Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Blog comment spam

The price of popularity.  Because my blog posts about international shipping scams achieved a fairly ranking with most search engines, I find that I am now the target of a different kind of Internet annoyance: blog comment spam. My troubles with this are nothing compared to the bloggers who get hundreds of these messages daily, but it's a nuisance even on a small scale.

Essentially, comment spam is a blog comment that's nonsensical, off-topic, or complimentary in a way that adds no value to the topic or the discussion (like "great post" or "nice blog").  Most importantly, however, it always includes a link to another website.  Here's one I received today, just as an example:
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "International shipping scams, part 3: out of the nutshell":

I'm impressed, I have to admit. Seldom do I come across a blog that's both educative and entertaining, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head. The problem is something not enough men and women are speaking intelligently about.
I'm very happy that I came across this in my hunt for something concerning this.

Feel free to surf to my homepage - Instant income blog [actual hyperlink removed]
Well I, too, am glad you came across this in your hunt for something concerning this.

In most cases, comment spammers are trying to scam search engines into boosting a website's ranking by sprinkling links to it all over the Internet.  Many search engines use the number of inbound links to a particular website as an indicator of that site's popularity and credibility, and the more external links there are to a given website, the higher up in search results it will appear. 

In other cases, comment spammers are trying to drive traffic to a particular website by providing convenient links to it everywhere they can.  The links might lead to commercial websites, they might lead to porn websites, they might lead to malicious websites that put nasty files and programs on the computer of anyone who visits them. 

Some bloggers are philosophically opposed to moderating the comments they receive because the spirit of the blogosphere is open discussion in which anyone and everyone can participate, share ideas, and debate points of view.  They rely instead on filter programs to identify and block spam.  But filters have their limits: some spam comments are not blocked, and some legitimate comments are inappropriately blocked.

My choice is to moderate all the comments I receive.  I don't publish any comments that contain links I haven't tested myself first to make sure they're legitimate and safe. 

In the process of doing a little research on this, I came across a couple resources that are worth checking out.  One is an article titled 5 Ways to Identify Blog Comment Spam on that discusses how people who use spam filters for their blogs can catch any comment spam that their filters miss. 

Another is the Museum of Comment Spam, a hilarious collection of comment spam messages, "lovingly curated" by a witty blogger named Don Brown.  Ditto for Michelle Kay's post titled 12 Most Silliest Spam Blog Comments That Made Me LOL!  I think you'll be happy you came across this in your hunt for something concerning this.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The love of the craft

As a result of my international shipping scam blog posts, I made the wonderful long-distance acquaintance of Rosa Ziv from Carmel Gifts in Israel, who offered me the incredible sequence of contacts she'd had with a shipping scammer for publication in my blog post International Shipping Scams: Part 3.  Thanks to Rosa's help, thousands of people have read about exactly how these scams work, and many have been saved substantial time, trouble, and money in the process. 

The spike in the number of visits to my blog immediately after
publishing the post on which Rosa and I collaborated.

And, as a result of our having collaborated on the shipping scams post, Rosa invited me to write a guest post for her store blog!  I was delighted to be asked, and greatly enjoyed doing it.  (Amazing how the Internet can build relationships between people who would never meet or cross paths in any other way!)

As I considered various ideas about what to write, I finally settled on talking about – and correcting – a few of the common misconceptions people have about handcrafted soap.  I focused, for example, on the issue of soaps vs. synthetic detergents because in my experience, many people don't fully understand that there is a difference, or what that difference is. 

I talked about the environmental and skin care ramifications of using cleaning products that are manufactured with chemical vs. natural ingredients.

I also addressed the issue of whether handmade soap made "has lye in it," which is another area of misunderstanding for people who are unfamiliar with the basic chemisty that converts oils and fats into soap.

Given this, you might wonder why Rosa chose to title it Handmade Soap Contains Love

One simple reason.  As a crafter myself, as one who has always delighted in the uniqueness of anything that's handcrafted, and as one who's had the privilege of meeting, getting to know, and working with crafters in many different media, I know that what draws and binds us to each other is our love of what we do. 

As I put it in the post for Rosa's blog, "whenever you buy anything that’s handcrafted, you’re also getting – at absolutely no extra charge – all the love and care that went into making it.  You can’t put a price tag on that."