Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden - Chinese proverb

Monday, 5 March 2012

I've Got the Commenting Blues


Readers and writers of Blogger blogs can't have failed to have noticed there's a new Word Verification (WV) kid on the block.

A few weeks ago, Blogger opted to use the captcha method: i.e. the one we were grateful we didn't have when reading blogs on other
blogging platforms.

I believe it's because quite a lot more spam has been getting though lately and Blogger are trying to make it more difficult for the bots. Trouble is, it's a hell of a lot more difficult for humans too :(

As a result I've been tinkering with the way comments work on Veg Plotting. The WV so many of you hated has gone. So far this hasn't increased the amount of automated spam arriving in my comments. *crosses fingers*

Instead there's been a phenomenal increase in the amount of spam trapped by Blogger's spam filter. I also started getting around 10-30 spam comments per day in my inbox, as I'd opted for forwarding comments to my email.

So last week I switched off that option. Result? I received none of the emails I like to see from genuine commenters, but I still got all the hated ones from all the spam. Not quite what I wanted :/

I then considered what else I could do:
  • Change to Comment Moderation, but I don't like the delay in comments appearing on my blog and the conversation it prevents
  • Disable backlinks, but that would prevent me from seeking out new people who've popped over for a visit
  • Prevent Anonymous comments like Lucy did. She found her spam comments ceased when she stopped allowing these on her blog. However it means genuine regular commenters like my friends Lu and Zoe wouldn't be able to comment
  • Use another comment service. When I raised my Issue on the Blogger Help Forum, re the commenting changes, DarkUFO recommended the DISQUS system. I need to investigate further as Petra over at Oxonian Gardener had some problems with it when she went over to WordPress recently. It would also mean a major hack to my blog template and I need to consider any implications for earlier changes I've made.
So what have I done?

I'm no longer allowing Anonymous comments even though I don't like solutions which may discourage genuine comments. So far it's stopped the spam and I've heaved a great sigh of relief. I was also cheered to see Lu left me a comment yesterday.

It would be good to know if Blogger have any more changes planned because they could negate any solution I'm contemplating. I believe I still have some changes to do, hence my commenting blues.

Increased spam isn't just an issue on Blogger blogs. I've seen a marked upturn on my WordPress ones recently too. One cheekily congratulated me on my blog post, but said it was a little too spammy!

How do you manage your blog to encourage genuine commenters, whilst keeping out the spam?

Update: I forgot to mention I use Comment Moderation on blog posts greater than 10 days old. However, I found this does not stop the spam in its tracks when I removed WV. An email to moderate is still an email to deal with :(

30 comments:

  1. Susan in the Pink Hat uses Disqus, Disqus hates me, so you'll lose my comments. There's also LiveFyre but I hate to have to login to leave a comment.

    Remember the Word Verification we had that was so hard to read?? Now that they have removed that, I have found out WHY it was so hard to read. They were using us as computer fodder to 'read' blurred words that had been scanned in from books.

    I do moderate comments. A reader will complain that her comment disappeared, but my regulars know, they have to wait, till I've read the comment. Also I check the spam folder, because the filters are sometimes too enthusiastic, and those comments really will die alone, if you don't retrieve them.

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  2. PS closing comments on older posts would be a way of blocking most spam.

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  3. Hi Diana,

    Thanks for your feedback - my dealings with commenting with DISQUS haven't been good either, hence my reluctance to move over to a commenting system outside of Blogger. It also means some template hacking and I'd need to ensure that didn't affect some of the other changes I've made.

    I've considered comment moderation before, but it's reliant on my clearing the comments. If I'm away then that won't happen. Also it means the commenter can't see instantly whether their comment has gone on OK, or what other people have had to say on the subject.

    I do moderate comments on posts older than 10 days, but that didn't stopped spam getting through. I need to check Blogger's options again - I don't think you can close them???javascript:void(0)

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  4. PS You'll see I'm not using the inline Reply option anymore. I hated the way it dealt with apostrophes in people's names and some people felt it destroyed the conversational feel of the comments.

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  5. Hello there! Interesting post. I do hate those captcha codes as I can't READ them! Understand they are needed but crickey... I find myself constantly refreshing it to get an 'easier' one, that I can vaguely read! In terms of Disqus, we initially used it. Looks nice and worked fine, though need some work to 'fit' the blog. However, biggest problem is that the coding is a bit of a mess, which meant that it is very 'heavy' for upload. We worked hard on the blog to ensure it does not require much upload capacity, which was subsequently ruined by disqus. Also their 'customer service' is terrible. We had a few issues, but no one ever responded, when they did respond, it took weeks. Livefyre was great on email response and very helpful dealing with queries. Surprisingly good. Though, the fact that one needed to have an account, or sign up to leave a comment is not good. Hence, we just used a 'smartened' version of simple wordpress comment system, and Akismet for spam control. So far so good; it's doing what it says on the tin!

