Downgrading Akismet

Akismet is the “official” WordPress response to the soul-sucking rampages of blog comment spam. It promises to make spam magically vanish by harnessing the Hive Mind to banish spam en masse. But it doesn’t work. I’ve been getting a fair amount of spam approved by Akismet as ham, when they are obviously spam. Not sure what’s going on there, but I’d guess that since anyone can flag comments as spam/ham, that the spammers are getting in the game themselves. Total guess though.

A couple of weeks ago, I turned off Spam Karma 2 to see how Akismet performed now that the system has had a few months to “warm up”. The result wasn’t exactly impressive. False negatives, false positives, and excessive moderation.

I could live with a few false negatives – the occasional spam slipping through the cracks and appearing on my blog isn’t the end of the world. But I’ve also had a couple of false positives. Valid comments banished by Akismet. I can manually resurrect them, but what If I don’t check regularly? It’d be really easy for false positives to get lost in the sea of spam (ick).

Also, Akismet routinely pushes comments into moderation purgatory. Someone attempts to post a valid comment, to be rewarded with an “I don’t trust you. Please wait for your comment to be blessed by the High Priestesses of Blog before being deemed worthy of being displayed here.” OK, it’s not exactly as rude as that, but the sentiment is the same, and not exactly conducive to conversation.

So, I’m going back to Spam Karma 2. It rocks hard, and is intelligent enough to block spam and approve ham without intervention. It even has an Akismet plugin for SK2 to let me harness the Hive as a last resort. But even that limited role of Akismet has proven to be the only weak link in SK2’s otherwise impervious armour, so I’ve downgraded Akismet’s influence from “normal” to “moderate.”

Can’t say enough good things about SK2. Since I first started using it, back when the world was young and Grandfather Bear roamed the forest, SK2 has nuked over 8700 spam attempts. About 100 attempts per day, and for 99.99% of them, I don’t even get notified. And so far there have been zero false positives (it keeps the comments and I periodically eyeball it to make sure).

12 thoughts on “Downgrading Akismet”

  1. Hello there!

    I’ve come here via the pingback to my site and I’d like to have “bug report” about this weak link thing :-). The defaults worked ok for me so far, but obviously I’m not everyone. Did the plugin missjudge some valid/invalid comments? If so, was the karma that was added/subtracted to much? I can see why 7 points could be to much.

    0.5: Comment has no URL in content (but one author URL)
    6: Valid Javascript payload.
    0.5: Encrypted payload valid: IP matching.
    7: Akismet says it’s ok

    Akismet is responsible for half of the karma. If Akismet would have said it’s spam the karma would have been 0 and could be negative if the author entered an url …

  2. Sebbi – I wasn’t meaning to imply that your plugin was the weak link! Well, I guess I was. But it was aimed at Akismet, not you. Akismet by nature appears to be getting noisy.

    Yeah, the plugin misjudged (both positively and negatively) due to Akismet wrongly vouching for or against a comment.

    The latest false negative was this one:
    0.5: Comment has no URL in content (but one author URL)
    0.5: Encrypted payload valid: IP matching.
    7: Akismet says it’s ok
    -23: Manually spanked spam.

    Before manually spanking this one, it had a karma of 8, so survived SK2. Actually, this one may have survived without Akismet, too, unless the URL checks were bypassed as a result of Akismet’s greenlighting…

    I can’t retrieve the values for the false positive, since it’s since been flagged in Akismet as ham…

  3. D’Arcy- I agree with you- my business site has had SK2 on it for 8 months and has been 100% on the mark- with only 2 questionables getting through-
    I put Akismet on my blog class site almost right from the beginning- and had no Spam before- but once I launched Akismet- the spam started showing up.
    I also have a hard time recommending people enable it- why set up a site when you have your own blog?
    why do all that when SK2 is out there- and works great.
    My only complaint with SK2 is if you still want to moderate- you have to install yet another plug in- and SK2 has more options than a top of the line craftsman socket set…
    what happened to “simple”.

  4. D’Arcy – I know what you mean. While I never had close cases like this it is imaginable that Akismet would say it’s spam and SK2s own checks set the karma to 1. The resulting karma would be -6 which would send the comment to hell (I think) …

    I guess I thought that Akismet would decide over a comments fate if SK2 wasn’t too sure about it (most of the time it is pretty sure and the Akismet score does nothing to influence the fate of the comment).

    Never mind … SK2 works good enough by itself. No Akismet needed … but it was a nice exercise to adapt the original plugin to SK2 😉

  5. Curious, D’arcy – how much spam do you get? On B@C, I am beginning to get 20-30 a day of the innane stuff. And all of a predictable pattern, and I guess indiciative that one’s nearing the big time.

    And what’s the downside of SK2? From a user’s POV, I get a redirect when posting, that does affect my usability (as in, another slowdown I need to wait for). Anything else?

  6. Teddy – about 100-200 spam attempts per day, usually. Most is really lame, or insanely offensive.

    I haven’t seen a downside to SK2 – it’s been absolutely bulletproof (except where Akismet vouches for a comment – going to further downgrade that). Usability is better, because more of the valid comments get published immediately without moderation, and spam gets stopped more reliably so there’s no noise (the ‘broken windows’ thing).

  7. “Also, Akismet routinely pushes comments into moderation purgatory.”

    Akismet never puts anything in moderation, it only says spam or not. It’s binary. If you have things going into moderation it’s from something else.

    I looked up your specific key and it was actually set to be ignored, because you submitted numerous comments as false positives that actually weren’t. I won’t mention the actual domains here, but it was a bunch of herbal and vitamin spam.

    Anyway sorry Akismet didn’t work out for you.

  8. Matt – thanks for the clarification. Maybe it was a funky combo of SK2+Akismet that was pushing comments into moderation. I’ll try with a pure Akismet setup to see how that works.

    Sorry if any comments were incorrectly flagged as Ham via my Akismet – I promise none was manually flagged that way 🙂

  9. yeah. less impressed with Akismet. It’s been letting a LOT through. The roaches are resorting to completely nonsensical comments with a single link within it. I’m planning on trying a switch to Bad Behavior + Spam2

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