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Fighting Comment Spam: WordPress Comments Mass Edit Mode

Every once in a while, the comment spammers win. Just a little. They use new techniques, new IP addresses, some method that slips by and other comment spam fighting tools. Your Comments Panel overflows with comment spam. After marking 10 or 20 as comment spam, your natural inclination is to fire off an angry email to Akismet to tell them their comment spam fighting tool isn’t working, to change comment spam protection tools, or to add a CAPTCHA to test your commenters to see if they are “human”.

Stop! Don’t do any of those things.

You’ve forgotten that comment spam fighting tools like Akismet learn as you process your comments and comment spam. Mark a comment as comment spam or unmark a comment spam as a good comment, and the information is sent to Akismet so it can learn what is good, and what is not. This information is passed on to the rest of the Akismet user community. What I mark as comment spam may get filtered out on your blog. And you do the same for me.

However, the process of tediously marking each comment as comment spam after a deluge of comment spam hits your blog is boring. There must be a faster way.

There is: Mass Edit Mode

UPDATE: As of WordPress 2.7, the Mass Edit Mode is now integrated with the Comments Panel.

Comments Panel: Mass Edit Mode

At the top of your list of comments on the WordPress Comments Panel are two links:

View Mode | Mass Edit Mode

WordPress Mass Edit Mode Link for comments and comments spamThe default view of the Comments Panel is “View Mode”, what you normally see. To help you mass produce your comments, click on the link to Mass Edit Mode.

A streamlined version of your comments is shown, with a checkbox at the start of each line. This version allows you to deal with groups of comments and comment spams a bit faster.

There are three methods of marking comment spam:

  1. WordPress Mass Edit Mode Link - select a specific comment in the listHand Pick Comment Spam: If you only have a few comment spams, then go through the list one-by-one to click a check in the checkbox next to each comment spam. At the bottom of the panel, choose Mark Checked Comments as Spam. Repeat the process after the page reloads if there are more comment spam to mark.
  2. Check All: Next to the Name column at the top is a checkbox. Check it and all of the boxes in the list will be checked.

    WordPress Mass Edit Mode Link - click check all

    If all are comment spam, go to the bottom of the panel and choose Mark Checked Comments as Spam, then continue until all comment spam are gone. If there are good comments in between, uncheck those as you scroll down the list. This is the preferred method if you have more comment spam than good comments in the list.

  3. Reverse Check All: Often, there are only two to four comments that are good and the rest are comment spam. As you review the list, check all the “good” comments, then move to the top of the list and click the checkbox next to Name This will reverse all your checked boxes to unchecked, and check the rest as comment spam. As you scroll back down, make sure the good comments are unchecked and click Mark Checked Comments as Spam to process them.

In short order, all your comment spams are out of your comments queue and off to instruct Akismet on the new techniques comment spammers are up to, and you’ve helped the rest of the Akismet community.

To return to the normal comments view, click View Mode.

Faster Processing of Comment Spam

Another great time-waster for bloggers is the horrendous task of constantly checking your collected comment spams. It is demeaning, disgusting, degrading, and frustrating, to say the least. It is also time consuming.

Many say you should process comment spam daily to keep up with the onslaught. That’s fine for those who want to eyeball every single comment spam. For those with more sensitive spirits, a daily assault of comment spam is exhausting and damaging to the spirit. The more things that suck your blogging energy and enthusiasm away, the less fun the whole process becomes.

Depending upon your time constraints and the amount of comment spam that collects on your blog, do this every other day or once a week to limit your exposure to the angry, negative world that comment spammers ferment.

Here are a few more tips to speed up the process.

  • Search By Keyword: Not all but many comments contain some common keywords. After studying my blog’s comments, I found that many use keywords such as help, advice, tip, lorelle, lorrelle, lorell, wordpress, plugin, plug-in, theme, comment, and so on. Use the search form on the comment spam panel to search for these keywords in the comment spam.
  • Engtech’s Akismet Auntie-Spam Greasemonkey Script: This Firefox Greasemonkey Script works like a bookmarklet from within your Firefox browser. It recognizes that the page you are viewing is the WordPress Akismet Comment Spam Panel, and it changes how the comment spam are viewed. Instead of paragraphs and paragraphs of links and spammer blather, it resembles more the Mass Edit Mode, consolidating each comment spam to one line. It now offers improved features such as recognizing keywords and terms, indicators that the comment might not be comment spam, speeding up the process of sorting through your comment spam. I can’t live without this! I’d love to see many of these features included in Akismet’s programming.