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  6. Forgot to mention, we do work with Commentluv, as I was always keen to 'credit' comments, with an enhanced profile, by means of a link to their latest post. I am all for supporting the blogging community and this seems a good way to go.

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  7. Petra - thanks for your comments. I believe the setup I have now is about the equivalent of what Akismet gives me over at Wordpress.

    However, that does give me an awful lot of spam to deal with behind the scenes *sigh*

    I like Commentluv too for the same reason as you, but I see it's stopped working on some WP blogs that have it. I'm not sure if it's possible to have it on Blogger blogs.

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  8. This one's from Zoe who kindly emailed to say:

    Hi

    I was leaving you a comment or 2, but have discovered under the new regime, I am no longer able to as you don't support the Name/Url option.

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  9. Zoe - this is the unfortunate side effect of what I've done and I don't like it very much either.

    However I'm getting 2-3 genuine Anonymous commenter per month and 10-30 spam ones per day.

    As you're a WP blogger, the OpenId option I do have for commenting supports WP. If OpenID also has issues I'd like to know about them as this also adds to the discussion.

    I've linked to the OpenID website on my comment form. I was surprised to see how many other 'web presences' are supported by that option.

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  10. I turned off word verification for a while, but like you, I got all kinds of emails for the spam comments. So I turned it back on while I figure things out. Maybe so many will complaint that the Bloggers folks will come up with a better word verification tool? In the meantime, I may do what you did and no longer allow anonymous comments.

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  11. Hi Carol - when I looked at the Blogger Help Forum I was surprised at the lack of issues on there. Nor has there been anything on Blogger Buzz to say why they've introduced this version of captcha.

    The issue I've raised alerts Google to the fact people are turning off WV compltely, which I believe is the last thing they wanted people to do. I've also suggested something gets posted on Blogger Buzz too. I've been told that my comments have been passed onto Google for consideration.

    So everyone - raise an issue on the Blogger Help Forum, or else live with a commenting system which doesn't help you or your readers.

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  12. In terms of Commentluv, he updated the software recently and changed the functionality. That may be why not working on other sites.

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  13. I haven't found a solution to this problem either, VP, but I'm waiting to see if someone more technologically talented than I has a good idea. I can hardly read the new word verifications at times, and in a moment of frustration, I turned mine off. Suddenly, I started getting all this spam--which I didn't before. I didn't notice at first, until I realized they were just repeating comments from other visitors. Apparently, my spammers are parrots:)

    I did enable comment moderation on older posts, which helps. I hope Blogger addresses this--I'm getting a little frustrated, too, with their help section.

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  14. I found this over at Karen's today (she has just installed a maths question on her blog's comment form to reduce the 100s of spam comments she gets).

    Hillwards sheds some light (or lack of it) re the use of OpenId and WP users:

    Regarding the captcha thang, I’ve found on many blogger blogs that if I try and use my wordpress OpenId to leave a comment, I cannot get the word verification right, apparently, after countless tries when it looks right to me, but it works when I use my google account to leave the comment. Very frustrating, as I’d rather use OpenId. Although I think that by selecting OpenId, blogger doesn’t populate the word verification thing properly at all; sometimes I can’t even see it, though I know there is one there preventing my comment from being accepted. Maths is definitely a lesser evil.

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  15. Petra - yes, I saw that :)

    Rose - it IS frustrating isn't it. It looks like there isn't a simple solution. It appears the spammers are getting better at attacking blogs judging by the amount I've seen on my WP blogs, which pales into insignificance compared to the amount Karen (mentioned in my previous comment) gets on her WP blog.

    We won't even go near mentioning what a problem it is on the likes of Twitter...

    I hope you found this post and the comment discussion useful in helping you to decide what else you might do. I moderate comments on posts older than 10 days BTW, but my recent exploration with removing WV proved that that does very little to get rid of my receiving spam comments at all :(

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  16. I've just had a look through the Blogger Help Forum and found:

    The OpenId problem's been raised many times, but it looks like not much has been done to fix it :(

    There's a big call for the Anonymous and the supply Name/URL option to be separated into 2 options along the lines of what WP already has.

