Stop Human Comment Spammers

Filed as Features on July 11, 2007 9:07 am

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Stop human comment spammersThe latest uproar in the blogosphere is a new service which will pay bloggers to comment on blogs. Liz Strauss writes about it in “Now You, Too, Can Be a Spammer for Only US$19.99″ and Problogger’s Darren Rowse, calling it a “sick comment spam service”.

Liz previously brought up the issue of ethics and paid comments, and I’ve talked about the growing risk from human comment spammers. This new service is one that is making a lot of bloggers very unhappy, and some believe it gives blogging a very bad name.

The idea is that you hire and pay this company to find “blogs within your target market” and their hired “commenters” will read the blog post and comment as if they were you, leaving a link to your blog in he comment form and/or comment signature.

Off the top of my head, I see four things happening from such bought comments:

  1. No relationship is established between the blogger receiving the comment and the paying blogger. Total disconnect.
  2. If people find out that you are paying others to comment on blogs – well, that’s a reputation breaker.
  3. Signatures in comments are now suspect.
  4. All comments are now suspect and bloggers may take drastic measures like turning off all comments. Thus the spammers win because we are losing the interactive connection with our audience.

Blogging already has a questionable reputation. Ask anyone what they know about blogging and you will get a lesson in perception. “It’s a bunch of people sharing their fantasies.” “It’s just babble.” “A bunch of egocentric gossipers talking about the daily crap in their lives.” “It’s an online diary.” “How can anyone read that dribble?” “A lot of people with too much time on their hands.” “It’s corrupting children.” “It’s not safe.” And on and on.

Comment spam creates a fear in many potential and new bloggers. They long for that first comment but fear a deluge of spam crap filling up their blogs, wasting their time. It costs blogging a lot of money and time, and it sucks the joy out of the experience.

Blog comment spam is an attack. An attack that often hits at your spirit. Pages upon pages of sex, money, gambling, cars, mortgages, drugs, more sex, ugly sex, and even violent sex. After a while, the non-stop deluge of “Cool!”, “Nice!”, “Sorry!” grows tiresome and exasperating. Even using Akismet to capture and protect against comment spam, many still pour through the captured comment spam, looking for the ones that got scooped up that shouldn’t have. As you scroll through pages of this disgusting trash, it can’t help but affect you.

After several years of clearly identifiable comment spam, this human threat notches up the fear response even more. This threat is going to give blogging a really bad name.

Clearly seeing the threat for a long time, I’ve challenged bloggers to brainstorm ways to stop comment spam at the root, non on our blogs. Unless we stop comment spamming from being the lucrative business it is, there is no comment spam filter or gimmick you can use that will put an end to this. They have to be cut off from the money root.

Again, whining, complaining, and increasing comment spam fighting efforts on your blog is not going to stop this or change things. So far, the blogosphere and web has done a fairly good job policing itself. And the web is filled with intelligent and creative thinkers. Among all these brilliant minds must be an idea to help stop comment spam, especially human comment spammers.

What can we do to make bloggers who choose this money making effort not make the choice, and what can we do to stop comment spam at the source.

Let’s give human comment spammers a very bad name.

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  1. By Liz Strauss posted on July 11, 2007 at 9:18 am
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    Yeah, Lorelle,
    It’s a two-fold issue to me. The first part is that it’s my property. I want to keep it nice for my visitors. I don’t want them to have to walk around bits of trash and false friends when they want to say “hello.”

    The second is that uninvited paid commenters aren’t welcome in my living room and they aren’t welcome in my comment box. I provide that to have meaningful conversation. Those comments, when and if they make it through are interruption and distractions, that steal time and bandwidth without my permission.

    Thanks for writing this. :)

    Reply

  2. By Mark posted on July 11, 2007 at 10:06 am
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    I find it interesting you choosed these words.

    Blogging already has a questionable reputation.

    At one time, electronic mail had a questionable reputation and was only known to the military. People used to say ‘oh, that’s top secret stuff, silly toys used by the military. just another example of our tax dollars hard at work.’

    And now it is known as email, a worldwide phenomena. Blogs are already catching on, CNN, Wall Street, Consumer Reports are slowly gaining new subscribers everyday with their blogs. Are comment spammers really that big of a concern?

