Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Bloggy Notes

First: As some of you (Steven,Phil) have noticed, we have turned on comment moderation for all posts older than 14 days. Blogger only allows such selective comment moderation since recently. I've tried it for some weeks and it saves me a lot of time and effort, thus I will keep it.

Thing is that the vast majority of comments on posts older than 2 weeks are spam comments. You will occasionally have noticed them appearing in the comment feed. They typically come in bulks of 5-10, sometimes several a day. With the old settings, we had to visit every post separately and delete them. With the comment moderation on, they now go into the moderation queue without appearing in the feed, and I can check the queue when I please and hit "delete all."

For you this brings the inconvenience that on posts older than 14 days you might have to wait for your comment to appear till I come around to publish it. Let me add that I get all comments by email, so while the risk is not zero that I miss one, it is small.

Second: The number of comments on this blog has steadily been increasing and it has reached a level where Stefan and I don't come around to adequately handling them. I made a count on two days last week, and I came up to more than 50 comments per day (including my own). This has finally convinced me to take the step I've been hesitating to take for several years now: I have disabled anonymous comments.

The reason is simply that I am sick of the all too common Web2.0 drive-by anonymity. More often than not, it's the analogue of dropping into my living room with a Mickey-Mouse mask, spitting on the floor and then running away. I have previously told you that yes, anonymity has its place, but it should not be used unnecessarily. However, in reality, almost all anonymous comments are anonymous simply for the reason of cowardice, because somebody finds it okay to bother me with what just went through their head but then doesn't want to be brought in connection with it. You all know who I am. If somebody feels like they have to utter words without thinking and waste my time, I at least want the crap to stick to them. I am also sick of complaining about it.

It is clear to to me that requiring a Blogger ID won't exactly prevent that problem, but at least it's a hurdle that I hope will improve things. Please note that most blogs meanwhile either require registration, or that you submit an email address with your comment. This is not the case at blogspot, which literally invites anonymity.

Practically, for you this means you can no longer post comments without a Blogger ID or an Open ID. This affects some of our more frequent commenters, George and Kay come to mind. You do not need to write a blog to get a blogger ID. With a Google-account it takes you like 30 seconds to get one. It is 100% spam free. I've had my Blogger account since more than 4 years and have not received one single spam mail/news/updates etc. The Open ID you get with any of the participating services, including Wordpress, Facebook and Flickr.

I hope that our readers will benefit from these decisions.


Tumbledried said...

Hi Bee,

I certainly hope that I am not one of the objects of your displeasure in this regard. I probably should extend my apologies for suddenly posting again out of the blue, and a rather reactionary comment at that; I prefer to keep to myself most of the time, but I have the highest respect for you, Stefan, and your joint blog.

Let me instead add something of value, rather than meta, by linking an article of interest that I have noticed recently, that I think might be of some interest. This knowledge comes second hand, of course, and you might already be aware of it. Nonetheless I had in mind, to be more precise, the work of Jacob Lurie http://www.math.harvard.edu/~lurie/papers/highertopoi.pdf, on (infty, n) categories.


Bee said...

Hi Tumbledried,

No, has nothing to do with you. My exasperation is due particularly to those posting as "anonymous," not even making the effort to enter a pseudonym despite my numerous repetitions to please do so, and then taking up my time.

Thanks for the link, but Category theory is not specifically in my area of interest. At least not yet ;-) Best,


Matt said...

For your first problem with spam, I don't want to reignite the holy blogging wars, but have you considered switching to Wordpress? Both hosted and self-hosted versions come with with Akismet, which is pretty much the best spam filtering system for comments out there.

Secondly, if you have a post with a large number of comments, I don't think you should feel obliged to respond to all of them. On very large blogs the comments become more of a conversation amongst the commenters rather than a conversation with the blog author and I don't see anything wrong with that.

Bee said...

Matt: Yes, I have considered switching to Wordpress numerous times, but evidently don't come around to doing it. Reg comments: I don't feel obliged to reply to all comments (which in fact I don't) but I don't feel obliged to host thoughtlessness either. Also, I have to say that I find blogs where the authors doesn't reply to comments addressed to them quite pointless, so I do what I can.



Bee said...

Shoulda been don't, not doesn't.

Christine said...

I think the decision was correct.

