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Bad Comments/Spam The Same?

Posted by on Feb 28, 2012
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A couple of weeks ago I had to do something I hadn’t thought about doing in a long while. I had to turn on the Akismet spam plugin once again after a major increase in the number of spam messages I was starting to get. I had hoped that the GASP Anti-Spambot plugin would have taken care of all of that, but it seems people have found their way around it.


I’m eating a cupcake;
don’t ask lol

Even with both programs running, spam is at an all time high for me. It’s not unexpected as the ranking of this blog moves higher, and I don’t think it’s gotten to the level where it’s driving me as crazy as it does some of my friends, who often go to extreme measures trying to kill it, even turning off comments sometimes, which I don’t like as you know.

Part of the problem, of course, are what are considered “bad comments”. On my 1,200th post back in January I mentioned a conversation I had with Adrienne Smith and her contention that some comments aren’t worth keeping on your blog and that she just gets rid of them so that she can respond to everyone else and show a 100% response rate on her blog. What we both believe is that there are a number of people paid to post comments and have links going back to other sites, and most of these people are paid so little that it’s all in the numbers for them, not the quality of the comment.

This begs the question as to whether bad comments and spam are the same thing. It can be a volatile question to respond to because the kneejerk response is “yes”. And yet, I haven’t quite gotten to that point yet where I consider the two as symbiotic 100% of the time.

I’ve read some bad comments with a lot of grammatical errors and thought that it might be spam, but the comment was touching upon the subject matter so I follow the CommentLuv link back to its source and see the same type of writing on the blog. Suddenly that’s not a bad comment, just someone with lousy writing skills.

Is a bad comment a one-liner? Well, that’s up for grabs because I’ve been told by some people that on some of my posts I really don’t leave much for anyone to say if they agree with me on the topic. Frankly I buy that argument only half the time because I’ve always been able to comment on a blog with more than a one liner and make sure the author knows I read the post. But not everyone can do that so how does one judge that? I do judge those posts, and I eliminate a lot of them, just so you know, but not all of them.

What makes a bad comment is almost the same thing as what makes spam. Ergo, some highlights:

* Repeating the title of the post in the comment

* Repeating specific phrases from the content without adding anything new to it

* Writing something so generic that it applies to everything and nothing at the same time

* Writing a lot of nonsense and then popping my name in somehow; that’s pretty sneaky

* Trying to slip a link in that has nothing to do with the topic but everything to do with linking back to your site; isn’t CommentLuv enough for you?

* Writing one comment that looks passable, immediately followed by another comment that’s from the same IP address on the same post; what could you be thinking?

I think that’s enough to think about. Here’s the big question up for debate; do you think bad comments and spam are the same thing? The secondary question is what do you do about it?
 

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31 Comments »

Hey Mitch, good post. This is really starting to get to me.

I’ve been considering turning off comments on many of my older posts and setting the comments to turn off after “x” number of days (maybe 14 or so).

I’ve obviously gotten onto a list or something because the spam is through the roof and it literally drains my energy just thinking about dealing with it.

To your point here, a big problem is trying to figure out which ones are just bad vs actual spam comments. It has gotten tougher and tougher!

I don’t consider bad comments to be the same as spam, sometimes a 1-liner looks suspicious, but I can’t blame people for not being as long-winded as me lol.

Sometimes I have to actually go and paste the phrase into my browser search field to make sure the commenter has not just copied text from the article or even another comment.

But that takes a lot of time, too.

I see now why people turn off dofollow or turn off comments entirely. I might turn on Akismet again myself just to try to alleviate some of this stuff.

If I just completely turned off comments and dofollow, how long would it take spam networks to catch on and stop coming around at all? If I waited a month would I be off the radar? I wonder.

It will take some genius wunderkind to come along and solve this problem, I fear. I don’t expect a solution in our lifetime LOL…
John Garrett recently posted…Monday Comics – The WRATH of Old Man WinterMy Profile

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

John, what I’ve found is that the people who are paid to post lousy comments will stop coming around, but all the other spam will continue trying to get in because it has no concept that you’ve shut anything down. I have to tell you that since I started putting the IP addressed into the Discussion blacklist that it’s started to slow down some, but that does nothing for those comment we consider are bad.

As for shutting down comments after a certain point, I had set mine to 365 days, then just recently opened it back up to 500 days. That’s because I tend to link back to older posts and I hope people who visit them might want to say something, since many of those posts are, well, timeless.

