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Confessions of a Spam-Catcher: How to Identify Spam

Confessions of a Spam-Catcher: How to Identify Spam

    As part of my role as Lifehack’s manager, I am responsible for moderating the comments queue. Lifehack’s back-end has a “Pending” queue for comments that our spam-catching software thinks might be spam, a “Spam” queue for comments labeled “spam” either by the software or by me, and another queue for comments that have been approved, again either by the software or by me. As a general rule, I check that “Pending” queue several times a day, the “Approved” queue every day or so, and the “Spam” queue every week or so.

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    I’ve been doing this for two years, and I’ve gotten pretty proficient at figuring out what is and is not spam – a tough call to make sometimes, since spammers get more and more sophisticated in lock-step with those of us charged with blocking them. I present my “formula” here for two reasons: one, to give less experienced bloggers and webmasters an idea of how to catch spam on their own site, and two, to give commenters an idea of the kind of thing to avoid so their comments don’t get accidentally thrown in the “Spam” bin.

    I should say, a big part of catching spam is a “feel” – intuiting that some comment just doesn’t feel right. I’m not sure I can capture exactly what goes into that feel. Andy Warhol once said that to recognize a great painting, first you have to look at a thousand paintings, and catching spam is a bit like that – the experience of having looked at thousands of spam messages cannot be easily encapsulated. But I’ll try as well as I can.

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    What is spam?

    What makes a message spam is relative and subjective. In a sense, spam is like a weed – a weed is not any particular kind of plant, but a plant that isn’t wanted where it’s at. (See, for example, Wikipidia’s definition of Weed as “a plant that is considered by the user of the term to be a nuisance.”) For instance, Corn is delicious, but if it’s growing in your soybean field, it’s a weed. A message that, say, pimps a word processor might be perfectly welcome on a post that asks for product recommendations for writers, while on a post that just happens to mention writing, the same message could be considered spam.

    Some messages are clearly spam; for example, anything delivered by a spambot programmed to leave its message wherever it can find an open form to submit through. But a message can be left by a living person, custom-written for the particular content it’s posted to, and still be spam. This list starts with the most obvious signs and moves to more vague and difficult-to-interpret signs. My guess is that a lot of people run into the ones further down the list because they post without thinking very clearly, so pay attention.

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    A comment is spam if it:

