TextDrive took other steps besides blocking comments. Hoffman had noticed that the bulk of comment spam was coming from .info domains, so TextDrive for a short time blocked all referrals to .info. Later, it created its own blacklist of .info sites to ban from sending comments to blogs. Before discovering the code bug, Six Apart officials initially thought the rash of comment spam was hitting users of older versions of Movable Type. While that turned out not to be the case, Hoffman said he noticed a pattern among those Movable Type blogs hit at TextDrive. The blogs tended to use templates where the link for commenting was easy to find from the front page, a typical design for blogs built on earlier Movable Type versions. By making the comment-script link so visible, the blogs also made it simpler for automated bots to deluge the blogs with comments."I dont think that link spam or comment spam necessarily kills blogs or kills content producers, but I think that the idea of having a site that you dont necessarily have to curate is gone," Hoffman said. "If you produce content and produce comments, then you have to read comments and moderate comments. You have to treat a Weblog like youd treat a good garden." Six Apart also has begun talking with others in the industry about common solutions, Dash said. The company runs TypePad, a popular hosted blog service. Six Apart actively blocks comment spam in the service and has gleaned trends and developed blacklists that Dash expects will be incorporated in future Movable Type releases. Read more here about Six Aparts recent growth. While comment spam shares characteristics with the scourge of unsolicited e-mail in users in-boxes, it typically serves a different purpose, Dash said. "One of the fundamental differences with comment spam is that spammers are not doing it to advertise their services on a site, but theyre doing it to increase their page rank on Google," Dash said. While search engines could do more to advance their algorithms to not consider links from blog-comment spam, Dash said such steps alone wont solve the problem. "The reality is, even if they do tweak the search engines to not favor comments and to properly understand when a comment is spam or not, the spammer behavior is not going to change that quickly," he said. "This is going to be an ongoing issue." Check out eWEEK.coms for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.
Hoffman said the blog industry needs to focus on solving comment spam broadly by focusing not only on the blog tools but also on the measures hosting companies can take. Still, bloggers themselves must play an active role.