Improving Akismet

This post is more than 17 years old.

Posted at 21:05 on 25 January 2007

WordPress 2.1 comes with a new version of the Akismet plugin, which has an option to silently discard comments that it considers to be spam on posts older than a month.

Personally, I don’t like this approach, because it silently nukes bona fide comments that register as false positives on older posts. My experience of Akismet is that it flags about ten percent of bona fide, non-spam comments as false positives: out of the twenty-three comments and trackbacks that I’ve had over the past month, I’ve had to rescue at least two of them from the spam queue. Furthermore, just before Christmas, the Akismet service started trapping all my comments on other people’s blogs that were labelled with my own domain name ( This was very disconcerting at the time, though it righted itself after a few days. Apparently several other people have reported the same problem. I don’t know quite to what extent this is replicated worldwide, but it’s enough to warrant keeping an eye on what is being flagged as spam and what isn’t.

The other problem is that the time delay is not configurable. It may be fine on popular blogs which are updated two or three times a week, but it isn’t suitable for the vast majority of bloggers, who only write once or twice a month and whose readership is relatively small. It also fails if you write a popular, classic post that gets linked to from, say, a Wikipedia article, and would benefit from a longer lasting, ongoing discussion. That’s why I included an option in Comment Timeout to allow you to keep a discussion open for longer if it has had some recent comments.

What we need are better tools to help get to the false positives quickly and (relatively) easily. One way of doing this is to reduce the number of comments that gets as far as Akismet. I use it in conjunction with Bad Behavior and my own Comment Timeout, and the two in combination seem to reduce the spam to ham ratio in my case from about 30:1 to 3:1. I have also tried Spam Karma, though I’m not actually using it at the moment.

The other thing that we need is a better interface to the comments that have been flagged as spam. The Akismet WordPress plugin is rubbish in this respect. It lists the whole body of everything it reckons is spam, sorted by age, with no options to apply any other sort order. If in spite of using Bad Behavior, Comment Timeout, and Spam Karma, you still end up getting hit by a hundred spams with a hundred links each in the space of half an hour, sorting out the false positives can be an absolute nightmare. What we need is an interface that shows us an overview of all the comments in the entire queue, allowing us to sort and selectively bulk delete by age of comment, age of post, IP address, length of comment, number of hyperlinks, and so on. We need to be have the comments collapsed down to just the first line or even only the comment metadata, and then expand them when they’re clicked using Javascript/DHTML. And it would also be good if the Akismet service could return an indication of the level of spamminess of a comment, rather than just a binary yes/no value as at present, so we could sort on that as well.