    Judging from the amount of spam in my hotmail account, I am not too concerned about the comment spammers any more than I am about email spammers.

    Just hold the comments for moderation and delete any spam that slipped through.

    Reply

  3. By David Zemens posted on July 11, 2007 at 10:21 am
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    Even in my tiny part of the Internet, I am getting these “Nice” comments. I guess I should be happy, on one hand, that they have found me. But on the other hand…

    I am afraid I have no solution to the question posed. I am confident, however, that those tech minds far brighter than mine will help us with a solution. Just like comment spammers find a way around most obstructions to their behavior, bright minds find a way to block their new path.

    It’s a vicious circle, no doubt. Keep your chin up!

    Reply

  4. By Mark posted on July 11, 2007 at 10:28 am
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    How simple! You’re right Lorelle – if only it weren’t worth it they wouldn’t do it. So, you’re question is – how does anyone make it not worth it for a spammer?

    And therein lies an uncomplicated answer somewhere I hope! This puke truly is disgusting and we all need to find a way to end it. Take the money out of it!!! Battle Cry!

    Reply

  5. By Rhys posted on July 11, 2007 at 10:55 am
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    I guess my response would be “Wait and see.” I do what the first mark suggests – keep new comments in a moderation queue. Human spamming is bad in principle, but remember – we are humans too, and we alone can judge what should and should not go on our blog.

    Reply

  6. By Greg Balanko-Dickson posted on July 11, 2007 at 12:38 pm
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    Personally, if I were to catch a nice commenter was a paid commenter, I would mark them as spam in Askimet, problem solved.

    Reply

  7. By macewan posted on July 11, 2007 at 2:38 pm
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    I’m with errowatry on this. Lorelle is a superhero. Seriously, as I think about the plasma tv errowatry will purchase from the money earned on that comment – I’d like to see the demographics of folks that participate in the will comment for food group.

    Reply

  8. By BeachBum posted on July 11, 2007 at 2:50 pm
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    I can’t say that I am for or against “Paid Comments”.

    If a “Paid” commenter comes and reads my content in order to leave a comment, then I at least got them to read my content.

    The “Paid Comments” service is only new to the little guys who don’t understand economics. Anyone can hire a VA in a 3rd world country to do this fom them cheaper then $20.

    I manually approve all my comments.

    Here is an idea. Allow comments, but don’t show them. Like a “Suggestion Box”. Visitors can interact with you and you can email them back if you want, but the dialog is not for public display.

    BeachBum

    Reply

  9. By Dennis posted on July 11, 2007 at 3:02 pm
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    Jon has really caused an uproar in the blogging community. I wonder if all this bad publicity is actually helping his business.

    Reply

  10. My Email spam » Blog Archive » Stop Human Comment SpammersJuly 11, 2007 at 3:23 pm
  11. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on July 11, 2007 at 3:26 pm
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    Dennis: I’m sure you’re right. There are those out there who will think “Great idea” without thinking it through and the publicity helps. Which is why I didn’t name names.

    However, for those who think that “any comment” is better than no comments, and that such paid comments are a blessing that “someone really read my stuff” – you are deluding yourselves.

    These people don’t care. They aren’t going to write on a blog “Check out this brilliant article!” and link to yours. They aren’t going to talk about the interesting blog post they read today over the dinner table or with their friends. It’s just a job. They will read only enough to make a coherent comment and then head to the next one. And the next one. Your blog is just one in a conveyor belt of blogs. They don’t give a rip about who you are or what you blog.

    The big elephant in the room in this is that you won’t know what’s a paid comment or not. Few write good comments, so how would you know if a mediocre comment is valid and a perfectly coherent and spelled comment is a paid one?

    Moderation and other torture tests also won’t work. Since a human can pass them, and “sound valid” then how are you to know if the comment is valid or not?

    How would you feel if a new friend you were eager to learn more about turned out to not be who they said they were? Wouldn’t that hurt?

    If you like a comment and then connect with that blogger, saying “Thanks for your comment. I’d love to discuss this further with you.” and they have no idea what you are talking about – or do but then have to scramble to find out what “they” left on your blog – it’s not a good footing for building a relationship, is it.

