Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Dealing with comment spam on Posterous and what comment spam is for

(1) Dealing with comment spam on Posterous
Whenever I get comment spam on ScicommJobs (almost all the comments there are spam, it's a jobs site and not the sort of thing where people would post genuine comments) I get an email alerting me. This lets me click on the link and, if I'm logged in, delete the spam.

Not that long ago I discovered that the Activity button on Posterous will speed this process up - just click on that to see what's recently been going on. 

Yesterday I discovered how to change the settings so that I can moderate all comments on this blog - hooray. It's an option on the privacy settings. 
  • To find it for your blog go to and log in.
  • Click on either Spaces in the top bit or Manage spaces on the left (it's the same link).
  • Find your blog in the list that appears and click on the downwards arrow next to it, then click on Space settings
  • In the grey panel on the right hand side click on Privacy settings
  • The third from the bottom is Who can comment and here you can select to moderate all.
I've got it set so that everyone can comment (they don't need to log in using Twitter, Facebook or Posterous) but that all comments are moderated. You can also disable comments entirely.

Also in the Posterous section you can choose whether or not people can download material that you post (it shows a download link next to each ScicommJobs post because I want people to be able to download the job descriptions that I'm adding) and you can password-protect the entire blog (you can always make individual posts private and available only to people who have the obscured link).

(2) What comment spam is for
By comment spam I mean stuff which has a link to a site that sells something. There are two intended audiences for this: human eyeballs & wallets, and Google and other search engines.

If the spam is posted on someone's blog then someone might click on the link, which increases traffic to the linked site, and they may even buy the product. 

Even if no-one ever clicks, search engines will still crawl a blog periodically to index all the pages. Indexing these pages includes all the links that the blogger has posted on their site themselves as well as any that have been added by commenters. 

Lots of blog posts that point to a particular site (let's assume the commenter is commenting on several blogs) tells Google that lots of people are linking to this site, and this might raise the 'rank' of that site.

I understand that Google tweaks its algorithms every now and again to keep up with this sort of thing and so it may well be that this has less positive impact on a dodgy site than it had in the past. Here's an article from 2005 by Stephen Johnson which mentions a variation on 'spamdexing'. I also heard him talk on Radiolab - this link is a section of the full Emergence podcast.

Anyway, I'm in the habit of deleting a spam comment as soon as I spot it - just in case ;)


I tweeted about the Posterous tip the other day but after receiving a notification of a comment needing moderation on my Blogger post here Phen375 weight loss pills "reviewed" I thought I'd write a small post about it because it was pretty subtle and I could easily have missed the entire point of the comment if I'd not checked the link in the commenter's name - I posted only the text of the comment and marked the original as spam.
JoApr 7, 2012 03:23 - AMAndrew Bailey asks:
"I've seen a few sights claiming that it is legal and that it also doesn't require a prescription. I'm just concerned that perhaps these sites are scams, so does anyone have some information about whether or not Phen375 is legal? I want to try these but I don't want to give my money to a scam or break the law. Thanks!"
JoApr 7, 2012 03:38 AM
The comment above sounds perfectly genuine but as it was linked to a phen375 review site, which was embedded in Andrew's name, it's actually (admittedly quite subtle) spam.

Most spam comments are easy to spot because they're irrelevant and use poor English - sometimes they even include the link to the product in the comment but most sneak it into the name. 
This comment looks exactly like the sort of comment I'd post - it's relevant, asks a valid question and uses pretty good English. But a quick hover over any blue links to check made it clear that this is just a ruse to get a link on my site. I admire the sneakiness ;)

1 comment:

  1. Do not, I repeat, do not choose Posterous if you want to use comments or expect satisfactory customer service.

    Sometimes people can't even comment. Others get email notifications of every single comment posted. MOST did not get the "Unfollow" option that site says to choose. Total disaster!

    IT guy and myself made calls and emailed questions. NEVER heard back from support team!!!!!

    Merging with Twitter has not been a good thing!


Comment policy: I enthusiastically welcome corrections and I entertain polite disagreement ;) Because of the nature of this blog it attracts a LOT - 5 a day at the moment - of spam comments (I write about spam practices,misleading marketing and unevidenced quackery) and so I'm more likely to post a pasted version of your comment, removing any hyperlinks.

Comments written in ALL CAPS LOCK will be deleted and I won't publish any pro-homeopathy comments, that ship has sailed I'm afraid (it's nonsense).