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My Love Hate Relationship with Akismet

AkismetI love Akismet – it’s a WordPress tool that has literally saved me months of work. It has blocked 4,059,113 comment spams on ProBlogger alone over the last year or two – something that I will be forever grateful for!

However every day or two I get an email like this:

“I have been trying to leave comments on your blog but they never appear! Did I say something wrong?”

Now when a blog gets as many comment spams as I do in a day there are bound to be some false positives – but over the last couple of months these emails are getting more and more frequent. The problem concerns me for two reasons. Firstly I want everyone who wants to comment on my posts to be able to. Secondly many of those whose comments are falsely blocked think that I’m the one behind their comment being blocked. I’ve had angry comments from readers as well as bloggers blogging about me censoring them. The reality is that unless a comment is explicit, spammy or defamatory I don’t delete comments.

I’m not sure what the reason is for these false positives it but it’s becoming apparent that quite a few legitimate blog readers are getting on Akimset’s blacklist falsely. It’s also seems to me that when I mark a comment as ‘not spam’ that Akismet isn’t ‘learning’ of it’s mistake because quite a few people’s comments seem to still be filtered as spam. Akismet says that it can take a couple of days to fix these but I’ve had a few people not be able to comment for weeks now. My approach is generally to ask them to contact Akismet directly. Quite often these people are unable to comment on other blogs also.

Perhaps Akismet could provide us with some way for us as bloggers to add to a whitelist of commenters. I’d love to simply take the emails of those who have problems and add them to such a list that automatically lets people comment. I’m also wondering if there’s some way of notifying commenters that are filtered as spam that this is what has happened and to point them into the direction of some sort of procedure to rectify it if they feel that their comment isn’t spam?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Alex D says:

    I have this problem too. It doesn’t block non-spam commentaries very often but it does and it’s annoying.

  2. I join Duhh in his comment. I think that a fresh and bit different approach like Mollom could be a solution:

    The web is changing. User contribution is now what makes or breaks a site. Allowing users to react, participate and contribute while still keeping your site under control can be a huge challenge. Mollom is a web service that helps you identify content quality and, more importantly, helps you stop comment and contact form spam. When moderation becomes easier, you have more time and energy to interact with your web community. Mollom is currently in public beta.

    Indeed will have to wait for a WP-plugin for this, I really anticipate it.

  3. I´ve just read another case of love and hate with Akismet. Sometimes a Brazilian blogger receives a comment of one guy. This guy writes correctly and doesn´t use the comment box for self-promotion, but Akismet always mark his comments as spam.

    The post can be read in http://www.contraditorium.com/2008/05/27/ser-bruno-guedes-o-maior-spammer-brasileiro

    (Sorry, it´s Brazilian portuguese only.)

  4. Tech blog says:

    Is openID a solution for this? Maybe you should have post comments the usual way and whose comments akismet blocks can use openID.

    I am not an expert at this but can this be implemented?

  5. Darren:

    I’ve had the same problem with Askimet. A few legits have fallen into the cracks but I’ve managed to catch them b/c my traffic is a bit more manageable than yours. But I love the suggestions you put out there.

    I’d definitely want a “whitelist” for those commentators who are truly genuine and legit.

    But here’s a question for you. How will you find time to whitelist commentators if they fall thru the cracks and you have a ton of stuff “caught” by Askimet? I suppose if they emailed you a compliant or comment about theirs falling thru the cracks but what about everyone else who doesn’t inform you of this? How will you whitelist them?

    Curious?

  6. Soccer Dad says:

    I’ve been blacklisted by Akismet twice and it drives me nuts to see an in depth comment wasted in the ether because I somehow got on Akismet’s bad side. They’ve always been helpful in removing me, but it’s always tough to tell if you’ve been nailed by Akismet or just held for moderation – I usually find out looking in my own blog logs.

    I still use Spam Karma 2, because it provides such a more robust spam fighting suite of tools, including Akismet (via plugin). I hate Sk2 isn’t being actively developed, but it’s been so useful I’ll probably try and tweak it to work with future WP versions if it breaks.

  7. A friend in a blogger’s forum was having this exact problem – all her comments were being listed as spam on various blogger’s blogs. How frustrating.

    I’ve received the odd comment here and there in the spam filter but at this stage, not enough to become annoying. What is annoying are the amount of comments that are spam but not filtered as such. Those with multiple links in the comments for example – they should just be automatically deleted as far as I’m concerned.

