Death and Spam
The popular expression warns us that death and taxes are the only two certainties, but I'm worried we may need to add spam to the list. Publish any material that draws readership on the Web and invites reader feedback and you can be certain sure you will be swimming in spam soon enough.
One of the biggest reasons I switched to my own blogging engine was to fine tune my spam control strategy. Until today, the system was that I received an email anytime a comment was posted to this blog and it was a single keystroke to remove any offensive content. While that was as simple as I can think to make a process, the fact was that it still wasn't good enough.
The spammers ramped up their efforts until I was facing about 50 useless posts every 12 hours. While I didn't mind clearing them, the fact was that visitors were probably seeing spam due to the regularity of the postings and the time between the post and my clearing it. Obviously, there was at least spam on the blog while I slept each night.
Call me old fashioned, but I don't believe you should run into spam while reading a programming blog. I think you should be able to enjoy the on-topic content and post here in peace. I also don't believe in security systems that hassle posters, like a CAPTCHA.
Given that, I've decided to turn the tables on the spammers. All comments are now held for my approval before they are posted. While I do regret the loss of immediacy, the truth is that your comment will typically be live in a matter of hours and we don't really need anything faster than that here. If we can come to accept that small concession, we gain a perfect spam filter and neither you or I have to worry about what you will see here anymore. I feel it's worth the trade.
Antonio Cangiano March 21st, 2008 Reply Link
James, I think you did the right thing. I switched to approval based comments a few months ago, and it was the best decision I've ever made for my blog. My readers have not read any spam messages (previously porn comments ended up in my feed) and I also managed to filter some inappropriate comments (e.g. "I hope you die, you deserve it") and obvious trolls (e.g. "Ruby sucks, dude. If you use it, you must be a very lame programmer"). I'm happy about this arrangement and wouldn't go back no matter how immediate the previous system was. I also found that the theory of broken windows applies here. Intelligent comments with a lack of excessive trolling and spam, invite readers to participate in the right way.