Got spam? As bloggers, we all do. Its just one of those things we have to deal with on a daily or semi-regular basis. Akismet can help, and there are some other good techniques for dealing with comment spam, but the problem seems to always be with us, despite what we do.
And even sorting through the spam pile to find valuable gems can be a frustrating and sometimes unrewarding experience. There’s not much worse than going over a hundred spammy comments and not finding one worth the publish button.
There’s another little trick to cut down on the spam, though. It doesn’t always work but its a good start to slow down the flood of noise.
In social science, there’s a modern theory about broken windows. No, this isn’t the economic fallacy that derives from a technical definition of GDP. I’m not going to tell you to break your windows because it increases aggregate demand. That one’s pretty debunked.
The social science version of broken windows is a good bit different. It says that peoples’ behavior is influence by the state of the environment they’re in. In an alley of boarded doors and shattered windows, people are less likely to put trash in its proper location. Missing windows also more directly lead to unauthorized entry, but the psychological effect of seeing chaos is just as important as the physical barrier a window provides.
How does this relate to blog comments? Well, if a comment spammer sees their comments and links go through, they’re going to be more likely to try and try again. If they see other spammy comments published, they’ll want to repeat that success for themselves. If you go to a page with 100 comments, keyword anchor texts, and apparently no moderation, you might think “free links!”
There’s some valid criticism of this theory, and I’m certainly not advocating any kind of zero tolerance policy. But stricter standards of what gets published – even if only temporarily – can help cut down on the amount of people trying to take advantage.
So, instead of allowing comments to post immediately and then going back to moderate them later, consider setting your comment section so that all posts with links from new visitors requires manual approval. This can slow down the discussion a bit, but you can also tell WordPress to send you an email notification of when it happens. Delete spam with prejudice, and put valuable comments in a place that shows they’re important and appreciated.
Just don’t let the bad comments sit around… because then people start to think they’re allowed to copy those behaviors!