Error of Spam Protection by Restricting Comments on Old Posts

By Angsuman Chakraborty, Gaea News Network
Friday, December 7, 2007

There is a widespread assumption by many bloggers that comments on old posts are mostly spam. There are several WordPress plugins to prevent commenting on old posts, even posts as recent as one month old like, for example, Akismet. This is plain wrong and can result in losing many valuable comments. Such practices should be discouraged by bloggers. Let me explain why.

Some blogs, like this blog for example, publish guides and tips which are not bound by time and can be valid even after years. Several of my guides and articles, even from 2004, are still referenced and widely commented upon. Preventing comments on such posts or assuming they are spam is incorrect and will definitely result in rejecting many genuine and often informative comments.

Initially blogs were started on the premise of maintaining a web log or journal. Hence blog by nature is chronological. However in practice while blogs are used for time bound articles like what you did today morning or late in the night (sorry, I am not interested), they are often used for publishing many timeless articles too like, for example, my blog or Steve Pavlina’s blog or ProBlogger.

Spam prevention shouldn’t be hard. Too much well-meaning but basically flawed strategies have been used over the years for stopping comment spam and preventing comments on old posts add to that list.

December 12, 2007: 12:42 pm

You are right, Akismet first checks for its spamminess before. However it is well known that Akismet returns lots of false positives. In fact your comment above was marked as spam by Akismet!

While Akismet spam queue was intended for checking for such false positives, in reality with several thousands in the spam queue, it is almost impossible to check them, so effectively when Akismet marks something as a spam it becomes a spam and in case of comments on older posts they are deleted. However Akismet is just one of the many plugins which target comments on older posts. The focus of this article isn’t Akismet, which was merely mentioned en passant, but the concept of rejecting (in one form or other) or even discriminating against comments on older posts.

I contend that we cannot determine the spamminess of a comment looking merely at how old the post it has commented on.

December 9, 2007: 1:53 am

The option which you’re referring to is “Automatically discard spam comments on posts older than a month.” With this option enabled, Akismet will only automatically delete a comment left on an old post if it has been judged as spam by Akismet. Legitimate comments make it through without a problem.

December 8, 2007: 7:31 am

Akismet (controlled by an option)dies when a reader tries to comment on a post older than 1 month. It does it while submitting the comment.
In essence if this option is checked, Akismet assumes that the comment is a spam, guilty before any fair trial. Akismet is just an example. There are other plugins too which does this by making the post non-commentable.

Frank you have raised a very valid point. Many of us show related posts which may be from the past. When a user browses to such posts he will find that they cannot be comented upon.

December 7, 2007: 2:53 pm

I agree with you. While I’ve noticed that older posts tend to be targeted by comment spammers, I’ve also received some good comments on these older posts as well.

Using a time restricted commenting plugin also dulls the value Related Posts and other similar plugins as well.

December 7, 2007: 12:18 pm

Akismet does not prevent comments from being added to old posts. It does have an option which deletes spam comments added to posts over a month old, rather than hold them for review, which is quite nice for low-to-mid-traffic blogs as those spam comments can pile up rather quickly.

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