Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Of Blog Spam and Twingley

The IAB Smart Brief (June 13) recently referenced an article on a new blog search engine with the improbable name of Twingly. I took a look at this Swedish site and found its content and business model interesting in several respects.

Of course I searched for this blog and was pleased to find it there. Not all posts were listed, so I pinged it to try to get the entire blog indexed and available for listing with their partner sites (one way they monetize), which are mostly content sites. So far so good! The link to the blog took me to the most recent post, which was fine. Then I clicked on the profile, expecting to find my own profile. Instead, I found a profile of the blog itself, which was interesting. There was some activity of which I wasn’t aware. That surprised me because I think I watch it carefully.

But I was most interested in the concept of spam-free blog search. This blog doesn’t show up when I search using the spam-free function, so I clearly have some more work to do. First, I needed to read up on blog spam. These are some of the basic types:

•Comment spam, in which a comment links to a totally unrelated, often malicious, site
•Comment spam flooding, in which a robot leaves so many spam comments that the server may crash
•Trackback spam, in which spammers take advantage of the trackback function which is supposed to report that another site has linked to your post
•Referral spam, in which spammer basically creates invalid links.

There are a variety of reasons for these activities, for example to get links thereby increasing visibility, to acquire visitors with the hope of capturing data or placing malware of some kind, or to increase traffic and therefore ad rates. There are probably others, but you get the idea. Wikipedia has an extensive discussion. A blog called The Spam Diaries deals exclusively with the topic of spam.

There are some important take-aways from this in addition to the attractive idea of finding out (on Twingly) that certain blogs are spam free. Just be a bit cautious because not all valid blogs are listed there. Active bloggers need to use the basic protections like CAPTCHA verification and moderation for comments. They also need to use common sense. I had several comments earlier in the year that purported to be offering advertising opportunities. A quick web search for the site from which it said it came (the relationship wasn't obvious) revealed that other bloggers though it was an attempt to place malware of some type. Flush that one!

If you’re thinking of starting a blog, the protections offered by the blogging platform are something you might want to consider. All the major platforms have their own blog and have discussed this subject extensively. My reading suggests that basic comment protection is much the same on all the platforms but they have different solutions for the more esoteric types of blog spam.

This all started with Twingley, which has an interesting business model. Not only do they offer content for sites that want feeds, they say they are developing “kick-ass products” based on the knowledge they acquire. So far they have the Twingley Blogstream widget, apparently the way they supply content to traditional media. They also have the Twingley Screensaver, which they say monitors the state of the blogosphere in real time.

A site to keep an eye on!

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