I haven’t been forced to use it in a while, but I just noticed that six of the last seven comments I’ve left on blogs using Disqus have been marked as spam. Typically they’re well reasoned, thoughtful, and very un-spammy. The one that wasn’t marked as spam was apparently done so by the site owner them self that ultimately noticed the issue and unmarked it.

I’m at a loss as to why the system would be marking them this way, particularly given my experience with how other systems flag things as spam. I feel like I’m being moderated out of existence by a poorly written algorithm.

I wonder if the blog owners are aware of what they’re missing out on by using such a painfully dreadful system?

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I’m not sure what’s changed recently but I went from a few spam comments on my website every week to hundreds a day.

Now that I have a larger and more diverse set of post types, it’s become more entertaining to read the incongruous spam posts about how brilliant and insightful I am when I’ve just posted a simple checkin.

I thought my writing style on this checkin was great myself, but I didn’t expect to gain this type of acclaim.

Spammers are going to have to start using microformats parsers to know which post types to properly add their spam to in the future.

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🎧 Spam: a special edition | Eat This Podcast

Spam: a special edition by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast
I did not know that that the famous Monty Python spam sketch was recorded on 6 June 1970. At least, that’s the claim of a Tumblr obsessed with Minnesota in the 1970s. (Wikipedia says only that “[i]t premiered on 15 December 1970”.) However, I need no encouragement to share a programme on Spam that I made for BBC Farming Today back in 1997, a programme that was both very well received and a blast to make. the people at Hormel couldn’t have been nicer, and the butterfly spam balls weren’t bad either.

Monty Python and Spam
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There’s so much more to spiced ham than one could have ever thought. It’s not only a great slice of Americana, but there’s some science and interesting economics behind the things that go into making it. Both a fun and fascinating episode.

The Indieweb Frees Me From “Awaiting Moderation”

I run across notices on the web like this regularly and it used to aggravate me to no end:

The dreaded "awaiting moderation" notice. Is my content lost forever or not?
The dreaded “awaiting moderation” notice. Is my content lost forever or not?

Infuriatingly it usually involved having just spent 5 minutes reading something and then spending 10 minutes to hours writing a reasoned and thoughtful response. (Because every troll knows that’s what the internet was designed to encourage, right?)

After pressing the reply button (even scarier than hitting the “Publish” button because you don’t have the ability to edit it after-the-fact and someone else now “owns” your content), you see the dreaded notice that your comment is “AWAITING MODERATION…”

Will they approve it? Will they delete it? Is it gone forever? Did they really get it, or did it disappear into the ether? Oh #%@$!, I wish I’d made a back up copy because that took a bit of work, and I might like to refer to it again later. Are they going to censor my thoughts? Silence my voice?

I Get It: The Need for Moderation

I completely get the need for moderation on the web, particularly as almost no one is as kind, considerate, courteous, or civil as my friend P.M. Forni. (And who could be — he literally wrote the book(s) on the subject!)

On a daily basis, I’m spammed by sites desperate to sell or promote FIFA coins, Ray Bans, Christian Louboutin shoes, or even worse types of hateful blather, so I too gently moderate. I try to save my own readers from having to see such drivel, and don’t want to provide a platform or audience for them to shout from or at, respectively.

I won’t be silenced anymore

No longer can I be silenced by random moderators that I often don’t know.

Why, you ask?

I now post everything I write online onto a site I own first.

Because now, thanks to philosophies from the Indieweb movement and technologies like webmention, which growing numbers of websites are beginning to support, I now post everything I write online onto a site I own first. There it can be read in perpetuity by anyone who chooses to come read it, or from where I can syndicate it out to the myriad of social media sites for others to read en masse. (And maybe my voice has more reach than the site I’m posting to?)

Functionality like webmention (a more modern version of pingback or trackback) then allows my content to be sent to the website I was replying to in an elegant way for (eventual?) display. Or I can copy and paste it directly if they don’t support modern protocols.

