Blog Spam and Parasites

So I run a couple blogs and like many people I haven’t solved the blog spam problem yet (even MT-Blacklist only works some of the time and it’s a losing battle). There obviously have been alot of people trying to solve the problem, but it’s interesting to watch from another angle: blog spammers (I guess all spammers) are effectively parasites living off a host system. For the most part, they don’t bother the host system too much. One, two, maybe ten comments per day and we both keep on living. It’s the times like last night when I got 418 spam comments on my blog that I think I should turn off comments entirely but killing the host doesn’t seem like the right answer.

A couple of weeks ago I listened to Janice Benyus’ presentation on biomimicry (courtesy of Jason Kottke, you can download and listen to the presentation in MP3 format). In it she talks about 12 ways in which nature does things better than we do: self assembly, the power of shape, natural selection as innovation (amazing to hear how nature in many ways is still light years ahead of our man-made technology). It’s interesting stuff if you’re into that kind of thing, but then you probably wouldn’t haven’t gotten this far if you weren’t. Anyway, that presentation popped back into my head today while I was deleting all 418 comments: how does nature deal with the problem of parasites? I guess it goes without saying that nature hasn’t solved the problem either because the earth is really old… and we’ve still got a ton of parasites. Malaria, giardia, fleas and ticks are all rampant abusers of animals and humans (reading the Wikipedia entry for Malaria reminds me of the malaria pills I had to take when my pop took my brother and I to Kenya for 2 weeks… I chewed one by accident, talk about a bitter pill!) But their existence doesn’t mean that nature (or humans) haven’t tried to get rid of parasites. Doctors and researchers have been trying to eradicate malaria from much of the world for many years using a variety of methods:

· attacking the mosquito population: Reminds me of a post by Tim Bray (Crooks in Plain Sight), why not hunt down the people who do the blog spam (we certainly know where they live on the web)? Tim, or perhaps someone else, suggests that no one wants too. Better yet, no one has the time or energy to do so. Probably true.

· genetically modifying mosquitoes so that they don’t carry malaria: I think this would be analogous to asking the search engines (Google, MSN, Yahoo, etc..) to do something about the problem (ie: modify the Google search algorithm so that even if comments gets on your blog and stays there, it doesn’t influence the PageRank of the link they post). Would this happen? Unlikely. Any change Google makes would be countered by changes from the parasite/blog spammer. That’s a losing battle.

· distributing mosquito nets to areas of the world where the problem is most severe: A mosquito net? I think this is the MT-Blacklist / scode of our disease control toolkit. Put a net over our blogs so that the parasites can’t get it. Works for someone, but complete eradication will only work if everyone has a net. The parasites will continue to flourish on all the unprotected blogs.

· releasing millions of sterile mosquitoes into the wild (Sterile insect technique):
: The idea here is that by releasing millions of sterile mosquitoes, males will fruitlessly attempt to fertilize eggs.. females will lay eggs that can’t ever hatch. I think this would be analogous to a bunch of people getting together and making sites about incest, kid porn and beastiality. Neutralize the blog spammers efforts by beating them at their own game (which we’ve proven we can do).

·through chemicals like DDT: No idea what the corollary would be in the blog world, most likely like the first (attacking the mosquito population)

·by developing a vaccine for malaria: Here’s an interesting idea: instead of distributing nets like MT-Blacklist or scode (which block spam at the point of attack), why not modify our systems that they become immune to the affects of the parasite? Maybe this is modifying the comment URL so that it’s a redirect rather than a direct link (already being done), adding comment registration (already being done), or a comment approval process.

I’m not sure a solution will ever be found (regular spam doesn’t seem to be getting any better)… if nothing else, it’s an interesting problem. Oh, and if you found it interesting, drop me a comment. ;)

7 thoughts on “Blog Spam and Parasites”

  1. I think your vaccine is best. Although MT-Blacklist works on older versions of MoveableType, it doesn’t attack the direct problem. MT-Blacklist ensures that links to sites that blogpsammers link to are prohibited from being registered.

    …however, this still doesn’t stop the problem as the spammers are still spamming. However, spammers are not really spammers, but typically cron jobs of Perl scripts (I think that’s the correct way to say it), thus even if MT-Blacklist continues to do it’s job, it still has one weakness; new URL’s.

    That’s where I think the Captcha (think I said that right, too) test is the best way since scripts cannot write #’s into a text field by “looking” at a randomly generated image. Since this is physically impossible for a perl script to do, and the humans are stopped by MT-Blacklist (which there are few blogspammers who do it by hand in relation).

    …my problem is, the one on blogspam.net (or was it org), is too friggin hard to install… or if I installed it right, but was missing GD, I’m not sure.

    At any rate, those who DID get it installed swear by it since they were getting bot-blasted like me.

  2. I found my blog spam disappeared once I stopped pinging weblogs and the like. That is where the spammers get the places to hit afterall.

  3. I’ve never had a problem with spam on my blog – and I just use a JavaScript pop up window. This probably prevents one out of a hundred folks from posting, but seems to have completely shielded me from all blog spam.

  4. It’s funny that I read this right after seeing a documentary on undersea life. It seems that nature has solved the problem of parasites. Many fish including sharks are cleaned by smaller fish like Wrasse. The smaller fish eat the parasites off the skin of larger fish. Analogous to this, I think, is the Wikipedia. It is open to all for editing and while someone might add some spam or even just bad info, 50 others are waiting to edit or remove it. Unfortunately you probably do not wish to open your personal blog to anyone who wants to edit it. I don’t know what the analog of a fish rubbing itself against a rock might be.

  5. You should check out the paralysis ticks here in Australia. They kill the host if left unchecked in 3 days. We’re constantly removing them from our dog, so nature hasen’t solved the problem either.

  6. Comment registration system eh? I already had a spam bot try to register as a user on my blog… I don’t think that will solve everything.

    I’m having good luck with my mosquito net though. A short little sql script and a blacklist of words is getting just about all of it.

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