If there’s one jargon term that every user new to the Internet soon becomes acquainted with, spam must near the top of the list. Its prevalence and virtual ubiquity through many forms of online communication have generated miniature industries devoted to dealing with it, and the science of spam detection, prevention and treatment almost resembles the tactical skirmishes of biological immune systems.
Spam exists in many forms, from bogus guestbook entries to elaborate instant messaging robots, but the variety which prompted this post was that classic form – unsolicited email. The level of penetration of spam illustrates itself in the number of systems put in place to combat it as standard on the vast majority of websites, including of course authentication emails and the ever evolving captcha. I use a small combination of plugins on this blog to block out most of the spam, and given the extreme sparcity of genuine comments, the potential for inconvenient ‘false positives’ is rather slim. Nevertheless, even the cursory inspection I tend to make over Akismet’s latest haul becomes tiresome for all the size of this blog – spam comments to date outnumber genuine ones by a factor of almost 500 (and that only counts those caught and tallied by Akismet). Quite how larger, more popular blogs deal with searching for false positives, I don’t know, but the task must be fairly time-consuming.