I’ve written before here about comment spam (when spammers use automated systems to create bogus comments in Weblogs in order to spread their links). Spammers do this to improve their site ranking in search engines like Google, and also to get direct clickthroughs from blog readers.
Of course, the harm is that comment spam diminishes the quality and usefulness of weblogs and search engine results, and it also creates more work for bloggers (who have to comb through new comments and delete the spam).
A recent entry in Simon Willison’s weblog, Solving Comment Spam, notes one possible strategy to combat comment spam, as well as its possible effects on the quality of discourse in weblogs…
“Without links, comment spam has no purpose. To eliminate spam, eliminate links. …To truly eliminate spam, strip out links and anything that even looks like a URL and force the spammer to preview their carefully crafted advertisement before hitting submit. Seeing as hyperlinks are the single most important feature of the web this may seem draconian and indeed it is. But on a site that serves more as a discussion forum than a farm and where the alternative to killing links is killing comments entirely, this could be the saving factor.
“For most blogs, however, links are an essential part of the discourse I certainly wouldn’t want to disable them [in my blog]. Not only do they add huge value to the discussions, but more importantly they act as a ‘signature’ for many commenters knowing a comment is by ‘Dan’ is far less useful than knowing that it’s by ‘Dan from www.simplebits.com.'”
Yes, it’s a very significant tradeoff for bloggers to ponder.
Almost every day I have to delete a few spam comments posted to CONTENTIOUS. That’s annoying, but not too onerous for me so far. I believe the genuine comments posted here by my readers are a valuable part of the content of this weblog, and I’d never want to disable comments.
However, comment spam is difficult for webloggers to defend against. So if suddenly I started getting dozens or hundreds of spam comments posted daily, I would probably have to disable all comments until a reliable automated fix appeared. Not an ideal solution, but rather the lesser of two evils.