How To Prevent Legitimate Comments From Being Marked As Spam By Akismet

by Mike Holman

Do you have a regular commenter or two who are always ending up in the Akismet “spam dungeon”?  Does this happen to you when commenting on blogs? In this post, I’m going to cover several possible options to prevent this from happening.

As every blog owner knows, there are a lot of people out there who will try to leave comments on your blog that are considered spam.

What is spam?

Most spam comments are pretty easy to spot – they are completely off-topic, often are quite long with nonsense words and many links.  There is another group of spam that is harder to spot – some site owners will leave comments with a link to their own site in the comment or the comment url.  If these comments are too basic or complimentary “Great post!” then they are probably spam.

Spam filters

To combat this problem, there are plugins which will filter out the spam.  Akismet, NoSpamNX are a couple of examples.  The problem is that they sometimes get a little overzealous and mark legitimate comments as spam.  The blogger has to unspam and approve the comments which can get time consuming.

According to the Akisment webpage:

Help! Akismet is catching a regular comment as spam!
Don’t worry, if you see a regular comment on your Akismet page, just click the “Approve” button or the “Not Spam” checkbox and submit and the comment will be sent back to Akismet as a mistake. The system will learn from your submission, though it may take a day or so in some cases. False positives, as they’re called, are extremely rare and we watch them closely.

All I can say to this is Bull!!!  I have one commenter on my main blog, who’s comments have been marked as spam for over a year.  I must have approved him 500 times and yet Akismet never learns.  I came across another blogger who had some information from Akismet.  Apparently the “spam” status is set for each blog – not a collective vote which I had assumed.   I’m skeptical.

How to remove commenters from Akismet blacklist

These are the methods I’ve used with varying degrees of success.

1)  Ask the commenter to change their name and email address.  Akismet uses these fields so sometimes changing them can fix the problem.

2)  Ask commenter to change their IP address.  This can usually be accomplished by having them reboot their cable modem.  The IP number is the main identifier for Akismet.

3)  Contact Akismet and ask them to remove a person from their blacklist.  You must be able to provide that person’s IP address.

4)  Try another spam filter.  I suspect this might have mixed results, but it’s worth a try if all else fails.  Invest It Wisely has switched to Bad Behaviour and SI Captcha anti-spam and says it’s working well.

5)  Don’t bother fixing it.  I hate to suggest this strategy, but there has to be a limit on how much work you should spend on this problem.

Does anyone else have any other ideas on how to deal with this problem?  Is it worth the time to deal with it or should you just let some commenters go?

{ 9 comments }

1 Kevin@InvestItWisely

I feel that commentators are the lifeblood of a blog community, and I would really hate to see legitimate comments get categorized the same as actual spam. I would rather take the risk of accidentally approving a spam comment rather than losing real comments.

Thanks for linking to my post!

2 Mrs. Accountability

Thanks for mentioning my blog in your post here today. The guy I corresponded with from Akismet says Akismet does not use a blacklist. He said “If it were true [if Akismet used a blacklist], it’d be trivially easy for bad guys to manipulate Akismet to spam their competitors’ comments and approve their own. People try that all the time, but Akismet knows how to detect it and deal with it.” When I thought about it that way, I could see his point. Also, if Akismet uses a blacklist, why wouldn’t they have a whitelist setting as well? We can only make computers and their programs so intelligent. Apparently some people just write really spammy comments all the time – I sometimes read a comment I’ve just written and think it sounds spammy and then I end up not even commenting. And apparently personal finance is a harder topic for Akismet to “learn” from… Akismet is still catching 100s of spam a week from my blog and I hate captchas so I guess I’m sticking with them for the time being. It’s easier to glance in my spam folder and free one or two folks than to have to hit spam spam spam spam dozens of times every day.

3 Mike

@Kevin – I agree! Commenters are great.

@Mrs A – Yes, that’s a good point about how people could game the system if Akismet let everyone vote on who is spam. Regardless, they obviously have some problems.

4 Mich@BeatingTheIndex

I have never used Akismet, I’ve been using Bad Behavior and the SI Captcha anti-spam plugin for several weeks successfully. The Captcha is very efficient and it should not bother users too much by entering 4 easy characters before submitting their comment.

5 Lesley "Wes" Klatt

I use Akismet. I haven’t had any problems yet but my volume is still not up there as far as it will be eventually.

Thanks for the tips on removing commenters from the black list. I’ll keep it for future reference.

Lesley

6 Texas Green Blog

Thanks for the rundown on spam filtering, I have long suspected that legitimate comments were being spammed on my blog and I will be trawling back through the spam list to see how many need to be approved from legitimate visitors… I tried Bad Behavior and it worked great at stopping the non-human visitors but it still let lots of spam comments through, I’m currently using Akismet and it seems to moderate fairly well, but I agree, it can be over-zealous :-)

7 Emily @ lpn to rn

From my perspective its a legitimate technique to use comment as blog promotion means. The name and url fields exist in the comment system for that reason. I’m also a victim of akismet dump algorithm. I know spam is annoying but at least some measures has to be placed to minimize the collateral damage from spam fighting.

Some webistes use community rating system to fight spam (such as insanedebate and discus). That really make much sense. If you think a comment is spam, label it as one. And let the comment system kill that comment after certain number of spam flags.

Akismet people need to listen to all these complaints.

8 Mimi

I think akismet is great, however the thing that bugs me most about it is that some of my real commentators who I have marked as not spam many times still continue to go into the spam folder, grr. I also have a blogspot blog that I have noticed is in the akismet blacklist or whatever it is that makes your comments go directly into someones spam folder, it really is not cool seeing as I don’t do spam. Some people I think report you as spam if you leave your own blog in the url section of the blog comment, this is highly unfair, why should you not link to your own blog when commenting so that people know where you are coming from? This is where akismet falters in my opinion. It also makes it quite easy for someone to get you blacklisted by running a spamming tool with your url and then hey presto you are blacklisted…I think akismet have a long way to go!

9 Invest It Wisely

I agree, they do have a long way to go. You guys might be interested in “Conditional Captcha”. While it won’t help you on other sites, it will help out readers that visit your own site and make managing spam much easier. It shows a captcha IF and only if you are already flagged as spam. You can then send the comment to the pending folder.

Hope this helps out everyone,

Kevin @ Invest It Wisely (a fellow spam inmate in the depths of the Akismet dungeon)

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