To many bloggers, Akismet is a godsend. It saves them from hundreds, sometimes thousands, of unwanted spam comments and trackbacks each day. But, something you may not have been aware of when you activated the plugin is that it comes with a great deal of responsibility.
Have you ever found yourself reading a blog that inspired you to comment — and not just any comment, one that was well thought out and took you about 10 minutes to write — but when you submitted it, it was lost to the oblivion of cyberspace? Or rather, Akismet moderation?
Even if you haven’t, chances are increasing that you will. It’s actually happened to me a couple of times, but luckily I knew the bloggers personally and I was able to drop them a quick e-mail to inform them of the situation.
And even as I sent those e-mails, I felt I was inconveniencing the blog authors because they needed to comb through hundreds of spam comments just to find my one legitimate comment. Instead of receiving an angry reply for making them, a couple blog authors actually thanked me because they found other legitimate comments that had been blacklisted for some unknown reason.
Now, before you get mad at me for even suggesting you disable Akismet (I’m not), there’s something I need you to realize — your actions when clicking that "Delete All Spam" button may be affecting legitimate commenters.
Unfortunately, it seems that the Akismet system may be very open for a malicious troll to drop the ban stick on you using black hat methods, thus limiting how you can socially interact with other bloggers as well as promote your blog. The system seems like it could be used to sully the name of anyone you don’t like or to backstab a competing blog.
To make matters even worse, there’s no way to have yourself removed from the blacklist — at least not yet.
I look up the Akismet site and contact them through an online form to request an explanation. A few days go by and I hear nothing back. Since there is no telephone number for them, I then attempt to contact them with a v-mail left with the secretary at their venture capital backer True Ventures. More days go by and again I hear nothing. Early last week I discovered that the president of Automattic has a v-mail box at the True Ventures. So I leave a message asking him or someone else involved with Akismet/ Kismet to contact me.
It’s now a week later and I still haven’t heard a peep out of them. I don’t know why this is. (Maybe they are feeling shell-shocked from all the complaints? Not just mine.)
So, what would you do if you ever found yourself in such a tight predicament? First, begin by practicing the golden rule (do unto others as you’d have them do unto you). Take the time to scan your Akismet moderation queue for any false positives and make sure to mark them as legitimate comments before deleting the comments or allowing Akismet to delete the comments.
I know the task of scrolling through spam comments seems like a daunting one, especially if your blog gets a lot of spam attempts, but there are things you can do in place of that.
When I redesigned the OptiNiche blog, I added a challenge question to the comment form and I watched the number of spam comments in my moderation queue drop from a few hundred per day down to about 5-10, which had gone up to about 30-50. (Unless you feel like hard-coding the question into your template, you can just download and install a math validation plugin.) About 99% of the spam attempts I received since adding the challenge question were trackback spam, so installing a trackback validation plugin helped a great deal, too.
When you actually stop the spam attempts from making it into your queue, you’ve greatly reduced your workload when scanning for false positives. After you get your first line of defense under control, make sure to check your second line of defense (Akismet) regularly — daily is best, but every few days should be good. And most importantly, make sure that you take the time to approve comments that have been marked as spam inappropriately so the Akismet database can note your findings.
Second, if you suspect that your comments are being eaten as spam by Akismet, politely contact the blog owner to inform her of the problem and ask if she could look through her spam queue and mark your comment as “Not Spam”. In most cases, unless the blog author is extremely busy (or you’ve unduly pissed her off), the blog author should be obliging.
Finally, contact the Akismet staff to let them know about the problem. With this route, your mileage may vary, but it’s still worth a shot.
[tags]akismet, wordpress, false positives, comment spam, spam protection[/tags]