A minor irritant with uninteresting email cluttering up my Inbox has resulted in some minor changes to my Web 2.0 first-team squad.

Akismet, the popular and widely used anti-spam solution, was letting an increasing trickle of irritating comment and trackback spam through. As I had configured email notification for all blog comments, this was generating pointless, tedious, worthless emails that simply had to be deleted. A complete waste of time and energy.

Initially, I toyed with the option to simply disable comments on articles older than 90 days which accounted for 95% of the spam but would block authors with valid contributions.

A little research revealed a possible alternative - Spam Karma. I was loosely aware of Spam Karma from the footer in Tim Hall’s excellent blog

This blog is protected by dr Dave’s Spam Karma 2: 23182 Spams eaten and counting…

as well as Andy Beard’s positive review and useful tutorial on configuring Spam Karma. Initially, the Spam Karma interface was a little confusing. With Akismet, you literally set and forget whereas Spam Karma has a configuration page with a plethora of different options. Anyway, after deciding to start out with the default, out of the box settings, I just activated Spam Karma and waited.

Sure enough, the never ending barrage of spam trickled in and the vast majority were correctly marked as such, valid comments were allowed through and I couldn’t detect any false positives.

The moderation mechanism wasn’t quite as obvious as Akismet which emailed me whenever a comment was held for moderation. However, Spam Karma was actually better as moderated comments are held in the Spam list and can be quickly moderated from there. In addition, Spam Karma can email a daily/weekly digest summarising recent activity.

I have been running Spam Karma for almost a week now and not a single comment/trackback spam has got past the barriers yet. A truly impressive and valuable piece of software.

A few features in Spam Karma I really like:

  • All comments are assigned a score depending on various criteria.
  • Comments on older articles get penalised…
  • …but older articles with recent (valid) comment activity score higher.
  • Instant comments within seconds of viewing get penalised.
  • First-time commenters are presented with a captcha.
  • Established commenters are recognised and scored accordingly.
  • Trackbacks without a valid reference URL are penalised.
  • My comments score higher than anyone elses :-)
  • A detailed breakdown of the score assigned to any comment is available.

0: Encrypted payload valid: IP matching.
-2: Browser doesn’t support Javascript
0.5: Comment has no URL in content (but one author URL)
-2: Flash Gordon was here (comment posted 8 seconds after page load)
-9: Entry posted 7 months, 3 weeks ago. 0 comments in the past 15 days
Current Karma: -3

I was so impressed I donated $20 to the author and that doesn’t happen very often. Another source of unnecessary email was valid blog comments (albeit much fewer). The solution for this was obvious. Subscribe to my own comments feed and read them in Google Reader.

Another source of Web 2.0 irritation was that the Firefox extension for coComment broke some of the drilldowns in the revamped Google Analytics reports so I reluctantly stopped using it. This was a real shame as coComment was one of these Web 2.0 applications, I actually used on a daily basis.

Again, I looked for an alternative and installed co.comments (yeah I know - it’s a Web 2.0 domain with an embedded period) which works fine. There is a Firefox bookmarklet (not an extension) so the author has to remember to mark any comments posted whereas coComment automatically tracked these ‘conversations’.

The other advantage of the coComment extension was automatic notification whenever a comment was added to a tracked conversation.

Again, the solution for this issue was obvious. I simply subscribed to the RSS feed for my tracked conversations and read them in Google Reader.