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Some Thoughts About Spam

Hello. I’m "Steve the Intern" and will be working on your site for the next academic year as part of my internship.  I’m not sure if I’ll post every day but if I have the time I would like to keep everyone as informed as possible with regards to the status of this website. For my inaugural post I will be addressing a topic everyone hates–comment spam.

Why spam in the first place?  Since search engine rankings are at least partly determined by the number of links pointing to your site, spammers go after blogs to stick links in to their site with the hope of the search engine spiders picking up those links.  In more extreme cases spammers will create blogs (I personally deleted about 40 here) for the sole purpose of creating backlinks to their site or sites.

Why can’t search engines determine what is spam?  In short, they can and do-spammers are complete wasting their time.  Most blogs either strip out the HTML and Javascript or add the rel="nofollow" attribute to the link.  When search engines come across links that are marked as rel="nofollow" they are simply, as the name suggests, not followed.  These types of links provide quite literally no benefit to the spammer.

How else can we combat spam?  Believe it or not, most spam is not done by robots.  People put "captchas" (those hard-to-read graphics with random letters and numbers) to ensure live people are sitting there entering comments.  The sad fact though is that people, largely in Asia, get paid to spam.  When it’s live people who can read the captchas, there’s really no good means of stopping it altogether.  The most effective way we’ve found is simply running a timed script every 30 seconds or so that queries the database for comments that look spammy and a quick review by a live person here will either delete them or allow them to be posted.

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