As you may have noticed, we recently changed how comments are handled here on FCN. A couple of readers have contacted me about these changes, so I thought I’d address them directly here in case anyone else is wondering. I also thought this information might be useful to those of you that have weblogs of your own.
For background, we’ve been having problems with: (1) ever-increasing amounts of spam, and (2) legitimate comments getting flagged as spam by our filtering software. Given the volume of spam that we receive, we can’t relax the filter without letting a ton of spam through, so we had to come up with another solution.
Unfortunately, if a legitimate comment gets flagged as spam, it gets thrown into the spam folder where it might get lost forever. While I do my best to fish out legit comments that have been inadvertently flagged as spam, it’s a huge time suck, and I know that I miss some of them.
To combat this problem, we’ve installed a WordPress plugin known as Conditional CAPTCHA that allows you to “self-moderate” your comments if the filter thinks they’re spam. Here’s how it works…
When you submit a comment, Akismet tries to determine whether or not it is spam. Overall, it does a pretty good job, but sometimes it makes mistakes. More often than not, these errors are false positives, where legit comments get inadvertently flagged as spam. False negatives are very rare.
As it turns out, the vast majority of comment spam is generated by spambots (as opposed to real humans). Thus, if Akismet thinks a comment is spam, Conditional CAPTCHA steps in and presents you with a challenge question that can be easily answered by a human, but not by a spambot.
If the submitter answers the question correctly, the comment is either passed into the moderation queue or approved straightaway. If not, the comment is discarded as spam. The default is for the comment to go to moderation because Conditional CAPTCHA can’t distinguish between legit commenters and human spammers.
After enabling this solution, things have worked quite well, and we haven’t had any legit comments sent to spam. Rather, a number of you have successfully handled the CAPTCHA challenge and your comments have gone into moderation, where I’ve approved them as quickly as possible.
Please note that, while the CAPTCHA step may seem to be an unnecessary annoyance from your end, it’s a necessary evil from my perspective. Without it, your comment would have been incorrectly sent to spam and may never have made it back out.