The Trouble with Comments (Updated)

July 9th, 2004  |  Published in Uncategorized

I spent some of last night helping Michael B. get MTBlacklist installed. The past few days have seen a real jump in comment spam here and there, and I dealt with my first truly concentrated trackback spamming attack this week.

Even with MTBlacklist, there’s still drudgework involved in clearing that kind of thing out, not to mention the sense that someone has come along and thrust my nose full into a pile of shit they’re trying to peddle to desperately fucked up people. I try to get it off the site as quickly as possible, and I’m not interested in cataloging what’s depicted in some of the seemingly innocuous URLs I try to investigate before banning them. It’s enough to say that pornography has gone in roughly the same direction as American political discourse: The cheesecake center hasn’t held.

Every time I have to wade through a pile of comment spam pointing to sites that sell degradation and the sexualization of misery I feel a little more depressed. At some point in the past few months, I passed out of the relativistic bubble I’d sealed myself into as that sort of stuff passed through my inbox and over my pages and into a state of anger and sadness.

Maybe it’s about having Ben in the house now and the involuntary process I go through, as have other parents I’ve talked to, when I’m exposed to something I might have previously blown off. I don’t think of myself undergoing whatever’s being depicted. I think of Ben. I don’t wonder if I’ll ever feel some need to consume the degradation and humiliation of others. I wonder what makes other people need that, and I wonder if I could fail Ben in such a way that he’d have that need. If I needed it driven home any more, the scum that posted links to their sites in the comments in Ben’s gallery pretty much accomplished that.

This is a matter that raises some uncomfortable and prickly issues, and it’s looming as a point at which much of the friendly go-along/get-along relativism I’ve adopted must fail, but it’s what’s on my mind lately. I’ve spent the last week almost daily fending off yet another attempt to turn my pages into an advertisement for someone else’s sexualized malice.

The unhappy fact at the heart of it is that if you run a weblog, especially if you run a weblog using popular software, these people find you. Sensing that weblog maintainers are beginning to rally against them, they’ve even taken to seeding their spam with truly harmless URLs as a way of taking up a little more of the webmaster’s time, maybe hoping that eventually the whole thing will become enough of a chore that site maintainers will just give up.

I’m leaning more toward eliminating comments as part of Puddingtime and moving them over to something like phpBB, or just spending more time trying to incite fellow scoopists to do something besides lurk. Either way, it seems like something has to give.

Update: I did take one step I probably should have a long time ago: I installed the MTCloseComments plugin and set it to close comments on any item more than three weeks old. The prevailing wisdom seems to be that older entries are the most abused because they’ve built up an exploitable Google presence. Hopefully this will do a little more to stop the worst of it. Existing comments aren’t affected, but the form that allows comments to be entered is removed (less as a courtesy to spam bots than the occasionally confused reader who comes across an older entry off the search engines).

Free assistance to anyone with an established blog who could use a hand setting this up.

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