Fixing Comment Spam with the Star System

We recently launched a new feature in Blogsmith (our home grown blogging software) called the “Star System.” You can see it at work over at, and the goal is simple: reward the good contributors and get rid of the spammer/freaks.

Background: Many popular bloggers have been having problems with comments on their blogs, some have even given up. Our ~75 blogs are getting hundredssome days thousandsof comments. We’ve got the comment spam under control, but some of the spamming is now becoming very sophisticated. You’ll have someone write a reasonable response and link their name back to a poker site, or you’ll have someone post three comments under three names in order to have a dialogue with themselves about a company they are working for (we’ve busted folks doing this a number of times).

Brian and I, along with our band of bloggers, have been debating how to handle this. Should we just shut down comments and call it a day? Should we hire someone to just police the comments (too expensive)? Should we let them fall into complete chaos and just not worry about it?

None of those are acceptable to us, so we decided that we would create system where our bloggers reward the good folks and ignore the idiots and spammers. This is basic B.F. Skinner: we’re giving random positive reinforcement to good contributors by giving them a “star,” and we are extinguishing the behavior of the bad contributors by not allowing their comments to see the light of day.

The Star Systemas we are calling it for nowis simple. Our bloggers give readers a star for every good comment they put up. That is, a constructive comment that ads to the dialogue. The blogger doesn’t have to agree with what the commentator is saying, the star is simply the reward for creating a constructive post.

A list of the top 20 “Stars” is going to placed at the top level of each of our blogs. Each of the listings links back to the commentators blog giving them three rewards:

1. public recognition
2. traffic to their blog (which on some of our blogs is worth *thousands* of dollars a month)
3. a link from a highly-ranked blog which will result in better search engine ranking for their blog.

We’re testing it out right now with a contest so go check it out and you might win an iPod Shuffle (or a personal Paypal from me).

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