Blogs and Spam: The Next Revolution

A few days ago, Mark Pilgrim replied to comments on his own blog regarding, "people posting irrelevant links in order to drive traffic to [their sites]." This topic has been on my mind for some time, and I recently discovered a comment on my own blog along the same lines, so I feel the time is right to blog it. (It's the bottom comment; check the URL his name links to.)

From what I have seen, the majority of blogs trust other blogs implicitly. Comments are either on, or off; there is no middle ground. It takes very little effort for a blogger to piggyback of another site's readership. A comment that took fifteen seconds to post can drive hundreds of bored sufers from, say, diveintomark.org, to Joe Hacker's Site for Kewl Linkz. But let's take this a step further: spam-oriented comments and trackbacks.

Instead, let's say Mark posts about a current problem with his hosting provider, and mentions the importance of backups. (Sound familiar?) Along comes a spider, and notices that "backups" are mentioned on the front page. It grabs a paragraph from its database and fills in the blanks: "Just read an interesting article about backups from http://www.diveintomark.org/..." It then sends a trackback ping to Mark's site, and before you know it, unsuspecting readers are clicking trough to a site that's selling Joe's Super Backup+. Mark has a day job (I assume) and gets several dozen comments and pings for each post, so he doesn't notice the spam trackback for a few hours, or worse, never notices it at all. Sound far-fetched? I don't think so, either.

The simplest solution is to approve all comments and trackbacks before they are posted, but that's unappealing even to a casual blogger like myself. Perhaps we will see webs of trust emerge around comments and trackbacks, much like those that exist for PGP keyrings. It will be interesting to see which direction this goes.

In the mean time, if anyone knows a way to discover geographical locations for IP addresses, I'm all ears. Right, "ip address?"