I found Wordpress better to deal with spam and moderation.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

I thought eventually you and Stefan would be forced to the actions you have decided upon. I certainly agree with the one you have taken in respect to anonymous comments as such comments usually are made as to take unfair advantage of what people consider simply the rights associated with free speech. However more often then not it is more analogous of protesters that come masked to an otherwise peaceful demonstration with the intent to turn it into a violent affair, only to risk the safety of fellow protestors to protect only themselves from the prosecution their actions deserve.

I do regret however that you had to take the step of monitoring comments of older post as I find that as something Google should deal with by increasing the ability of their spam filters, rather then you having to spend all the time and to delay the comments appearance. If it’s general policy it usually in respect to all comments it has meto usually lessen my opinion of a blog, since as it can paint a false picture with the end result having the blog serving to be little more than an instrument of propaganda rather then one to legitimately inform. I’m surprised they don’t take the approach Bill Gates proposed some years ago to counter spam emails and that was to pose a cognitively based question requiring a correct answer before a message could be sent which would be randomly selected. Perhaps they could be blog topic specific, which in your case could solve some of your crackpot problems as well:-) Nothing too difficult mind you just verbal questions with one or two verbal answers. Example: state one of the two blog author’s proper names:-)

Oh yes by the way despite your actions I still get the reflected spam in my own email with most being of apparent Chinese origin. This has me doubly concerned as Google having implicated them in corporate espionage recently and may move their office out of the country entirely as a result.



Bee said...

Phil: It happens like once every 3 months that we have a non-spam comment on posts older than 2 weeks (and then half of them are from somebody with name Phil Warnell ;-p) So I really don't think it's much of an issue, given that in the worst case you just comment when I went to bed and you'll have to wait till I get up. With regards to Blogger's capacity to deal with spam, by and large it is pretty good. The spam comments that go through tend to come from bots using a blogger account creating some pseudo-comment, the latest fashion seems to be to use words from the post. (An example for this post would read: "I really like Bloggy Notes, so interesting a topic. I will like you write more my blog." followed by a link to a website offering fake Nike shoes or something.) You can flag their blogs (which I've done a few times) and they get shut down, but I guess they'll just open a new one and the story repeats. As long as you can make money by clicks that's going to stay with us. Best,


Bee said...

Hi Christine,

I tried Wordpress some years back and I found it offered very limited possibilities to customize the template. This was the main reason why I settled on blogspot instead. I would prefer to download and run the software myself, but this would require me to get things set up on the server (the same hosting my homepage) which will take some time (and then there's the question how to import the old posts). In any case, I haven't had that time and I currently don't see where to take it. Thus, we'll stick with blogspot for the time being. Best,


Steven Colyer said...

What about www.scienceblogs.com ? Chad Orzel uses it at Uncertain Principles. Emily too, allegedly (OK, improbably, but not impossible thanks to quantum mechanics ... and anthropic).

I'm not at all sure how that site handles spam, just suggesting. I'm thinking of moving over there myself. I love equations almost as much as I love geometry, and blogspot is a bit equations-challenged in a Tex/LaTex kind of way. But back on topic ...

Well done, Bee. What took you so long? We can only fight human nature so long. Your approach was almost the opposite of Peter Woit's, whom many of us feel is too tough. Then again, it's hard to come up with a strong reason that he's wrong. Peter's bitch is that people say outrageous things when hiding behind the curtain of anonymity. I agree, but sometimes outrageous things have to be said, as long as they're said by reasonable people, not outrageous ones.

Unfortunately, we can't have our cake and eat it too. Democracy is a funny thing. Too much, and we collapse into anarchy. Too little, and we collapse into tyranny. Shrug.

In conclusion, well done and what else could you have done? Nothing as far as I can see. Like you said, getting an account takes about 30 seconds, so any complaints about this action are unreasonable.

Now I'm off to alert Anne Hathaway to this excellent blog. We can't have too many celebrities into Physics, or too many ladies. Isn't that right, Jérôme ?

Bee said...