February 28th, 2012 | 10:24 AM

“Great post” type comments and comments by people who clearly didn’t read the post are basically spam, since they’re a) annoying and b) promoting a product via an SEO’d author name. It can be annoying guest posting when the blog owner expects you to reply to these comments.
Murray Newlands recently posted…Monitoring the Oscars Buzz – Future of Engagement and NipplesMy Profile

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

True Murray, and I delete those posts, as well as the ones asking about my theme. Come on, that’s the best these guys can come up with? lol

February 28th, 2012 | 2:02 PM
Rachel Lavern:

Hi Mitch,

Aren’t a lot of people commenting on blogs using some sort of automation to do so? That was my understanding of the source of a lot of spamy comments. I like automation as much as the next person; however, in blogging one should actually be involved in the process and add to the conversation rather than simply make generic comments.

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Not anymore Rachel. See, I run this plugin that catches the bots, so it’s actual people being paid to post the comments. The plugin also shuts down trackbacks, which a lot of people allow because they think most of them link to a quality website, but they don’t always.

February 28th, 2012 | 2:24 PM

Hi Mitch,

I have also read the post by Adrienne, and I agree with her, but I still keep approving short comments like “nice post”. Well, maybe not that short, but you get my point.

The reason I do it, is because I like feedback, and especially positive feedback. And sometimes I really need it. And even though I understand that it’s spam or a way to get backlinks, I keep thinking that they gave me some valuable feedback in exchange for the link :)
Jens P. Berget recently posted…Content Development for Real Business ResultsMy Profile

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

I can understand that Jens, but they really don’t. Valuable feedback helps either advance the conversation or teaches you or someone else something. “Great post” is just noise, and the links… if you look at them you realize they’re junk, and now, if you read my previous post, you can see what they’re linking to and see if the site looks junks as well.

February 28th, 2012 | 2:25 PM

The borderline between bad comments and genial comments cannot be marked by one person. I could picture myself, that somebody has read the blog and has understood it, but she/he doesn’t have perfect grammar/writing skills.
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Actually, it can Julie. It’s easy to tell a bad comment from someone with bad writing skills. For me, if the message looks like it makes sense, I can forgive the bad writing. If I’m unsure I’ll often follow the link back to their website. If their website has the same type of writing I’ll let it go; if the website is perfect, then I’ll kill it. After all, if I’m not worthy of the same attention people give to their own sites, then they’re not worthy either.

However, I think most of us can easily tell.

February 28th, 2012 | 6:26 PM

Since there is no button on wordpress for “This comment doesn’t make any sense” I label those as spam. I don’t want my readers reading my blog and then scratching their heads because the comments don’t match what the post is about.
DeAnna Troupe recently posted…Review of Multiplayer by John C. Brewer (kindle version)My Profile

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

I’m with you DeAnna. Those fake comments take away from the conversation.

February 28th, 2012 | 7:12 PM

There is a black hat software, actually there are two, one is very expensive and is very mature software, by expensive I mean more than $700, it is developed by Russian company, generally it can submit more than 100k comments a day and it can bypass captcha images, GASP tick boxes, akismet, etc; as well as it can rotate images and names. The other software is cheaper, but can do the same things, including use of private proxy servers, which makes impossible spam filters to catch the spammer.
There is one thing, if spammers get smart, everybody would be happy and I hope some of them are reading this, but I doubt, to make a spam comments that looks real, they need to go very deep into particular niche, for example collect blogs for a keyword like “top 10 best wordpress plugins for travel websites”, so they can 5 spun comments which are rotated and submitted to 100 blogs for example, they everything should look ok. However those guys, I want to use another word, but I try to hold myself, spam everything and everybody with “thank you”, “excellent post”, “keep them coming” , etc.

Well this is just one part of the game, I am happy that you’ve wrote this post, but I’ve recently found out that one of the “A-List bloggers” also spam several of my websites, I hope it is not him and probably he have outsource the work to somebody, but this make me quite unhappy.

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Carl, don’t give these guys ideas! lol Actually, I’ve had that same thought, and I’m glad the folks using this stuff haven’t quite figured it out yet. As to the A-lister, I hope they’ve just been hacked rather than hired someone to do as you suggest. That would be a shame and you know me, I’d call them out on it.

Carl Reply:

I am willing to believe that the A-lister have hired someone, as the same appeared in one of the Facebook groups that I manage. I will contact him and will find out.
Carl recently posted…Use Edible Flowers For VarietyMy Profile

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Good move Carl, and that’s a shame.

February 28th, 2012 | 9:53 PM

Nah Mitch. I couldn’t say whether I’m agree with you or not. Because, sometimes, people just couldn’t say too much. And so because of that, I don’t think spam and bad comments are the same. They were all maybe done poorly, but with different purposes, and you can see it thou. Just my opinion. :)
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February 29th, 2012 | 2:46 AM

I have done exactly what you did and agree that bad comments can be allowed to stay. I however do not respond to them as I inevitably do the good ones, unless, despite the bad language, there is a valid point being raised.

