Mark Only Spam as Spam

email spamSpam! There is no single accepted definition, but I think most bloggers will agree, spam is unwanted commercially motivated electronic communication (not limited to email), that’s a likely a source of malware.

I think most bloggers will also agree on what isn’t spam. No commenter should be shut out of discussion on your blog because you disagreed with their point of view and inappropriately marked their comment as spam.

Dealing With Spam

Spam affects everyone involved with the Internet including, among others, network operators, ISPs, businesses, recipients and, at the most basic level, the infrastructure itself through burden that it places on the system. For that reason, fighting spam requires a multi-stakeholder approach. — Combating Spam: Policy, Technical and Industry Approaches (PDF)

Over 80% of all so-called comments submitted to free hosted WordPress.com blogs every day is spam and we WordPress.com bloggers have Akismet, an excellent spam filter.

If you get spam that slips by Akismet then mark it as spam (do not delete it) and over time Akismet will learn it’s spam.

On the spam that Akismet sequesters it takes only seconds to click “empty spam” and you don’t even have to click “empty spam” if you don’t want to. Akismet will maintain comments it has caught for 15 days from the date of receipt and will delete the comment automatically.

Read more here > 5 things every blogger should know about spam

Develop a Commenting Policy for Your Blog

Freedom of speech comes with responsibilities. Develop and publish your own commenting policy. Then when a commenter does not parrot your own point of view back to you or states something you disagree with suck it up ie. deal with the comment appropriately.

In Blog Comment Policy Lee Odden five criteria for a comment policy include Comments are welcome and encouraged; Comments should add value; Keywords in the “name” field are spam; Links must be relevant, No signature [links] in blog comments.

Mark Spam as Spam

Sooner or later you will receive a dodgy commercially motivated comment that slips through the Akismet spam filter and you will have to mark spam as spam.   It may be either bot generated or human generated spam. It may or may not have a keywords in the “name” field. It may amount to a shameless self promoting plug in very poor English, or it may contain insincere flattery.  It may or may not or be full of links to bad neighborhoods, etc.

Mark only spam as spam

Bottom line: If you are not secure and mature enough to pacify your inner control freak, who cannot tolerate criticism and longs to censor those who do not share your POV (point of view), then seek treatment for what ails you before becoming a blogger.

If you do blog then sooner or later you will receive a negative comment that does not violate your comment policy and it’s best to have a personal policy in place to deal with that too.  Approve the comment and refute the contents  or thank the commenter for sharing their point of view and blog on. But, don’t pollute the spam filter with false information by marking comments you don’t like as spam.   Mark only spam as spam.

Further reading:
The Perfect Host: Comment Moderation
Say Something: Commenting Etiquette
How to Deal with Criticism And The Different Types of Critics

40 thoughts on “Mark Only Spam as Spam

  1. Pingback: Akismet….. for the record « Minkyweasel World

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  3. I especially loved your “Yes, that was an example of sarcasm,” and your “then seek treatment for what ails you before becoming a blogger.” Pithy, pungent, ka-POW! : )

  4. PS. That said, I do have a comment policy that is accessible via a link in my footer. So if people’s comments don’t go through, it’s not that they’ve gone into spam, but that they’ve gone against my policy.

  5. I would never ever mark a legitimate comment as spam. That someone disagrees with something – or even is being abusive – is not spam. Spam is commercial gunk, nothing more, nothing less. Flamers I deal with by never allowing their comments to see light of day – they go in the trash, not in spam.

  6. Free Speech, abuse, comments, blogs, lots of lines drawn in the sand and some people really have no sense of decency and just use anonymity to be abusive. I do not allow anonymous comments on my blog and I have a comment policy which works fine.

    People can dissent and have other opinions but I would have no qualms about deleting and blocking commenters who were abusive. If you google Mary Beard, a lovely academic, who presents TV programmes about ancient history and also appears on a venerable current affairs discussion panel programme in the UK called Question Time, you will see how a very wise and clever woman has dealt with the sort of abuse that would make me hide under the duvet and throw away my computer. That is the sort of thing that women are up against.

    Spam is nothing compared to that sort of vileness in my view. Akismet does a good job and I let it do it. No spam has got through to publication on my blog, as I tick the approve first comment option and moderate anything with a link in the text. I dutifully check it once a week, and have found three real comments in there in the past year. I am grateful that WordPress does such a good job with this in place.

