Monthly Archives: November 2004

The only good idea in this entry is right down at the bottom

Today (Sunday) I’ve deleted about 130 spam comments from this weblog (with the aid of the redoubtable MT-Blacklist). Yesterday was about the same. Likewise Friday, Thursday and so on. I’m really fed up with it. In case you haven’t got up to speed on blogspam yet, the thing to remember is that the spammers aren’t interested in your opinion of their fascinating products or in your lovely readership or in a healthy debate… or anything really, apart from the boost to their Google pagerank that a link from your weblog might provide.

Blogspammers want to hijack the special treatment given to blogs by Google (and other search engines, these days). That’s why blogspam is indiscriminate about placement – nobody needs to read the comment so sticking it in a two year-old blog entry will do just fine. That’s also why you need to delete these bogus comments sharpish. In fact, the quicker you can delete your blogspam the better, since that will give Google fewer opportunities to index it. Sadly, although the blogspammers are clever enough to figure out which blogs to hit, they’re not clever enough to figure out which bloggers are motivated to delete spam comments quickly and thus provide no boost to pagerank.

And, of course, it would make no difference if they could figure this out because the barmy economics of spam means that not spamming produces no benefit at all to the spammer, since each additional spam has an incremental cost of effectively zero. We’re all wise enough these days to know that Google’s algorithm (the mythically cool and sophisticated Google algorithm) is tweaked and tuned continuously to exclude scumbags and miscreants so I wonder if the next logical step is for Google to exclude blog comments from the index all together (pretty easy, I guess, since comments are marked up in a fairly predictable way).

This would be a bad thing – destructive to the information value of the index – but obviously, at the same time, a good thing, since it would kill blogspam overnight and remove a significant pollutant from the information stream. Once blogspam stops producing a boost to pagerank, the economics goes into reverse and the spammers will stop and since genuine blog commenters don’t do it for the pagerank, there’ll be no reason for them to stop commenting and no damage to the vibrancy and usefulness of the blogosphere.

Hold on. Thinking about it, a subtler approach would be for Google to automatically delay indexing blog comments for, say, 24 hours. That would give bloggers a chance to delete blogspam before it could make an impact on pagerank while preserving the long-term value of comments for the index. That’s it. I think I’ve cracked it. Where do I collect my OBE?

I made a place!

Forums are places, I suppose. IRC channels, MUDs and chat rooms too. But blog entries? Not really. Here’s an exception. Ages ago I blogged a special ‘flowchart issue’ of Mizz, the teen mag and, since then, my top search term has been ‘mizz magazine’. Every day, dozens (sometimes hundreds) of teens find themselves – thanks to Google – looking at this entry. God knows what they make of it (many of them wonder aloud: ‘what is this place?’). Anyway, the entry has become a kind of teen hangout. I don’t do anything (just delete the odd Viagra comment-spam) but it’s now more-or-less self-sustaining. I guess it might go on forever…

What are they on about?

Bet you've never heard of Fat CatFat Cat pencil
Fat Cat is a cartoon character with an uncertain grasp of the English language. I think he comes from China, although this notebook and pencil (which come with a pencil case, ruler, pencil sharpener, eraser and a sort of clip thing) was bought in Spain and carries some words in Dutch too. If you click the small pic of the pencil you’ll see that the inscription says: “Fat Cat is folksy, easygoing, polite and well-mannered”.