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Archive for January 25th, 2013

I will go root away the noisome weeds which without profit suck the soil’s fertility from wholesome flowers.  –  William Shakespeare, Richard II (III, iv)

Nothing in this sublunary world can be perfect; every pleasure has its price, every rose its thorn, every joy its pang.  Those who win lotteries often find themselves plagued by beggars and opportunists, and over every throne hangs a Damoclean sword.  So while I’m very pleased with the great success of my blog, it also carries a cost:  though I’m visited by several thousand good readers every day, people who are here to learn and explore and share their knowledge and opinions, I am also increasingly targeted by parasites eager to draw some of that traffic to their own sleazy commercial sites.

Al Shea, Mr. Bingle & Pete PenguinI have nothing against advertising, as long as it represents itself as such and makes fair payment for the space and time it occupies.  It was advertising that first made broadcast radio and television feasible and supported it for most of a century, and a well-designed commercial can be just as entertaining as any other short film; I have voluntarily featured several on this blog without compensation because I enjoyed them and thought y’all might as well.  But comment spam is as different from Mr. Bingle as violent assault is from massage; though they are both technically forms of advertising, comment spam is boring, inane, deceptive and attempts to steal attention rather than offering fair compensation for it.  As I said in “Parasites”,

…this plague…pours into popular blogs every day like a veritable river of leeches…the Akismet program monitors all comments and shunts spam into a folder for later review and discard; it’s extremely rare that it misses one, but even that goes into the moderation queue where I can catch it and throw it back into the spam folder.  If it weren’t for the fact that it’s sometimes too aggressive and mistakes legitimate comments (even from regular posters) for spam, I would simply empty the folder without looking at it because scanning the contents of that folder now takes up a measurable fraction of my time here…72% of all attempted comments over the life of the site have been spam, which will give you some idea of how repellent and uninviting the comment threads would be if they got through.

As of this writing, that fraction is now 83% total, and on any given day the ratio of spam to real comments sometimes exceeds 10:1.  One recent afternoon I closed my browser, went to town, came home, cooked and ate dinner and then signed back in to find that Akismet had trapped 100 spam comments in just over five hours; if that becomes typical (as I fear is inevitable) I will soon see over 500 spam comments per day.

katrina debrisClearly, something has to give, and I’m afraid that something has to be my scanning the spam folder for the rare legitimate comment which Akismet mistakenly discards.  Effective immediately, I will no longer browse this mountain of rubbish before clearing it away, so if there’s anything in there which shouldn’t be I won’t be able to see it unless I’m specifically advised that it’s there.  Instead of emptying the spam every time I go to the dashboard (as I have done since the beginning), I will instead empty it only once per day, just before I go to bed around midnight Central Time (6:00 UTC).  If you try to post a comment and it doesn’t appear as it usually does, here’s what you need to do:

1)  If you’re a regular commenter, please click on this link to send me a specially-marked email so I’ll know I have to go digging through the trash for your comment.  Please don’t ignore this; once one of your comments is rejected, for all I know Akismet may mark you as a spammer and trash everything you try to post from then on.

2)  If you’ve never posted before, it’s extremely likely that your comment is simply being held for moderation and will appear as soon as I notice it (usually within a few hours, but remember I’m in bed between 6:00 and 14:00 UTC).  If it doesn’t appear in that time, please click on this link to contact me; make sure you give me a rough idea of when you tried to post so I’ll know when to look.  If your comment is insulting, rude, dishonest or trollish it may be that I was the one who excluded it rather than Akismet; you may want read “How Not To Get Your Comments Posted” to see if you followed the instructions properly.

dumpster divingAs I said in “House Rules”  way back when, 96% of you will probably never have to worry about any of this; however, I’d be remiss if I didn’t provide some remedy to the actions of an over-enthusiastic robot.  I value my readers and your comments, and though I don’t have the time or inclination to sift garbage on a several-times-daily basis any more, I certainly don’t mind dumpster diving if I know there’s something valuable in there.

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