January 19, 2004
designing for lowlifes
Blogs are abuzz with the most recent online nuisance: comment spamming. Someone figured out they can improve their website’s Google rank by posting automated comments with their website’s URL to popular blogs. Spammers hope that googlebot comes along and records their spam before the blog owner has time to manually remove their mess. It’s working.
Current solutions all have their problems: manual removal takes too much time, IP blacklists sometimes include “poison pills” (third-party web URLs that spammers include with their own), bayesian filters are too much of a moving target, automatic URL redirection breaks the back button. There are two guaranteed solutions, but they seem draconian to most people: 1) turn off comments, 2) require user accounts.
Comment spamming, like email spamming, quickly takes the fun out of being online. Spamming’s an opportunistic joykiller that’ll only get worse as more people discover self-publishing. Email spam is an epidemic. Website spam will rise in rough proportion to the degree of freedom we allow others to speak publicly on our sites.
The semweb community should take notice. We’re building tools that allow interconnection the likes of which a spammer’s only dreamed of before. Before releasing our wares to the world, we need to give serious thought to the downside of openness. We need to design for lowlifes.
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