Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Site-related: anonymous comments

On Saturday, I'm going to disable anonymous commenting on PATSP. This might inconvenience some of you, so I thought I should let you know sooner rather than later. It is my understanding that existing anonymous comments will not be affected, just the ability to leave new ones.

The reason for the change is that I am getting flooded by spam comments, and have been since about last November. First I tried to ignore it, then I tried to enjoy it, and now I'm trying to shut it down entirely.

The Google/Blogger spam filter does catch a lot of them, but there seems to be a bit of a time lag. It looks like a lot of stuff gets sent to legitimate-comment moderation initially, and then after a few hours, the system detects it as spam and puts it into the spam filter. Which means that I am constantly noticing "Yay! A new comment!" only to be disappointed when I check it out and it's a bunch of gibberish like this:

If you really want to read this, it will probably be necessary to open it in a separate window.

The worst part is that it seems to be accelerating. PATSP receives a new spam comment every 40 minutes, on average. It's making me crazy. I considered just adding Captchas and retaining the anonymous comments, but Captchas are kind of annoying, and I'm getting the impression sometimes that the spam might be being left by actual people who can solve Captchas anyway. (Those of you with blogs who use Captchas should let me know how well they've been working for you.)

So anyway. I apologize to those of you who will be affected by this. It's not personal. I held out as long as I could.


Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

I can't say I blame you. I'm having the same problem, and I've also considered adding Captchas, but find them extremely annoying. I'm not quite sure what to do about this. I disabled the ability for visitors to use the anonymous option, and one of my favourite bloggers wasn't able to comment anymore (he doesn't use blogger), so I reactivated it. It feels as if the spam commenting is getting worse. I'm not sure if this is the case or not, or if I'm just noticing it more.

Anyway, just to let you know that you're not alone in this problem. And I suspect that there are many others in the same position.

Ginny Burton said...

I'm so sorry about this. I used to hate having to do that Captcha stuff, but I got used to it and now I don't mind it at all. Maybe you could poll your readers. We'll do anything we can to keep you from going crazy!

Michael said...

Ahhh yes, sadly I think I might have to do that too on my little blog. I had captchas added for a while, but the number of comments from ligitimate people dropped dramatically, and I find it a pain on other blogs as well, but I think that the removal of anonymous replies is a really good idea.

My email inbox has been absolutely flooded with comment notifications while I'm at school, so when I get home I find out I've had all these comments and get all excited.... only to then find they're all spam and have been caught by blogger between when the email was sent and when I went to look at it.

Anonymous said...

While I understand why you are doing this, I don't have a blogger or google account, so I am wondering if I will no longer be able to leave comments on this site. Is there another way for me to do so?

danger garden said...

Does it help to hear that you are not alone? The amount of spam just seems to be accelerating...and now it's not just on older posts but on same day posts, and honestly some of the comments are getting abusive and ceased to be amusing.

mr_subjunctive said...


There's a "Name/URL" option just above the "Anonymous" button, which is what I'm trying right now with this comment.

. . . to be continued . . .

mr_subjunctive said...


Well, that seemed to work normally.

mr_subjunctive said...


I don't know for sure if the Name/URL option still works if I have Anonymous comments turned off, and it's too late to check that right now, so I'll have to try it tomorrow.

If you have a LiveJournal, Wordpress, Typepad, or AOL Instant Messenger account, you can sign in through the "OpenID" option too, allegedly. (I've had problems with getting some sites to recognize my Wordpress account.) If, after the change, you have problems leaving comments, you can e-mail me and let me know it's not working, since I may not be able to tell on my own.

I also have the option, I think, of switching the commenting system over to Disqus. I'm not sure what effect that would have on the spam situation, but I've noticed a lot of blogs that started with the default Blogger comments have switched to Disqus, so it's possible that there's some advantage to doing so. We'll have to see how things go, I guess.

danger garden:

I've actually been really surprised that people weren't talking about this already. When it started getting really heavy, around Christmas, I actually did a Google search to try to find people complaining about a sudden increase in spam blog comments, and I came up almost completely empty, so I figured maybe it was just me.

mr_subjunctive said...


Yeah, I'd turn off e-mail notifications, like, yesterday if I were you. Do you not normally check comments through the Blogger Dashboard?

Ginny Burton:

At this point, captchas seem like an annoyance without an upside, since I don't actually know that they'd do anything to get rid of the spam. I'm sort of accustomed to them myself -- I don't not comment on a blog just because I know captchas will be involved -- but I've seen a lot of people complain about them, for understandable reasons.

Plowing Through Life (Martha):

For some reason, I thought you were using captchas already. I would have sworn I'd had to fill them out on your site in the past.

Liza said...

Hmmm, I wonder if this is a blogger problem, because on my wordpress site, the spam isn't getting through. On my dashboard, wordpress will tell me, "akismet has prevented 88,824 spam comments already." Maybe the filter is a little more thorough?

