I Love Blog Comments Here

But I hate spammers.

There’s nothing I find more rewarding about this blog than to check the comments held for moderation and find some comments from a reader that really add value to what I’ve written. These reactions are part of why I blog. I want to start a dialog with my readers, I want to learn from them and see their points of view.

Often, I find interesting blogs or Twitter friends among my commenters. I’ve even built relationships with commenters — fellow author Miraz Jordan is a good example — I met her when she commented on my blog years ago. We’ve been friends since then and even co-authored a book together.

I see the comment feature as a way of opening my world to my reader’s worlds. What they say gives me an idea of what they’re thinking, what they’re all about.

Sadly, Comment Moderation is Required

Comments on this site are moderated. There are two main reasons for that:

  • Spam happens. I use automated spam filters, but spam gets through. Spam, in a blog’s comments, are unslightly and unprofessional. They indicate that the blogger isn’t taking care of his or her blog. I take care of my blog. I approve every single comment before it appear on this blog.
  • Some people are abusive jerks. As I wrote a while back in “Why Forums Suck…,” common courtesy appears to be a thing of the past. Online, people say whatever they want to whoever they want, sometimes rudely and abusively. I do not tolerate that behavior here*. Rude personal attacks on me or another commenter will not see the light of day. (And, for the record, I didn’t want to use the word jerk at the beginning of this bullet point. The word I wanted to use was a bit stronger and far less ladylike. I’m trying hard to keep my language more civil these days.)

When I’m in my office or have access to the Internet on my iPad, I check comments throughout the day. I almost always approve or reject a comment within 24 hours and, if I’m sitting at my desk, it could be within minutes. So although moderation doe slow down the dialog, it does not bring it to a screeching halt.

Don’t Think You Can Fool Me

I should elaborate a bit on the spam issue. I also don’t tolerate spam masquerading as a real comment. I’m talking about comments that are obviously hand-written (as opposed to bot-posted) and do add something of value to the original post. But instead of entering his name, the commenter enters his company name. And, of course, there’s a URL in the appropriate field, pointing to the company Web site.

That’s spam.

I handle that kind of comment one of two ways:

  • If it has no real value to the post, I simply mark it as spam and delete it.
  • If it has some value to the post, I remove the company name and URL and approve the comment.

What am I getting at here? Well, if you want to use the comments feature on my blog to get people to visit your site or blog, you need to enter your name (not your company name) in the Name field and compose a real comment that adds value for other readers. Then, when you put your site or blog URL in the URL field, it’s likely to remain and you’ll get the link you want so badly. Consider it a cost of advertising.

I’ve disabled the CommentLuv plugin because it was attracting so many spammers.

June 30, 2014 Update
I’ve finally gotten around to writing up the site comment policy on a regular page (rather than post) on this site. You can find it here: Comment Policy.

You can read my complete comment policy here.

Got something to say? I hope so! Use the Comments link or form for this post to share your thoughts.


Note: In the past, I have tolerated abusive behavior and it quickly got out of hand. Do you want to see how nasty some people can get? Check out this post‘s comments. And those commenters are supposed to be “good Christians” (whatever that means). And please don’t think you can comment on that post here. You can’t.

How Some Bloggers Abuse Commenters

And why this ruins things for the rest of us.

This morning, I got a junk e-mail message from a blogger I’d met on Twitter. And I’m pissed off about it.

How I Was Violated and What I Did about It

I followed this guy on Twitter for a short time and wound up on his blog, where I posted a comment. As anyone who comments on blogs knows, an e-mail address is required to comment, so I entered mine, as I’ve been doing without problems (or spam) for the past five or so years.

This blogger, however, was different. He evidently harvests the e-mail addresses from blog comments and uses it to feed his self-promotional e-mail list. The spam e-mail message from him arrived this morning when I collected my e-mail.

To say I was furious is an understatement. In my opinion, this blogger has violated my trust — and likely the trust of all other commenters on his blog. He’s used my e-mail address without my permission in a way that’s unacceptable. He’s a spammer, pure and simple, and should be subject to the same penalties as any other spammer.

(As if anyone’s actually enforcing the new anti-spam laws.)

Here’s the message he sent; I XXXed out the identifying information so I don’t send any customers his way:

Did you enjoy the free video on the 6 ways to make money on the internet?

