Relaxed comment moderation policy

During the first few years of writing this blog, I maintained an open comment policy with few restrictions on who could comment. In November 2011, however, I began experiencing a flood of spam comments, and as a result I had to implement a new comment policy that included comment moderation for new commenters and the requirement for all commenters to include their name (shown publicly) and e-mail address (not shown publicly). My hope was that the change would end the hundreds of spam comments I was getting each day while minimizing the inconvenience to those leaving valid comments.

Fortunately, the spate of spam has abated, and I think now I can relax the comment requirements. I think such measures do much to inhibit comments, as many people simply find it easier to leave comments at links on outreach sites (e.g. Facebook) rather than the post itself if they have to enter extra information in addition to the comment itself. Remote comments such as this are, of course, appreciated, but my greatest pleasure is in seeing and partaking in the conversations that develop on-site in the direct comments. I also realize that many people simply are not comfortable divulging their name and providing their e-mail address, no matter how secure the site is proclaimed to be. As a result, beginning today I have removed all comment moderation and the requirement to include name and e-mail address when leaving a comment. This means that anonymous comments are once again welcome. By eliminating as many barriers as possible to free, open communication, it is my hope that readers will not only find leaving comments here easy, but also feel comfortable doing so.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2013

New comment policy

In the nearly three years since moving ‘Beetles in the Bush’ to WordPress, I’ve enjoyed an almost spam-free existence.  Rarely did I ever get more than just a few spam comments per day, and whatever spam I did get was flagged with nearly 100% accuracy by WordPress’ Akismet spam filter.  So minor was the issue that I’ve been able to leave comment settings for the blog at their least restrictive—anonymous comments allowed with no comment moderation.  Spam comments were held for review, while legitimate comments were published immediately.  It was a simple matter to review the few spam comments that accumulated each day, confirm that they were indeed spam, then send them on to cyberoblivion.  Occasionally a legitimate comment or two would also get flagged as spam (primarily for including more than one hyperlink in the comment—a common feature of spam comments), but I would find these during review and approve accordingly.

Until now, that is.  Last month I had a post selected for WordPress’ ‘Freshly Pressed’ feature.  It’s kind of a big deal to be featured on Freshly Pressed, as exposure to the whole WordPress community typically results in a surge of traffic.  The surge is short-lived but commonly nets at least a few new readers, some of whom may become regulars.  It’s the fourth time I’ve had a post selected for Freshly Pressed; however, unlike the previous three times, this time saw also a concordant sudden surge in spam comments.  While the traffic has returned to more normal levels, unfortunately the spam comments have not—in the month since being Freshly Pressed I’ve been flooded with nearly 7,000 spam comments.  That’s about 230 per day compared to only a handful of legitimate comments.  I have neither the time nor the inclination to review several hundred spam comments every day just so I can rescue the occasional legitimate comment.

WordPress Support has no explanation for the surge in spam (I recall they made some reference to “the price of fame”).  So, and I really hate to do this, I’m implementing some moderate restrictions on who can leave comments.  I’m trying to do this, at least initially, in a way that legitimate commentors will notice hardly or not at all.  You’ll have the least inconvenience if you are logged into your WordPress, Twitter, or Facebook account and already have an approved comment somewhere on this blog.  For you nothing changes—you leave a comment and it is published immediately.  If you are logged into one of these accounts but have not yet left a comment here, your first comment will be held for moderation.  Once I approve it you get a free pass through approval from that point on and will see any future comments published immediately.  If you are not logged into one of these accounts, you can either login using the buttons on the comment form, or alternatively you can complete the fields for your name, email address, and website. Only the website field is optional; your name and email address will be required information (but please note that your email will not be shown publicly!).  Again, if you already have an approved comment on the site your comment will be published immediately, otherwise it will be held in moderation until I approve it (which then gives you a free pass for any future comments).  Sadly, anonymous comments are no longer allowed.

I hope these restrictions don’t cause undue inconvenience, and I would be most grateful for your feedback if you find that these restrictions have affected your willingness to leave comments.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011