  7. Pingback: SPAM « The Wryters' Block

  8. i always check,my spam filters,to see if they are rally spam or not-In my case,I have a blog,for friends and family ostly, but i approve comments, that i do not agree on, that is not spam!and askimet for me has worked fine,only a coupleof times wtong

  9. I did suspect some bloggers were only publishing positive comments since I have politely posted some opposing viewpoints. Oh well. When that happens, I never visit the blog again since it’s just a signal the blogger wants nothing but positive stuff.

    By the way, askimet does not block offensive “likes” with pornographic avatars…which happened. Hope there’s a way around this…of changing a person’s avatar to a more neutral design for a “like”, case by case.

  10. I’m amazed that some would use Akismet and other spam filters for comment moderation. Seems like a swatting-a-fly-with-a-sledgehammer approach to me. I honestly didn’t know anyone was doing this, but maybe it explains a few false positives I’ve had. I had comments from a long-time blogging friend wind up in my spam filter. I don’t think I knew about it until she made a post on the subject (her comments weren’t coming through on other blogs). I don’t know why anyone would do this (her posts and comments are kind and sweet, generally) but maybe someone was spiteful and abused the spam filter like that.

    The “Further Reading” section was the meat and potatoes of this article for me, personally– I don’t abuse Akismet that I’m aware of, but commenting etiquette, comment policy, etc. is still tough for me. These are great articles! Is there any chance you might expand more in a future post? Or did I miss some previous posts on that angle? Thanks again.

    • I am so happy you appreciated the articles I linked to. Hmmm… expansion on the subject on spam is always possible but I can’t set a date on that. It might even take another “incident” to trigger me to write and publish one. I’m surer everyone reading this can tell by my first response to a comment that I was on edge of ranting.

  11. Excellent post. Thank you. Confession time. I use Akismet and trust it to the extent that if Akismet flags something as Spam I just delete, rarely even bothering to read it.
    Here in South Africa we have serious issues from the past and I will very occasionally trash a comment which is politically offensive. So OK, I guess I am playing at being Censor, but needs must sometimes.

    • Hi Peter,
      Akismet is so accurate (99.78% accuracy rate) that I merely scan the pages very quickly. Since August 2007 there have only been 25 false positives and 126 missed spam. I use the Trash button on some comments almost every day but I’m confident Akismet is doing a great job and I’m making the correct choices.

  12. Great points (I think I’ll have to reblog this one too!). Most of the time, the spam is pretty obvious. I’m having more trouble where a pingback appears to be from a genuine person with a genuine blog, but all the blog did was list a bunch of people who did a post. I trashed them for a while, but am still uncertain whether I’d consider them spam. I have no prior relationship with these bloggers and while they may have written several paragraphs that appear original, they’ve listed 50 or more links in their blog.

    Thanks for reminding everyone that disagreement with a point of view is not spam.

  13. I added “obscenities (words or images)” to my comment policy after a single incident several years ago. I had a dissenting commenter, which was fine, except that she linked to some really offensive (to me) images. I deleted her link but let the comment stand. I’m still unhappy with that decision. I didn’t want to appear to be deleting a dissenting comment, but deleting just part of a comment constitutes editing a comment — a very slippery slope. Next time I’ll just delete the entire comment.

    I encourage dissent and discussion and tried to use language in my policy that wouldn’t discourage anyone from commenting. There have actually been very few comments over the years that even warranted a caution.

    • I have an all encompassing clause that covers that ugly eventuality in my commenting policy.
      “3. Moderation: To make sure that nothing distasteful such as, but not limited to, obscene language and spam is automatically posted to the blog, all comments are moderated.”

      • So far I haven’t had to resort to moderation, and I hope I never have to. I have a lot of discussions that get going back and forth in real time, like the old chat rooms, and moderation would completely kill that.

        • When I began blogging years ago I attracted a stalker and that was it for me. I put all my blogs on full moderation. Nothing is posted to this blog or my personal blog that I don’t approve. I don’t have the time for real time chat back and forth. Unlike extroverts, who find it to be energizing, I’m an introvert and I mull things over before I speak up. In most cases I don’t feel a need to speak up at all and overall I find back and forth real time chat exhausts me as I already have so much on my plate. Everyone has to set communication priorities. Family and close friends are at the top of my communication list. Communications related to our business and to my contracted work are my next priority. Blogging for me is not a profession, it’s a hobby, so it’s my third communication priority.

