The Massively Presumptuous RAMH Comment Policy

Okay, okay, I get it: free speech, all that. We can’t restrain people from acting a certain way before they act that way, so on and so forth.

But damn, do I hate spam. Especially comment spam. Especially comment spam here, at Running After My Hat.

The volume of comment spam has gone up, for some reason. Hard to believe it’s because the blog has attracted a lot of attention, Google hits and Technorati “authority” points and so on, but you never know.

I thought it might be useful to explain what happens to comments here, after the commenter has filled in the little reCaptcha/word-verification thing but before his/her comment shows up.

  1. First, WordPress itself screens out a LOT of spam. I have no idea how it does this, but I almost never look at the alleged spam that’s been automagically put aside for my later attention. I simply go in and delete it en masse, unread. It’s possible this has caused legitimate comments to go missing; if you suspect that’s happened to you, please let me know [runningaftermyhat at g,m,a,i,l dot com].
  2. As you have noticed if you’ve ever tried leaving a comment here, you have to jump through two hoops to do so. You have to enter at least a name (which can be a pseudonym) and an email address (which is never displayed publicly, and optionally a Web address (URL). And then, having keyed your comment in, you have to do the reCaptcha thing: enter the two words displayed, in distorted form, in the little red box at the foot of the comment form. I’ll discuss each of these “filters” next, starting with the latter.
  3. reCaptcha works automatically. It’s got one purpose only: to screen out “comments” which have been automatically generated by computer software. Attempts have been made to break the reCaptcha system (not here, God knows — I mean in general), and they’ve probably been successful. But this probably causes a lot of junk mail to be turned away at the door before I ever see it.
  4. As for what you enter elsewhere in the comments form…
    • First, the blog software itself holds all comments for moderation if a particular name/email address is unrecognized, i.e., has never been entered before. (“For moderation” means I have to explicitly clear the name/email as legitimate before the comment will appear on the blog.)
    • So how do I “moderate” comments? Some rules of thumb:
      • If there’s no URL provided, and no hyperlinks in the body of the comment itself, it’s probably not spam. (What sort of idiot spammer wouldn’t provide a way for his/her readers to get to the spammer’s site?) Depending on the comment, I may simply delete it (more on this below). Or, more likely, I’ll let it go through.
      • If there’s a URL provided for the commenter, regardless what the comment itself says, I always check the link myself. If the site seems legitimate, I’ll see what the comment says. What makes a site “illegitimate” in my eyes? (a) It’s a “link farm” sort of site, especially a would-be blog. The posts at such blogs are completely unrelated to one another, because their contents are scraped verbatim from other blogs or sites. (b) It’s a porn site, or a malware site, or a download-movies-for-free site, etc. etc. etc.
      • Sometimes I get comments from sites providing something not clearly junk. These comments are often — almost always — flattering. But they come from site visitors whose names/nicknames I don’t recognize, and — the kicker — they don’t say anything explicitly about the content of the post or page they ostensibly comment on, nor do they say anything about RAMH in general or about any of the sites where they might have seen a comment from me. Here’s a current example:

        I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

        Sorry, “Susan” — please keep coming back… and demonstrate that you’ve actually read something here. I love meeting new commenters!

By the way, I go through the same sort of obsessive-compulsive ritual when Twitter informs me I’ve got a new follower. If your Twitter profile includes a URL, you bet I will visit it. And if it’s junk, you’re blocked: if one of my real followers wants to check out another one, I don’t want them concluding that I’ve got sleazes on my tail, too.

(Facebook is a little easier to control, because of the two-way approval/verification process to befriend someone.)

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  1. Thank you very much for your off-topic comment on the fat lady in Other Men’s Flowers. I have replied in the same place.

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