Comments: Slight (automated) change in policy–and an ALA note

For a while now, I’ve turned off comments for posts more than a year old–the hard way, going in and editing each comment, a month at a time. A nuisance, but it cuts the amount of spam even further, particularly the “meaningful spam” (most of which is something along the lines of

I’m not sure I understand everything you say about [title of post is automatically inserted here], but I’ll have to read more about it.

Or something along those lines. The purpose of the spam is, presumably, to increase the visibility or PageRank of the URL the commenter provides. There are variations, of course, but the message is typically innocuous and sounds as though someone could have said it–except that I use a lot of post titles that really don’t make sense as part of that sentence. This kind of spam is almost always attached to old messages, where I’m presumably paying less attention. (Spam Karma 2 actually catches it pretty much all the time–but that means more spam for me to check, to rescue legitimate comments.)

Somebody–Jessamyn West? Somebody else–recently noted a newish WordPress plugin, comment-timeout, that does this automatically at whatever interval I choose. Getting a little braver (and with better SFTP tools at home), I actually downloaded, uploaded, and activated this one on my own, instead of asking Blake Carver to do it. (Taking off the training wheels? Maybe. At least this time.) The plugin has some nice nuances: You can set it so that ongoing discussions don’t get trapped at the timeout mark and so that popular discussions (you set the level of popularity) can go on even longer.

Looking at the reality of comments around here, particularly comments from my core audience, I’ve set it up like this, subject to change down the road:

  • For most posts, commenting gets turned off six months (actually 180 days) after the post. If you look at the May 2007 archives right now, you’ll see that: You can comment on some posts but not others.
  • For posts with ongoing discussions, commenting can extend 60 days after the most recent approved comment.
  • For posts with more than 20 comments (the default measure for “popular” and certainly a solid count for any liblog post), commenting can extend 90 days after the most recent approved comment.

Coincidence that I had to clear more spam today (before installing the plugin) than I’ve had any day in more than a week? Who knows?

Oh, then there’s another frequently-occurring spam text–one where I really wonder what universe the spammers operate in. The text refers to my “awesome guest book.” I don’t have a guest book. I can’t think of a single blog that I read that does have a guest book. At least “awesome blogroll” would have some faint hope of success–not here, but elsewhere.

The ALA note (hmm, I grumped about ALA interactive services a year ago–for much the same reason):I got the email asking me to renew my personal membership online. Logged in (the password sent in the email–password sent in gmail, which is a really stupid idea, ALA–was wrong, but that was OK: I know my ALA password). Got to the “category of member” page…and thought about it. Hmm. I’m not salaried (the new part-time position is a contract position). I’m semi-retired. I’m not really a librarian. Should I be paying $180? ($120 ALA, $60 LITA) I needed more info, so clicked on the appropriate link.

Which goes to a list of division memberships. Not to the page that explains the rules for different categories of ALA personal membership. Indeed, using the site’s search function

Stop laughing. Site search functions do work in some cases.

I was unable to find a page that defined “non-salaried librarian.”

I was about to choose that $42 category–well, actually, I did, but hadn’t checked out yet.

I mentioned it to my wife. She’s fully retired now, but was in a similar “unsalaried, but still doing some work” situation for 2007. (Of course, she is a degreed librarian.) She said something about “I think you have to earn less than X.” X being somewhat less than my contract and other library-related earnings should total next year.

So I canceled the transaction. Today, I went in via a different route and found the appropriate page–not by searching, to be sure. Indeed there is a limit of X for “non-salaried.”

I still have a mild quandary. My new position isn’t managerial as usually defined: Nobody reports to me. It doesn’t require an MLS or state certification. Come to think of it, that’s been true of my work for close to a decade…

Does that mean I’m library support staff and can get by for $42 instead of $120?

I’ll probably pay the $180 for 2008. Oh, and check my preferences again to see where ALA will send various emails this time around.

I discussed this with appropriate people at ALA and will act accordingly.

8 Responses to “Comments: Slight (automated) change in policy–and an ALA note”

  1. Mark says:

    Walt, I think many of us on LISHost have been getting especially nailed by spam lately and today has been particularly bad. I have not, yet, installed that plugin and also have had far more spam today than ever before. So I’m guessing it is coincidence.

  2. walt says:

    Mark, Maybe I wasn’t clear: The spam was from before I installed the plugin–so it has to be coincidence. On the other hand, 32 spamments, all trapped by Spam Karma 2, isn’t bad for a full day.

  3. Mark says:

    Oh. Sorry. Just me not reading closely.

    Hmmm. Maybe I best go install this as I had literally close to 500 already in the last 24 hours, which is a good 10-25 times average.

  4. jessamyn says:

    Yay that was my suggestion! Way to go taking of the training wheels Walt, I hope it works out for you. ALA’s website was also half-broken for a lot of yesterday so it’s possible there was weirdness resulting from that. When I was a member I did it at the low-income level which was fine for me but I think Library Support Staff is also okay. As you know, no one checks unles you say you are a student, so this is more of an ethical quandary than anything else.

  5. newtoblogs says:

    Walt, since you bring up comments, I’ve wondered about some comments on some blogs which seem to be just a way for that blogger to link to your blog. They don’t actually comment on the post, they just say something like, Walt says…and list the title or first sentence of the post. Is that needed or considered spam? Just wondering if you and yours know.

  6. walt says:

    newtoblogs: I address that directly at the start of this post. It appears to be a way to get the desired URL more attention (since a blogger doesn’t have to do anything here to link to this blog–that’s a unilateral action).

    As far as I’m concerned, it’s spam.

    In fact, I would have been inclined to moderate your comment as spam (pseudonymous, seems to miss what I’m saying), except for one thing: You don’t provide a URL, so I can see no way in which it works as spam. (Maybe somebody wiser can inform me?)

  7. Steve Lawson says:

    Walt, and newtoblogs, you might be seeing trackbacks, which is an automated way to say “hey, I wrote something in response to this on my own blog.”

    Comment number nine on my post here is a trackback (or, in this case, a pingback) from another blog:

    And comment number 10 on this post is a trackback that I left on another blog:

    That said, there is plenty of spam like newtoblogs describes that tries to look innocuous, and there is also trackback spam. Fun, isn’t it?

  8. walt says:

    Steve, good point–and I turned off trackbacks/pingbacks when I started this blog, based on the spam problem.