  8. In the past I know that I must have lost some decent comments through Akismet on my green blog (as this is one that seems to get targetted for spam more than others for some reason.

    but I have also had very short comments left in the past that I was unsure if they were spam or not as they did not seem to relate to the content of the post that was placed in the first place…

    I am just off to check my spam filter just now…!

    maybe the answer is to sift through the spam comments more often in a day to see if you catch any of them before deleting them for good! (this would probably take ages and ages though).

  9. my comments always seem to go into moderation on this site too! does this mean that Akismet thinks I am witting spam too?

  10. My experience with Akismet on my blog has been a very positive one for sure. Saves me a lot of time deleting junk.

  11. Muscle Post says:

    I’ve run into this problem as well. One of my most frequent commentors is on the Akismet black list still so I have to consistently de-spam his comments. This is unfortunate because it takes a while for me to notice this sometimes so the comments don’t show up for a couple days. They really need to work on that problem, especially “learning” when you tell them it is not spam.

  12. brem says:

    I find Akismet a lot less effective these days. Sure, It stops hundreds of comment spams a day, but every day, at least 2-3-4 go through.

    WHY!? :)

  13. taddict says:

    use spam karma – used it for a year now and works perfect

  14. Kirk Warren says:

    Lawrence Salberg – If ProBlogger used Captcha of any kind, i’d never bother posting. Any blog that uses Captcha in any form is automatically one I will never comment on and they typically fall off my radar since I never become a part of the community.

    It has just as many false positives in the fact that people just don’t bother commenting when they see it whereas Askimet lets them comment and throws them on the blacklist anyways.

  15. Sangesh says:

    I can just image how many spams you receive, given the popularity of your blog too. In my case also, I received around 2000 spams which were blocked by Akismet for which I’m also thankful to Akismet too. Definitely, it has save a lot of time for me and I certainly believe to other bloggers around the world as well.

    But, one thing that I just say that few other bloggers also have commented is that Akismet has to improve its spam detection “engine” because spammers are also humans like any one of us and they also do use intelligence so spam blockers have to work twice as hard to stop any spam.

    Cheers to Akismet.

  16. Angelo says:

    I think WP-SpamFree can be a good alternative.

    The problem is, not like Akismet, other spam blocker plugins doesn’t have spam moderation as Akismet does so you can’t really be sure either unless you tried every each of them.

  17. Beth Norman says:

    One other reason for this problem can lie with the internet provider, believe it or not. I couldn’t leave comments on several blogs, some I know to be WordPress, and when I switched from Explorer to Mozilla Fire Fox, all my posts go through. Very strange indeed.

  18. Bob Cornero says:

    I’ve had a good deal of success with Spam Karma 2 on WordPress. I’m just starting out, so I’m not going to pay for anything like Akisment, and have only had one false positive so far. It’s a great plugin!

    http://unknowngenius.com/blog/wordpress/spam-karma/

  19. James Socol says:

    I second Tom Stine’s comment about local white lists. When I read the idea I immediately assumed they would be local.

    Akismet has worked well for me–except that it keeps trapping comments from one reader. A white list would let me fix that and I could stop reading through the caught spam every day.

    If it doesn’t learn soon, or if I start getting more readers, I’ll probably need to switch to one of the solutions mentioned here.

  20. For some reason, I was never an Akismet fan. I have been a Spam Karma 2 user for some time and I love it. Have not had any complaints, but I have my settings lenient to the point where I may get a spam a week (as opposed to the 20+ I would normally get daily) that passes through. I just add it to the spam list which I believe keeps that ip/email blocked.

  21. Could it be that these people have been blacklisted because of spam comments they left on other blogs? In other words askimet doesn’t just learn from your blog, but from ALL blogs. So if you spam one blog it will affect your “spaminess” on other blogs…

  22. Sue says:

    Sometimes I go into moderation on this site when I comment, and sometimes I don’t. It seems I get sent to moderation land a lot more than I used to, but I don’t think I’ve ever written anything that should flag me as spam. I only comment if I feel I can add something, not to just say, “Great post, Darren.”

    In fact, I go over every word before I hit submit, to see if there is something that may flag it for Akismet, and have never been able to come up with anything. I will almost guarantee this comment will go to moderation.

