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Sunday
Jul312011

Freelance MD & Spam

Freelance MD gets spammed but hey, so does everyone else.

Unfortunately, success and traffic breeds spam and in this situation the cure's are often worse than the solutions...

Freelance MD is starting to attract a fair amount of spammers who are trying to tap in to a growing physician community for either SEO backlink Google juice or just to get in front of doctors.

There are three solutions we're investigating as a solution:

  1. Require users to login to comment.
  2. Hold all comments for approval.
  3. Prevent users from adding links when they comment.

Require users to login: This one just kills your community. Requiring users to login to comment easily cuts comments by 70% or more in most cases. It's just a tremendous barrier to overcome. It also destroys any benefits that you accrue for SEO purposes. Since everything is behind a firewall and not public, the search engines can't index it so they don't see your site being updated and changing often (which is good).

Hold all comments for approval: This one's just painful. First, it's a huge headache to go through and approve/discard every comment and it only gets worse as the site grows. It also takes away any immediacy with the social reward of seeing your comment go live on the site. In effect, it just slows everything down and makes for a less-than-optimal experience as we try to get people to come back and contribute regularly. Also, while this is common tactic with Wordpress we're not using that system and it's not practical with our current configuration.

Prevent users from adding links: I've avoided this but it is possible to do. We have a number of people who are fairly regular and they always back-linking to their site [ including you ; ) ] and I don't want to prevent that. However, it is an option and we could try it out. I haven't done this so I don't know what kind of drop off would result.

Since you refer to your 'subscription' I'm guessing that you've subscribed to the RSS feed on the site and not just the posts. You're way back in the minority even knowing how to do this so this specific issue of spam showing up in your feed is probably restricted to you... and maybe someone else.

(Believe me, I hate spam with a red-hot passion that could melt glaciers and raise sea levels world wide. Hate it. We check all of our sites and remove spam 3-6 times a day and not just for this site. It is just painful. Medical Spa MD gets about 20x the traffic and a corresponding amount of spam. I would actually bring back crucifiction as a punishment for spammers.)

Ok, so there we are. I see that the only really workable solution would be to prevent people from adding links to their comments. I'd like to hear your feedback on this. Do you think it would prevent people from leaving comments (which is absolutely imperative for success) or is it better to just swat at the flies rather than burn the house down [intentional exaggeration].

Reader Comments (5)

how about adding a comment management system like Disqus or add a better captcha program.

Hi Thuc,
Unfortunately, these comments are not generated by 'bots' but by individuals that are actually going through the captcha process (as you did) in order to leave a comment. (We use a system now that prevents bots from posting.) I like Disqus but that wouldn't prevent this issue and it allows even more robust spamming capabilities since it allows inline embedding of videos and attachments. However, I'm on the site now and I'm going to take a hard look at it.

All suggestions or comments welcome.

wow, spammers are good. i think using Disqus might require a little legwork on the admin side. but it would be very worth it! for example, all comments using the Guest feature has to be reviewed. as an admin, that's as simple as replying to your notification email with the word "approve" "delete" or "spam". you could also use their mobile app instead. blacklists/whitelists. lots of things to read about Disqus. good luck! here's a link to how Disqus handles spam : http://docs.disqus.com/help/48/

Yeah, I have that capability now (hold all comments pending approval for instance), but I've hesitated to implement it since it inserts an artificial break into a conversation... still, I'm thinking I'll turn that on now and see if it works.

good luck !

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