Movable Type

Comment Spam Spike - How to Detect Blog Comment Spam

spamI've been running blogs on the Movable Type platform for years. Over that time, I've witnessed the ebb and flow of comment spam. Anyone who manages a blog is familiar with comment spam and has a strategy implemented to fight it.

I've detected a comment spam spike over the past two months. In my efforts to fight comment spam, I moderate any comment that contains a keyword on my blacklist, and I carefully maintain this list. Still, comment spam finds a way.

Thankfully, it's easy to detect comment spam.

1. Only comment spam compliments the design of your site. I can't tell you how often comment spam tells me "great design" or asks "how do I get that theme?". Comment spam is my biggest fan.

2. Only comment spam thanks you for writing the "article". Comment spam makes you feel like Ernest Hemingway for creating an abundance of genius prose.

3. Comment spam always agrees with your opinions, no matter how ridiculous. I just saw one that read "I do not generally comment on blog posts but I had to drop by and tell you thanks for writing this, I fully agree and hopefully folks will see where you are coming from." I think comment spam would make a great friend.

4. Regular people have names like Paul, Sam or Abigail, or handles like Big Bruce, Cynical T or Top Dawg. Comment spam comes from folks named "free pharmaceuticals", "double neck bass guitar" or "lost weight fast".

5. Comment span is usually left on completely irrelevant entries from years and years ago. That comment on why Paul Martin should send the DART to help with the tsunami relief is probably comment spam.

I hate comment spam, but it's nice to hear from those who like the design, agree with my thoughts and are grateful I took the time to write it. Even if they're named free-online-poker or enhancement pills. Beggars can't be choosers.

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Author Comment Styling In Movable Type: MT Tip

movable typeThe CMS running this blog is Movable Type version 4.2. I've been using Movable Type for years and I highly recommend it. My MT services are even available to you, but more on that later.

As much as I enjoy working in MT4, the documentation can leave you a little frustrated at times. This morning I wanted to implement code that would style comments left on this blog by me differently than comments left by you. I started with a Google search and couldn't find a solution that didn't involve installing a plug-in. I was sure you could do this in Movable Type "out of the box", so I hit up the MT documentation and forum. That was no help, although I did discover a new template tag that put me in the right direction.

If your blog or site is running on MT4, here's how I added author comment styling. Note: I see MT 4.31 actually has this approach in the default templates, but if you're like me, your templates were customized long ago.

1. Start commenting from within Movable Type's Manage Comments screen
In order for Movable Type to validate that the entry author's comment is indeed from the entry author, you have to start commenting on your own blog from within Movable Type itself.

This is quite simple. To reply to a comment:

  • Locate the comment you wish to reply to in the Manage Comments screen
  • Place your mouse over the row of the comment you wish to reply to. When you hover over the row, the system will place a "Reply" link next to the comment title in the listing screen.
  • Click on the "Reply" link, and the system will display the Reply to Comment screen

reply

2. Harness the power of <MTIfCommenterIsEntryAuthor>
This is the aforementioned new template tag in version 4. With this tag, you can edit your "Comment Detail" template module for the desired effect.

Here's my solution:

<MTComments>
<div class="<MTIfCommenterIsEntryAuthor>mycomment
<MTElse>comment</MTElse></MTIfCommenterIsEntryAuthor>" id="comment-<$MTCommentID$>">
<a id="c<$MTCommentID pad="1"$>"></a>
<p><span class="bigger bold"><$MTCommentAuthorLink default_name="Anonymous"$></span><br /><span class="timecheck"><a href="#comment-<$MTCommentID$>"><MTCommentDate format="%B %e, %Y / %H:%M"></a></span></p>
<$MTCommentBody$>
</div>
</MTComments>

In a nutshell, if <MTIfCommenterIsEntryAuthor> is true, serve up the CSS class name "mycomment". If it's not true, serve up the HTML with the CSS class name "comment".

