Friday, 9 November 2012

Full of beans, out of spam

It's been quiet here the last two or three days, but I haven't been far away. I've done some relevant reading and worked on a few projects, including the ongoing resolution system and an unusual conversion that might be good for INQ28 or InquisiMunda. Most of that will turn up here sooner or later.

I've also made a change to comment settings. The number of spam comments has been going up and the time taken to trawl through them all was getting seriously out of hand.

Frontline Gamer is managing it by turning word verification on and anonymous comments off, but I'm not willing to do the first yet based on this intriguing claim, for the lack of clarity about who gains from the work commenters do. There's more on the theme here.

Instead, given that most of the spam was posted with the anonymous option, which was rarely if ever used otherwise, I've only turned that off. I'm not so happy about doing it, but it seems the lesser of the evils for now. So far, so good - there's been zero spam since.

If you do want to comment and this change means you can't, just email me the text with permission to post it. If you can see any other solutions to the problem, don't hold back.


Mike Whitaker said...

Actually, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what the Google captcha is about...

The text is the check that you're playing fair - note it's always the same font/style; Google know what that text is supposed to be.

The number? Is to train Google Street View to read house numbers. :D

Porky said...

The system doesn't need to know what the text is if acceptance is based on the results of the same phrase being seen by multiple users. Why use manually confirmed phrases, and in such numbers, when you can automate? Canageek explains the idea here.

Re the font, I'm not sure it is always the same - it may only seem that way after conversion into that regular wavy form. It could also be that the bulk of the written material being processed uses a relatively small number of typefaces, especially if a large amount of the more challenging text is historic. That's a possibility that follows from the mass scanning mentioned in the linked post.

And I doubt I'd be the only one surprised if the smart people behind this were limiting the training to just the one piece of viewing software.

Zab said...

Danger. Danger, Will Robinson. o_0 It's really no trouble and means people actually care enough about what you posted to comment if they have to do a little work.

Frontline Gamer said...

You have my deepest sympathies Porky. As you know too well by the looks of things I've been afflicted with the spam thing of late. Sounds late you've had similar issues.

I'm unconvinced myself by Captcha, but I got so fed up I decided to blitz the problem with the tools I had at hand. I might turn it off at some point to see what affect, if any it actually has.

I'm a bit gutted about anonymous posting on my Blog because actually I had a number of people use that function and really add to the debate on my Blog.

Loquacious said...

I have a regular poster who doesn't have a blogger account, so I refuse to turn off anonymous posting capability, and I have too many readers with vision issues for me to feel ok with Captcha. I am also being gutted by spam lately. Still trying to solve that one.

Mike Whitaker said...

I find turning on moderation for older posts helps quite a bit.

Porky said...

Useful thoughts.

@ Zab & Loquacious - In itself I don't think a form of verification is necessarily a bad thing, and the idea it's a barrier to apathy is an interesting one. That said, I can see how it might be overly discriminating, demanding an idealised, standardised human.

@ Mike Whitaker - Sadly, moderation wouldn't help so much here because the spam comments almost never get through anyway - the filter sends pretty much all of them to the spam folder. It's there and in the inbox, with email notification active, that all the trawling goes on.

@ Frontline Gamer & Loquacious - I've updated the text above the comment box with information on commenting anonymously. If you did want to keep this kind of comment coming even with the actual option switched off, highlighting the email route here is one possibility.

John Till said...

I rarely pass Captcha on the first go, and sometimes not at all. So I am glad you decided not to turn that feature on yet. I guess I am a failure on the Turing Test.

SandWyrm said...

This is one reason that I like using Disqus instead of Blogger's comment system. It has barrier issues too, but it's popularity makes up for that some.

Porky said...

@ John Till - It catches me out fairly often too, but what's that test worth anyway? Maybe we're being prodded for our reactions to difficulty or failure, for example whether we keep trying or give up, and what we do or where we go immediately after an incorrect entry. Data like that could be of value to someone.

@ SandWyrm - It's very attractive for sure and I've seen some changeovers. There may be comenters unwilling to open a new account, but switching could bring new commenters too. As time goes by and number of accounts rises it should get even more popular.