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Spam on law blogs, there is a solution

Spam on law blogs? Wow, sounds like something we would have made on a Boy Scout camping trip 35 years ago. We ate spam then, we didn’t get it served up to us hundreds of times of day.

Allowing comments on a lawyer blog, to me, falls in the true spirit of blogging. Lawyers post something to their blog and fellow lawyers or members of the public may post a comment or question. Discussion can ensue and ideas generated through collaboration are preserved digitally. This fosters not only the free flow of ideas but demonstrates to clients looking for a lawyer that that the blogging lawyer is pretty approachable.

Problem is that law bloggers are finding their law blogs flooded with comments leaving links to porn sites and the like. The better and more popular the blog, the more spam comments. Comments read like: “Wonderful site, I’ll be back.” or “Feels so friendly, nice blog.” Typically they’ll come from foreign domains.

Well, Jerry Lawson posted over at Netlawblog about the problem of spambots (wow, sounds like robots from outer space shooting spam at us) leaving comments on your blog. He referenced an excerpt from Salon.com:

[T]he goal isn’t so much to solicit a purchase or confirm receipt — the tactic of most e-mail spam campaigns — as to boost visibility. With more than a third of all Internet search queries now running through Google, site marketers have crafted their automated campaigns with an eye to Google’s PageRank algorithm, which factors the total number of incoming links to a site as a sign of relevance.

Although Google publishes clearly stated policies forbidding the use of “link farms,” — sites that manipulate link totals as a way to boost (and rent out) page ranks — the percentage of offenders dropped entirely from Google search listings is microscopically small.

There are some solutions to the problem. One is Six Apart’s Movable Type 3.0, which we use for law blog development at lexBlog. Comments left on blogs built on most blog software, including MT until 3.0, immediately appeared on the law blog. Even though the blog publsiher may get notice of the comment, they would need to log into their blog back-end and remove a spam comment – one comment at a time.

With MT 3.0, a comment needs to be approved before it goes live. The law blog publisher gets an email notice of any comments with a link to the MT back-end interface displaying any comments not yet approved. You can then check a box next those comments you want deleted, and hit delete. Those comments are deleted all at once.

The same thing happens as to approving comments. In addition, once a commenter is approved their comments may be flow through without moderation by the law blog publisher.

A comment may be edited by the law blog publisher with this feature on MT 3.0. I would not edit a comment, except perhaps in the case where a commenter has a left a signature containing multiple html links.

For those lawyers using Six Apart’s TypePad, they now have a setting where links left by commenters, TypePad permits a setting so url’s from comments do not link ‘direct’ to an outside site but through the blog site and then are redirected to the outside site. In which case, spammers do not get credit for an outside link. Six Apart says this will reduce spamming but we have not seen it yet – spam still comes even without spammers getting their desired direct links.

Another alternative is not to allow comments. Dennis Kennedy, a lawyer and fellow blogger whom I have the greatest respect for, does not allow comments. He wrote last week:

I flat out don’t allow comments on my blog – sort of a tribute to Ronald Reagan’s famous “Mr. Green, I paid for this microphone” moment. The spammers have destroyed my use of my telephone with unsolicited calls, my email with barrage after barrage of messages, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay to give them a platform from which to destroy blogging for me, too. If they are going to destroy my blog experience, they are going to have to earn it the hard way. I’m not giving them an inch this time.

Though I agree with much of what Dennis has to say here, I still favor comments on law blogs. I’ll just have to fight off those spambots from the evil empire with all the forces at my disposal.

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