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Charles on… anything that comes along

Wednesday 15 September 2004

Filed under: — Charles @ 11:12 am

The war on blog spam: going about as well as the one on terrorism

Much to chew on in this Online Journalism Review about comment spam: Bloggers Declare War on Comment Spam, but Can They Win?

The answer would seem to be “probably not”, for the reasons enunciated by Mark Pilgrim (of Dive Into Mark): “Spammers are smart and determined, and people are numerous and stupid, and spam pays. You can’t make it not pay. Going after ISPs won’t help; they’ll auto-register somewhere else…Going after them in court won’t help; they’re already living under friendly governments….They will keep coming and coming and coming until you give up, go home, cry uncle, take Prozac.”

As Einstein is quoted as saying (and maybe even said), only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and he wasn’t so sure about the universe. Spammers feed on the stupidity of people who buy their products, who don’t comprehend the collateral damage doing so causes. A bit like driving cars and climate change, actually. (Admission: I drive a car. I guess I’m spamming the atmosphere.)

I’m going to keep on with comments here, because I think it livens up the place (and tells me stuff I didn’t know, usually). I do get people attempting comment spam: to kill it, I use Kitten’s Spam Words allied to the Spammer Tar Pit. Both are Wordpress plugins. And work damn well, I’d add.

Unfortunately it looks like spam is inevitable in any online forum; the only variable is its extent. Usenet? Widespread. Email? Almost overwhelming. IM and blogs? Less so. But rising.

Your comments welcome :-)

3 Responses to “The war on blog spam: going about as well as the one on terrorism”

  1. Andrew Brown Says:

    My name is MRS BARBARA AMIEL and my husband left me 70% of an international media group ….

    Seriously, I think that the only real cure will be some form of paid postage, authenticated by being passed through franking servers. It is simply an honest signal that this email is worth, say, a eurocent to the sender. Even half a aurocent would make spamming as we know it uneconomic.

  2. Charles Says:

    This is an argument I’ve been having for years with Jakob Nielsen (over micropayments). He always insists that they’re just around the corner. I always tell him that they’re not going to happen, although I’ve conceded one single area where they work: mobile phones.

    However implementing them on the Net is simply nightmarish. And there’s always the question of who the money accrues to. The people who run the servers? Expect Microsoft to try to corner that market, then. The people who run the blogs? Expect Microsoft to try to corner the software that accepts that token. Plus, one would then *welcome* blog spam because you’d get paid for it.

    Micropayments are a nice idea but I’m convinced they’ll remain in the realm of “ideal solutions that we can implement as soon as we build a time machine that lets us go back and completely alter the fundamental infrastructure on which the Net was built”. If we had a robust sender-verified system like that, then we wouldn’t have the problem with spam that we do.

  3. Andrew Brown Says:

    I suppose, thinking about this, that it won’t work for blog spam comments, anway. I mean, you don’t fill out an HTML form over SMTP. Any solution has to be a mixture of technical and legal; and you’d need a different technical solution for this one.

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