a question for you

Here’s the thing. I’m getting a lot of comment spam lately. It’s depressing, because for a good four or five months, I had none at all. Those slee sneeky spammers have obviously found a way around the safeguards currently in place.

/aside/ This is the kind of thing I obsess about when I’m procrasting about writing. I tell you this is the spirit of full disclosure. /aside/

So I have been thinking about solutions.

The most drastic choice would be to dump Movable Type for software that has got the spam thing more under control. It would be tremendously time consuming to export everything here, learn the new software, set that up, and import things. Not to mention the long list of glitches that would almost certainly ensue.

The easiest thing would be to find a plugin for MT 3.2 that puts one of those funny little boxes on the comment page that you have to interpret so your comment will be posted. Except, no such plugin exists (or at least, I haven’t been able to find one that I can have even a hope of installing).

So an experiment. I set up a month long trial at Type Pad (which is really Movable Type for dummies — everything set up already, pretty easy to make changes to design and import everything from here). I imported everything. You want to see it? Here.

Good things: all the infelicities that have snuck into the guts of this weblog over three years are gone. Everything clean and tidy. They have one of those boxes on the comment page, which should take care of 95% of comment spam. I never have to worry about software upgrades again.

Bad things: Lots of my bells and whistles would have to go. Maybe some of them are retrievable if I want to invest the time in figuring out how to make “posted last year on this date” work over at Type Pad. Which right now, I don’t. The categories list is not nested, which bugs me. There’s no search function. It’s quite pricey. And worst of all, I’ll have to fiddle with domain mapping or change the url of the weblog, which always brings along a huge number of problems. Now, on that last point, I am probably going to have to change the url anyway, so that’s nosobad.

I’m sure I lost most of you three paragraphs ago, but if you’re still here and you have an opinion, would you share it?

Yours in procrastination
the management

17 Replies to “a question for you”

  1. I just have my comments set to where I have to approve them all. I get email notification of comments, and approve the non-spam ones from there as soon as I see them. Then when I have a chunk of time where I’m not doing anything else (maybe once a week?) I go through the spam comments and ban the IPs. I am up to 300 banned IPs now, or thereabouts.

    It’s a pain, but at least this way the spammers don’t get any satisfaction. :) I also made the decision to turn off trackbacks, much as I like that concept, because I got SO VERY MUCH trackback spam.

    I wish MT would come up with an internal version of Typekey, where commenters don’t have to do a separate sign-in thing before they could comment; they’d just sign up once (as simply as possible) and then enter a password while posting a comment.

  2. I like the nested comments, and especially the being able to easily find the elements of writing section. But I mostly visit to read your daily blogs. I appreciate that managing a blog site is time consuming, and I feel that you are doing us readers a favor. So, I’ll do what I have to on my side to visit and view your site as you need to modifiy it to manage your time and efforts.

  3. I think I’d miss the bells and whistles. (I think you might lose a lot of writing time in re-creating those bells and whistles on another page, too, though I’m sure you could do it.) But like Anne, I mostly come here for the daily blog entries, so it wouldn’t be a huge blow to lose some of the sidebar stuff.

  4. I sort of agree with Beth. I like the bells and whistles but its the blog that is the most interesting thing and the thing that probably makes me keep coming back.
    On another note, TTTT is due for release in Australia on 1/8/06 (or 8/1/06 for US readers). If you go to the Random House Australia link here http://www.randomhouse.com.au/WEB_ASP/ttle_detail.asp?isbn=1863254862 , you can see the cover. The cover is a nice picture but I’m not sure what it has to do with the story. Maybe that will become clearer once I read the book?

  5. You could try just migrating the blog to WordPress. The installation is not very scary, although it might take some time to get used to its (very different) template structure and recreate all the bells and whistles.

    It’ll do everything you want — there’s a plugin for “last year on this date,” and the other stuff (search, nested categories) is built in.