    Engtech Akismet Auntie-Spam Greasemonkey Script - before and after perspectives

  • Get a Hyperscrolling Mouse: I’ve bragged about my fantastic Logitech mouse and how the right tool for the job can make blogging easier and faster. The hyperscrolling technology in my new Logitech optical, wireless mouse makes processing comment spam incredibly fast. Since most comment spam is redundant, I can scroll down fast with the scrolling wheel, kicking it up into hyperscrolling mode, so the page continues scrolling quickly, and a touch of the wheel stops it. Anything odd, unusual, or distinctive jumps out as I scroll down the list. I stop, check it out, then speed scroll down the rest of the list. That mouse has sped up my online efficiency, cutting down the time I spend with comment spam, combined with the Akismet Auntie-Spam script, by more than 75%, proof that the right tool for the job makes a huge difference.

Getting Yourself Out of Akismet’s Comment Spam

Many people ask Akismet how to get themselves off the Akismet Comment Spam list and database. Contacting Akismet and requesting they remove you from their database takes time and isn’t necessary most of the time.

Remember, Akismet learns as it goes, so if you find your comment in Akismet’s comment spam list, mark it as Not Spam.

If a comment doesn’t appear on another blogger’s post, and you know the blogger, ask them to dig into their comment spam list to find your comment and mark it as Not Spam.

If you want, test your own comment on your blog to see if it is caught by Akismet. If it is, mark it as Not Spam, then comment again. Caught again? Find it and mark it accordingly. After two or three attempts, Akismet “should” learn that a comment by you is good. It may take some time to get the information to and from Akismet’s database, but it will learn that you are a good commenter.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network, and author of Blogging Tips, What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging.

14 Comments

  1. Posted September 16, 2007 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    As of last week, Akismet Auntie Spam has gone from a keyword approach to a grouping by IP address approach. I decided to make it as simple as possible to work straight out of the box.

    I really like it so far.

    (and sorry about the lack of guest posts — wordpress.com decided to suspend my account and I’m trying to get that straightened out)

  2. Posted September 16, 2007 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    I had a captcha once that was a simple math problem. That got annoying really fast.

  3. Posted September 17, 2007 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    That is very good information. Thankfully I don’t yet have the issue, but I think at least in theory, I want to some day…LOL

    Blogtommy

  4. Posted September 17, 2007 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    The math problem is annoying? I see it as a tool to keep the level of discourse high (“you need an IQ of 70 or above to comment here”), and the fact that is blocks spam is just a nice bonus.

  5. Posted September 17, 2007 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    The math problem is annoying and it has nothing to do with IQ. And it doesn’t block comment spam.

    I get an idea that I want to put into a comment and I scroll down to the comment form and automatically fill out name, email, URL, while processing what I want to say in the comment. Now it asks me to add 6 and 8. Umm, let’s see, what’s 6 and 8. Ah, 14. Okay, now…what was I going to ask or say?

    For many people, the process of switching between editorial and mathematical thinking can be enough to stop the mental processes.

    And any decent spam bot can break the math quiz, as can all those human comment spammers being paid $5 a day in third world countries as well as the intellectual but stupid folks who comment spam anyway, just because they like the link juice.

  6. Posted September 18, 2007 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Problems with CAPTCHAs:

    CAPTCHAs are not handicap-accessible. Why alienate a large amount of the population?
    CAPTCHAs drive away real commenters. I see a captcha, generally I don’t bother leaving the comment I had in mind unless it’s *really* worth my time trying to figure out your weird system.
    CAPTCHAs were never intended to prevent spam. They’re actually being misused here, they were originally intended to distinguish between people and bots. But WordPress and other blogging systems actually *want* automated feedback from bots… namely feedback from other users blogs. Look at the number of pingbacks and trackbacks blogs get. You want to block SPAM, not “comments by other machines”. Focus on the problem at hand.
    Oh, yes, CAPTCHAs actually don’t work. Virtually no spammer uses comment forms anymore. They use trackback mechanisms, which is expressly designed to allow comment-like input on an automatic basis. Your CAPTCHA doesn’t guard the backdoor.

