They continually adapt their tactics to avoid counter-measures meant to eradicate them — that could describe a lot of unpleasant things, but I’m talking specifically about spammers here.
I think 2003 was the year that blog spam really started to take off; at first it was a bunch of obvious link dumps meant to encourage click-throughs. When blog software finally started building in spam tools, the tactics changed. Spammers posted less-obvious tangential comments and flattering praise, in order to remain undetected while sapping some of a blogger’s PageRank for themselves. Enter the controversial
nofollow attribute. These classic forms of blog spam are still around, but if you have a relatively modern authoring tool like Akismet or what’s built in to the latest versions of Movable Type, you’re probably not exposed to them anymore.
I believe it was last year or possibly 2004 when people started noticing that spammers would simply copy a comment made previously in the thread. If you didn’t notice the duplication (or the URL that the comment pointed back to) you’d likely never realize what was going on. Around the same time, there was a rise of simple comments designed to appear on-topic at a glance, so if you weren’t paying attention you’d completely miss their intent.
It’s this last one that’s been a major thorn in my side, and it seems to be getting worse. I’ve seen a lot of comments on this site recently that look relatively innocuous at first, if somewhat useless or redundant. The URL the commenter has left behind doesn’t look particularly spammy, but it is a commercial site. (A disproportionately high number of them have been from .de and .pl TLDs, oddly enough.) At one point in time I’d have left them alone, but I find myself deleting more and more of them.
There might be an argument to be made that these are legitimate comments. A URL pointing to a commercial site isn’t cause alone to suspect spam. However, the overall trend seems to indicate that some people are trying to get a free ride out of sites with higher PageRank, and the general quality of the comments usually isn’t good enough to justify keeping them around.
Yep, legitimate comments do get deleted sometimes. But to me, the line is blurring. I’d prefer to throw out the throwaway comments and keep the overall dialogue quality high, than assiduously maintain an unfiltered comment thread and allow these junk comments to persist. If there’s cause for doubt, I’ll simply remove a commenter’s URL and let the comment stand.
When this redesign launched, I reduced the comment policy to basically “quality over quantity”. I feel no qualms about clicking the delete button anymore.