Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

The Unknown Commenter

When I started this blog way back in May of 2011, I had a lot of decisions to make. What would it be about? How often would I post? What would the blog look like? You know the drill, you’ve been there (most of you, anyway).

One of the easiest sets of decisions I made was how to handle comments. Embedded, because I like that more than pop-up. Word verification? Off. That was a no-brainer. Captcha is a barrier to participation, one that often drives me crazy when I encounter it on other blogs, so it was definitely going to be off. Besides, I didn’t expect to actually need Captcha. With no followers, no history, no readership, what bots were going to come to my blog? Ditto for comment moderation. As a user, it’s nice to see what other people have said before me, and to sometimes respond to them as well as the actual post. It feels more like a conversation, and I like that. And as a new blogger, I didn’t want to have to work that hard (again, should anyone actually come by to comment).

There was only one aspect of comment management that bothered me: Anonymous comments. Yes or No? Hmm.

Who wouldn’t want him visiting their blog?

I’ve been around the web neighborhood enough to know that things can get touchy in the comments section of blogs, and people may not always be comfortable posting with their normal ID. On the other hand, I could argue that you should be willing to stand behind your words; if you’re not, maybe you shouldn’t be posting them for the world (or my small corner of it) to see. In the end, I decided to allow it. There are legitimate reasons for not posting under your own name, and I want to foster discussion and conversation. “Let’s see how it goes,” I told myself when I enabled Anonymous commenting. “If it’s a problem, I can change it.”

It wasn’t a problem. In two years I received no anonymous comments, and I was fine with that. We’re civil folks here, and even when we do touch on controversy, it stays pretty cool. No one does anonymous drive-bys or snarking, and that’s good. Lately, though, straange things have been happening. Last month I received my first anonymous comment (or at least, the first I remember).This month has seen a deluge.

You don’t see them. The funny thing is, I didn’t, either. The first one arrived in my e-mail last month, a necro comment (i.e., on a very old post). It said:

It’s really a great and useful piece of information. I’m glad that you simply shared this useful information with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

The comment also had a ‘visit my blog’ with an address linked in. But the bigger mystery was, where was the comment? I couldn’t respond directly, because it was a ‘noreply’ comment. So I went to the post to see if I could reply there, and…it wasn’t there. There was no comment. Over the next couple of weeks, I got more of these comments, some on old posts, some on new. All of them were flattering, all of them had links, all of them were ‘noreply.’ None of them turned up in the actual posts they were commenting on, and I was mystified. Until I discovered Blogger’s little secret: anonymous comments are moderated.

They don’t tell you this, as far as I can tell. I found it by accident while trying to figure out what was happening with these anonymous comments. And then I found it, under settings>comments>spam. The anonymous comments sat there, waiting for me to approve or delete. Who knew?

It wasn’t the last anonymous comment. Since the beginning of August I’ve received 7 more anonymous comments, and many of them are like the one above: vague, yet flattering, with a link to a site that I will not go to, because…well, just because.

I’m not quite ready to zorch anonymous commenting. I do believe, as stated above, there are valid reasons for putting your thoughts out there without a name. However, I will continue to moderate, and if I see no real relevance to your comment, it will not make it through. In the event that any of you anonymous posters are reading this and are offended by my policy, I’m sorry. I do not wish to offend and I do not wish to exclude, but those comments look like thinly-veiled attempts at driving folks to a website that may or may not be legitimate, and I’m not about that. That is all.

Photo by Laser Burners

16 Responses

  1. I think I turned off anonymous comments a year or more ago. It seemed like the only thing it did was open the door to spammers. Thank goodness they go to comment spam limbo now. I think before they were going straight to my comment thread. Since I turned it off I've had maybe one or two spammy comments that I was able to delete quickly.

  2. I used to allow anonymous comments but I started getting so many in the moderation section that I finally had to turn it off. Probably 99% of them were spam. I rarely get a comment moderation now, and it's easy to publish those. I can do those with my phone.

  3. And I just got another! In response to Friday's post:

    "I was suggested this blog through my cousin.
    I am now not certain whether or not this submit is written through him as nobody else recognise such particular about my problem.
    You're wonderful! Thank you!"

    With a suggestion to visit a website that I won't go to.

  4. I'm heading in that direction. Out of curiosity, did you find a link between spammy comments and number of pageviews? I had a huge (for me) July. I wonder if I've triggered something somehow.

  5. I've received plenty of similar comments, all of which were spam to the best of my knowledge. Typically the grammar is horrible and you can tell it's a bot. They don't disrupt anything, so I just let them happen and delete them on occasion.

  6. Interesting info about the moderating thing. I didn't know that either.

    However, I've restricted anonymous comments from the beginning on my blog. I figured allowing them makes it too easy for someone to behave like a troll. They can go make up a fake identity, sure, but that takes time, so it's a deterrent.

  7. I stopped the anonymous comments when they started all coming in cyrillic. Then I knew I had to put a stop to it. No spam since. And I haven't noticed my page views go down, either.

    Now, I notice you don't have a box to check that lets a commenter have future comments e-mailed to them. If you did, and a commenter checked it, they would see all those spam e-mails, too.

    But I do wonder… Why don't you have the little box there?

  8. So that's where they all went! I been getting the emails too, but then not seeing anything on the blog. I was considering switching Captcha on for a week or so to see if it would make a difference (I do have friends who occasionally comment but don't have blogger accounts, so they go anonymous, so I didn't want to turn off that option…) I just deleted 23 items in my spam box, and recovered two from legitimate people with accounts that had somehow gotten mixed up and thrown in there too. Have you found any legitimate comments going missing? I definitely don't click links from those vague anonymous comments… But that started a couple of months ago for me and it's just like you've described it JeffO! How annoying… hopefully the spam-bots will go away soon, but that's lucky that blogger does catch them for us. Hmm 🙂

  9. At least Cyrillic looks interesting. As for the check box, I don't know. I do see there's a 'subscribe by e-mail' hyperlink as opposed to a check box, below and to the right of this frame as I type. I didn't see anything in the settings that allow me to turn this on or off.

  10. I'm glad I'm not alone in all this Anonymity, though I no longer feel like a special li'l snowflake. Seriously, I think I passed one comment that was still probably spammy but was less spammy than the rest. Other than that, I have found no obviously real comments rotting in the inbox. Glad I could help!

  11. I have grown to love my spam commenters. I spend an afternoon here and there, sipping tea, and reading their wise words. My favourite comments are the ones trying to sell me things through back-handed compliments and outrage. Obviously, the direct compliments got them nowhere so they changed their tone. *PATS SPAM*

  12. I see now that the "Subscribe by email" link is the same as the box on my blog. Strange. Why wouldn't they be the same? Maybe I'm on an older version? Hmmm…

    And I don't think you CAN turn it off. I think it's just there.

  13. I opted out of allowing anonymous comments. I truly believe if you have something to say, you should be able to stand by your words. Besides the whole drill with anonymous comments make no sense to me, most often they show up on older post that people seldom visit anyway. It's obvious the only person they intend to see the comment is the blog user, hoping they do indeed visit the spam. (Hugs)Indigo

  14. OMG I got carpet bombed by these things for about a month straight earlier this year. Almost every single one of them were on my "Let's Talk Money" post which was about tax ramifications for writers living in Philadelphia. They went on and on and on. Some of them actually did make it onto my posts I think but yeah, most of them I couldn't find. I was getting really irritated when they suddenly stopped. Very bizarre. I'm kind of glad I'm not the only one. I got hundreds and hundreds of them. It was insane.

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