The Spam Question

21st Feb 2006

I'm concerned that I may have missed something here. There was a short period for a while there when it became quite popular on your blog to ask a question only a real person would know the answer to. This question would be posed when someone was filling out a comment form on your site. And you would ask this question in an effort to thwart spammers and other dickheads from running clever little scripts that would automatically fill out your comment form and leave a hyperlink back to their porn or gambling site in the process.

Eric Meyer used to employ exactly this technique and I remem ber reading that he found the solution worked well:

The only spam-blocking method I can think of that has any long-term hope of effectiveness is the kind that requires a human brain to circumvent. As an example, I might put an extra question on my comment form that says "What is Eric's first name?" Filling in the right answer gets the post through. (As Matt pointed out to me, Jeremy Zawodny does this, and that's where I got the idea.) That's the sort of thing a spambot couldn't possibly get right unless it was specifically programmed to do so for my site - and there's no reason why any spammer would bother to program a bot to do so. That would leave only human-driven spam, the kind that's copy-and-pasted into the comment form by an actual human, and nothing besides having to personally approve every single post will be able to stop that completely.

Apart from Jeremy Zawodny, who still uses the system, I can't seem to find any other site anywhere that stills asks The Spam Question.

I'm aware of the Google rel="nofollow" solution and also that some sites redirect links from comments via another site like Google... but I'm confused. Have I missed something? Surely The Spam Question is easily the best spam beater?