I had a thought....

Have a "We hate spammers" day.

Start a thread in your support forums and encourage folks to report splogs on your site. Everyone that gets reported in that thread and you shut down gets a credit in their account. Doesn't really cost you anything out of your pocket and gets folks to do your dirty work for you.

Now excuse me as I go back over to edublogs and wish they would put in one of those Next blog links.

-drmike

  • ZappoMan

    Here are my (not very well organized thoughts) on this topic.

    Since we launched our beta and official product, we've only seen 1 case of someone that in my opinion was a legit flat our spammer. They attempted to create 2 blogs, I saw them immediately because I get emails for all new signups, and I always make a point of welcoming new signups (even on a 100+ signup day)... it was obvious they were spammers so I took them down in a heartbeat.

    We do have about half a dozen out of the 3000+ blogs that are people who are trying to use their blog on our platform to promote some product. Since we're a health/fitness blog community, there are plenty of people out there with products to promote to our members... and since we've got a page rank of 3/10 in only 3 months since our domain came online, we're a pretty reasonable target for someone to want to get a little bit of SEO juice from.

    Personally, I don't consider these people spammers. Some of them are hamfisted, and produce really really bad marketing that pisses members of our community off. But mostly that's because they are lame and don't understand how to create any kind of value for the consumers. Not that they couldn't... I mean, if you have a diet supplement and you want to market it to a bunch of "fit people" then there are plenty of great ways to talk about your product in a blog, that would give you the same SEO benefit, and wouldn't piss off the people around you. Talk about the science, talk about success stories, talk about the life story of the founder and why they were inspired to build the product.

    The reason I mention this, is that some of my USERS do consider these blogs spam. So when I first read your comment Dr. Mike, the thing that crossed my mind is that I am actually leary of giving some of my members a mechanism to complain about people they consider spammers. Which, really, might not be spammers... in our eyes. Some of these blogs/companies they call spammers are potential customers for me. I'd love to help them make better marketing products to reach my members. If I can help them better market to my members and readers (we're getting about 40k unique visitors a month to our platform) then there is eventually a business model to be had there. But if some of the more militant members of my community have a bullhorn to complain about these companies, we run the risk of alienating our potential advertisers.

    So... I am torn about how to promote true-splog cleanup, without harming "nice marketers" who are simply using a blog to market their product.

    How would you handle this case?

    [edit: cleaned up some typos and poor grammar]

  • andrea_r

    Um, well... considering on my site we were getting obvious spam with links in the blog title, keyword marketers and every variant of pr0n you can imagine... then yeah. I think you're getting off easy on your site. I have a family-friendly very specific niche-site.

    If you allowed marketing blogs (we'll call 'em that), my crieteria would be that they would have to be posting actual real helpful content. Not automated posts, not posts after post of similar content and no nonsensical unreadable posts.

  • ZappoMan

    LOL! Maybe that's why I'm getting off easy... Here's what we've done on our site:

    1) Captcha
    2) wp-signup and wp-login don't exist on our site.
    3) Our signup is actually totally custom, wizard based, that has allows people to signup with out the double activation email process... Which I was originally totally paranoid about... but it turns out that we've never had an automates splogger get through.

    We've tried to make the site as Non-WPMU as is appropriate for our target... the non-geeks. Most of our users are women (more than 60%), which no offense to Andrea is not intended to suggest that women can't be geeks... but I'm just saying, most of our members aren't technical... many of our members are pre-boomers and boomers... but then again many of our members are younger people too... the point is we have a wide range of ages on our site.

    We didn't intend to make it unattractive to sploggers... but maybe our changes actually helped us get missed by the main splog engines... Even if we didn't make the changes with that in mind.

    As for the definition of "splog" vs. Marketing blog... I totally agree... a single non-sensical auto-generated blog post would get you booted in a heartbeat. But as for the "actual real helpful content"... I have to admit there are a couple people on our site that "think" their content is helpful and useful... but in my opinion is just crazy... we got this one guy... phew... don't get me started. But he's a real human being.... really writing this stuff... And sure, he's a business person... but I can't boot him because he's trying to make a business.

    If I censor him, then, well... I've personally got a problem with doing that. I have to admit, I'm a bit of a libertarian... I believe in the importance of free speech... So it's hard for me to place a filter on content written by a person who's just trying to express their view... I often disagree with it.

    If it was porn, or something really dangerous, or something WAY off topic, then we'd do something about it...

    But I have to be honest, some of the arbitrary and capricious rules dictated by Automattic make me question the attitude that some people have about speech. We got a blog kicked off of wordpress.com because it supposedly violated their TOS when the blog literally had 1 blog post on it, that basically was a hand written announcement about a site.... But the arbiters of "good taste" decided it was splog because it had "too many links in it" (apparently 3 links: home page, the about page, and the signup page) were somehow a blatant attempt to juice search engine rank. I totally understand that it's their sand box and if they want to kick you out then that's the prerogatived... but don't try to tell me my blog was spam... and that the autoblog about mesothelioma was some how legit content.

    I don't ever want someone to have the same feeling about my company that so many people have about Automattic.

  • ZappoMan

    One more question/comment:

    Andrea, I think your site is for home schooling right? Well, what if someone developed a product designed to help kids excel at math? Let's say it's a math curriculum and some manipulative tools (blocks, dice, worksheets, etc)... Let's even say it was somewhat controversial in the academic space...

    Would you let this person create a blog on your platform? Or would you censor them? What if they were really active and persistent, they commented on other peoples blogs, and were polite, but adamant about their product being the best way for kids to learn math. What would you do?

    You own the site, so as far as I'm concerned you can boot them if you want... I'm sure your TOS has some broad language in it that would allow you to decide to boot them for any reason you can make up.

    You have the power to boot them... but would you?

  • andrea_r

    I agree with so much, actually. Heck, I'm canadian and pretty libertarian - and hello, I opted out of the public school system, which I think speaks volumes.

    Anyway, given your example, I would probably let them stay unless I recieved too many complaints about them. I try not to censor anyone on my site, really. Some non-geeky members have a hard time writing about things other than homeschooling, thinking that's all they are 'allowed" to write about on the site. I have some users who swear often, and some hard-core fundies. Somehow they all manage to co-exisit.

    Only one right way and one product to best learn math? that bugs the snot out of me - good example. (we're math geeks too, we use many ways to teach math.)

    I think you're in a tricky area, as a site owner. you don't want to piss off too many users by allowing something that even you don't agree with, and at the same time, you don't want the site to look like one big infomercial. Right?

  • Luke

    That's pretty much how I see it as well.

    I have a lot of small race teams that come on, post one press release, and never come back. Those I remove, but I send them an email.

    My site isn't a press release community, nor for free advertising. Heh, I even had the Speed Channel do that a few months ago. OK, it was their PR agency, but same diff. It was removed as well.

    If some small team wanted to come in and make their site through mine, and used it as a site and not an advertising platform, I'm all for it. But, one little release and then never come back not only wastes my time, but my resources as well. Not to mention it pisses me off, too. lol

  • Luke

    That's pretty much how I see it as well.

    I have a lot of small race teams that come on, post one press release, and never come back. Those I remove, but I send them an email.

    My site isn't a press release community, nor for free advertising. Heh, I even had the Speed Channel do that a few months ago. OK, it was their PR agency, but same diff. It was removed as well.

    If some small team wanted to come in and make their site through mine, and used it as a site and not an advertising platform, I'm all for it. But, one little release and then never come back not only wastes my time, but my resources as well. Not to mention it pisses me off, too. lol