Cup cake – naughty, naughty!
Rummuser recently posted…All My Troubles Are Over.My Profile

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

LOL! I deserved that cupcake that day Rummuser, as well as the few bottles of water people kept bringing me. Glad we’re on the same page with the comments.

February 29th, 2012 | 8:51 AM

My first test for the commenters is to check whether they have spent ‘enough’ time on the article and the comment :) If they haven’t read it completely, ask foolish questions or ‘fill in’ statements like sub-standard television journalists, I just delete them. If the commenter is someone I know, I might just delete the non-value adding comment. If it’s a stranger, I mark it as spam.

To your question, well, spam and bad comments are pretty much the same for you as a blogger and for your other readers. On the other hand, for the commenter it’s beneficial – SEO and all that crap that we talk about. However, most spam are electronically generated whereas for a bad comment there’s manual effort. Perhaps, it’s worth appreciating that lol.

Well, I must add that I have lost quite a few commenters on my blog :)
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

As you said Ajith, they probably weren’t real commenters anyway. And at least I still stop by from time to time. :-) I’m with you on the standard stuff that doesn’t really address anything in the post; no sense keeping any of that stuff.

February 29th, 2012 | 9:21 PM

The types off comments you talk about are normally easy to spot, copy some text from the article add a bit of your own spin, thats an old trick now.

One thing to consider might be the use of social media comments instead of wordpress. That way you will deter this sort of activity at a stroke and attract more of an audience.

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Peter, I hate those things! Strange as this might seem, I don’t want to be tracked by Facebook by having to sign into it to make a comment. If I want to “like” a post for FB that’s one thing, but if people want to see how I’m commenting on someone’s site they can visit the person’s blog that I’m commenting on. It may cut down on some spam, but I’m just not ready to go that far.

Peter Davies Reply:

Fair enough – whatever your comfortable with. Funnily enough Ive just re enabled wordpress comments on the natural health site as so few were willing to leave FB comments. Its a great idea in principle but I think many people are like you in this respect.

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

I think so Peter. Sometimes we just won’t participate even if we recognize the blogger’s intention is to create a spam-free zone. But you know how I am already. lol

March 1st, 2012 | 3:48 AM

When I see a short comment that’s general and vague, I immediately assume this person didn’t take the time to read the post. Otherwise, they would have taken a few more seconds to contribute something meaningful. There are some borderline comments, and I give those the benefit of the doubt, usually with an equally concise reply. But the longer you do this, the more fine-tuned your instincts become for spotting spam and other phony comments. You know that better than I do, Mitch. Congratulations on passing 1,200!
Charles Gulotta recently posted…Our Cats Ate SpaghettiMy Profile

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Thanks Charles. You’ve called it on the statement that we get to know spam when we see it at a certain point if we’re paying attention to the comments. If I can’t find someth8ing more than a one-liner to say on someone’s blog, I just won’t comment unless it’s something funny. But all of us want to know that the comment we’re getting is really because of what we wrote and not just to try to get a link to another place.

March 3rd, 2012 | 10:38 AM

lol, Charles and Mitch – does that we know it when we see it mean spam is also like art?

I love that I can take the comment luv of a suspicious comment and checking ‘latest post’ is one way I determine if a comment is spam or not. I do get a fair number of folks outside of English speaking countrified so try to be reasonably relaxed in my approach, except, of course, when I’m not.
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Anne, it’s pretty simple for the most part. If the comment has nothing to do with the post it’s spam. If all it does is repeat what your topic was and says how good it was, it’s spam. If it’s a one liner and you don’t know the person, consider it spam. Yeah, it’s pretty easy at a certain point. :-)

March 5th, 2012 | 11:30 AM

Your highlights are a fact but pretty funny! I think spam is worse than bad comments. Well, they’re both irritating. Then again, depends on how you define “bad” comments. Some bad ones might be spam. On the whole, I think spamming is worse. Sounds like random post by random people just to pollute your awesome blog. But for bad comments, it might make sense what they’re trying to say, just don’t know how to say it (perhaps)?
Do what you’re doing right now. I think that’s working. Your blog looks dedicated and awesome! *keep up the great work*
Alicia recently posted…Top 10 Free Magazine WordPress ThemesMy Profile

Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Alicia, the way I see it is it’s my blog, and the blog owner always has the right to keep or eliminate whatever they feel doesn’t represent their blog in the proper fashion. I excuse language where I figure the person is from another country and is trying, but most bad comments easily show themselves for what they are.

March 8th, 2012 | 12:36 PM