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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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    Published on October 7, 2019

    4 Types of Toxic People and How to Deal with Them

    4 Types of Toxic People and How to Deal with Them

    Can a person really be toxic? Well, a toxic person does not refer to those who are affected by the virus or toxic. To be precise, toxic people are those who are very unsupportive, abusive and unhealthy in nature. Their behavior is filled with venom and you will not feel any sort of gentle breeze in their words.

    In this article, you will learn how to spot out a toxic person, and what you can do to deal with them.

    Signs of Toxic People

    To make it more obvious, I have added some signs of toxic people below.

    Manipulative Behavior And Fabricated Mind

    Toxic people are unable to deal with the bitter truth firmly. If you are going to blurt out their fabrications with proof, they will try to change the whole matter with their manipulative behavior. They will titillate you with sensitive words or they will try to frighten you to get rid of the problems.

    Inhuman And Merciless in Nature

    We know that sharing our thoughts with friends will keep us in good mental state. But, if you are not getting fruitful outcomes, you have to understand that you are spending time with toxic friends.

    Toxic people do not know how to put themselves in other’s shoes. They just put on a mask of simplicity. But, in reality, they don’t have feelings for you. Therefore, you should stop sharing your valuable time with them as you will get nothing except annoyance and silence.

    Hypocrisy at Its Best in Their Nature

    Toxic people have a great hunger for respect, adoration, and fidelity. After dignifying them with these valuable elements, you will get nothing; you will be cheated, manipulated and criticized by them. And, if you are not willing to listen to them, you will be controlled by guilt-tripping.

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    Emotional Outburst And Pathological Excuses

    Toxic people always want to see themselves in the positive end. Therefore, to get their job done, they always have an emotional outburst and emotional excuse to make an impulsive impression upon you.

    We do mistakes and it is our duty to accept those mistakes. But, toxic people have their own rules, they have a tendency to present themselves rationally even after committing a mistake. If someone tries to expose themselves with facts, they show no embarrassment and use emotional excuses as a shield.

    Play with Your Emotion And Gradually Erode It

    Toxic people always try to condescend you with critical jokes and when you try to elicit your thoughts, they just burst out laughing. Teasing becomes an important element in your relationship with toxic person. They even give you backhanded compliments to belittle you.

    Thus, using their toxic mindset, they just gradually diminish your abilities as well as intelligence. And you will have nothing left in your hand other than putting up with these things to maintain the silence.

    Well, you probably might have not seen all these signs in one person as there are different types of toxic people roaming around you.

    4 Types of Toxic People

    To understand it better, I’m mentioning the different types of toxic people here.

    1. Conversational Narcissist

    There are some toxic people who do not know how to give importance to others. They will talk about themselves but never ask you about your condition; they will only recall you when they need you or they are facing some sort of problems.

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    2. Emotional Vampires

    These vampires do not suck your blood but dissipate your emotion. They always talk negatively about everyone and compel you to think in the same pattern that they follow. They mask themselves in such a way in front of you that you gradually start giving importance to them. But, ultimately, you will not get any positive outcome from them.

    3. Monsters with Green eyes

    As discussed earlier, toxic people will give you backhanded compliments. Basically, these are called monsters with green eyes. These monsters feel happy when you feel sad. Therefore, they will always try to belittle your achievements, intelligence, and strengths. Along with it, they give compliments with some negativity in it.

    4. Black-Eyed Cats

    These cats always do mew-mew and try to control everything around them. They love to be pampered but, they do not like if someone goes against them.

    If you are in a relationship with such persons, you will be nagged until you are giving them complete satisfaction. In a nutshell, it must be said that you have to align yourself with them if you want to live with them. But, ultimately, you will lose your mental, conversational and emotional freedom.

    How to Deal with Toxic People

    Living with problems is more convenient than living with toxic people. But, toxic people are parasites and therefore, you will see these monsters rambling around you wherever you go.

    However, if you know how to deal with them, it would be very helpful for you and your life would be much easier to live. We have added some tips to assist you, just check these out.

    Get Rid of Intermittent Reinforcement

    We are very optimistic in nature and over the time, this optimism has reached to such a level that we can happily put up with the ‘close losses’ instead of trying to catch the ‘near wins’.

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    B.F Skinner once did an experiment with three rats. He put them in different cages attached with levers. The lever delivered food when it was pressed. In the 1st cage, the lever always delivered food when the rat pressed it. In case of the 2nd cage, food was never delivered by the lever even after pressing it, therefore, the rat understood the lesson and never tried to get food. But, in the third cage, the lever delivered food randomly and as a result, the rat was completely hooked and fixated. He constantly pushed it but didn’t get the food always.

    Well, this is called intermittent relationship and the same thing happens in human relationships where toxic people give you intermittent reinforcement and your heart gets pumped up with optimism. As a result, you will be hooked and your life will be fixated at some point with toxic people.

    You should learn to move on without them and live your life happily because random happiness cannot bring permanent relief.

    Never Make Too Many Allowances And Pardons

    Well, sympathetic attitude is very good and it is also a fact that sometimes toxic people suffer from genuine depression, physical as well as mental illness. But, you have to set a boundary and you cannot allow people to get away with anything so easily.

    If you make too many allowances as well as pardons, it would not be good for you in the long-term. Yes, there are some people who are facing extreme hardships and they are not even toxic in nature. But, all you can do is show some genuine compassion keeping yourself within the boundaries.

    Always Try to Ignore Their Toxic Traps

    Demotivational words are the primary weapon that they frequently use in their implications to detract you. Along with this, they throw words in such a way that you start feeling guilty. Well, you must understand that these are just toxic traps and you should not step on it.

    Always remember that you will have full access to freedom if you stop taking things personally. They not only do this with you but also with everyone. You just have to keep in mind that these toxic words are not based on truth but on their own mental reproduction. So, you just have to ignore this and focus on your work.

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    Show Them Your Beautiful Smile Not the Curves on Your Forehead

    Toxic people have an aptitude to attack mentally, mock disgracefully and diminish shamefully. But, you will not be affected if you don’t surrender yourself. Show them that you are not getting belittled or insulted.

    We all have our problems and we also know that we are capable of solving these problems. Therefore, the matter entirely depends upon us and if we don’t allow these vampires to enter into our life or play with our emotions, they cannot suck our happiness. So, I’d suggest you show your beautiful smile when they buzz around you.

    Don’t Suppress Yourself

    Toxic people will intimidate, bully, pass guilt, and forcefully take money from you to get their job done. They know very well that they are doing wrong and at the same time, they are acquainted with the concept that we are incapable of doing anything against them.

    Most of the time, we keep ourselves quiet until someone speaks up. And because of this suppressive mindset, we are gradually being dragged into their mind games.

    Well, we have to change this concept as it infuses courage into them. We need to obstruct them with firm minds and make them realize the negative consequences of their behavior.[1] If they are upsetting you, just tell them directly. Your direct statement might open a new gate of opportunity that will allow you to help them if they are suffering from genuine problems.

    So, why are you still tolerating these toxic people? Follow the tips mentioned above and deal with them in the right way.

    Featured photo credit: Devin Avery via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Tips for Grooming: Change Your Fixed Negative Belief

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