    The “simple math” trick approach also doesn’t work. A clever spammer/programmer can very easily compile a short list of questions and then put in the answers and get a ton of spam through your gate. Not to mention that it’s somewhat trivial to make machines actually capable of figuring out the answers to your questions. You can even have your spamming program just ask Google for the answer:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=what+is+one+plus+four

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=what+is+6+times+five

    Unless your variations are way large and more complex than “simple math problems”, defeating your mechanism is trivial. And that assumes you didn’t leave the backdoor open in the first place, since spammers probably aren’t using your comment forms.

    Remember, you want to recognize spam. CAPTCHAs and math trickery doesn’t do that. Akismet does. Spam Karma does. Bad Behavior sorta does. ;)

  7. Posted September 18, 2007 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Before I installed the math problem, I received 50-100 comment spams each day. After installing it a few months ago, I’ve received maybe three spams. So, with respect, you are completely mistaken about its utility.

    On the IQ issue…if adding two numbers causes an smart person to forget their comment, then that person would type the comment first and the number last. Because that is the intelligent response.

  8. Posted September 18, 2007 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Otto,

    I know what a clever programmer *could* do. And I know what spammers are *actually* doing now, because the math problem actually works.

    Not as a replacement for Akismet, but as an addition that saves me the trouble of reviewing a long “probable spam” moderation list every evening.

    Sorry to say it, but outrunning the bear is not a reasonable goal; outrunning the other campers is. :)

  9. Posted September 18, 2007 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Chris: it may be working for you, but it isn’t working for the majority of users. Otto is right with his evidence. As am I. And the sequence in which people fill in forms has little to do with their IQ. :D

    It if is working for you, great. Reality on the ground is that it does not work consistently or practically. People with more expertise, knowledge, and higher IQs than me have put it exhaustively through the test. If you are the exception, wonderful.

  10. Posted September 18, 2007 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    Engtech: The new version of Auntie is incredible. I love the new layout and sorting. Much, much, much improved. Well done. And congrats!

  11. Posted September 20, 2007 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    I know what a clever programmer *could* do. And I know what spammers are *actually* doing now, because the math problem actually works.

    If by “actually works” you mean “causes me to not comment on your blog and not bother to subscribe to it or read it in any future way at all”, then yeah, I suppose it could be said to work.

    When I see that I have to jump through your weird hoops to comment, then I don’t comment. Instead, I leave and don’t return. And I’m not alone.

    You’re perfectly welcome to like your system. I’m simply telling you that your system loses viewers, readers, and commenters. Being one of those that your system would lose, I am absolutely certain of what I’m saying.

    Okay?

  12. Posted April 29, 2009 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    Since upgrading to 2.7.1 I can no longer find the “mass edit mode” as an option anywhere on the page. Also can’t get it to show comments as a table. Instead all I can do is click the author button and select 20 at a time. I’m hoping you can re-orient me.

    • Posted May 2, 2009 at 6:29 am | Permalink

      It is no longer available in the latest version of WordPress. It’s a bit frustrating but you can use the checkbox at the top of the comments panel section to select all or unselect all. Thanks for reminding me to update this post.

  13. Posted July 30, 2009 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Too bad Engtech no longer updates Akistmet Auntie Spam for newer versions of WordPress. It really helps speed up the process of filtering through spam comments coz once in a while some ham gets mixed up together with the spam.

    I hope Engtech will update the Akismet Auntie Spam soon or someone else does or someone comes up with another type of script or WordPress plugin that does the same thing.


12 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  9. […] Fighting Comment Spam: WordPress Comments Mass Edit Mode: More tips for fighting comment spam, I explore the power of the Comments Mass Edit Mode, helping you tackle dozens of comment spam quick and painlessly – at least for you. […]

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