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June 6, 2005

Bound to happen
Posted by Teresa at 09:08 AM * 29 comments

Patrick and I continue to settle in and adjust to our newly conjoined weblog. This morning he phoned and asked whether there was some polite, non-hurtful way I could get my readers to stop posting red-flag messages when they notice we’ve been hit with comment spam.

“Godalmighty no,” I said. “They’re my first line of defense. I’ve been encouraging them to do that all along.”

(Comment spam attacks and defenses are constantly mutating. It’s essential to have tools like MT Blacklist to automate established responses to established attack modes, but you guys can spot the stuff faster and more accurately than any computer on the planet.)

“It doubles my work,” Patrick said. “I have to use one system to get rid of the comment spam, and another system to delete the messages pointing it out.”

“You’ve been deleting their messages? I’d been wondering why I hadn’t seen those lately,” I said, in mild consternation. “Deleting them deprives the readers of their just glory for spotting the spam.”

“Yes—but once the spam has been deleted, they can sound like snarky comebacks to earlier comments.”

Okay, he’s got a point.

So here’s the deal: when you flag comment spam, can you phrase it in a way that’ll make it clear that that’s what you were responding to, once the comment spam itself has disappeared?

Thanks. Much appreciated, as always.

Comments on Bound to happen:
#1 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 10:03 AM:

Does this also mean you're discouraging snarky comebacks to earlier comments? >8->

#2 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 10:26 AM:

Yes. And once we've got that settled, we'll be instructing the ocean to stop rolling on.

#3 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 10:51 AM:

And then at last we can sweep up all that sand!

#4 ::: Ben ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 10:58 AM:

Why not ask MT to add a "flag this comment as spam" button?

#5 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 11:07 AM:

Nah. We do it better.

#6 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 11:11 AM:

Indeed, MT's now-built-in blacklist plugin does a good job of flagging most of it automatically. You guys don't see how much spam gets flagged, blocked, and later cleaned out of the database without ever showing up on a public page.

#7 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 11:16 AM:

Speaking of snarky, whatever happened to that really big snark they saw off of the coast of Martha's Vineyard around the time of last years Viable Paradise? Did it make it out of the lagoon? or did it get blacklisted and automatically deleted?

#8 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 11:17 AM:

Speaking of snarky, whatever happened to that really big snark they saw off of the coast of Martha's Vineyard...

I think it turned out to be a boojum.

#9 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 11:31 AM:

Whatever it was, the bioluminescence was pretty keen.

#10 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 11:54 AM:

Yes. And once we've got that settled, we'll be instructing the ocean to stop rolling on.

This put me in mind to propose a new comments metagame: given an amusing comment, suggest the hypothetical presumed-to-have-been-deleted spam message that it might have been in response to.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure how one could go about playing this game without accidentally running afoul of your actual spamcatchers, and the risk of being autoassigned to some spammer blacklist makes me hesitant to try. Regardless of how funny my response to the above might have been.

...Wow. That sends my mind in circles. Now I really grok the Catch-22 of all that's profane: one cannot speak against it, even to ridicule it, without profaning oneself in turn.

#11 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 12:16 PM:

Steve Eley: ...Wow. That sends my mind in circles. Now I really grok the Catch-22 of all that's profane: one cannot speak against it, even to ridicule it, without profaning oneself in turn.

RWA issued a fatwah against Filthy Smut late last week, complete with list of banned words. No RWA-affiliated website may link to any website containing those words, nor to any website which is itself clean but links to another website containing those words. The text of the fatwah is on the RWA website (or so I'm told, I haven't gone to look). Naturally, many erotic romance writers had much fun this weekend blogging about the logical result...

Back to the original topic--yes, Patrick's got a point. I have in the past seen a couple of "Look! Spam!" posts that looked like snarky comments about the previous legitimate post in the thread. I resolved to try to make my own "Look! Spam!" comments more clearly worded. I hope I've succeeded.

#12 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 12:19 PM:

Indeedy, yes, I can imagine the amount of thankfully-invisible spam. As an experiment I re-set my email spam filter to "display suspected spam with [SPAM] tag". Yikes! That lasted maybe a day.

It's rather like what I keep banging on about in my rants on various public forums about the importance of government, taxes, rule of law, and assorted artificial infrastructure (social & physical) as well as the natural environmental foundation we so seldom notice. The better it is, the less we tend to notice it.
Once it gets bad enough to get people aggravated enough to do something, it usually takes an awful lot to get back to "normal" (if possible at all).

Maybe another example is age or disease affecting your body. Until I lost various bits of it, I hadn't felt really deeply the happiness inherent in bodily comfort & ease of use.