    And if I find out they weren’t the originator behind the comment – oh, boy, watch out.

    Revenge has no fury like a scorned blogger.

    Reply

  12. By Darnell Clayton posted on July 12, 2007 at 2:59 am
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    Lorelle, you may be over reacting a bit. In the US, blogging is increasingly gaining respect.

    A year ago I use to say I blogged part time (as I started earning money from it) and I got weird looks. Now people ask how they can join the party.

    As far as human comment spammers go, I’ve been dealing with them for a while. The only “good” measure I know that deters them is the dreaded “word verifications,” or CAPTCHA’s.

    Askimet only goes so far, and many spammers know how to change their IP or mask it to avoid being blocked (as I’ve seen them even get past TechCrunch).

    Although they can pass CAPTHCHA’s, they seem to loathe having to re-type those funky letters again (and again and again) after deletion. I battled one annoying guy for about a week. After seven days of his crap on my site, he gave up and moved on.

    Reply

  13. By Ronin posted on July 12, 2007 at 7:27 am
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    I guess the whole issue with this “human comment spam” problem is the fact that “people are paid to spam, and that hurts the integrity of people as responsible sharers of electronic information”.

    I agree with you that this should be eradicated at the source. Question is, at this point, how are you capable of dealing with the problem that affects a medium of communication that has already raised eyebrows among the “mainstream” crowd?

    So far, all I do is hold on comments for moderation and see if the people who leave comments are even “trustworthy” (I guess even that too can be arbitrary) to place their comments on my blog, my personal space on the Web.

    Reply

  14. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on July 12, 2007 at 1:23 pm
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    Yes, blogging is gaining respect, but it has a lot of negative myths associated with it that it has to overcome. And anything that gets in the way and adds fuel to the negative aspects hurts its reputation.

    Reply

  15. To Each Their Own? Depends…July 12, 2007 at 3:41 pm
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  17. By Lee Grey posted on July 12, 2007 at 9:12 pm
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    I agree that this is a disappointing development. I don’t think it reflects poorly on blogging, though, anymore than spamming reflects poorly on people who send email.

    If you want to see if a comment is legitimate, it would be wise to click through the commenter’s URL and see what kind of site you find.

    If you want to completely remove the incentive for posting spam comments, don’t allow URLs in comments.

    Reply

  18. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on July 13, 2007 at 12:22 am
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    Good point, Lee. Now, let’s follow through on that thought.

    To see if a comment is legitimate, you visit the URL. If you like what you see, you comment or contact the blog author in response to their comment.

    They may quickly visit your blog, if you have told them what it is, to find out what “they said” on your blog, since it wasn’t really them, or reply in a way then or over time that makes you discover they they aren’t the person who left the comment.

    They hired a company to post comments on blogs because it’s quicker to pay someone than do it themselves.

    Now, how does your perception of them as a blogger change? Does it remain the same? Or do you wonder if they even write their own blog content? Maybe they are cheating on that, too? What else are they doing that is a bit underhanded? Hmmm?

    Reply

  19. By Webomatica posted on July 13, 2007 at 1:29 am
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    I’m likewise disappointed in this development as it’s basically a short cut and cheating individual bloggers out of one of the most rewarding things of blogging – reading other people’s blogs, commenting on them – the relationship between individuals.

    Reply

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  25. By Josie Smith posted on May 10, 2008 at 5:02 pm
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    I agree that it should be stop in human comment spammers because it affect to those who are trying their best just to post a comment which they putting a brilliant ideas.

    Reply

  26. WTF Blog Clutter: The Death of the CAPTCHA | The Blog HeraldSeptember 8, 2008 at 4:13 pm
  27. By the goddess posted on December 16, 2008 at 9:52 am
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    I have been having an interesting discussion on my blog on this very subject. I did some research and found this article. I know it was written a while ago but it is obviously still a big problem.

    See the following link for the discussion. (My site is a personal blog and is in no way commercial so forgive my posting the links in the comments)

    http://www.keitaigoddess.com/index.php/site/entries/comment_spammers_parasites/
    http://www.keitaigoddess.com/index.php/site/entries/comment_spammers_parasites_deux/

    Reply

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