How to handle valuable spam Comments/Posts?

Spam is spam, how can it be valuable? OK. Xens, munins, SATAs and a week long server audits are not hitting me hard, I really mean valuable spam comments/posts. Please take a deep breath as this post is going to be really long. I had a taken a 30 mins class on this topic recently.

Spams are spams then what are valuable spam comments/posts?

In one sentence, spam by a spammer is a pure spam but spam by a valuable member is a valuable spam comment/post. Let me take a real (and personal) example. As I mentioned earlier I used (still I do) to visit (see the comments added by me, IMO they are really valuable, if not add a comment here to contradict 🙂). I used to spent almost 30 mins reading and adding the comments (adding used to take more time than reading) but one day I commented on a particular post on Coachology with Laura Allen of Actually, I found very impressive, so I created a pitch for myself and added there for review. I never wanted to spam or add any irrelevant comment. I thought Laura and Penelope can review my pitch and suggest me changes right there. Somehow the comment got deleted and I really felt bad about it. There is no issue with deleting one or many comments of mine but it can make you feel bad if you are not notified (esp when you are adding value to someone’s site by taking out your time, I could have copied the comment for some other purpose, I seriously do not want to waste mine or someone’s time). I have no issues with Penelope or her blog :), I got a mail yesterday and I replied too but for few days I did not add any comment (may be I am too busy with the recruitment and server audits). It certainly broke the flow I had with the blog.

That was my personal experience with valuable comment but I had similar experiences while handling few forums. We have seen valuable members (with over 100s of posts) leaving forum when their posts got deleted (we deleted it because of duplicate contents etc). I hope, I was able to explain the concept of “valuable spam”.

Why to worry about valuable spams?

I was a part(handled, guided) of almost a dozen forums by now. Initial phase is a very crucial one, where the forum needs to find participating members. Even one participating member can make a lot of difference. We had articles by a member, who left because of similar issue, fetching us great deal of visitors from search engine. His articles were very helpful and ranked very high on search engines. During the initial phase of the forum it helped us grow. Also it is a node of the social network, a node is not one member/user but a chain of users. It is always good to play as safe as possible.

Who all should worry more about valuable spam comments?

Everyone should(if they can) handle it with as much care as possible but here is a list for whom it is more important :-

  • Forums/Blog in initial phase should give it more value, as you need more active users to make it a success.
  • Niche Forums/Blogs, where you can sometimes miss great and influential users.

How to handle valuable spam comments/posts?

There are various ways, so let me put it one by one in bulleted form :-

  1. Method 1: Permissive delete – Some 2 years back when I used to work with forums (full time) I encountered a similar issue where a valuable member used to post articles (duplicate content). I then sent a mail to the member describing the issues involved. He was very co-operative and allowed me delete the posts. He was posting the articles just to share it with the members, without any intention to spam. All of the articles belonged to him. In permissive delete, involve the member and help him/her understand the issues involved in their own terms (I mean non techy terms). This helps in building a better relationship too. (also see method 4 for duplicate content)
    Pros: The user will not feel bad and may become more loyal.
    Cons: Since the thread/post might stay longer in forums other members and moderators may not like the approach and may complain or create issues under the thread itself.
  2. Method 2: Delete with Personal Notification After deleting the thread you can let the user know personally in a very well drafted way. Here is an example, some months back I got a sticky from WMW moderator

    I appreciate all your intelligent contributions here, Aji.

    Please don’t worry about it if I decide not to publish a thread once in a while. It’s just part of my job to make that judgement call.

    Then we started talking more often. People really appreciate personal communication.
    Pros: User may appreciate the personal communication and may try to cooperate too. It will not reflect any rudeness on forum admins’ part.
    Cons: User may still not like it and may debate over the issue, so it is advisable to keep the thread/post in an incubator instead of complete delete. There are occasions when the user have not communicated after that. Also it is a time consuming task.

  3. Method 3: Replacing the spam with System warning message – This is a great way of handling valuable spam comments. I have learned this from Amazon. You can replace the spam comments with a message,

    “Our Forum/Blog bot(application) detected this message/post/comment as a probable violation to our guidelines(link to guidelines, may be specific section of guidelines which can explain the violation). Sorry for the inconvenience. Please note that sometimes our system can make mistake, in such cases please inform admin(link to admin email). Thanks for your co-operation.” (something like this, sorry I can’t post the exact message we use)

    This program can be automated with the help of community members and thus it is more customer forgiving system.
    Pros: It is more customer forgiving system. People will forgive/blame the system, in many cases they will also talk to admin, making it more effective.

    Cons: Some people may find it very odd.

  4. Method 4: Edit/Delete with admin message – This is a very common practice where the post is deleted with an admins’ message. “Admin: Deleted the post at so and so time, read TOS“.
  5. Method 5: Making the duplicate content an image: This is suggested by one of our project managers. Some of the forums convert duplicate content (another form of valuable spam) to an image to get away with any penalty.
  6. Method 6: A mix of above – You can use a mix of above said methods as per your requirement.

Gosh, what a long post! There may be other methods as well, so please add on your suggestions as a comment.

5 Replies to “How to handle valuable spam Comments/Posts?”

  1. Hi, Anji. First of all, I’m really sorry that I didn’t email you after I deleted the comment. I could have sworn that I did. I try to always email someone if I delete their comment becuase my favorite part of blogging is the community. If I didn’t have such interesting and smart people comenting on my blog I would not devote this much time to blogging.

    Because of the amount of traffic my blog has, about ten times a day somoene will post a meticulously crafted comment that is really an advertisement. So I end up having to make a lot of close calls in order to discourage people from doing this so that the quality of the comments remain high. In order to be fair, I have to have pretty consistent guidelines for what I leave up and what I take down.

    I read all the comments that come in on the blog, and I know you comment a lot. I appreciate that, and I’m really sorry that I offended you.


  2. Hi Penelope,

    >> and I’m really sorry that I offended you.
    :), No not at all. It was just a (bad) moment that I felt so. I really appreciate your blog. Also I do recommend your blog to almost everyone as I find it really helpful. I just took this as an example to explain the concept. I will be right there tomorrow with more spams(valuable comments) 🙂

    I really appreciate your comment. Take care, have a nice weekend.

  3. Hello, Aji:
    I just wanted to thank you for this post. I know that this is an issue that many of my blogging buddies deal with all of the time. And as Penelope mentioned, it’s sometimes tough to know when to hit that delete button! Just wanted to take a moment to reach out and say that I appreciate this post as I think it’s going to generate a lot of discussion!!

  4. >> Just wanted to take a moment to reach out and say that I appreciate this post as I think it’s going to generate a lot of discussion!!
    Thanks Laura for the comment. Just wanted to share my opinion about valuable spam comments.

    >> I know that this is an issue that many of my blogging buddies deal with all of the time.
    Yup, now the turn is to find the algo to find contributing members. I will do a new post on this.

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