Spam filter problems

For the past couple months my spam filter (Akismet) has falsely identified a rather large number of legitimate comments as spam.

(For those of you who arrived on the internet yesterday, "spam" is off-topic comments trying to get people to click on links to buy things.  Mostly it is left by "bots" that automatically scan the internet.   When I installed a second layer of protection called "Cookies for Comments" a few months ago, Akismet was processing over a million spam comments a month, causing a slowdown on the server!  The vast majority of these were caught and removed by the filter, but sometimes it gets it wrong and lets spam through (a "false negative") or rejects legit comments (a "false positive").

I'm periodically checking the spam filter to rescue these false positives (just did 2 today), but you can help me out by doing the following:

  • Send me an email if you try to leave a legitimate comment and it does not appear on the website within a few comments.  You can find a working email for me on my personal website, which is linked to in the bar at the top of the page.
  • If convenient, go ahead and include a copy of your comment in the email.  (Generally it's a good idea to save long comments on your home computer before submitting, but if you didn't do this, you can often reclaim it by pressing the `back' button on your browser.)
    My spam filter keeps a copy of all comments flagged as spam for 15 days, so I probably don't actually need this, but rarely there are other technical problems that cause comments to disappear.
  • Please don't take it personally if your comment doesn't appear.  The spam filtering is done automatically by a hidden algorithm, and I don't have anything to do with it!
    If you are an insecure person, please don't waste time worrying that maybe you stepped over an invisible line and accidentally insulted me, and therefore I blocked your comments without telling you.   If you are a flesh-and-blood human being, your comment was probably legitimate.
    While I do occasionally remove "by hand" comments that violate the rules, I generally try to notify the person by email, or in that comments section, except for the worst offenders.  So unless you went on a blasphemous tirade or are an obviously-insulting troll, that's probably not you!  (And even if that is you, you are certainly entitled to respectfully ask by email—once, anyway—for an explanation of why your comment was deleted.)
  • All this assumes you left me a real email address.  Of course, if you violated the rules by leaving a fake email address, then you might not receive my explanation.  In that case, you deserve what you get, and I may also delete your comment!  (But sometimes, in the case of commenters otherwise engaging in good faith, I have looked the other way on this issue, in order to show mercy to the weak.)
    Obviously, I promise not to give your email address to the spammers, or otherwise share this information without your permission!
  • It is also necessary for your web browser to accept "cookies" in order for you to successfully leave a comment.  If this happens to you, you will be redirected to a page with an explanation & instructions.  If you are wrongly redirected to this page, please send me an email saying so.  Also, if for some reason you don't want to accept cookies from other websites, you can add an exception for Undivided Looking.

Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs
Bestowing life!

-Paschal troparion

About Aron Wall

I am a Lecturer in Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge. Before that, I read Great Books at St. John's College (Santa Fe), got my physics Ph.D. from U Maryland, and did my postdocs at UC Santa Barbara, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and Stanford. The views expressed on this blog are my own, and should not be attributed to any of these fine institutions.
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2 Responses to Spam filter problems

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Conciliar Press has the same problem (I know because the few times I write long comments they are often not posted)! Wonderful seeing you Friday night. Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

  2. Don Flood says:

    Dr. Wall,

    Appreciate very much your posting policy and above comments. I used to post sporadically on Dr. Sean Carroll's blog what were, I believe, informative comments that were very short and to the point, usually, links to other researchers whom I thought would be of interest to everyone, and Dr. Carroll had no problem removing those comments without explanation or any type of response to my legitimate email address, and, so, I must say that your policies are much more egalitarian!



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