#13 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 12:59 PM:

In your case, where you have these additional conditions to consider, would you consider simply rendering the spam-text a very low contrast to the background?

#14 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2005, 04:35 PM:

Just read your next entry...

#15 ::: jse ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 12:51 AM:

What we need is a word that meets the qualifications of:

1) indicating spam that, significantly, may or may not exist,
2) bears no direct resemblance to, nor carries any overtones of, anything snarkish, and
3) is sufficiently rare that it will not be misinterpreted as anything with more than meta-spam value.

As I can think of no word that meets said qualifications, I feel confident we shall have to co-opt an existing one. I propose "anglet", for I feel anglet is a ridiculous word that should never be used for its intended purpose.

Thus, comments such as, "Beware the bit of anglet above," or, "That looks like a load of anglets to me," should never be read as anything other than a helpful bit of post that points out the (one-time) existence of spam.

#16 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 04:05 AM:

I have to say that I'm with Patrick on this one: I don't see pointing out spam as glorious, I see it as more of a necessary evil. Once the spam is gone the spam-pointer should go too so that the conversation can go on as if nothing untoward had happened.

#17 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 06:32 AM:

Re: "fatwah against Filthy Smut". The idea of listing Forbidden Things and then forbidding mention of them reminds me of a wonderful cartoon I saw many years ago. Don't know who drew it (anyone recognising it, please speak).

It showed a rather bleak waiting room with many empty chairs. In one was a lone middle-aged man in a cloth cap, looking nervous & staring rather desperately off into the distance. He was facing away from a huge notice taking up most of the back wall saying, more or less:


#18 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 08:13 AM:

I like the anti-spam's like a bug hunt. (If you've ever beta-tested, you better believe there's glory in finding bugs! Glory, and free software.) But I thought the standard ML thing was to change your name to "[my name] finds comment spam," which makes it obvious that the message is about comment spam.

#19 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 09:07 AM:

Here's one of the web logs (Booksquare) talking about the RWA Fatwah. The title of the entry is How Stupid Can Stupid Be? (Don't hold back -- tell us what you really think....)

Here's the fatwah itself, cleaned up so RWA members can still link to Making Light:

'With respect to all RWA programs and services, the following shall not be depicted or represented: exposed male and female genitalia, exposed female nipples, cunnilingus and fellatio, hands or mouth covering naked female breasts, naked or g-string-clad buttocks, and bestiality. The following words: c*ck, c*cksucker, c*nt, f*ck, motherf*cker, sh*t, and t*t, will not be displayed.'
#20 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 02:12 PM:

Re: RWA-- Ha! They forgot "human male genitals in a discernibly turgid state, even if completely and opaquely covered"--standard wording in public morals and obscenity ordinances. As well as, um, elimination! RWA perverts, go to it!

#21 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 03:23 PM:

My favourite RWA-inspired blog post is this one.

It's an interesting list of banned words... are they going to prevent sites from discussing common garden birds?

As an aside, I noticed this (contains uncensored variants of the words above) while searching for that phrase -- it probably explains the choice of words.

#22 ::: Rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 06:16 PM:

Mary Dell said:
"I like the anti-spam's like a bug hunt. (If you've ever beta-tested, you better believe there's glory in finding bugs! Glory, and free software.)"

Glory in finding bugs? Indeed!

Perhaps the bug reports should be required to be in this author's terse, compact style. :)

#23 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 06:53 PM:

The phrase "Zillions of 'em! I'm a-burnin' 'em down!" comes to mind for some obscure reason.

#24 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2005, 07:03 PM:

I bug hunt for a living.


I'm reminded of a New Year's Eve themed restaurant shown in an episode of "The Simpsons."

An enchanted Marge tells a waiter how wonderful it must be to work in a place where it is New Years every fifteen minutes.

He mutters in reply: "Kill me."

#25 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 02:24 PM:

I used to be a bug picker. Is that close?
(We removed microinvertebrates from soil and leaf litter samples so they could be counted. The process of how we got the bugs into the vials of ethanol was actually the most interesting part of the process.)

#26 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 02:29 PM:

Stefan Jones:

Well, yes, if I did it for a living I'd feel differently about it. I used to think having "root" on a unix system was cool, too, until I became responsible for 35 servers!

I mostly beta-test graphics apps in exchange for a copy of the app or a discount - it tends to become a friendly competition among the testers to see who can break the app the most comprehensively.

#28 ::: Pendrift spots spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2009, 07:20 AM:

on thread about flagging spam.
Brain not working well enough for snarky comeback-or-otherwise, though.

#29 ::: P J Evans sees more spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2014, 10:18 PM:

I guess it's time for the nightly shitload of spam.

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