Am I causing comment spam?

Having been tempted by Rands’ introduction to home poker games, I played in my first game a couple of weeks ago. (Yeah, I bought myself a decent set of chips. They lend a certain atmosphere to the game.) Interest was high amongst the gang, and it looks like we’ll be playing again soon.

I’m learning more about the game from various web sites and books, and yesterday evening I signed up with an on-line poker room (Empire Poker) and played at a “play money” table for an hour or so. I caught a few lucky breaks (like pocket aces turning into trips on the flop, earning me a sweet little pot) and I enjoyed it. The pace was just right for me to pay attention to the betting with one eye, and catch up on my RSS feeds with the other.

However, as I was turning in for bed, I mentioned to Abi what I had been doing.

“Oh no,” she said, dripping disapproval, “you didn’t, did you? Now I’ll never be rid of them.”


Comment spammers. Advertising their poker sites. We hates them, precious. All of them. I just spent ages cleaning up their crap, and now you’re off encouraging them.”

I was deflated.

Poker sites generally don’t do comment spamming themselves. Most of the spam is a by-product of their affiliate and referral schemes. For example, if site X sends a visitor to poker site Y, and that visitor signs up for an account, then site X gets a referral fee. (The player might have to hang around and drop a certain amount of cash before the fee is paid, but that’s the general idea.) Comment spammers these days are often individual operators who set up disposable referral gateway web sites. These are the sites that get linked to in comment spam; the idea being to steer people to the actual poker site via these gateways, thus generating referral income for the spammer on the pass-through.

By signing up for a poker room (albeit via an established and respectable poker site rather than a link farm), I am contributing to the success of gambling web sites in general, validating their business model, and thus contributing to the daily flood of junk that still makes it past MT-Blacklist.


At a company induction session a year or so ago, one of my fellow inductees was talking about how she’d bought a variety of “herbal remedies” from a junk email she’d received. I clearly remember having to restrain myself from jumping up and shouting, “It’s you! You’re the one in a thousand who actually buys stuff from those assholes and makes it worth their while!”

Have the tables been turned now? Am I now the bad guy? What is the moral difference between responding to a spam link, and buying a product or a service from an industry sector that comment spammers use as a springboard for their slimy techniques?

If my doctor were to prescribe me viagra, to what extent would I supporting the email spammers who bombard me with dozens of messages every day?

I have a credit card. How much responsibility do I have for the flood of credit card offers that arrive through snail mail?

I work actively to keep this blog and the rest of our site free from spam, abusive comments, and other junk. I like to think that I’m doing my bit to keep link spam from being a profitable or productive enterprise. Does this square away with playing the occasional game of on-line poker?

4 Replies to “Am I causing comment spam?”

  1. Gaahhh! Captchas are an interesting idea, but from an accessibility perspective they’re mostly evil.

    I don’t generally have that much of a problem with comment spam; MT-Blacklist catches most of it. There’s the odd day when a particularly inventive spammer tries a new technique and slips a couple of dozen messages through the net, but killing them is usually no more than a matter of minutes. My concern was mostly over the issue of spammers in general, and to what extent being an interested buyer of certain products and services leads to the continued use of marketing techniques that I am most definitely not interested in.

  2. You!


    I hope Abi beats you with a wet noodle.

    Seriously, comment spam is one of the banes of my existence. And comment spammers are learning that my moderated comments can’t stop the new evil: trackback spam.

    My MovableType blog, Unspun™ is spammed relentlessly. Several times on most days, I have to scrub comments and (worse) trackbacks. For this reason, when I recently started my new criminal defense website — RHDefense — I switched over to ExpressionEngine. The learning curve has been a pain, but I like the captchas feature. (Although I am quite upset about the accessibility problem, until they start dishing out the death penalty to spammers, I figure I’m stuck.)

    Seriously, though, you point out an interesting dilemma. Once in a blue moon, I’ve been tempted by some offer that dropped in my mailbox. But as a matter of principle, I refuse to bite, even when it’s something I really want.

    But you!!!!!!

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