3. Define the "mycomment" style in your CSS
In step #2, we told MT to assign a unique class name to all comments from the blog entry author. In this final step, we're going to write CSS that will decorate such comments different than all other comments.

Here's the addition I just made to my CSS.

.mycomment {
border-bottom: 1px solid #6699CC;
border-top: 1px solid #6699CC;
background-color: #F5F5F5;
}

In a nutshell, when the comment is surrounded by a div tag with the class name "mycomment", the browser now adds a blue bar to the top and bottom and adds a background colour. By the time you read this entry, I very well may have changed the CSS style for author comments, so here's a screen cap of how it works right now.

comments

It's as easy as 1, 2, 3. Now you'll immediately know the difference between my comments and others.

If you need help with implementing this change on your Movable Type blog, or if you're looking for an easy-to-use, fully customizable hosted blog or site / blog hybrid optimized for conversions, SEO and non-geek usage, contact me and we can do it together.

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'Splainin' to Do

mouseThis morning, I blew up this website. I run this site with Movable Type, so all the entries, pages, comments, categories, etc. reside in a MySQL database. That gives me a lot of flexibility when it comes to site redesigns. Once I write the new CSS and XHTML, I just have to paste them into the right templates and publish the site.

If you hate the changes, blame Twitter. My old design was from the pre-Twitter era when I needed one column for navigation and Adsense and another for content. Now, as I Tweet more and more, I needed a third column for my most recent Tweets. That's the spark that set this site ablaze.

While I was mucking around, I finally fixed my pagination issue. The pagination within categories now displays 10 at a time and actually adds up. I also killed the ad at the top of the category pages, because I thought it looked awful.

I also got rid of the popular header status message feature, because I don't have time to create a new image every day. Throw in a new favicon and a few other tweaks, and it's all new. Whether it's all good or not, that's yet to be seen.

Please share constructive criticism below. I'd love to see some change requests. Whattyathink?

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Big Pimpin'

thumbsupFreddie P did a pretty good job pimping my services earlier today, so I thought I'd follow that up with a little pimpin' of my own.

I've got an entire page dedicated to what I call web presence management services, but in a nutshell, if you're looking for a personal site or blog or a web presence for your business or community, I can hold your hand and handle everything from A to Z. Here's what I can do for you.

  1. Secure your domain name
  2. Acquire an appropriate web hosting package
  3. Install and configure Movable Type (your CMS)
  4. Design and develop your new web site
  5. Map an ideal navigational structure
  6. Migrate site design to Movable Type templates
  7. Write effective content for your audience
  8. Create / modify images
  9. Publish approved web site to web
  10. Optimize content and XHTML for search engines (SEO)
  11. Education transfer to ensure the less technically savvy can manage their own blog / site
  12. Site maintenance
  13. Strategize complementary web marketing, from RSS feeds to newsletters and beyond

Everyone's situation is unique, but I've been told I'm super easy to work with, extremely flexible, and very reasonably priced. Contact me if you want to chat about your emarketing / web presence management needs, whether you have $300 or $3000 in your budget.

We now return to our regular blogging schedule.

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Ladies and Gentlemen, We Have Pagination

constructionIn this entry I mentioned my need to introduce pagination for my category pages. Some categories have many hundreds of entries making the pages very long and painfully slow to load.

MT-Hacks has a slick little pagination plug-in for Movable Type that introduces pagination. I've got it working now. For example, if you visit my Toronto Blue Jays category page, it will only display the 20 entries at a time and you'll have to advance the pages via the menu at the bottom of the page.

This is very small world we live in. The chap behind MT Hacks is the same guy who works worked with me on SLS. He was also in the passenger seat when I ran my new car into the back of a pickup on he 401 while rocking out to Everlast back in '99, but that's another story.

If you're using Movable Type for your blog or website, you really should check out MT Hacks.

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Movable Type 4.2

MTThis blog has been powered by Movable Type 3.2 for years, but last night I decided it was time for an upgrade. Movable Type 4.2 was released Tuesday and it's faster, more secure and loaded with tons of new features, especially when you compare it to 3.2.

