Moderating comments

Oct 27, 2016 · 3 min read

I've tried many methods during all these years. Some of them have been more successful than others, some have failed terribly. Fighting comment spam could easily become a full time job.

Moderating comments -- Mervi Emilia

I had been using Mollom for quite a while, and been somewhat happy with it. It wasn't perfect, but it mostly did what it should. Mostly. Then something changed. I still don't know what went wrong, but the service started to break down. My site wasn't connecting with their servers, or there was horrible lag in the connection. I tried modifying the time out settings, which helped for a while and then the problem came back. I contacted their customer service and didn't get much answers. "Everything seems to be working" didn't quite help when, at my end, nothing was working. As a result I asked them to remove my account and dropped the service off my site. Bye!

Because I didn't have great experience with other similar antispam methods and I've heard some bad stuff about Akismet, I decided to go with alternate ideas. I tried a bunch of different Drupal modules, before settling to a combination of a honeypot, http:BL by Project Honey Pot, and a captcha. Earlier I had been using a Drupal module called Spamicide, but it seemed to start let spam through a bit too much. So I switched to Honeypot. The module even includes a time delay setting, which checks how fast the comment form is filled. If the form is filled in the minimum required time or over it will be considered entered by a human instead of a bot.

To implement http:BL, I installed the module by the same name. The idea of Project Honey Pot is to harvest the IP addresses and data of spam bots, and http:BL takes advantage of the data to prevent spam from being published. The module also ads another honeypot for spambots. You can't teach the service by submitting spam but spambots can, and often will, submit their own data. The service isn't the most stable there is and, since it cannot be taught, it leaks spam through.

The two methods mentioned above are very user friendly. Only spam bots will have trouble with them, real people will never get tripped by these methods. However, they let some spam through, which I noticed after using the modules alone. This is why I went down the road of desperation.

I added a CAPTCHA. For this I used the very comprehensive CAPTCHA module. I tried different CAPTCHAs, including a riddler, in which I could create my own questions. Most were pretty difficult to use (from the user point of view), and they leaked some spam through. Thus I enabled Google's reCAPTCHA. It has worked pretty well, but I have been feeling bad about it. I don't like CAPTCHAs myself and they are to me the last possible option. Desperate, as mentioned.

Today I decided to try something else. I've noticed many blogs using comment moderation, and I'm following the lead there. For now, the comments will not be published immediately. Unfortunately, this means a delay in comment being published. As I've been writing this, a handful of spam comments have been added to the moderation queue. It's clear this means extra work for me, as I have to go quite often through that queue in order to make sure any legitimate comments wont be left hanging for too long. Plus I need to keep the queue as clear as possible, so that I won't accidentally delete the legitimate comments when purging the spam. I've set a system which will send me an email notification about the new comments in moderation queue. However, the notifications can easily get mislabeled by spam filters, and I can't be always moderating. I apologise for any inconvenience this may cause, and ask for your patience.

I will test other methods in the background. In case it looks like I find a great combination, I may release comment submission again to be without approval. Spammers are a huge problem, to which nobody currently has a flawless solution.

How do you fight comment spam? What sort of experiences you have had with making comments and spam prevention?


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I have closed the comments for now, but I welcome you to write your response to your own blog, or at Twitter or Facebook. In case you wrote your response on your blog, do let me know so that I can read it and possibly link to it from this post.

I will gloriously ignore (and, where possible, report) any responses which contain personal attacks, aim to troll or provoke for the sake of provocation, or seek to promote unrelated business or scams.