New comment policy

In the nearly three years since moving ‘Beetles in the Bush’ to WordPress, I’ve enjoyed an almost spam-free existence.  Rarely did I ever get more than just a few spam comments per day, and whatever spam I did get was flagged with nearly 100% accuracy by WordPress’ Akismet spam filter.  So minor was the issue that I’ve been able to leave comment settings for the blog at their least restrictive—anonymous comments allowed with no comment moderation.  Spam comments were held for review, while legitimate comments were published immediately.  It was a simple matter to review the few spam comments that accumulated each day, confirm that they were indeed spam, then send them on to cyberoblivion.  Occasionally a legitimate comment or two would also get flagged as spam (primarily for including more than one hyperlink in the comment—a common feature of spam comments), but I would find these during review and approve accordingly.

Until now, that is.  Last month I had a post selected for WordPress’ ‘Freshly Pressed’ feature.  It’s kind of a big deal to be featured on Freshly Pressed, as exposure to the whole WordPress community typically results in a surge of traffic.  The surge is short-lived but commonly nets at least a few new readers, some of whom may become regulars.  It’s the fourth time I’ve had a post selected for Freshly Pressed; however, unlike the previous three times, this time saw also a concordant sudden surge in spam comments.  While the traffic has returned to more normal levels, unfortunately the spam comments have not—in the month since being Freshly Pressed I’ve been flooded with nearly 7,000 spam comments.  That’s about 230 per day compared to only a handful of legitimate comments.  I have neither the time nor the inclination to review several hundred spam comments every day just so I can rescue the occasional legitimate comment.

WordPress Support has no explanation for the surge in spam (I recall they made some reference to “the price of fame”).  So, and I really hate to do this, I’m implementing some moderate restrictions on who can leave comments.  I’m trying to do this, at least initially, in a way that legitimate commentors will notice hardly or not at all.  You’ll have the least inconvenience if you are logged into your WordPress, Twitter, or Facebook account and already have an approved comment somewhere on this blog.  For you nothing changes—you leave a comment and it is published immediately.  If you are logged into one of these accounts but have not yet left a comment here, your first comment will be held for moderation.  Once I approve it you get a free pass through approval from that point on and will see any future comments published immediately.  If you are not logged into one of these accounts, you can either login using the buttons on the comment form, or alternatively you can complete the fields for your name, email address, and website. Only the website field is optional; your name and email address will be required information (but please note that your email will not be shown publicly!).  Again, if you already have an approved comment on the site your comment will be published immediately, otherwise it will be held in moderation until I approve it (which then gives you a free pass for any future comments).  Sadly, anonymous comments are no longer allowed.

I hope these restrictions don’t cause undue inconvenience, and I would be most grateful for your feedback if you find that these restrictions have affected your willingness to leave comments.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011

About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
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20 Responses to New comment policy

  1. WordPress’ explanation for the surge in spam is total BS! I’ve been selected for Freshly Pressed before too and, like you, saw no surge in the level of spam I got after any of the time. I have, however, seen a surge in spam recently, over the last month or so like you have. There’s something more going on than “the price of fame.” Maybe I should complain too… I can’t imagine this is an isolated incident and it’s something they really need to look into.

    • Concordant with the sudden spam onslaught has been a surge in “Followers” – but they’re fake, linked to empty blogs with strange names, the default tagline, and nothing but the starter “Hello World” post. I (and several others) have brought this up on the Support Forum and been summarily dismissed – they’ve made blogs “easier to follow” is the explanation. I’m not buying it—something fishy is going on and they’re not saying. I don’t mind if there’s a problem and they’re not sure how to deal with it but are working on it. I’ve got a big problem with being told that everything is fine, enjoy your popularity, now shut up. Just tell me what the heck really is going on.

