The current state of the art in comment spam

Write, geek! gets a fair amount of spam replies. This sur­prised me at first, when it be­gan hap­pen­ing al­most im­me­di­ate­ly af­ter the blog was set up and con­tent was post­ed. I should have known bet­ter; there’s al­most no cost to spam­mers in spam­ming even un­pop­u­lar blogs, so why would they make an ex­cep­tion for mine?

I’m us­ing the Akismet plu­g­in for WordPress, so it’s not like any of these com­ments ac­tu­al­ly make it to my blog. In fact, I’d nev­er even have to see them, if not for the fact that I reg­u­lar­ly clean these com­ments out of my spam fold­er by hand. I do this part­ly to en­sure that noth­ing le­git­i­mate gets fil­tered in­cor­rect­ly (which hap­pens some­times) and part­ly be­cause I like to sort of keep tabs on the cur­rent ‘state of the art’ in spam­ming.

The cur­rent state of the art in spam­ming is this: the com­ments are get­ting bet­ter. No longer are com­ments jam-packed with dozens of links com­mon­place (one par­tic­u­lar de­fault WordPress set­ting prob­a­bly made those al­most 100% in­ef­fec­tive), but they’ve been large­ly re­placed with com­ments that mas­quer­ade as… ac­tu­al com­ments!

The idea of noise dis­guised as sig­nal is noth­ing new if you’ve used e-mail in the last 15 years, but that the noise is get­ting bet­ter (read: more dif­fi­cult for hu­mans to de­tect) is some­what sur­pris­ing. Of course, these com­ments are no match for a large, dis­trib­uted sys­tem like Akismet, which all-knowingly sees what’s be­ing post­ed to prob­a­bly mil­lions of blogs, but the well-disguised, large­ly pseudo-flattering com­ments are prob­a­bly now de­signed to get hu­man blog au­thors to click the “Not Spam” but­ton, free­ing them the com­ments the spam box so that they can do their SEO-based dirty work.

Of course, gen­tle read­ers, I’m far too smart to fall for that, but not so blind­ed by my ha­tred for spam to be un­able to ap­pre­ci­ate a well-crafted work of au­thor­ship, like this one I just found:

Spam that reads "Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch because I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!"

Sure, it’s not per­fect, but some­one out there put some mod­icum of thought in­to it, which is the least you could ask of the au­thor of a work that’s go­ing to be dis­trib­uted on a mas­sive scale.

Plus, it’s a lot bet­ter than this anti-gem I al­so just found:

Spam that reads "Why jesus allows this sort of thing to continue is a mystery"

Can you get more un­in­ten­tion­al­ly self-referential than that? (No, you can­not… and yes, that was a chal­lenge.)

Upgraded to WordPress 3.0

The old adage (which I think I made up) about spend­ing more time geek­ing around with a WordPress in­stal­la­tion than ac­tu­al­ly writ­ing in the damned blog holds true, ladies and gen­tle­men.

I just fin­ished up­grad­ing this fine blog to the newly-stable WordPress 3.0.

In case you were won­der­ing and/or sit­ting on the edge of your seats, I took great care to:

  1. Disable all of my plu­g­ins
  2. Dump a copy of my WordPress MySQL data­base us­ing the aptly-titled mysql­dump
  3. tar a copy of my WordPress di­rec­to­ry
  4. Do the up­grade!
  5. Re-enable the plu­g­ins one-by-one, mak­ing sure each works (or at least doesn’t break any­thing)

While I know not every­one is so lucky, I’m glad to see that every­thing ap­pears to work here, be­cause I’d be death­ly em­bar­rassed if, you know, Google or Bing’s we­bcrawler came by and things weren’t look­ing up to my usu­al stan­dards.

The plugins behind the blog

I ap­pre­ci­ate the slick pub­lish­ing plat­form that WordPress pro­vides for my writ­ing. Perhaps even bet­ter is its plu­g­in sys­tem, which lets me make it do just about any­thing I like.

Since you wont find me churn­ing out PHP code of my own any­time soon (I ‘ve ac­tu­al­ly been mean­ing to take an­oth­er stab at to wrap­ping my brain around Python now that ver­sion 3 is out), I re­ly on the WordPress com­mu­ni­ty to do so for me. Fortunately, with near­ly 10,000 plu­g­ins avail­able, they seem up to the task!

When I set up my WordPress in­stal­la­tion ear­li­er this year, I promised my­self that I wouldn’t go over­board the way I usu­al­ly end up cus­tomiz­ing and ex­tend­ing most of the oth­er tech tools/toys in my life. Even while show­ing re­straint, I’ve man­aged to ac­cu­mu­late just over 20 plu­g­ins at this point… whoops! 1 That said, every plu­g­in I’m us­ing has helped make this blog what it is to­day… from one that mir­rors com­ments that peo­ple post on Google Buzz, to one that gives me a per-post space to brain­storm as I com­pose.

Thus, I’ve cre­at­ed an ‘About Plugins‘ page that prop­er­ly rec­og­nizes each one.

  1. The plu­g­ins ac­tu­al­ly seem to be im­pact­ing the blog’s per­for­mance; I need to take a clos­er look in­to just where the in­ef­fi­cien­cies lie.