    Ah well, nothign I say is that critical. :)

  23. Sue says:

    Hmm, the above one went through, after Akismet thought and thought about it. Maybe I should add, “Great post, Darren” to every one I make! :)

    Lara says: That might not’ve been due to Akismet, but rather just your comment being held in moderation (Akismet tosses them into a spam section, but WP holds comments for moderation for various reasons itself.) and it took some time for either myself or Darren to get to it to approve it. I have no way of being sure, but just wanted to let you know. :)

  24. Matt says:

    I’m sorry to hear you’ve been seeing some false postives. Just a quick reminder, for anyone here, you can always contact Akismet support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, if you notice any persistent problems with Akismet:

    http://akismet.com/contact/

    Every request is read and answered by a real human being. (If you have a commercial key, we pay even more attention.)

  25. Nick says:

    So far I haven’t had any problems with Akismet. It’s been a real headache saver and I can only think of about 2 or 3 times when something was a false positive or got through when it was spam….and I’ve caught over 9,000 spam comments :)

    I know it’s not as huge of site as problogger, but I’m satisfied with it so far. A whitelist idea might be a good idea though especially for sites like this one.

  26. Riccardo says:

    Well, i’ve been blogging just for a couple of months and I’ve not reached a lot of traffic (yet).
    But I’m sure that this is the only way u have to prevent “spam comments”, isn’t it?
    checking millions of coments would keep anyone who is managing a blog like this a little busy..:D

  27. abhi says:

    I am facing this problem too. In fact, most of the comments I get on my blog end up in Spam queue and I have to despam them.

  28. Does Akismet provide commenters with a specific procedure for reporting false positives? I have filed a support request via their contact form. Is this the correct way?

  29. chris says:

    they are creating a mollum based plugin for wordpress. at netsensei.nl

  30. lordtime says:

    is it hard just to use a captcha ??? and forget aksimet ?

  31. Sue Walsh says:

    One of the networks I blog for refuses to use akismet at all becaus of this issue. It means having to go and delete a ton of spam comments, but at least we know none of our legit comments will have to worry about being blacklisted! I personally think a CAPTCHA system works much better than akismet.

    Sue
    Tieroneads.com

  32. Andy Beard says:

    I have mentioned in the past I would be willing to pay for a permanent whitelist in Akismet for myself and my primary domains.
    Every time Akismet gets included in a top 10 plugins list, 1000s of potential conversations are killed.
    SK isn’t perfect, some domains that are otherwise legitimate can tend to get blacklisted over time, for me the biggest problems are google.com and twitter.com which crop up in multiple automated spams.
    The best alternative for average users is to just use Akismet as an additional filter for Spam Karma

  33. Jason says:

    I had a lot of problems with spam. I installed CAPTCHA, and they went away. I’ve had no spam comments since.

    CAPTCHA does not work with trackbacks though. So I installed Akismet to handle that. The problem is that the Akismet module for Drupal does not (yet) handle trackbacks, so I still have to check all trackbacks manually.

    I’m still a new site. I get about 1 comment a week, maybe 2. I get even fewer trackbacks. But I get as many as 50 spam trackbacks in a day. I’m always afraid that I missed something in there, but what am I going to do? When I become more popular, I can just imagine what the spam will look like then…

  34. Anil says:

    Darren, we hear you loud and clear. Have you checked out our launch today of TypePad AntiSpam? It’s totally free and open source, 100% Akismet API compatible, and TechCrunch says they’ve had better results with it than with Akismet — including fewer false positives. Sounds like it might be right up your alley.

  35. I’ve never had a problem like that, but last week I had like 6 spam messages from the same guy over and over again. I kept marking it as spam, but Akismet didn’t do anything about it. So that was the only time I’ve been disappointed in Akismet, but other than that he’s done a great job.

  36. Sire says:

    For some reason I have never used Akismet as Spam Karma was my plugin of choice. So far no problems and no hate mail to say that I have been deleting someones comments, but then I do not get as many comments as you do. Perhaps one day I will. Time will tell

  37. Strong One says:

    Wow..
    Good to know, since I’m using Akismet.
    Thanks

  38. Stephen says:

    This happens every time with a certain commenter on our blog – but after some digging I found out that the IP she is coming from is on 9 blacklists!

    This may be your problem as well…

    I would check here: http://mxtoolbox.com/blacklists.aspx
    first, and if their IP is listed contact the commenter and have their mail provider remove them from those blacklists first, THEN have their mail provider make sure their Email servers are safe, secure and as spam free as possible (they can use a spam filter like barracuda) to prevent them from being blacklisted again.

    I do agree with the Akismet whitelist though.

    :)

  39. jessie says:

    Darren,

    you’re not the only one who’s having this kind of dilemma. my blog does not receive as many comments as yours but i too receive the same emails from (sometimes) angry commentators. in fact, i even told my readers that if your comments are caught by akismet, then forgive me because i’m already tired of checking the akismet bin every now and then.