How would you like to win the entire XXX System absolutely free?

All you have to do is recommend the system to a friend via a twitter to enter.

We will be giving away 20 full XXX system accounts between now and January 20th.

Click here to enter!

XXX Media Group | XXX | Lincoln, NE 68516 | US
Unsubscribe from future marketing messages from XXX Media Group

Call me an idiot, but I clicked the unsubscribe link. (They say that doing that often just confirms your address and spreads it.) The link sent me to the Bronto Web site, which is evidently the software this jerk uses to send his spam. It supposedly unsubscribed me. But it went a step further — it offered a complaint link. So I clicked that and filled out the form.

I also forwarded the message to spam@uce.gov, which is something I’ll be doing with ALL spam I receive from now on.

Then I went to Twitter and reported the jerk as a spammer there.

Why This Hurts Legitimate Bloggers

I’ve been blogging since October 2003. That’s six years now. My blog has accumulated thousands of comments from readers. All of them entered what looks like legitimate e-mail addresses. Are they? I don’t know. Other than a few notable exceptions when I wanted to network with a specific person — Miraz Jordan, who wound up co-authoring a book with me, comes to mind — I haven’t tried using them.

I don’t spam my commenters. I appreciate their input; they make my blog better. Why would I violate their trust and start spamming them via e-mail? Why would I make them less likely to contribute their comments to my blog?

So you can get an idea of how annoyed I am about this asshole.

Imagine a first-time commenter who happens to comment on this jerk’s blog. He feels good about adding to the conversation and is ready to do it again elsewhere. But then he gets spam from this jerk. He realizes that putting his e-mail address out there on the Internet can get him all kinds of spam. So he doesn’t do it. Maybe he starts putting fake e-mail addresses in his comments — making him impossible to contact if the blogger wants to for a legitimate, non-spam reason. Or maybe he simply stops commenting at all.

All because one jerk is harvesting commenter e-mail for spam purposes.

What You Can Do about It

The best thing anyone can do about spam is to report it to the authorities.

If you receive spam on Twitter, use the Report For Spam link on the user’s profile page. Do it every time you receive Twitter spam.

OnGuard OnlineIf you receive e-mail spam, forward it to spam@uce.gov. You can also visit the FTC’s Spam Site to learn more about how you can reduce the amount of spam you get. And while you’re surfing out on Government sites, visit OnGuard Online for real information about how to protect yourself and your computer from Internet fraud.

But whatever you do, don’t stop commenting on blogs. Most bloggers appreciate your contributions and won’t betray your trust.

Best Comments for July 2009

Highlighting what other people have to say here.

I thought I’d try something new this month — a blog post that features excellent comments from blog readers. These are comments that really add something to the blog — or set me straight when I needed it.

You see, a blog is made good, in part, by the comments people share for the blog posts. Oddly, many folks tend to skip over the comments when they read a blog’s post. But in some cases, they’re missing out on some of the best content. My ever-popular post, “The Helicopter Job Market,” is a good example. It has over 100 comments that form an excellent discussion among helicopter pilots. Anyone who reads the post but skips the comments is losing out.

Anyway, I thought I’d highlight some of the best comments that have come in over the past month and include links to both the post and the comment. Here goes.

On July 10 and 11, Mark and Crispian Jago commented on my post, “Some Skeptic Resources on the Web.” Both of them provided links to other podcasts I wasn’t aware of, thus expanding my knowledge of these things.

On July 15, Jodene commented on my post, “Indian Eyes,” which included a video of a weird animated indian face atop a building in Wenatchee. She explained what indian was all about:

There used to be a Skookum apple packing shed where the Office Depot is today. The big Indian with the rotating eyes was their mega-mascot and it became a town mascot as well over the years. I know the shed existed into the late 70’s or early 80’s. I believe when the Skookum shed was torn down and replaced w/ the Office Depot a deal must have been made to keep the sign. (Kind of like the Citgo sign in Boston.)

Rene also provided some information about the Skookum apple packing plant.

On July 17, Jonathan commented on my post, “Please Don’t Drag Me Into Your Life.” The post was a rant and it was very cynical and a bit mean. Jonathan gently pointed out that the person I was criticizing may had a perfectly good excuse to be fully participating in Twitter when her mother might be on her deathbed. He took me down a notch, which I deserved, but he did it in a completely inoffensive way. In part:

I guess there’s an off chance her mother was asleep and this woman couldn’t sleep, but was still at the hospital. So to kill some time she’s surfing around the net maybe? I mean, we’ve all surfed aimlessly in the midnight and early hours right?

