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Public blog comments

Travel Forums System Talk Public blog comments

1. Posted by Sam I Am (Admin 5588 posts) 7y

You can now open up your Travellerspoint travel blog for comments by anyone, Travellerspoint member or not! This is one of those changes that's been a long time coming and often requested by travellers blogging here, so it's good to have it launched officially.

Essentially each blogger can now decide whether or not they want to allow non-members to comment without becoming a member first. Assuming you haven't switched off commenting altogether, you'll find the option on your blog settings page listed as "Anyone can comment (not just Travellerspoint members)". Set that to Yes and you'll be presented with an option for "How long?". There's a link next to that to this FAQ which explains in more detail what that does, but basically it switches off public commenting after the number of days you specify there. This is a useful method to help control against spam, something you should count on starting to get if you enable comments by non Travellerspoint members (unfortunately!).

Speaking of spam, here's how the public comments are handled. When a non member leaves a comment, we run it through a bunch of tests to determine whether or not it's legit or not. Assuming the comment passes all the tests, it's marked as 'in moderation' and the blog owner is notified of the new comment and the fact that they need to approve it and where to do so. So these comments are not published live immediately like when a Travellerspoint member leaves a comment. Once a blog owner has approved a certain email address, that user can leave comments without them needing to be approved first by the blog owner, even if they aren't logged in.

If you hate spam as much as we do, then you'll be happy to hear we've allowed bloggers to also run each public blog comment through Akismet, in addition to the tests we already run on the comments. All you need is an Akismet API key (free) and you are good to go. More on enabling this in the relevant FAQ.

We've been testing this public commenting for a few months on a few blogs, with both a lot of traffic and very little. It's really really useful for mothers, fathers, grandparents, and all those other subscribers you have that are fearful of becoming Travellerspoint members! You will however get some comments coming through that are spam, but our hope is that with all the added anti-spam checks along the way this ends up being a minimal hindrance. As always, very happy to hear your feedback and if encounter any issues, please do shout out!

2. Posted by Peter (Admin 5789 posts) 7y

Great to have this live! Hopefully it's a good balance of openness and spam-unfriendliness

3. Posted by mojorob (Moderator 1047 posts) 7y

Just to be a devils advocate here...

Is there any chance that your tests could mark a legitimate comment as spam? And if so, what happens to it? It sounds like the blog owner would know nothing about it.

EDIT: With this facility now available, I think you need to update FAQ 42 that you linked to.

[ Edit: Edited on 26-Apr-2009, at 20:51 by mojorob ]

4. Posted by Peter (Admin 5789 posts) 7y

Quoting mojorob

Just to be a devils advocate here...

Is there any chance that your tests could mark a legitimate comment as spam? And if so, what happens to it? It sounds like the blog owner would know nothing about it.

Yes, there is a chance. But the person commenting will be told if their comment hasn't passed the test. Bots shouldn't really know what to do with that anyway, so it's useful for humans. The message they will receive is

"We're sorry, your comment has automatically been flagged as spam. We have not saved your comment or notified the author of this blog of it. If our system was mistaken in flagging your comment as spam, please contact us with the content of your comment so we can adjust the spam filters. If you log in as a member of Travellerspoint you will be able to post your comment with less strict spam filters in place."

It's relatively difficult to trip this actually. Adding one URL and one spammy word (ie viagra) is not even enough. You need to add a few urls before we definitely consider it spam.

EDIT: With this facility now available, I think you need to update FAQ 42 that you linked to.

Good point. Just updated that.

5. Posted by mojorob (Moderator 1047 posts) 7y

Quoting Peter

Yes, there is a chance. But the person commenting will be told if their comment hasn't passed the test. Bots shouldn't really know what to do with that anyway, so it's useful for humans. The message they will receive is

"We're sorry, your comment has automatically been flagged as spam. We have not saved your comment or notified the author of this blog of it. If our system was mistaken in flagging your comment as spam, please contact us with the content of your comment so we can adjust the spam filters. If you log in as a member of Travellerspoint you will be able to post your comment with less strict spam filters in place."

It may be difficult to fail the initial test, but it's still possible. The message sent to the commenter (presuming it's a genuine comment here) isn't really that useful - for example, someone leaves a comment and doesn't check their email until a week later, they get a message to inform you of what they wrote. Would someone really remember what they wrote? This could cause frustration with the system.

It may be an idea to either include the comment in the email message to the commenter, or retain it on the system for a set period (2 months or whatever) and have a comment reference number so it could be checked by an admin. This would also help any adjustments to the spam filters as it would show you the exact comment and an idea of why it failed - when someone replying with their original half-forgotten comment could leave stuff out, and this is pretty useless for adjusting spam filters.

I realise that the chance of a valid comment being flagged this way is slim - but it is possible, and a check in the system may be a wise idea.

6. Posted by Peter (Admin 5789 posts) 7y

Ok, I should be clearer. That message appears directly after attempting to post the comment. It's not in an email.

Normally, the message after posting a comment is more along the lines of "Thanks for your comment, the blog owner will need to moderate it before it is shown here" (off the top of my head).

Still, it is possible that they wouldn't read the message. People often don't. But I'm not sure that is something worth worrying about.

You have a good point about not being able to see what the original problem comment was though. It may indeed be worth having a regularly purged log of these flagged comments.

7. Posted by Sam I Am (Admin 5588 posts) 7y

Quoting mojorob

It may be an idea to either include the comment in the email message to the commenter, or retain it on the system for a set period (2 months or whatever) and have a comment reference number so it could be checked by an admin. This would also help any adjustments to the spam filters as it would show you the exact comment and an idea of why it failed - when someone replying with their original half-forgotten comment could leave stuff out, and this is pretty useless for adjusting spam filters.

I realise that the chance of a valid comment being flagged this way is slim - but it is possible, and a check in the system may be a wise idea.

Although I didn't mention it in my original post, at the moment every comment that doesn't pass the test is being emailed to me with a report on why it failed. This is mostly to adjust the spam filters where necessary, especially while 'starting up'. I can make adjustments pretty quickly if things appear to be tripping up a lot of people. I'm not sure how long I'll keep this active though; if I start getting 500 emails a day with no false positives, it's clearly going to be switched off