So far, so good. Let me know if you detect any hiccups.

mtpro

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Custom's Official Blog

customDo you remember Custom? He had a rock radio hit back in 2002 with the single "Hey Mister" from his debut album Fast. Shortly thereafter, his label went under and that's where I came in. I got to come in and rescue his teamcustom.com domain from the defunct label and set him up with an official site while he worked on securing a new label.

About a year ago, I was asked by one of Custom's peeps to put up a "New Site Coming Soon" page. It sounded like a new record deal was imminent and my services were no longer required. I did what I was told and waited for the good news to break. I waited, and waited, and waited...

I got tired of waiting. I know Custom, one of the sweetest dudes you'll ever meet, and I know he's an interesting, multi-talented freak, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I changed hosts, threw down Movable Type, hacked away at some HTML and built a blog for Custom. Custom himself can maintain this sucker, I'm dummy-proofing the entire process.

Check out Custom's brand spankin' new official blog. Subscribe to the RSS feed at http://feeds.feedburner.com/TeamCustom.

His first entry, entitled "cheers to mike boon", really speaks to me.

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Hand-Coding HTML

webBoing Boing has a little write-up about how NYTimes.com hand-codes its HTML. I'd link to the NYTimes.com article, but you have to register to read it.

I've been hand-coding all my HTML and CSS for a decade now, and I doubt I'll ever do it any other way. Over the years I've tried the design part of Dreamweaver and other wysiwyg HTML editors, but the control I'd sacrifice always reminded me how much faster and effective it is to hand-code.

About five-years ago I wrote about this subject, but I'd like to modify my opinion since then. I still love the control, take pride in the accomplishment and find the entire process to be rather romantic, but I've learnt hand-coding and Movable Type can coexist for optimal performance. The HTML and CSS is still hand-coded, but a sweet CMS like Movable Type can do all the heavy lifting for you. It's thinking smarter instead of harder.

Khoi Vinh, the Design Director of NYTimes.com, says the following:

It’s our preference to use a text editor, like HomeSite, TextPad or TextMate, to “hand code” everything, rather than to use a wysiwyg (what you see is what you get) HTML and CSS authoring program, like Dreamweaver. We just find it yields better and faster results.

I couldn't agree more.

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Category RSS

rssI got a request last night to create an RSS feed for my Toronto Blue Jays category. A Blue Jays fan site wants to syndicate the content, but my regular feed is for every entry I post, regardless of category.

I quickly learnt this was pretty easy to do in Movable Type. I now have an RSS feed for each category, if you're interested. Here are the feeds for a few of the more popular categories.

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Movable Type's Freedom

movable typeThis blog is powered by Movable Type. Movable Type is what gives this site its bloggy goodness: comments, trackbacks, RSS, category archives, date archives, and all of that. I've spent a lot of time installing, configuring and optimizing Movable Type for various purposes. Humble's blog runs off of it, Freddie's blog runs off of it, the SLS page runs off of it and Buffalo Boy's new blog runs off of it. I believe in this blogging platform and it just got better.

Movable Type is now open source. As explained on the Movable Type Community Blog, this means we can freely modify, redistribute, and use Movable Type for any purpose we choose. If that wasn't clear enough, here's how they spelt it out in the comments. You can:

  • use it for your business
  • get paid to install it
  • get paid to support it
  • modify it (and release your modifications)
  • rebrand it, modify it, and sell it

This leads nicely to my next point. Now that Movable Type is free for both non-commercial and commercial endeavours, anyone can be managing their own Movable Type powered blog or website with just a little help from a Movable Type expert. That's me. I install the wonderful new version, MT4, configure it, optimize it for SEO, write the XHTML and CSS templates so it looks and feels the way you want it and teach you how to use it. Next thing you know, you're a hero to thousands in cyber space and a guest on CBC RadioOne.

Smooth move Movable Type. I like freedom.

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