Maybe she just needed a relief from all the drama and she was using the net as an outlet….

On July 23, Fred B commented on the post, “Alfalfa Field.” His comment shared a wealth of information about alfalfa production and baling, including a direct reply to another commenter’s question. Here’s part of what he had to say:

Alfalfa is a very productive crop (often yielding 3-4 cuttings a season, and is rich in nutrients). The flip side is that it requires a lot of irrigation and removes a lot of nutrients from the soil. In order to give the soil a break, alfalfa is usually rotated every 5-6 years with a different crop (wheat, red clover, corn, various grasses, etc.), hence the observed switch from wheat to alfalfa. I imagine the owner will stick with the perennial alfalfa crop for a few years now before switching back to wheat….

These aren’t the only comments for this month. There were quite a few more. My post, “Fraud Alert: East Coast Mobile Style” continues to get many hits and comments every week. It’s interesting to read the experiences of the victims and how their credit card companies are (or aren’t) helping them.

I urge regular (and new) readers here to participate by posting comments on posts whenever they have something to add. I’m one person and I don’t know everything. It’s great to get additional information, feedback, and input from readers.

In addition, if you’re really interested in a topic, you can use the check box under your comment to subscribe to future comments. This doesn’t add you to any list I use for anything. It’s all handled internally by a WordPress plugin. There’s no spam. The only time you’ll get e-mail is when there’s a new comment. It’s easy to turn off, too; there are instructions in the e-mail you receive.

In the meantime, if you have any comments about this new feature here, please use the Comment link or form to let me know.

And thanks for helping me make my blog more interesting than I could make it on my own.

Beggar Spam

A new kind of spam makes me wonder how stupid spammers think we are.

To post a comment on any of my blog-based sites, you need to jump three hurdles:

  1. You need to get past Bad Behavior, a spam prevention solution that can identify bots. If Bad Behavior thinks the a page is being accessed by a spam bot, it simply does not allow that bot to comment. Does this work? Well, during the past 7 days, Bad Behavior has blocked 2,018 access attempts. Does that mean it has stopped all the bots? Sadly, it doesn’t. But it seems to do a pretty good job.
  2. You need to get past Akismet, the WordPress-provided spam filtering tool. Akismet takes the incoming comments that get past Bad Behavior and evaluate them to determine whether they might be spam. If it thinks a comment is spam, it gets put in a spam “bucket” (my term). Does this work? Well, in March it caught 3,830 spam comments, missed only 11 that I flagged as spam, and incorrectly marked only 3 good comments as spam that I rescued. It has caught a total of 54,048 spam comments since October 2008 — that’s just six months.
  3. June 30, 2014 Update
    I’ve finally gotten around to writing up the site comment policy on a regular page (rather than post) on this site. You can find it here: Comment Policy.

    You need to get past me. I read all the comments that Akismet approves and either approve them for posting on the site or mark them as spam that Akismet missed. In certain rare instances, I’ll delete a comment that might not be spam but is, in my opinion, inappropriate for the site. (You can read my comment policy, if you’re interested.) I also briefly review what Akismet has flagged as spam and occasionally rescue a non-spam comment from the spam bucket so it appears on the site.

If you’re not a blogger, you probably don’t realize how big a problem comment spam is. Simply said, if I didn’t have Bad Behavior to block the bots and Akismet to filter out spam comments, this blog would attract anywhere from 10 to 1000 spam comments in a day. Spam comment contents range from links to sites selling drugs or offering online gambling to simple attempts to get some “Google Juice” from links to specific sites. Some of it contains crude and offensive words and ideas. If I let it get by me and allowed it to be posted on my sites, it would likely offend most of my readers.

But lately, I’ve begun getting a new kind of spam: beggar spam. The content of the message goes something like this:

I do not believe I get only one chance in life. I am from Guinea so my English is bad. Please give.

WTF?

Of course, this kind of comment never makes it to my blog. It’s stopped dead by Akismet or me. After a while, Akismet will pick up the pattern that identifies it as spam and properly filter each beggar spam message into the spam bucket.

