March 24, 2014

Bot or Not?

The past two weeks I received 1113 comments flagged by my spam filter. To put that in perspective, my blog has been live for a little over three years, and I’ve received 28 actual comments.

The bots clearly love me. So do bot-like people. And sometimes it’s surprisingly difficult to tell the difference.

Here’s a comment posted to “Getting Over Photo Envy

So I’ve been doing paid photography work for about 3 years now and it’s been a joy… [personal antidote cut for bravery.] Anyway, I don’t envy you school photographers one bit. I’d rather shoot a full-day wedding than a full-day of school photos. Keep up the good work!

It appears that someone issued a key word searches for certain topics (e.g. school photography). When they came across my post, they left this prefab comment along with a link to the comment author’s photography business. Since the comment is partially related to the topic of the blog post, it has a better chance of getting through spam filters and thus generating traffic for the business. It got through mine.

Quasi on topic spam comments seems to be a trend these days like this one on my post “Stollen Baby Photos“. Here’s another:

With havin (sic) so much written content do you ever run into any issues of plagorism (sic) or copyright infringement? [cut for brevity]

The dead give away for identifying this comment as spam was the author/website link. The link was not to a blog, but to a specific article. The commentor used a (presumably) fake email address and (obviously) fake name. Someone was likely trying to drum up page views and potentially click revenue for their article.

Protip: setting your name to “what is the best flea treatment for dogs” is a probably not going to fool many.

The author of the plagiarism comment may have never even visited my blog! Google analytics shows no activity on that page the day the comment was posted. Either the comment appears to was posted remotely, i.e. from another website using a cross site $_POST request, or Google analytics thought it was a bot and removed it from my daily totals.

With so few comments I haven’t really given much thought to a comment policy. My intention was to allow any comments from a human, and disallow those from a bot. But these days the line is getting blurrier. There was this comment:

Hi! Stopping by from Mom Bloggers Club. Great blog!
Have a nice day!

I could see from my analytic traffic that this was a real, honest to goodness, human leaving the comment. But it was left on the “Duplicate Image Search” blog post, which was my response to the fact that someone had been passing of my photos of Nicki as their photos of their child. The comment seemed misplaced. I could also tell from Analytics that the author spent almost no time on my blog, and certainly not enough time to read any posts. The comment was left within seconds of her arrival, on the most recent post. I suspect she left the comment in hopes of gaining traffic from the comment website link. I doubt she even skimmed the content of the post she commented on. Because it didn’t seem like a “real” comment, I opted to spam it.

So for now, I guess my comment policy is “if it could be mistaken for a bot, it’s marked as spam.” If there are any humans out there reading this, whose comments have been spammed, forgive me, I’m only human.

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