Spam, Spam, Eggs, and Spam

Monty Python spam skitA 2005 survey reported that people were spending an average of 2.8 minutes a day deleting email spam. Whether that was for the entire US population, the 75% of internet users they reported receiving spam messages daily, or some other group is unclear. Regardless of who was doing the deleting, the survey went on to state that the resulting loss in productivity was costing $21.6 billion dollars a year. My search failed to turn up more recent statistics although I imagine they’re out there. Or maybe not. Maybe the statisticians are now too busy deleting spam to conduct surveys.

I believe I’ve deleted my share. There have been times when, between work and personal email, I’ve had 200+ spam messages to deal with each day. Of course I had some filtering in place but the fear of having a critical communique erroneously identified as spam meant scanning the junk folder for messages from colleagues or customers. Eventually, as the quality of and my confidence in anti-spam software increased, I was able to configure things so that the vast majority of those messages were quietly and automatically done in by the software without me hearing the screams or needing to move the bodies. I know the amount of spam email pointed my way didn’t actually decrease but I was protected from the bad-guy software by some good-guy software.

I’m now at a similar point in dealing with comment spam. Comment spam doesn’t come through an email account. It comes, as the name indicates, through comments on blogs and forums and such. Much email spam is just silly but some of it is truly malicious or criminal; intent on doing damage or stealing something. Same thing with comment spam with one big twist. Reader comments can actually become part of the content of the site on which they are entered. This means that any malicious or criminal links contained in the comment are now available to the whole world wide web. They are usually surrounded by such inane drivel that it’s hard to imagine anyone ever clicking on them but I suppose it happens. I’ve little sympathy for any English speaker who clicks on a link surrounded by Russian or Portuguese or even the broken English gibberish that seems to be the norm.

Comment spam, at least in theory, can have value to its producer even if no one ever clicks on embedded links. Search engines do consider links to a website in establishing that site’s rank. Apparently lots of spammers believe that getting a pointer to some site on a blog with absolutely no other connection to the site will boost its rank. I feel that’s pretty much a myth though I don’t really know that. I do know that search engines are not dumb. Spammers, it seems, are.

To date, no comment spam has actually appeared on this blog. It has appeared briefly in the site’s guestbook and in the now deceased forum. In the case of the guestbook, I get email notification and it’s so infrequent that I simply manually delete it ASAP. That is usually within a few hours; Often within a few minutes. With the forum, I initially allowed comments by guests but switched that to members only when spam started to appear. Of course, with the forum completely removed, that’s all just history.

From the blog’s beginning, I’ve employed the simple but effective technique of requiring everyone’s first post to be approved by me. That keeps the spam from appearing on the blog without hampering folks I trust. I recently went one step further by installing the AntispamBee plugin. Without this, I had to manually mark each qualifying post as spam. Not a big job but one I could avoid and avoiding work is always attractive. At present, all suspicious comments are placed in a folder where I can look them over before dumping them down the cyberdrain. The big plus is that my email is not cluttered with requests to moderate every piece of crap that this way comes. It has been in place for about a week and hasn’t misidentified anything so far. Assuming that continues, I’ll probably turn on the automatic disposal in another week or two.

My blog spam snapshotIt was the pending “loss” of these comments that prompted this post. Most are just aggravating but a few are hilarious. They are almost always filled with praise in hopes, I assume, of winning my approval but the typical message is such a jumble that I can’t imagine even the most desperate ego succumbing. Like newspaper horoscopes, the messages never mention anything specific about the post they are supposedly responding to. The majority appear to be from Russia, Eastern Europe, and Brazil. There have been a few bulk posts. A bunch once showed up pushing a particular brand of shoe and there were a couple bursts touting some dress label. At one point I received quite a few from someone in Brazil saying they would “adore to reveal” something (a Portuguese word I’ve yet to find a translation for) “in web cam”.

I’m closing with three of my favorites:

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