  40. Brent2 says:

    I’ve been thinking about it and Askimet has to deal with a LOT more information than most other spam plug-ins. It’s working on virtually all WordPress blogs and is, to a point, dynamic.

    Reminds me of when Yahoo first came out with their spamguard (or whatever it’s called). It seemed to be reversed. All my spam was in my Inbox and all my good stuff was in my Spam.

    Correcting it took around a month, as it steadily learned. Now it borders on foolproof.

  41. Susan says:

    Ugh, I’m having the same issue. The other day I tried testing a comment with a reputable green site I own and left a comment on one of my other sites and it came up as being spam. I really don’t understand what is going on, but it’s getting on my nerves. I can imagine this may keep a lot of people from commenting, which isn’t what a blog would want.

  42. dan says:

    my comments are also getting treated as spam on other peoples blogs. I definitely do not spam and never have. My own blog is a decent quality blog that Ive had for over two years.

    Whenever I leave a comment on someones blog and put my own web address in the “Website” field almost 99% of the time my comment never appears. Ive resorted to having to comment without putting my blog site down which kind of sucks.

    I only comment on articles where I have something to say. I cant understand why akismet treats my comments as spam. Im almost at a point where I dont want to comment anymore because its just a waste of time.

    Im also now in the habit of cutting/pasting my comment into notepad before submitting just in case I have to email it using the contact form ..

  43. Lenin Nair says:

    Indeed it is good to see you are promoting akismet. But I am quite against this tool altogether.

    Lately I tried to post one lengthy non spam comment (I never post comment spams anyway) to Techcrunch and what it says is it is blocked ! nothing coming. I went to akismet about it, and am waiting their reply.

    I got several times my comments rejected by akismet for no reason whatever. I guess they should make their minds about spams. In fact in your case, Darren, most of those blocked 4 million may not be comment spams.

  44. PS3 says:

    I found this article because my blog commenting suddenly appears to have been limited/blacklisted. I would like to find out why but am not sure this will appear!

  45. Scorpaen says:

    this morning i accidently added my own IP to spam list via wordpress. frustrating trying to remove it and seeing a big red bar in my stats telling me i am a possible spammer.
    uninstalled the damned plugin.

  46. Andrew says:

    I have been blacklisted by askimet which is causing me a lot of problems! Most of my returning visitors are people who found my site through commenting on other blogs! Grrrr!

  47. Web Designer says:

    I thank the owner of the blog for sharing such sentiments. I have a website which somehow has been blacklisted by Akismet and I really don’t know what to do about it. I believe myself not be a spammer and I try my best to contribute to each post that I comment on. But somehow I cannot use that domain on any WordPress blog to make comments. I somehow feel this is unfair.

  48. Wii says:

    I have been looking for answers to this myself! My comments seems to be randomly blocked by different blogs, so I guess this must be the answer to my quarrel! I think I’ll have to write personally to Askimett just like you said to try and sort the problem out, and hopefully they will be able to do something ;)

    Thanks a lot for this post by the way, has seriously helped alot!
    (Now here’s to hoping that this comment will go through!)

  49. Ana Kitchen says:

    I’m not yet sure if I’m blacklisted already. But its really annoying when you try to become part of a conversation and your comment doesn’t go through.

    Sometimes a post so moved me and I write a beautiful comment expressing my emotions and all, only to see that it’s been ignored. It was frustrating really.

    For this post I’m not even sure if it will go through, if not then I have wasted my breath yet once again. If it goes through then I hope that blog owners will try to be more considerate and stop flagging everyone as spam. A delete is sufficient I think if you don’t like the comment, right?

  50. Lara Kulpa says:

    Ana – You’re missing the entire point about Akismet and other anti-spam plugins for blogs.

    The blog OWNER is not the person flagging someone as a spammer.

    It’s the PLUGIN that does it automatically, and then the blog OWNER has to go in and approve the comment.

    Your comments rarely, completely disappear… it just takes a while before they show up. Don’t take it personally! It could be because you’ve written something that’s too long, you have never left a comment before on that particular site, or you’ve used certain words/phrases that set off the owner’s filter.

    Really… calm down about it, don’t take it personal because it’s NOT, and just wait a bit to give the blog owner time to put your comment through. You have NO IDEA how many spam comments are on this site every day… I’m telling you it’s in the SEVERAL THOUSANDS. Out of that several thousand that are truly spam, you want me to let them all go through and then delete them after the fact? Sorry… doesn’t work that way.