But the real question is this: do these spammers really expect blog readers — or bloggers, for that matter — to send money to some faceless beggar just because they asked for it? Does anyone actually send them money to give them the idea this ploy works?

Which brings up another thought: The Internet has made it so easy for people to try to suck money out of people that they’ll try anything, no matter how unlikely it is to work. Just get yourself an automated commenting bot, set its options to include the message and link you want, and let it go. Sixty seconds of effort and an Internet connection can flood the world’s blog (and spam filters) with millions of scam attempts. If even one of them is successful, the spammer is ahead of the game.

I wonder how much of the world’s Internet bandwidth is used by but spammers and con artists. I’m not just talking about comment spam here. I’m talking about e-mail from Nigerian princes and widows. I’m talking about responses to For Sale items on online services, where the buyer offers a certified check for more than the purchase amount and asks you to give the difference to his shipping agent. Or the people who e-mail legitimate companies, offering to pay more for services than advertised, with the difference going to a “logistics” agent.

I see how many of these things cross my path in a day or week or month. I’m just one relatively well-connected person. What of the people who are better connected than me? Or the ones that foolishly put their e-mail addresses, unencoded, on a Web site so the spam bots can scrape them up for sale to spammers? Or the ones with blogs at the top of Google’s page rank that get thousands of visitors a day?

How much of the Internet is wasted on fraud and spammy self-promotion?

Anyway, I’d love to get feedback from other bloggers or people experienced with spam. What’s the most ridiculous spam you’ve ever received? The one that made you think the spammer thinks everyone is a gullible fool? Use the Comments link or form for this post.

And don’t try to spam me, please. Your comment will never appear on this site.

When is a Complaint Not a Complaint?

When it isn’t a complaint.

Get a grip, readers! Not every negative thing you read in a blog is a complaint. Not every negative thing you read in a blog needs defending by someone who is apparently indignant that a negative comment can appear online.

I’ve been blogging over five years now. This blog is chock full of opinions — both good and bad — about a wide range of things.

It never ceases to amaze me that some commenters find it necessary to get all defensive about any “negative” opinions I have. Sometimes, they even come to the defense of comments that weren’t really negative at all — just an observation they didn’t like.

Case in point, my “Airport Codes: SBP” post. I wrote it last summer after flying from Wickenburg to Seattle by helicopter. One of our refueling stops was San Luis Obispo Airport (SBP). I’d never landed there before and although I had both a chart and a detailed airport diagram, I was not familiar with the local landmarks and landing procedures. So I did what any pilot might do: I said I was “unfamiliar” when I made my initial radio call to the tower. This, in part, triggered a fountain of guidance from the female controller. Way more guidance than I needed or wanted. I commented, in my post, that she was “chatty” because she talked so much it was difficult for other pilots to make their radio calls. More than one commenter on this post took issue with my opinion and came to the woman’s defense.

Give it a rest, guys. It was just an observation and opinion. It wasn’t exactly negative. And did you even bother to watch the video accompanying the post so you could hear her go at it?

And so what if I said she’s chatty? I’m sure plenty of people have used harsher terms about my motormouth sometimes. Do I take offense? Not usually. Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

My point is this: blogs are full of personal opinions. Not all negative opinions are complaints — just as not all positive opinions are praise.

If I mention that the car wash guy did a good job cleaning my car, am I praising him? It’s his job to clean cars. Of course he’s going to do a good job. But if I say he did a kick-butt job cleaning my car and that it looks brand new and that he was smart enough not to put that smelly spray crap in it or leave my steering wheel greasy with Armor All — well, then I’m praising him.

(And no, I didn’t just issue a veiled complaint about Armor All. Stop reading between the f-cking lines when there’s nothing there to read!)

In any case, non-positive opinions are not always complaints. Get a grip — and stop being defensive for no reason.

Embrace the opinions of the bloggers you follow. They open your world to a different point of view.

Note to Religious Fanatics

You are not welcome here.

I am not a religious person. In fact, I’m an atheist.

I don’t use this blog to promote my religious (or non-religious) views. While some of my comments may reflect those views, I’m not trying to convince anyone that they should change their views. Religion (or lack thereof) is a personal choice.

By the same token, I don’t expect or want any reader to use the comments feature to try to convince me or any other reader to change their religious views. If you want to preach, go bother some other blogger. Don’t bother me.

