Awesome Plug-In To Fight Comment Spam on Movable Type Blogs

I hate comment spam. I hate it so much that several months ago I set up TypePad authentication on our blog. In other words, in order to comment, one had to first sign up for a TypePad account (which is easy) and then once activated, log in to comment. If they did not wipe out their cookies (as I frequently do), each time they returned to comment, they would still be logged in.

While this put a complete stop to the massive amount of comment spam we were receiving, it also cut down on the amount of comments, the reason being is that the general consensus of people is that they do not like to be forced into signing up for stuff or having to log in to comment. This is especially true with all the various things we have to sign up for and sign in to these days (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, forums, etc.).

So what to do? I would like for people to be able to easily comment here but do not want to sift through the massive amount of comment spam that hits the site with no authentication. Last Friday I decided to remove the TypePad authentication and I kid you not, within one hour, over 80 comments in Movable Type’s junk folder. By Sunday night, I think there must have been well over a thousands comments in the junk folder, all of which appeared to come from automated software.

I wish Movable Type had something better than Akismet which does a pretty good job filtering spam but still very quickly populates Movable Type’s junk folder. While this keeps junk comments from ever appearing on your blog, it still takes time to sift through them in order to locate any good comments which end up in there (which has happened). I have heard they have CAPTCHA support in version 4.0, however we are still running 3.2 and have not gotten around to upgrading yet. My thinking is that someone somewhere must have developed a plug-in that would allow me to install CAPTCHA or a comment challenge of some sort in the version I have right now. I can’t imagine everyone who uses Movable Type spending their valuable time sifting through junk comments to make sure that good comments are not accidentally deleted.

So late last night, with a little searching, I found an awesome plug-in developed by Jay Allen simply called Comment Challenge plugin. The plug-in provides two defenses in fighting comment spam:

  1. A “comment beacon” must be present in the comment submission. This beacon prevents “blind submissions” that make up the vast majority of automated spam,
  2. A optional, configurable text-based challenge/response mechanism (a type of CAPTCHA) that eliminates the automated spam that slipped past the beacon

The benefits as described by the developer:

  • Cuts spam almost entirely out of your daily, weekly or even monthly routine.
  • Text-based CAPTCHAs don’t discriminate against the visually impaired.
  • None of the CGI calls or processor overhead for computing image CAPTCHAs.
  • Installation is simple: A plug-in and one (actually two) single template tag.
  • Challenge only displayed to unauthenticated (i.e. anonymous) commenters.
  • Compatible with both static and dynamic templates.

Once I downloaded the plug-in, I had it running in about ten minutes. It was that simple. Place the files in the appropriate directories as per the instructions, modify the Individual Archive and Comments preview templates, rebuild those pages,and then adjust your preferences through the Plug-in module within Movable Type’s interface.

Now all people have to do to comment is follow a simple instruction which in our case is to place the word ‘KitKat’ (the name of my cat) in the form below. Should comment spammers configure their software to include that word, I simply change it.

I only wish I would have found this plug-in sooner, like when I first implemented the blog in MT format. Just think of the time that I could have spent doing better things.

So if you are running Movable Type for your blog (I know there are a few of you out there), and are sick of sifting through junk comments or requiring people to authenticate themselves, check out this

David Wallace

David Wallace, co-founder and CEO of SearchRank, is a recognized expert in the industry of search and social media marketing. Since 1997, David has been involved in developing successful search engine and social media marketing campaigns for large and small businesses. Follow +David Wallace on Google + as well as Twitter.

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