Some of you may remember that I upgraded to Movable Type 3.2 about a month ago (the rest of you probably don’t care, so you can stop here). While I love a lot of the new features they have, especially the ability to manage all your comments, trackbacks and entries from all your blogs in one spot, I’m pretty disappointed with some of their features, namely the spam protection.
The new version of MT has a different way of dealing with spam comments. You have more power to control what gets through and what doesn’t. They’ve even claimed that it’s such a good system that you don’t need MT Blacklist, the old standbye anti-spam plug-in that so many of us have relied on.
Bunch of crap.
MT Blacklist was (and still is) a great plug-in. Basically it let you keep your own blacklist for comment spam. You started with a pretty decent list and as spam was posted on your site, you could “de-spam” it and add it to your blacklist. So while spam could still get through, you could immediately blacklist the url and force the spammers to try something else. For the period I used it it stopped over 100,000 spam comments.
The new version of MT claims Blacklist is no longer necessary. It has a junk folder where it can easily trash spam comments. It also comes pre-installed with a few SpamLookUp plug-ins that sound like they’re supposed to function the same way as MT Blacklist. Here’s what they say:
The set-it-and-forget-it spam prevention is based upon a customizable feedback scoring system which automatically rates your feedback as it is submitted. The scores can be used to highlight meaningful contributions to the community or to filter spam into a junk folder where it can be automatically deleted. This provides a major evolution from current anti-spam techniques which can cause silent data loss if feedback results in a false-positive detection as spam.
But their new features don’t work so well. They do check comments and trackbacks against a blacklist, but it’s not your own personal blacklist. It appears to be a public blacklist. You can add new spam urls to a personal blacklist of sorts, but you can’t do it easily or automatically. The junk folder, it seems, means absolutely nothing.
The result is that if a spammer has a new url to try, they’ll probably get through. And if you notice and junk them, there’s nothing to stop them from posting the same spam again. Adding a comment to the junk folder means nothing. In one weekend I had 900 comment spams from the same url get through. MT Blacklist did better than that.
When I asked Movable Type about this, the support person told me that they’ve been watching for a new plug-in that does what I’m talking about, but they haven’t seen one yet. Basically the company is waiting for developers to fix a problem with their program. Nice.
As disappointed as I am with this problem, I still like Movable Type. In talking with other people I’m not sure any other product has a better spam filtering system. You can always set the security higher, say forcing new comments to be moderated, but then you still have to deal with each comment that comes in. If you have a regular few commenters it’s no big deal, but if you’ve got 168 Simple Plan fans who post once and disappear, it’s a lot more work.
I like Movable Type and I’m sharing this as a public service for anyone else considering an upgrade. They’re really close to coming up with a good solution for dealing with spam. But they’re not there yet.