  14. I feel like a babe in the blog woods. I never imagined that anyone would mark a comment as spam just because they didn’t agree with it. What is the point of putting your ideas out in the world if you don’t want other’s thoughts and opinions about it. Yikes! Thank you for the link to the 5 things about spam article. Learned 5 new things today!

  15. I agree that it’s not good to mark disagreements or opposing points of view as spam. We are all teaching askimet how to filter spam by marking only spam. On my blog I have not posted a policy. I do allow negative comments. However, if the comment is verbally abusive to either me or other comments or threatening in anyway, it goes straight in the trash bucket.

    • I think your treatment of abusive commenters is appropriate and also employ it. Rubbish belongs in the trash. Only spam belongs in the spam filter.

  16. I just posted this on G+

    A lovely comment by TimeThief relating to her post about not marking adverse comments as spam:

    “Bottom line: If you are not secure and mature enough to pacify your inner control freak, who cannot tolerate criticism and longs to censor those who do not share your POV (point of view), then seek treatment for what ails you before becoming a blogger.”

    Classic :-)

  17. “Mark only spam as spam” point is important. People may mark an “offensive” comment as “spam”, which is incorrect, such comments classified as spams are called false positives technically. Sufficient amount of such comment can make the spam filter algorithm learn that such “offensive” comments are also spams, therefore they will misclassify such comments as spam.

    • I agree with you. All bloggers ought to be marking only spam as spam. It’s very important that we bloggers don’t pollute Akismet with false positives by marking dissenting comments as spam because they aren’t spam. If we all use Akismet appropriately it will remain the best spam filter there is.

  18. Hi TiTi,

    Disagreement is definitely not spam. Disagreement is often an essential part of any real discussion. We may think that we wish to live in a world of universal acceptance of everything that we express, but we really don’t. That leaves us with nowhere to go and nothing to learn.

    I comment on a lot of blogs and I don’t always agree with what each blogger has written. I’m always polite, of course, but I don’t hesitate when commenting. On my blog, I welcome my readers to be expansive and honest with their commenting. I always respond to each comment and if a reader adds something to my reply, I tend to let them have the last word — even if I disagree.

    Reading the comments on this post regarding censorship reminds me of my experience with censorship. Let me tell you a story. I was a fan of a poet on YouTube for many years. She’s very talented. I first came upon her work before she became very popular. She writes her poems and performs them via Spoken Word. She often wrote on controversial issues. Her willingness to speak out was one of the attractions for me. I was a really big fan and had even purchased her book. We had exchanged comments on her video pages many times over the years. One day, she posted a video in which she reworked one of her previous performances of one of my favorite poems. Within my comment, I mentioned that, while I liked the new version, I still loved and preferred the original. Well, this outspoken, controversial, brave poet… deleted my comment!

    That ended our relationship. It may seem to have been a harsh response, but I have such an aversion to censorship that I saw no alternative. I determined that an unsatisfactory response to my questioning her decision would probably only make me angrier, so I just cut the cord. As you wrote in your comment, censorship is wrong! wrong! wrong!

    • Hello Ray,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment and the example it contained. Of course it’s good for me to get positive feedback on this post but even if your comment had not been positive I would have posted it. It’s even better to visit your blog and witness how open minded and mature bloggers, like you, discuss differing points of view in comments sections on their posts.

      Regarding your youtube poetry lady experience I groaned when I read it. I would have done the same thing you did and given up on pursuing a relationship with such a person.

      Blogging and social networking both offline and online is built on relationship building. Of course we gravitate towards those who are espousing the same POV but that does not mean we don’t learn anything from those who beg to differ. Peer reviewed empirical studies evidence that humans are among the most resilient of animals, who learn equally as well from both positive and negative experiences.

      Disrespecting a dissenting commenter’s POV by marking their comment as spam is despicable behavior. Teaching others to do the same under the banner of web designer and SEO consultant speaks volumes about the censor and how much inner work they have yet to take on.

      This is an example of excellence in blogging: “I always respond to each comment and if a reader adds something to my reply, I tend to let them have the last word — even if I disagree.”