    The best comment spam fighter, Akismet, comes with WP but requires you to set up a (free) account on wordpress.com in order to get a key. I don’t know why, but it works great once you jump through the hoops. And it doesn’t put a box on the comment page that we’d have to deal with; it just traps things that looks like spam. You can review them, or just let them sit there for a week or so and they’ll be automatically deleted. (I have less spam on my blog since switching to WP & Akismet, by orders of magnitude.)

    And it’s free, and would let you keep the domain.

    OK, sales pitch over.

  6. Does MT-CLOSE not work on MT 3.X? I run 2.65 b/c everything after that requires a paid license for multiple blogs and I like being able to create as many blogs as I want whenever I want. I use a widget called MT-CLOSE2, which closes all comments prior to X date. So I usually set mine to close comments on posts 14 days or older. That gets rid of the vast vast vast majority of my comment spam. Like, seriously, pretty much all of it. Then when someone does spam me I don’t even have to blacklist them– I just use the blacklist strafing function (text search / remove) to remove the spam and they usually don’t ocme back.

  7. Most of the spam is on recent posts. At least 90 percent of it, so MT-CLOSE wouldn’t help. Also, I can’t get it to work with 3.2.

    Stephanie — I have been eyeing WordPress. The labor associated with transfering everything over (categories, images, etc etc) is frightening.

    I may just do what Rachel does, and moderate all comments.

  8. And this is why, when asked if I would be the web master for a group I volunteer for, I said NO! Web stuff was developed very quickly (HTML, et. al.), with the writers making mistakes that previous generations had already made in other software(a computer generation of writers is probably no more than 5-7 years). It became so popular so quickly that we all have lived and will live with those mistakes until we get something different and new (or old, repeated) mistakes.

    So, if I were in your place, I would harrange the Moveable Type people about fixing the problem. I’m assuming this isn’t free and you have $ clout.

    Beyond that, I personally rarely use your bells and whistles. I usually just read your latest entries and occasionally comment.

  9. I’m just a reader, not a writer of blogs. Your writing is the key for my visits. The sidebar info has been useful from time to time, but I could live without it. I appreciate the time and effort you clearly put into your blog. I have no idea what soil type it’s in, but your garden is well-kept.

  10. I’m with you Pam….I come for the blog entries, and that’s what I will keep coming for. The other is a nice bonus, but not crucial!

  11. I come for everything on your site – and I do like the bells and whistles and your comments on sundry and various subjects etc. Plus I like the archived posts and I like to be able to search for stuff – your index on this site seems more detailed than the index on the proposed new site. My vote would be if any of the solutions above would work and let you keep this current domain I’d go for it.


  12. It is true that I come here for the blogs and I do love change, but I also love the way things are right now.

    I like referring to past posts and the sidebar has been helpful to me. Nevertheless, I am not the one doing all the hard work. One way or the other you will not lose me as a visitor or reader.

    The best choice is the one that makes your life easier.


  13. I work with the Movable Type team, and I think I can help with a few points here. The little box is called a “CAPTCHA”, and there are a few plugins to do this for Movable Type. (see here: ) If you don’t want to manage this stuff for yourself in the long term, TypePad is a great choice and you don’t have to think about the technology.

    Also, Joshua, you said “Does MT-CLOSE not work on MT 3.X? I run 2.65 b/c everything after that requires a paid license for multiple blogs and I like being able to create as many blogs as I want whenever I want.”

    Good news: MT 3.2 lets you have an unlimited number of blogs, even with the free version. You can upgrade completely for free, and it’s *much* easier to use than the ancient version you’re on.

    Basically, MT 3.2 can do everything you need, either on its own or with plugins, and that way you don’t have to redo all your plugins and templates and styles and everything else. Plus, WordPress doesn’t even let you have multiple blogs and there’s no way to get paid support, so you’d be stuck if you’re looking for assistance there.

    Let me know if there’s anything else we can do to help, and if you do decide to move from Movable Type to TypePad, I can get you a discount code for your TypePad subscription as well.

  14. Anil — crickey, I never thought you’d show up here. I look at your movalog now and then and it seems to me you’re already juggling a dozen different tasks without wandering around the web, looking for people to help.

    Having said that, thank you very much for the link to the captcha plugin. I’ll see if I can get it installed and make it work.

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