Tragedy of the Web Commons


First our email was rendered virtually worthless by greedy Spam-meisters. I receive ten ads for drugs, credit, and larger body parts for every legitimate message. Heaven only knows how much time the world wastes sorting through this garbage.

Last month a few bots posted Spam in the comments field of entries here at The content was childish graffiti, a string of porno URLs and a comment like "Nice blog". This minor vandalism offered no payback aside for ego-boo for some wacko street artist, so it did not proliferate.

Today my blogs were hit by more sophisticated Spam bots. The new bots parse text from an original post that might trick the unsuspecting reader to folllowing the link in the comment. For example,

    World are evolving into the patterns of living systems. The meta-level learning that we are all engaged in is learning to work with network principles. Decision making and knowledge creation are not rational processes, but social processes.

This links to a "service" that offers to Spam 10,000,000 people for you every morning.

Here's another:

    A new comment has been posted on your blog Internet Time Blog, on entry #614 (The Future of Knowledge).

    IP Address:
    Name: Frieda Zonnenfeld
    Email Address: [email protected]

    Success people know the things they need to know to be successful. And when they need information, knowledge, or skills and talents that they don't possess, they find someone who does possess them.

This links to an ad for fake Rolex watches.

Now the vandals have an economic incentive to spew their garbage onto individual blogs. It matters not that it may take millions of messages to sell one fake Rolex if the sender pays nothing for the mayhem that ensues.

A call to arms

These sneaky automated comments have the power to stifle the blogging community. In a matter of days, every outpost in the blogosphere could be facing hundreds of spurious comments. Were this to happen, the give-and-take commentary that enables interaction among blogs would resemble my email: more noise than signal.

Blocking the Spamsters' URLs won't solve this. The garbage appearing on my blog appears to originate from some village in China. Surely the criminal who wrote the blog text-parser can find a way to spoof URLs.

I don't have an answer. If you do, leave a comment. Help sound the alarm.

Margaet Mead wrote, "Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever does."

I hope it's we who do the changing, not them.

Posted by Jay Cross at October 17, 2003 11:09 AM | TrackBack

Hi Jay- If you haven't already, I'd suggest installing MT-Blacklist ( It's one of many ways to cut down on comment spamming, which has become a big problem for all of us. Another thing you can do is make your comments only on the permanent individual archive pages, rather than in pop-up windows. I've read in several places that renaming the mt-comments.cgi script to something unique is a really effective way of reducing comment spam (I haven't yet been able to get this to work myself). This ( is a good tutorial on reducing comment spam, too. -Gabe

Posted by: gabe anderson at November 18, 2003 01:14 PM

not bad

Posted by: free erotic story at June 28, 2004 11:47 PM

Yes true, old as world :)

Posted by: Big Naturals at July 9, 2004 04:19 PM

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