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July 9, 2004

The Trouble with Comments (Updated)

Posted by Mike on July 9, 2004 6:40 PM

I spent some of last night helping Michael B. get MTBlacklist installed. The past few days have seen a real jump in comment spam here and there, and I dealt with my first truly concentrated trackback spamming attack this week.

Even with MTBlacklist, there's still drudgework involved in clearing that kind of thing out, not to mention the sense that someone has come along and thrust my nose full into a pile of shit they're trying to peddle to desperately fucked up people. I try to get it off the site as quickly as possible, and I'm not interested in cataloging what's depicted in some of the seemingly innocuous URLs I try to investigate before banning them. It's enough to say that pornography has gone in roughly the same direction as American political discourse: The cheesecake center hasn't held.

Every time I have to wade through a pile of comment spam pointing to sites that sell degradation and the sexualization of misery I feel a little more depressed. At some point in the past few months, I passed out of the relativistic bubble I'd sealed myself into as that sort of stuff passed through my inbox and over my pages and into a state of anger and sadness.

Maybe it's about having Ben in the house now and the involuntary process I go through, as have other parents I've talked to, when I'm exposed to something I might have previously blown off. I don't think of myself undergoing whatever's being depicted. I think of Ben. I don't wonder if I'll ever feel some need to consume the degradation and humiliation of others. I wonder what makes other people need that, and I wonder if I could fail Ben in such a way that he'd have that need. If I needed it driven home any more, the scum that posted links to their sites in the comments in Ben's gallery pretty much accomplished that.

This is a matter that raises some uncomfortable and prickly issues, and it's looming as a point at which much of the friendly go-along/get-along relativism I've adopted must fail, but it's what's on my mind lately. I've spent the last week almost daily fending off yet another attempt to turn my pages into an advertisement for someone else's sexualized malice.

The unhappy fact at the heart of it is that if you run a weblog, especially if you run a weblog using popular software, these people find you. Sensing that weblog maintainers are beginning to rally against them, they've even taken to seeding their spam with truly harmless URLs as a way of taking up a little more of the webmaster's time, maybe hoping that eventually the whole thing will become enough of a chore that site maintainers will just give up.

I'm leaning more toward eliminating comments as part of Puddingtime and moving them over to something like phpBB, or just spending more time trying to incite fellow scoopists to do something besides lurk. Either way, it seems like something has to give.

Update: I did take one step I probably should have a long time ago: I installed the MTCloseComments plugin and set it to close comments on any item more than three weeks old. The prevailing wisdom seems to be that older entries are the most abused because they've built up an exploitable Google presence. Hopefully this will do a little more to stop the worst of it. Existing comments aren't affected, but the form that allows comments to be entered is removed (less as a courtesy to spam bots than the occasionally confused reader who comes across an older entry off the search engines).

Free assistance to anyone with an established blog who could use a hand setting this up.


Do I even have to mention how I blame Google for this horseshit?

Posted by: Ed Heil at July 9, 2004 6:58 PM

I wonder if this is part of the MT 3.0 fallout, whether the spammers are looking specifically for 2.x releases as being easier to flood. I've had big increases lately too, getting hit hard a couple times by some automated spam sprayer. Nothing so far that I haven't been able to kill using MT-Blacklist, but it has me made me idly wonder if I should upgrade to MT 3 and submit to the mighty thumb of TypeKey.

Hey, Ed, I grabbed a copy of Squeak the other day based on your post. Lots of fun. Thanks.

Posted by: jbm at July 10, 2004 5:37 AM

The thought of moving to MT 3 isn't a very happy one.

Just the act of making MTCloseComments work last night reminded me of how many plugins I've got installed and how much I'm very deeply concerned about the breakage that could ensue when I make the move.

phpBB turned out to be frightfully easy to install. If I could work out what it would take to map a MT topic to a phpBB board, I'd probably just make that happen. Registration sucks, but so does the sort of spam I've been getting.

Posted by: mph at July 10, 2004 12:46 PM

Great to hear about squeak, jbm!

I've heard typekey does basically nothing to stop spammers, for what it's worth...

Posted by: Ed Heil at July 10, 2004 3:17 PM

TypeKey really isn't a comment spam solution, it exists mostly for other reasons. But MT-Blacklist for MT3 is on its way anyway. I haven't seen much comment spam under MT3 since the spate of comment spam swarm attacks a few weeks ago, which (thanks to all being from the same user-agent) I simply blocked from my comment script at the Apache level.

Posted by: The One True b!X at July 11, 2004 3:49 PM

Ya, I have been really disillusioned about the entire spamming spat recently, and considered just taking my blog down entierely. I post maybe one peice a week and the work associaated with cleaning out the spam dosn't quite seem worth the effort.

Thanks to MPH though for installing some level of help on my system....

Posted by: Michael Burton at July 11, 2004 7:16 PM

I always intended to add phpBB for my comments but I never did.

But here is the tutorial I was planning to use, and it seemed easy enough.

Maybe you can get it going: http://trikuare.cx/mt/archives/000425.php

Posted by: PromoGuy at July 19, 2004 7:44 AM

Yeah... I saw that tutorial. It sort of freaked me out. There's sure a ton of stuff that goes into it.

For now I'm just hoping MTBlacklist makes it to MT 3 soonish (I should go paypal Jay, I guess). With the change in archive locations from the move to MT3, it'll take a while for them to find me again, too. :-)

Posted by: mph [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 19, 2004 7:47 AM