Read this carefully: I will delete any comment that attempts to communicate what I or any other person should believe about a higher being. This blog is not a forum for religious debate. Period.

I just had a four-comment exchange going with a reader who found God and evidently looked down on me because I hadn’t. When I told him I wasn’t interested in a religious debate but offered to leave his comments online for others to discuss with him, he wasn’t satisfied. He wanted a debate with me. His final comment — which never appeared here — was a condescending jab at me. I’m inferior in his eyes because I don’t believe that his god is watching over me and controlling my life. This same god, I should mention, is also just standing by while innocent people all over the world suffer from illness, starvation, and the cruelty of others.

God is all powerful and all good? Give me a fucking break.

In the meantime, I think this guy is an idiot for wasting his time preaching religion to the non-religous on the Web.

Well, he blew it and he screwed it up for anyone else with the idea of talking religion here. I won’t tolerate it any more. All of his comments have been removed and you won’t see any others.

You don’t like this policy? Don’t fool yourself into thinking that I care. There are millions of other blogs out there. Go bother someone else.

Another Comment Policy

And you thought mine was strict.

Reader comments are often what can make a blog far more interesting than it would be without comments. In fact, the commenting feature of blog software can create a community at a blog when regular readers and commenters add their two cents to blog posts.

Unfortunately, not everyone has something of value to add to a conversation. And that doesn’t stop them from adding it.

Comments Here

I review every single comment posted to this blog, so I know the full range of comment quality. Tossing aside the hundreds of daily automated spam comments caught by my spam protection software and the obvious attempts of human readers to redirect my blog’s readers to their sites, the “real” comments can be informative, helpful, interesting, funny, or thoughtful. But they can also be sarcastic, nasty, rude, or offensive.

June 30, 2014 Update
I’ve finally gotten around to writing up the site comment policy on a regular page (rather than post) on this site. You can find it here: Comment Policy.

I state my comment policy in various places throughout this site, including here. Although I occasionally do have to delete a comment that’s overly offensive or one that’s sure to generate a nasty argument, in general, this site has a great group of regular readers and commenters that don’t need to be watched over as if they’re poorly behaved children.

As an example of how much commenting can contribute to a blog, check out one of my posts, “The Helicopter Job Market,” which has accumulated almost 50 comments in just over a year. Many of these comments offer helpful insight to helicopter pilots and wannabes. They’ve created a conversation that just keeps growing — indeed, five comments have been added to that post in just the past week.

Anyway, I welcome comments and won’t prevent one from appearing unless it’s either offensive or totally self-promotional. Get a conversation going. I really enjoy it. And reader comments are often what trigger me to write new blog posts.

A Comment Policy From Down Under

Today, while in search of both images from the Iran missile photo controversy, I stumbled upon an article on the Herald Sun Web site. It showed both photos and provided some commentary about the situation. It mentioned that Iran was firing more test missiles today. The thought that if they kept firing missiles for tests they might run out came to my mind. Since the article had a comment field, I decided to voice that unlikely but amusing thought, mostly to lighten things up.

I posted the comment and submitted it. On the confirmation page, the following comment policy appeared:

Please note that we are not able to publish all the comments that we receive, and that we may edit some comments to ensure their suitability for publishing.

Feedback will be rejected if it does not add to a debate, or is a purely personal attack, or is offensive, repetitious, illegal or meaningless, or contains clear errors of fact.

Although we try to run feedback just as it is received, we reserve the right to edit or delete any and all material.

What I like about this comment policy is how clear it is. It’s warning commenters, almost up front, that what they submit may not appear at all or as it was submitted. I like the second sentence/paragraph. (Oddly enough, the commenter before me said “I Still dont Belive USA went to the Moon” and I’m wondering how that got through the moderation process, being that it’s pretty much meaningless, contains clear errors of fact, and does not add to the debate, but I guess that’s just my opinion.) I find the third sentence/paragraph bothersome, mostly because I don’t believe in editing someone’s comment. If it needs editing, it probably shouldn’t appear at all.

Up for Commenting

Anyway, I’m just tossing this out there, mostly to see what visitors here think about it.

Commenting is one of the good and bad things about blogging. On this site, I really enjoy most of the non-spam comments we receive. As long as you keep commenting, I’ll keep writing.