

This spam comment showed up about 17,000 times!

This is an interesting case because it shows that spammers aren’t always looking to place links or pass PageRank. They are always looking for some kind of payoff though, and you can see the roundabout technique here. Hopefully anyone interested in fishing trips in southern Florida will Google this guys relatively unique name and result in a sale. You may also see phone numbers, ICQ or other IM accounts, and similar contact information in some comment spam.

This is a little tougher to automatically delete because a spammy link is a really good signal for an automated filter. Hopefully if people have enough little tools, we bloggers can improve the state of the web as a whole. Get the plugin from WordPress.org, and please let me know of other good anti-spam plugins in the comments.

Sick of compliment spam on your blog?

Not amused One of the great things about having a blog is getting comments on your posts. It’s particularly gratifying when someone takes the time to tell you that your post was helpful, entertaining, or well-written.

Spammers know this and exploit it by generating compliment spam. They’ll put together a few lines of general praise and slather them across the web, hoping that bloggers will fall for the trick and post their spammy links.

Abusive social engineering like this really annoys me, so when in doubt I always do a Google exact phrase search to see if the compliment is really for me and not from a bot. This is tedious, so I created a simple WordPress plugin: O RLY Comment Spam Search.

You can get the plugin directly from WordPress.org, where you can also give it a rating to tell other webmasters how great (or non-great) it is. By the way, the plugin browser/installer added in WordPress 2.7 is very cool, and makes it much easier to try out plugins.

Judging by the thousands of blogs my O RLY searches have found, this sort of spam works. But why do spammers do it? Since WordPress (and most major blog systems) nofollow links in comments by default, the spammers can’t expect to gain any PageRank from these links. My guess is most of this spam is either intended to get traffic via clickthroughs or is generated by naive site owners, SEOs and marketers who don’t really understand how things work.

Take a look and let me know if it’s useful in the comments below. Also, let me know if it’s breaking on certain comments or otherwise buggy.

Okay, we should dump the Electoral College – but no need to spam my blog!

One of the things I mentioned in my last post was how the Electoral College distorts the vote in favor of those in small-population states.

I got a comment from NationalPopularVote.com along these lines…

The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided “battleground” states. In 2004 two-thirds of the visits and money were focused in just six states; 88% on 9 states, and 99% of the money went to just 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people were merely spectators to the presidential election. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the winner-take-all rule under which all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

They make a good argument, and I agree with them, but I find it pretty reprehensible that they are spamming blogs to make their point.  If the comment is on-topic, why do I call it spamming?  Grab a snippet of text and do an exact-phrase Google search by wrapping quotes around it, like this:

http://www.google.com/search?q=%22of+the+states+and+people+were+merely+spectators+to+the+presidential%22

As of this writing there are 233 occurrences of the exact same comment slathered all over the web.  It looks like they’re using an automated program to watch Technorati or Google Blog Search for posts about the Electoral College and autopost the same comment.  I’m going to email them and ask that they stop.

The phrase search is a good technique for discovering compliment spam as well.

In any event, we already looked at the fact that some people’s votes count four times as much because they live in a state with a small population.  Do the NationalPopularVote.com folks have a point about swing states?

One way to look at the power of your vote is to figure out the likelihood that yours will decide the election.  By this definition, it helps a little to be in a small-population state but the most important factor is how close the election is in your state – your best bet is to live in a swing state.  Andrew Gelman has a great article explaining why, but it’s pretty intuitive.  If you live in a safe Democrat state, for example, it doesn’t matter if you live in California or Rhode Island – your vote is much less likely to be the one to flip the state to one side or the other.  The same is true for safe Republican states, from Texas to Wyoming.