Happy Spam: I Can Only Compliment You

There’s a phenomenon I’ve been noticing, and I’d value your comments on the best approach to take.

This is what happens: I post an article to my blog. Then I wait. Then the comment moderation queue starts to get comments like this:

“i can only compliment you for the good job you have been doing in this blog, congratulations and keep it coming. [URL that I’ve removed]” –Darlene

“I like the invaluable data you give in your posts. I will bookmark your weblog and check again here frequently. I am pretty certain I will learn lots of new stuff right here!” –wifi access point

“Very nice post and right to the point. I don’t know if this is truly the best place to ask but do you guys have any thoughts on where to get some professional writers? Thanks :)” –Oliver Lindsay

“Bookmarked your post!” –Bail Bonds Los Angeles County

I call these “happy spam”. Here’s what all the happy spam comments have in common:

  • the commenter leaves a website URL along with their alleged name and email address;
  • the comment is positive and complimentary; and
  • the comment says nothing that’s specifically related to the article it’s commenting on.

Lest you get the wrong impression, let me assure you that I do get genuine comments and even some overt spam on this blog. But I would estimate that more than 90% of the comments that come to me for moderation are happy spam. Some comments even have these three happy spam traits and additionally include a URL in the comment itself. These I refer to as “happy spam spam”.

Most of the time I assume that people are just trying to get links to sites they control out there on the Internet. My typical approach is to strip all URLs from the comment (including the link from the commenter’s apparent name) and then approve the comment. I figure that if people are going to say nice things about my blog for their own selfish gain I might as well make public the nice things they’ve said.

Sometimes if I suspect that the comment may just be vague happy not-spam, I take a look at the commenter’s website to see if it contains anything that might indicate that the commenter falls into the article’s target audience. If so, there’s a chance that I’ll be generous enough to approve the comment without stripping the URL.

So the moral of the story for you, dear reader, is that when you post a comment on my blog you should write something relevant to the article you’re commenting on.

Partly I’m just writing this article to see if people will post happy spam to an article about happy spam. But if you have an opinion on how I should treat comments of this kind, I’d love to hear it. Should I approve them all in good faith? Is it deceptive of me to just approve the spam comments that say good things about my site and reject the ones that say nothing about my site? Should I tighten things up by requiring a captcha or email verification for people to comment? Please comment on this article and let me know your thoughts. If everyone who reads my blog comments on this article, we might even get the spam rate for this article down to 50%. But I doubt it.

Update (2012-06-15): The comments on this article were open for 30 days. For this article only, I approved all happy spam comments without editing so as to preserve a specimen of the comments. I did delete one or two outright spam comments. As of today, I have comment guidelines which I will be applying to all new comments. No longer will happy spam be tolerated on this site.

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