Whatever it is, I hope the problem gets solved, because that sounds so disappointing! Good luck!

Anonymous said...

@ Liza: Wow, you have a lot more spam than me - about 8 times as much!

I might have to start using the OpenID option then... always preferred the Name/URL one because it's quicker.

mr_subjunctive said...


Okay, I just checked, and yes, the Name/URL option disappears when the anonymous option does. So never mind about that being an option.

Liza said...

Ivy, I think they mean that's the total since I started my blog in 2009. Currently, I have 42 spam comments that akismet caught. (My blog isn't that popular, even to the spammers.)

Unknown said...

No worries! Sorry that you have to deal with the spam, though. :<

Anonymous said...

Well, that's a bummer that I will no longer be able to leave comments on your blog, since the name/URL option will also disappear. I understand why you are making the changes, but since I do not have a google account/blogger/AIM etc., and have no plans of obtaining one it will exclude myself and I am sure several others from sharing comments on your posts. I have no problem filling in a Captcha if you decide to do that, and doubt that most people who do not have these accounts would be that lazy that they would avoid filling out a captcha request in order to leave a comment. Just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

@ Liza: I know. My total is around 10,000.
You post a lot more often than me - I wonder if that is what makes the difference?

Anonymous said...


One of the very fine "frisky" blogs I commented to, had me put in my email address, and other items that will NOT be posted in the comment. Then instead of these captchas, they had a simple math equation: "1 + 7 is:" and then you type in the right response, or your comment will not even get through. The math changes each time you attempt to leave a comment. He moderates the site with an iron fist. So that if it is a flame/rude comment or nasty-ness, it ends right there. He never posts those at all and clearly states that is the case. Any of those trolls trying to get attention, simply don't get attention, and they move on. If you are interested I can send you the site info via a private email. He has help many other bloggers.

So: Might that math thing help? It is less difficult/annoying to do, than reading a word you will never figure out. Just a thought. As I don't blog and will never join blogger, tumblr, facebook, et al, I am not in the loop, but it seems to do the trick for him.

Your Stimulus Package (Seattle)

mr_subjunctive said...

Your Stimulus Package (Seattle):

Well, I've been moderating the comments here, too, you know. Blogger doesn't support banning commenters by IP address, so I can't stop people from attempting to post over and over, but even if I could, there's nothing to stop people from using anonymizers and posting over and over from different IP addresses anyway.

I've seen the math problem captchas. I'm sort of surprised that the spambots haven't figured those out already (it seems like simple arithmetic calculations would be right up their alley).

At this point, I'm not particularly interested in the math captchas, because the captchas that come as the default option in Blogger seem to work just fine for keeping spam out (there's still no spam since I made the change, and it's been almost 24 hours now -- normally I'd have gotten about 38 spam comments in that period of time).

As to the distorted-word captchas, well, yeah, I've done my share of squinting at the screen trying to figure out what's going on. If it helps, I think usually only one of the two items counts when the system is deciding whether or not to let you post. The captcha system tries out various items, but the one that counts is one where a solid majority of the people who have filled it out have already agreed on what it is. Items that people can't make out consistently never get counted. So even if you can't quite make out what one of them says, there's a good chance that you can still comment if you just make a guess.

Also, if you get a pair of captchas that is just impossible, you can click the reload (circular arrow) icon just to the right of the rectangle where you're supposed to type stuff in. Blogger will then give you a second, hopefully more legible, set of captchas to solve.

Even if you get the required item wrong, I think all that happens is that it tells you you got it wrong and loads a new one. So, I mean, I get that they're annoying, but there's no huge penalty for guessing.

Anonymous said...

I think the Wordpress thing is better than Blogger in this aspect. It would be so nice if we could combine the best of both worlds into a blog software AND publicly stone all spammers. Maybe just the latter, I'm OK with that. Good luck on your decision.

Silly Little Sheep said...

I have one single blog post that keeps getting horrible spam comments. But in my case, just enabling the comment moderation was enough, I dont get too many, so it is still doable.
I hate spammers though, they are so annoying!!

Petunia said...

I feel your pain. I tried everything to try and minimize the amount of spam I receive on my blog. I activated the Askimet spam blocker on my WordPress site and that worked well, but I found that closing the comments after a certain number of days helped tremendously. I know that can be annoying for anyone that tries to leave a message, but I figured that if a post is older than 6 months it would be safe to close.

If you want to read my spam rant, you can look at my post:

Best of luck. BTW, your post about which plants you would want when the zombies take over, cracked me up. Thank you!

mr_subjunctive said...


I actually get a fair amount of comments on the old posts, especially the plant profiles, so I would be very reluctant to close comments on them after any length of time.

Switching to captchas seems to have done the trick, though: only three since then. One was a generic "very pretty flower" comment left by someone whose user name was a link to a commercial website; the remaining two were duplicates of one another.

Petunia said...

I had added them too and didn't see a difference. I just realized that they are turned off again after I updated my theme. Grrr, I have to turn them back on.