  19. A few weeks ago I had about four or five comments across my 2 blogs that just said the f word and another word that was the same each time (can’t remember what the other work was.)
    I got the same comment on random posts on random blogs and so marked them as spam.
    It wasn’t commercial, bit it was random spamming. Should I have marked them as spam?

    • Thanks for the meaningful comment that furthered the discussion, and was not only made in contemplation of getting username click throughs back to your own blog.

      Yes, that was an example of sarcasm. Yes, I removed your blog link from your comment. Consider this to be a lesson in commenting etiquette.

  20. Akismet has worked very well for me. Almost no spam gets through. I occasionally check it to make sure no legitimate posts were blocked, but in several years, that’s only happened a couple of times. I hate spam.

    • We all hate spam. Though I’m polite and published a subdued article aimed at defining what is spam and what isn’t, between the lines is a strong message about freedom of speech and personal ethics that I assume most readers will get.

      This article could have been written in a different form ie. it could have been a scathing rant. Here’s the back story.

      There are bloggers who are marking comments that are not spam as spam simply because they don’t want to post anything other than “positive” comments on their blogs.

      Recently a blogger, who claims to be a web designer and SEO consultant stated she had marked comments that did not align with her POV (point of view) as spam because they were “negative”. On a blog that has no published commenting policy, in a post full of quotes from leading personal development bloggers used as rationalization for her unethical spamming of the so-called “negative” comments, she made that shocking admission. Note that I did not submit any comments myself, so I was not directly involved but when I read that I was outraged.

      Stating one will not approve and post any comment one does not judge to be “positive” is any blogger’s right and you get no argument from me on that. But one would expect that such bloggers do have the intestinal fortitude it takes to state that they will not post “negative” comments in a published commenting policy on their blog.

      Any blogger who fails to publish such a policy on a blog where he/she is flogging his/her services as a web designer and SEO consultant but does sneakily affect the behavior of a backroom censor by marking dissenting comments as spam is unethical. Imagine novice bloggers paying such an insecure control freak to provide that kind of misguided business advice!

      Develop a commenting policy and publish it. Uphold freedom of speech because approving dissenting opinions and carefully considering them is extremely important part of your own personal growth and/or product development. Approve any and all comments a that are on topic and do not contain personal attacks or opportunistic link drops.

      Bottom line: If you are not secure and mature enough to pacify your inner control freak, who cannot tolerate criticism and longs to censor those who do not share your POV (point of view), then seek treatment for what ails you before becoming a blogger.

      • Yes, I agree that sounds horrible in regards to free speech, and if I discovered that, I certainly wouldn’t visit that blog again, and would unsubscribe immediately. I haven’t posted any spam rules on my site at this time, generally because I think it’s unnecessary right now. I mean, my standard policy is pretty much convention. I delete spam. Negative comments are not spam. They’re people who disagree with me. That being said, if some Troll came along and decided to post nasty crap every time I blogged, I’d probably block them out. But it really depends on how nasty and contentious they’re being. I’d have to be convinced that they’re doing so intentionally and for the express purpose of enraging me. So far that hasn’t happened. But a negative comment or a logical argument isn’t something I have an issue with. I suppose I could put up a page with a comment policy, but I’m rather reluctant to do so as it may discourage comments just by posting the policy. However, if it became an issue, I would do so. As of this writing, I’m still happy to get any comments from anyone, and all are welcome.

        Except the actual spam, of course.

        • Like you I treasure every comment. Perhaps I treasure comments even more than most bloggers do because I have never been “chatty” and commenting is not my strong suit. I’m a brooding introvert, who mulls things over in her head before reaching any conclusions and sharing them. However, when it comes to blatant censorship I have no mulling to do before shouting wrong! wrong! wrong!

          I do hear what you say re: posting a commenting policy could turn away commenters. I was apprehensive about developing and publishing one when I first began to blog. However, as my blog at the time was political in nature it was almost immediately trolled. Hence, it didn’t take long for me to clearly state which comments I would and would not approve for discussion on my blogs.

          I would never judge a dissenting option to be worthless simply because it was not “positive” ie. parroting my own POV (point of view) back to me. I would never mark such comments as spam because they aren’t spam and I’m appalled to find that others are feeding Akismet false information.

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