      • I totally agree! Their failing to acknowledge the problem is worse than just admitting that they’re having a problem and saying that they’re working on it. I don’t get quite as much spam as you (and I started my blog with the setting you recently moved to where people had to be approved once before given open access to commenting, which might have something to do with it), but I’m getting a lot. As in 200+ spam messages a week, compared to maybe 20 prior to whatever problem they’re having. Thankfully, Akismet does a pretty good job of filtering, so I’m 99.9% sure I’m not deleting anything I shouldn’t if I just empty the spam folder without looking through all of the messages. Still feel a little bad about doing that, but what else can you do when you’re getting that much useless junk?

  2. Dave says:

    Well, that’s a bummer. I just checked my Word Press account [comment moderation except for previous commentors] and found a lot of recent identified spam and also one that I let slip through. Posting at this blog is rare and it’s never been ‘Pressed’ as far as I know, so the increase in spam at WP may be real.

    I also checked my Blogger account – although one Russian spammer [on automotive seat covers no less] slipped through yesterday, there was no recent spam in the junk box. I recently changed my Blogger account from moderated to open comment, so if it were a general phenomenon, I would expect more spam there..

    • I have two other WordPress blogs (albeit inactive) and haven’t seen any spam at either of them. Quite a few people at the WordPress Forum have been talking about a general increase in spam starting in the past month. “The price of fame”? C’mon! I think WordPress can find a better explanation than that – Nature Blog Network shows BitB is pretty much just hanging out where it has for a long time.

  3. Marvin says:

    Bummer! I really don’t know diddly about such things, but it does seem as if spammers have figured out a new way(s) around blog spam filters. After running my Blogger blog wide open for well over a year and getting virtually no spam, some commercial junk is starting to show up and slip through the filters. I’m only talking about one spam comment every other day or so, but that’s still a lot more than zero — and, of course, I’m not famous. 🙂

    • Early indications are that the new settings haven’t done diddly to block the spam – the spam bots must laugh at such settings. I really hope I don’t have to go to the ultimate restriction – allowing comments only from logged in WordPress, Facebook, or Twitter users.

  4. Dave says:

    I was just commenting at BugGirl and had a link in my comment and when it didn’t show up, I checked her comment policy. she says: “This blog, like all WordPress.com blogs, is protected by Askimet. Askimet is great! It removes about 20-260 spam comments per day”.

    So, I’m not saying you are getting as popular as BugGirl, but it is a hypothesis.

  5. Jon Quist says:

    While the idea of that sort of fame sounds great for a blog, (I receive only a comment or two every five posts or so) I can undrstand why it is necessary in order to keep things undr control, and to reconize followers and their inputs. Keep up with the great posts!!

  6. J. Gállego says:

    At http://www.moroccoherps.com I created a WordPress selfhosted blog, and in the first two months of existence has received 3526 spam comments! Then, suddenly disappeared, and now the average is 40 spam comments per month. No post was ever ‘famous’.

    I did not review the spam, all went to the trash! ahahaha

    • HI Javier, I have the same experience now, as in the past week the spam has suddenly gone back down to it’s previous level (just a handful each day).

      The fake subscriptions, however, continue unabated (6-10 each day). WordPress Support insists that they are not fake because subscription requests must be confirmed by email; however, another person has responded to my request to confirm their subscription saying they have not visited my blog and they have not subscribed to any WordPress blog. Clearly somebody has figured out a way to hack the WordPress subscription system and is using it for whatever reason. My guess is that WordPress knows this but will not admit it for some reason, because they now just ignore my messages about the issue.

  7. TGIQ says:

    Wow! What a pain in the butt! I’ve always had my comments on “moderation” (first post is held for review, subsequent posts are put through automatically). I’ve never had spam sneak through that I’m aware of, and my Askimet is certainly not getting inundated – I get a few dozen spam a week, if that! Very easy for me to scan through to make sure nothing got dismissed accidentally. Now, I’m not as famous as you or DragonflyWoman, so maybe it IS a fame thing? Anyway, it certainly won’t stop me from commenting here.

    • Thanks Crystal, although fame really has nothing to do with it (see above). Despite the sudden return to pre-spike levels of spam, I’m going to leave on moderation for first-time commentors anyway, and I’m glad to know you’ll continue participating in the conversation🙂

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