    1. Contains links to websites that are unrelated to the content.
      For example, a comment might say “I think your baby is really cute!” but the word “baby” links to a site selling baby clothes or even a Forex trading site or other scam.
    2. Is posted on more than one post.
      This is obvious, right? Real people don’t post the same comment over and over on different posts, no matter how relevant. most likely it’s a spambot responding to multiple posts on your blog that contain similar keywords.
    3. Contains more than one link.
      While there are a few situations in which a legitimate comment could contain several links, they’re fairly rare. As a general rule, the likelihood of a comment being spam increases directly with the number of links; anything over three and it’s virtually guaranteed to be spam.
    4. Is not directly related to the post.
      A lot of spambots (or even live spammers) crawl the web looking for posts with certain keywords and then insert a generic message loosely related to the topic on the hopes that it will slip past any human reader who is likely to just skim through their comments. Unless a comment addresses something specific about your post, it’s likely to be spam.
    5. Is overly complimentary.
      Most spammers are fairly astute observers of basic human psychology – particularly our desire to believe good things about ourselves. So they butter us up, saying things like “Great post! In fact, I love this whole site – I’m definitely going to come back again and again!”.
    6. Has keywords or a business name in the “Name” field.
      A basic search engine optimization strategy is to get your website’s address associated with specific keywords, and search engines look closely at the text associated with a link to determine the usefulness of the website linked to. Real people aren’t trying to game search engines, and frankly, we want to be recognized for our contribution, so we use our actual name, or a username. If you can’t imagine replying to a person by the name in their “Name” field, you’re dealing with a spammer. (For example, here’s one taken from our spam queue: “Having a good vocabulary not only gives a framework for thought. It also allows you to be concise and precise to make communication better.” This is relevant to the post, and thoughtful, but it was left by an entity named “dining room table”. It’s spam.)
    7. Links to a spammy business.
      This is a tough call – sometimes I’ll see a thoughtful comment clearly written in direct response to the post it’s commenting on, under a real person’s name, and still mark it as spam because they link to a site whose legitimacy is questionable. Could be porn, WOW gold scams, Forex scams, get rich quick schemes, blogs with stolen content, or anything else that feels to me like someone left a comment more to get their link out than to add to the discussion.
    8. Quotes the post without responding to the quote.
      This is a relatively sophisticated spam technique: pulling lines out of the post it’s responding to in order to make the language of the comment sound like real writing. Real people mark the quotes they’re commenting on (usually with quotation marks, but it could be by italicizing or bolding it, putting it in blockquotes, or some other means) and try to clearly separate their response form the post’s words.
    9. Is posted on an old post.
      Old posts tend to attract a lot of spam. Real people generally recognize that if a post is a year or so old, the conversation there is pretty much over. Spambots do not realize that. It still sometimes happens that someone comments on an ancient post, but the age of the post is a big red flag.
    10. Is in a different language from the site.
      If the point of a comment is to engage in discussion with the author of the post and his or her readers, it doesn’t make much sense to comment in a language that you’re not sure the author knows.
    11. Is from a Russian .ru domain.
      I hate to stereotype an entire top-level domain like this. I’m sure there are Russians out there making thoughtful comments on blogs all the time. And yet I’ve never had a comment that wasn’t spam from a commentor with a .ru domain or email address.
    12. Tells a long, personal story.
      This is experience talking – a lot of times you’ll see what appears to be a blog post in its own right in your moderation queue that starts off, at least, relevant, and is clearly written by a real person. This falls under the “Weed” heading – it might have been totally welcome except it’s out of place as a comment on your blog.
    13. Asks for specific support.
      This is another “weed” situation: a comment on a post about, say, installing Windows 7 that asks for help with a specific problem. Unless the point of your site is to answer specific questions about computer problems, this comment is out of place. There are better and more likely places to get help than on your blog.
    14. Feels wrong.
      Sometimes a comment just feels wrong – it is a little too smarmy, maybe, or it’s a little too formal and stiff. You click through the link and it’s a legitimate-enough site, maybe a little sketchy, but you can totally construct a case where this comment was written by a real person with something to say. The question, though, isn’t what was the intention of the writer, but what is the effect on the conversation on your site. If a comment doesn’t seem to quite fit, you’re well within your rights to “spam it”.

    Anyone else have advice for would-be spam-catchers? Or for commenters who might be finding their comments relegated to the spam-heaps of history? Leave a thoughtful, non-spammy comment below!

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    Last Updated on April 23, 2019

    13 Ways Happy People Think and Feel Differently

    13 Ways Happy People Think and Feel Differently

    Let me begin by being 100% frank with you – everyone is capable of happiness.

    Happiness is first a choice but it also takes persistence to maintain. Happiness is our birth right and my mission is to help as many people as I can live their happiest life.

    My mission is to spread the message that everyone deserves happiness.

    To live a happy life; however, you must do the work, gain the necessary knowledge, and increase your awareness.

    You must fully embody this state and begin to think and feel happiness on every level of your being.

    Often times, excuses present themselves and our mind gives us the reasons why we can’t be happy:

    “I am too busy right now to focus on happiness”

    “I will be happy when I finish school, when I have the money, when I am in the right relationship, when I have kids, when my children are older….”

    “I would have had a happy life if this traumatic event had never happened”

    “I don’t deserve happiness”

    EVERYONE deserves happiness. The reason that you are here right now is because you have a purpose and you are on the earth to enjoy your journey.

    Think BIGGER than your excuses. Push FARTHER than your complaints.

    Don’t be pulled away from greatness. Get uncomfortable. At least these are what happy and successful people do on a daily basis.

    This article highlights the top 13 tips and tricks of how happy people think and feel.

    If you would like to begin embodying this life-changing state, then… Here are the 13 ways Happy People Think and Feel Differently:

    1. Happy People Put Happiness First

    Happy people have made the decision that their end goal is happiness.

    Every situation, event, bad day ultimately ends with happiness.

    To them, happiness is equivalent to sleep and water – it is a necessity to their life. To live an unhappy life is to have never lived at all.

    The happy person asks,

    “What would be the point of living if every day and moment were filled with negativity?”

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    “Why would I deplete my energy on negativity when I expend less to be positive?”