Sure, they can choose to moderate me or choose not to feature my viewpoint on their own site if they wish, but at least I still own the work I put into those thoughts. I don’t have to worry about where they went or how I might be able to find them in the future. They will always be mine, and that is empowering.

Join me

Would you like to own your own data? Own your own domain? Free yourself from the restrictions of the social media silos like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter? Visit Indieweb.org to see how you can do these things. Chat with like-minded individuals who can also help you out. Attend an upcoming IndieWebCamp or a local Homebrew Website Club in your area, or start one of your own!

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Webmentions for Improving Annotation and Preventing Bullying on the Web

Preventing abuse – Hypothesis by Dan Whaley (Hypothes.is)

There are potential solutions to the recent News Genius-gate incident, and simple notifications can go a long way toward helping prevent online bullying behavior.

There has been a recent brouhaha on the Internet (see related stories below) because of bad actors using News Genius (and potentially other web-based annotation tools like Hypothes.is) to comment on websites without their owner’s knowledge, consent, or permission. It’s essentially the internet version of talking behind someone’s back, but doing it while standing on their head and shouting with your fingers in their ears. Because of platform and network effects, such rude and potentially inappropriate commentary can have much greater reach than even the initial website could give it. Naturally in polite society, such bullying behavior should be curtailed.

This type of behavior is also not too different from more subtle concepts like subtweets or the broader issues platforms like Twitter are facing in which they don’t have proper tools to prevent abuse and bullying online.

A creator receives no notification if someone has annotated their content.–Ella Dawson

On March 25th, Ella Dawson wrote a blog post in which she requested that Genius disable its Web Annotator for her site.

Towards a Solution: Basic Awareness

I think that a major part of improving the issue of abuse and providing consent is building in notifications so that website owners will at least be aware that their site is being marked up, highlighted, annotated, and commented on in other locations or by other platforms. Then the site owner at least has the knowledge of what’s happening and can then be potentially provided with information and tools to allow/disallow such interactions, particularly if they can block individual bad actors, but still support positive additions, thought, and communication. Ideally this blocking wouldn’t occur site-wide, which many may be tempted to do now as a knee-jerk reaction to recent events, but would be fine grained enough to filter out the worst offenders.

Toward the end of notifications to site owners, it would be great if any annotating activity would trigger trackbacks, pingbacks, or the relatively newer and better webmention protocol of the W3C which comes out of the IndieWeb movement. Then site owners would at least have notifications about what is happening on their site that might otherwise be invisible to them. (And for the record, how awesome would it be if social media silos like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Medium, Tumblr, et al would support webmentions too!?!)

Perhaps there’s a way to further implement filters or tools (a la Akismet on platforms like WordPress) that allow site users to mark materials as spam, abusive, or “other” so that they are then potentially moved from “public” facing to “private” so that the original highlighter can still see their notes, but that the platform isn’t allowing the person’s own website to act as a platform to give safe harbor (or reach) to bad actors.

Further some site owners might appreciate gradable filters (G, PG, PG-13, R, X) so that either they or their users (or even parents of younger children) can filter what they’re willing to show on their site (or that their users can choose to see).

Consider also annotations on narrative forms that might be posted as spoilers–how can these be guarded against? For what happens when a even a well-meaning actor posts an annotation on page two which foreshadows that the butler did it thereby ruining the surprise on the last page? Certainly there’s some value in having such a comment from an academic/literary perspective, but it doesn’t mean that future readers will necessarily appreciate the spoiler. (Some CSS and a spoiler tag might easily and unobtrusively remedy the situation here?)

Certainly options can be built into the annotating platform itself as well as allowing server-side options for personal websites attempting to deal with flagrant violators and truly hard-to-eradicate cases.

Note: You’re welcome to highlight and annotate this post using Hypothes.is (see upper right corner of page) or on News Genius.

Do you have a solution for helping to harden the Internet against bullies? Share it in the comments below.
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