Steven: We've been asked to join scienceblogs years back but declined. This has nothing to do with scienceblogs in particular, we've also been asked to join several other blog aggregators, but declined. This is mainly due to my aversion of advertisements combined with my wish to be able to twiddle the template myself. If my blog looked like Chad's, I couldn't stand it. If my blog run weight-loss ads like Cosmic Variance recently did, I'd refuse to write it. (We've also been offered money for putting ads in the sidebar, which we also declined.) Besides this: thanks for the reassurance, it's much appreciated. Best,


Steven Colyer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven Colyer said...

Do you have to be invited to scienceblogs? Well the heck with that then. I'd just invoke Groucho Marx's "I would never join an organization that would have ME as a MEMber!" I believe in Democracy. If it ain't free, it ain't for me.

I understand your ads aversion. Unfortunately, to get "Physics News" in the right margin of my blog (which is where I noted the India Today article about Anne Hathaway's hobby of physics textbooks, and her need to have someone explain quarks to her, I have to run one ad per page, sigh.

Sorta like having to ... that whole paying Peter for something Paul stuff, I don't remember the quote. I'm a low Catholic.

Bee said...

I don't know if you have to be invited. I frankly have no clue how they assemble their bloggers.

Kay zum Felde said...

Hi Bee,

I can understand your decision. To myself, I've a Google account and I am using it. Or did I misunderstood your message ?

Best Kay

Bee said...

Hi Kay,

Oh, sorry, I see you've been using a blogger ID recently. I thought I recalled you posting without one, my mistake. Even better you didn't have to make an effort for me :-) Best,


muon said...

Your blog is one of the very best, and I am happy that you take whatever reasonable measures are needed to preserve and protect it. Excluding mindless comments also makes your blog more fun to read. :)

I also agree with your attitudes toward some of the aggregate blogs. I really really dislike seeing advertisements of any kind next to a blog that I am trying to read, and I am disappointed that some bloggers have gone that route. I never would.

Andrew Thomas said...

Muon said: "I really really dislike seeing advertisements of any kind next to a blog that I am trying to read, and I am disappointed that some bloggers have gone that route. I never would." What's so bad about adverts? OK, so we don't want totally unrelated adverts cluttering a page, but Google ads are reasonably well filtered. On my own site I'm put up Amazon adverts for books which people might find interesting. I think that adds to site.

I don't know why Bee doesn't put adverts up - she's basically losing about $1000 dollars a year by not doing it. It's not a fortune, but it's handy cash. I really don't think Google ads or Amazon ads would spoil the page at all.

Jérôme CHAUVET said...

By using Blogger, do I have the right to post automatically?

In fact, I do not know much about what OpenID is.

Jérôme CHAUVET said...

It works!... Sorry, I did not get it is for posts older than 14 days.

My fault!


Bee said...

Andrew: I don't want advertisements on my blog, period. I don't like to see them, it distracts readers who are already chronically distracted, and if you think Google ads are on topic, you haven't seen nothin. (When I wrote my recent article on psychological bias, neurological origin of superstition, spirituality, and religious believes, you should have seen the Google ads next to the abstracts of the papers rspt posts commenting on these papers!)

But the actual reason is one of principle. The more visitors, the more money I can make with this blog. The more links I get, the more traffic I generate, the more money. It's a game I don't approve of and don't want to play. I've written many articles on what happens if you start optimizing secondary goals. I am lucky to have a reasonably well paid job, and I have no expenses for the provider or the software. If our readers are looking for product information, I am very sure they know how to find them. Best,


Steven Colyer said...

You're not "lucky" to have a job, Bee, that's what your employers want you to think. The fact is your employers are lucky to have YOU.

THIS website is the proof.

Back on topic ...

Life is ironic. The irony is that regardless of where you are from, and this applies to Bee wherever-this-year or Lubos in Czechia, Americans will likely be your number one target audience if you present your website in English.

Not THAT surprising, eh, since America is the 3rd (but distant) largest population in the World, and has the LARGEST amount of English-speakers in the world? After the PRC of course, any year now, eh?

No, it's not, and the reason for that irony is that Americans, given our culture, are saturated with Advertising. We take it as a given. A "little" advertising actually impresses us. Yes, NO advertising impresses us more. But we're so numb to it that to us anyway, the difference is a small one. I get the feeling that in England and in the rest of Europe, there is nothing "small" about this issue; that it is in fact a very big issue. Leave me out of future discussions on this subject, thanks. I've said what I want to say about it, ciao.