    They make happy-based decisions which means in EVERY MOMENT they choose happiness.

    If their circumstances can’t change then they instead change their perspective, they look for the silver lining in the negative.

    Happy people don’t let negativity steal their moments away – a positive mindset always prevails.

    If you ask a happy person how their day was, they will always answer your question with a highlight or a lesson learned.

    2. Happy People Embrace Pain

    I know what you are thinking –

    “No one is ALWAYS happy”

    or …

    “Even happy people get in bad moods”

    and …

    These statements are absolutely accurate.

    Happy people aren’t always happy and they DO get into bad moods. They get overwhelmed, they feel defeated, and their feelings get hurt.

    Happy people aren’t invincible and they feel pain just like everyone else. The only difference between happy people and people who let negativity run their lives is that…

    Happy people quickly acknowledge their pain and they make a decision to find a way to transform their pain into something greater. They also use these 13 simple ways to shake off the sadness.

    Happy people admit the negativity they feel and they do what it takes to get back into their natural state: happiness.

    When your end goal is happiness, then you will find a way to achieve it no matter how much strength you have to muster.

    3. Happy People Have a Happy Self-Image

    We all have an image in our minds that we subconsciously live up to.

    The reason that change is so hard is because our subconscious mind is programmed to live by how we define ourselves.

    How are you currently defining yourself?

    For happy people, they see themselves with a smile, positive outlook, and/or a bounce in their step. When an event or situation arises that brings in a negative emotion, they quickly change their state to resemble their natural self-image.

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    When happy people are in a bad mood, it feels unusual to them because feeling negative isn’t aligned with how they see themselves.

    When they feel upset, they acknowledge the negativity and look for a solution to bring their emotions to the level of how they perceive themselves.

    Look at how you define yourself today – your mind and body are always trying to live up to the definition it is taught to believe.

    Your body’s job is to keep you in a “normal” state because this is where it feels most comfortable.

    If your self-image is happy, then your mind and body will naturally be brought back to where it feels at home. Your actions will be a clue to how you define yourself.

    4. Happy People Have a Strong Support System

    The happiest people know that it takes a village and they lean on others for support.

    Happy people feel comfortable reaching out for help when they feel that their resistances are overpowering them. They quickly sense their negativity and they tell somebody.

    Happy people ask for assistance when they can’t figure out a problem. Seeking help takes strength and it never gets in the way of their self-worth. Happy people appreciate the wisdom that their support system provides.

    They have strong connections with the people who are close to them. They never trudge through tough times alone because jeopardizing their happiness for too long would be detrimental to their well-being.

    5. Happy People Safeguard Their Minds from Negative Triggers

    Warding off negativity is almost impossible when we live in a society that lives by what went wrong and feeds off of what could go wrong. News travels instantaneously so it would be unrealistic to shut this out of your life completely.

    However, one strategy that happy people use to safeguard their minds is regulating their environment.

    We have a lot of control on how we allow our environments to affect us. We can control our social media feed, the television shows and movies we watch, the books that we read, the people that we spend our time with, and the places that we hang out.

    If happiness is your end goal, then take a good look at what is bringing you down. What triggers your unhappiness? See if there is anything in your environment that can be changed……

    What we listen to, read, and who we hang out with influence our mind, what we think about, what we worry about, our reactions, and behaviors.

    Happy people know what triggers a feeling of negativity and it feels out of alignment for them so they do what it takes to avoid it.

    They might regulate their social media news feed to reflect the information that brings them positive energy. They might regulate the people that they spend their time with. It is important to hang out with like-minded people.

    What are you triggers? How can you avoid the negativity in your environment?

    These are ways that happy people regulate their environment and safeguard their minds.

    6. Happy People Know When to Say “No”

    Happy people know when to sit one out and say “no.” They do this to protect their happiness and well-being.

    Life gets overwhelming – a lot of people need our attention and the to do list can seem never ending.

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    Happy people give themselves permission to take the day off and they feel comfortable with saying “no” when their stress levels begin to climb. They understand that those around them aren’t benefiting from someone who is frazzled, overwhelmed, and tired.

    A happy person identifies their negative emotion and then they quickly treat it to bring themselves back to their “normal” state, so that they can be at their best for not only themselves but for those around them, too.

