Why we moderate comments

When you leave a comment on this blog, it doesn’t appear immediately. It’s held for us to approve. We’re not afraid of what our readers have to say (Root Simple readers are always very civil) but we have to protect the comments from the inanities of spam. We thought you’d might like to see some of it, so you know why you have to wait for your comment to go up.
The majority of the spam is of the False Reader sort. These comments are always agreeable and sometimes almost slip past us. Variations on “Thanks for sharing” are a real tip-off, though. Most of these types of spammers will use it, while I don’t know if any real reader has ever used that phrase. I mean, why would you thank us for sharing? We’re bloggers. It’s what we do.


“Thanks a lot for sharing that valuable information. I like how you describe hedgerows.” (Link to an exterminator in new york, commenting on a hedgerow post)

or

“WOW! That is really interesting about the radioactive contamination. How wonderful! Thanks for sharing!” (A link to a tree retailer, commenting on the recent sunflower post)

This agreeable “slide it in amongst the real comments” form of spam is predominant. This week, though, we got a (politely) argumentative one. Impressive!:
“I think it is not Satan’s house plant. That plant is really good for our health. You shouldn’t consider it as evil. Thanks for your insights anyway.” (Link to some virtual office scheme, commenting on our post about the evil asparagus fern, which I refuse to believe is good for anyone’s health.)
I suspect the above messages are human generated, and originate in terrible internet sweat shops. Procedure: find the subject of the post, and plug it into an existing comment template. Robots could do this, but many of the spambots we see aren’t that literate:
“The in the (sic) Barrel3-speed geatures (sic) a simple-minded color scheme with complex geometric frame design to form the utopia of cruisers Comfort Bikes” (Link to a beach cruiser bike, slapped on some totally unrelated post–no mention of bikes at all.)

Simple-minded color scheme? Form the utopia of cruisers? It’s pure Dadaist poetry!

This one may be a robot, or ESL, or both:

“Usefulness and significance of your ides(sic) is awesome. Examine most wanted infinite treasure of online deals, coupons and much more for your dearest brand name. “(A brazen full URL followed this, and it was left on the Bee Hotel post.)

“Most wanted infinite treasure”–lovely! And which brand name is my “dearest brand name”? Arm & Hammer? Something to ponder.

All of us who are in business, whether we be writers or importers or dog trainers or electricians, are encouraged to have a web presence. Books and blogs tell us to go forth and comment upon blogs to raise our profile. So spam doesn’t consist entirely of weird, faceless offshore corporations selling sexual enhancement drugs. Some of it comes from smaller businesses which have paid to have their URLs sprinkled among the the comments of the blogosphere–like those first two examples above from the exterminator and the tree retailer. And some, no doubt, are even generated by the business owner themselves.

Comments planted on our site by businesses are not offensive in their content, but are offensive in themselves, because they are irredeemably false: false discourse, false community. Community is something we treasure, and try to build, so we cannot let false comments stand.

Real human presence cannot be outsourced to sweatshops. It takes lots of time and a deft touch to be a positive internet presence. Not everyone can do it as well. I think the most important thing is to have good product, and professional interactions with your customers. They’ll talk about you on the internet, even if you don’t talk about yourself.

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11 Comments

  1. LOL 1916.

    Oh goodness. Do you also get the (usually) Russian and Eastern European referrer spam? It’s throwing off my stats and it’s super irritating. Should you happen to know a solution I’d love to hear it…

  2. There are some really creative, and not so creative, spammers out there for sure. While Kevin is the spokesmodel, I’m the technical side of the operation and moderate the comments for our sites as well, and for a while it was interesting.

    I actually switched over to Disqus moderating system probably six months ago after reading an article about how comment moderation can stifle interaction on a blog. You’ve certainly got plenty, but it made me think about how I react when I’m reading someone else’s blog and how psychologically the commenter feels rejected when their post “goes to moderation for approval”. I was also wasting too much time reading through all that stuff (for lack of a better word).

    We have had two comments which weren’t automatically rejected for spam in the six months or more we’ve had Disqus set up. Disqus flagged them and set them aside for review. All other comments, which were legitimate went through like a charm. I LOVE this system and highly recommend it. We use WordPress as a platform, but it will work with Blogger.

  3. @Natalie: First–spokesmodel! Ha. You folks have a really nice website. All your hard work shows.

    I agree that “being held for moderation” isn’t a good feeling. You want to see your comment go up right away, not only to be part of the conversation, but also just to know that the submission worked. So muchos gracias for the tip. We’ll look into that system.

  4. Often when I try to post a comment on your site Google asks me to log in, I do then it takes me back to your comment area, then I have to log it, then it takes me back to your comment area… There are a couple sites where it does that to me and then there are others where I never have a problem.

  5. I moderate the comments on my blog for the same reason. It sucks, but I’ve been really irritated in the past when something slipped through.

    so- because I moderate, I understand the need for it, and I don’t mind.

  6. Let me know if you have any questions. Or feel free to post a comment on one of our posts to get the feel of it. Honestly, it made a huge difference. And thanks for the props on the site! There was a lot of hair pulling involved, but designing websites is a fun process.

  7. You two are kind of famous. If I get famous, or at least more hit prone, I’ll go to moderating too. I certainly don’t take being moderated personally. I’m posting to the blog of some well read authors. Of course you moderate.

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