    Some of the replies say this won't solve the problem because non-genuine commenters can still use the Name/URL option instead of the Anonymous one. I'd say from my experience so far an option to stop just the Anonymous commenters would be an enormous step forward and would allow my genuine commenters like Lu and Zoe to make valued comments like they've been doing for years.

    Of course none of this will stop the human spammers who use their Google accounts or OpenId to comment and backlink through to their spammy or advert ridden blogs :(

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  17. Now I've got myself a Google account I'm OK. Thanks for thinking of me while dealing with all that spam!

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  18. Hi Lu - I'm glad you can comment, but sadly Zoe's already been in touch to say she can't :(

    And I know 2 other genuine comments in the last 100 wouldn't have been made. One of them was seriously questioning some points made by Tony Kirkham. It v important they were made.

    At the moment I can't see a solution to this which will make both me and Name/URL commenters like you and Zoe happy.

    And that makes me very unhappy indeed :(

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  19. I have been using WV and it still doesn't completely stop spam comments - but I don't have as many comments as you. Handy that Blogger sends me an email alert so that I can cast a glance at what has been posted.

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  20. Sigh ... it is all getting so complex now, not you, just blogger in general.
    My open ID is tied to another wordpress account, so I will have to use my google id, which goes to a holding oage on blogger with a link to my self hosted wordpress blog ..... unless you have a workaround for me?
    K

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  21. Hi Karen - Sorry I don't know :(

    I hope someone else reading this might be able to help...

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  22. sigh, it's all so complicated now. I guess we should all go play a little longer in the garden to relieve the new stress!

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  23. Catherine - sorry I missed you earlier. Oh for simpler times...

    Jamie - welcome and thanks for Following :) Spookily I've just been saying that very thing! It's off to the garden for me...

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  24. I have opted for comment moderation - but so far no-one has left a comment for me to moderate :-(

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  25. I sympathise! I certainly don't like it as I have difficulty in reading the 'words'! I also had to swap from using the Open ID to Name/URL recently as the former no longer worked on Blogger blogs.
    I don't think that I've ever had any spam comments appear on my Wordpress blog where thankfully Akisket has stopped over 15,000 from appearing. If they had they would have have swamped the 10,000 plus genuine ones.
    All in all spam in all it's forms is a right pain! Flighty xx

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  26. The Bike Shed - well, I'll have to come over and rectify that won't I?

    Flighty - thanks taking the trouble to use your Blogger profile to comment :) This OpenId problem is of real concern to me. I'm sure plenty of Blogger bloggers aren't aware of it and so think their WP pals are able to comment, or they're being ignored by them :(

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  27. The only way I (technically challenged) know to close comments on older posts, is manually, post by post. The amount of spam I get doesn't justify that. I had a pharma wave, now I'm back to the porn wave. But the filters do catch mine!

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  28. Having tried to comment on at least a couple of Blogger blogs this morning desperately screwing my eyes up to read those infuriating letters - not once, not twice but in once case thrice I could scream! Have been lucky enough not to have major spam issues but surely Blogger can come up with something better that would still thwart the spammers. Will be revisiting my comments settings again soon and will get over to the Blogger help forum to raise the issue with them.

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  29. Nor has there been anything on Blogger Buzz to say why they've introduced this version of captcha

    Because Google have bought the company who developed it, so my guess it's we're not getting rid of the infernal thing any time soon.

    A couple of weeks ago I turned off WV and moved to 'all comments except Anonymous'. No spam, no complaints from friends, so far no problems. Guess it's the price we pay for a completely free Blogging service, even if we don't like it :{

    BTW, is it me, or does this setting for comments (ie: separate page, no longer under original post) remove the 'subscribe to comments' option?? A nuisance if I've got to physically return to a page a couple of times a day to follow a conversation.

    I like the embedded version because it allows threaded replies.

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  30. Diana - thanks for coming back. I've spotted how you do it now. I've had quite a few comments lately from new readers going through my back catalogue of posts, so I suppose it's a matter of weighing up the pros and cons of doing that...

    Anna - I suspect this business is a 'feature' of the major changes going on behind the scenes to integrate various Google apps. I wish they'd hurry up and do something about this major problem though!

    Bilbo Waggins - yes, the subscribe option has been left out - whether designed or accidentally I can't say :/

    I tried the embedded option for a while but had some comments about it making the conversation side of things harder to follow. I also have a number of commenters with an apostrophe in their ID and it turned that into gobbledegook, making them look awful. It doesn't work for everyone either - whether Google has fixed that problem yet I don't know.

    Thanks for adding your thoughts to the mix :)

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