    A simple “no” can ultimately mean many more “yes’s” in the future because happiness has a long battery life. You can take a look at Leo Babauta’s article The Gentle Art of Saying No and learn to say no.

    7. Happy People Are Good Evaluators

    Happy people can quickly sense when something is off with themselves or others. They are very intuitive to happiness levels. When someone isn’t quite right, they are the first ones to notice.

    Being able to evaluate happiness means that you can identify when negativity is lingering around for too long.

    We all have bad days; however, the happy person evaluates often and quickly intervenes.

    In other words, happy people frequently evaluate their state and immediately change when their pessimism is overshadowing their joy.

    8. Happy People Bring Other People Up

    What goes on inside of us is mirrored into our physical world.

    What we think about literally consumes our life and is displayed in our work, relationships, and attitude.

    Happy people naturally feel good inside and about themselves so they treat others the way that they treat themselves. It never feels forced to give a compliment or to help out a stranger.

    When we are truly happy with ourselves, everyone around us has a better experience. Happy people are kind to themselves and because of this, it feels natural to them to want to make others’ happy, too.

    9. Happy People Go After Their Dreams

    Happy people are always following the joyful path. They make happy-based decisions and because of this, they always end up where they want to be.

    It’s absolutely impossible to be happy by following an undesirable path, which is quite opposite for unhappy people.

    Most people journey through life on a path they think they are “supposed” to be own. Warning signs (negativity) are often ignored because they truly believe that these feelings are a normal part of life.

    Negativity is NOT normal.

    The happiest people investigate the negativity in their life and quickly analyze the results. This process allows them to get back on the joyful path which ends in a desirable outcome.

    Follow your happiness and your dreams will come true (If that isn’t motivation then I don’t know what is!)

    In addition to happiness, here are 14 amazing things that happen when you live your passion.

    10. Happy People Never Sweat the Small Stuff

    The only expectation that the happy person has is that they remain in a joyful state.

    They rarely have expectations for the events and people in their lives because they know that this is a sure way to get let down.

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    The happiest people take life as it comes – you could say that they roll with the punches. When you don’t have expectations, thenyoue can just sit back and watch how beautifully life unfolds.

    Happy people understand that bad things are inevitable, they are a part of life – The car will break, the kids will make mistakes, people will be late, and dinner will burn.

    If it’s not anything seriously affecting their lives, then they don’t give their energy to it.

    11. Happy People Rarely Have to Prove That They Are Right

    Happy people remember that it’s more important to live up to what they believe. When you live your life aligned with your belief system, then there is no need to explain or prove yourself to others.

    Differences in opinions are inevitable, but the happiest of people know it’s wasted energy to defend their position.

    It is more effective to simply show people, through actions, how you think, feel, and what you believe.

    Energy is saved, arguments are diminished, and credibility/respect are gained when we live by what we believe.

    12. Happy People Smile (Even When They Don’t Want To)

    Smiling is one of the healthiest things we can do; and happy people use this simple trick quite often.

    It has been proven that smiling has the ability to boost your immune system, decrease stress levels, and can even make you look younger. The benefits of smiling have even been backed up by science.[1]

    Better yet, smiling is contagious. When you engage in a quick smile, you are likely to brighten someone else’s day along with your own. It is no wonder why happy people smile often!

    13. Happy People Live Life in the Present Moment.

    When we are genuinely happy, we are living for the moment.

    Happy people let go of the past, enjoy the present, and look forward to the future. They take the moments for what they are worth – they only invest their energy in what feels right to them.

    Everyone is capable of living a happy-centered life. You deserve a life that you desire – your dream life. All you have to start doing is make happy-based decisions TODAY.

    In every moment, decide on what makes you happy – decide on what gets you excited. Stop doing what you don’t love, don’t listen to the people that you dislike.

    If you are engaging in something that isn’t bringing you joy, then quit doing it. Listen to your heart, stop ignoring the warning signs (negativity) because they are there for a reason.

    I have observed, studied, and interviewed some of the happiest and most successful people along with some of the most miserable and self-loathing.

    It starts with one decision – happiness.

    The happiest, most successful people choose happiness with EACH and EVERY decision. And you can start doing this today.

    Featured photo credit: Autumn Goodman via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Harvard Business Review: The Science Behind the Smile

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