I can assure you, the visiting reader, that under the hood this website is a marvel of just-good-enough. So too for the comment system, which for many years has been set to moderate everything and only publish a submitted comment on manual approval by yours truly - a process which can take some hours. That has made it somewhat challenging to have an actual conversation in the comments here at Fight Aging!, and I greatly appreciate those of you who persevere nonetheless.
All comments have been moderated because (a) any and all online discussions of aging and medicine attract spam like flies to honey, (b) the last time I put any thought into this, good spam filtering was too computationally expensive to run locally with the tools to hand, and (c) change is slow in this neck of the woods. It took me five years to get from thinking of a site redesign to actually doing it, for example. A lot of smaller and obvious-in-hindsight improvements (such as better formatting for the news posts) have also tended to happen far later than they might.
The spam robots, when I bothered to record their activities, accounted for a thousand attempted comment submissions each day at times. This is the consequence of Fight Aging! being fairly high in Google's search listings for some terms beloved by the "anti-aging" marketplace. Almost everything to do with medicine can command high prices in online advertising, however, and hence drive a great deal of spam activity. Dentistry accounts for a fairly high fraction of the medical spam I see, for example, which is interesting.
Unlike the automated spam, manual spam activity trends with how likely it is to work. Spammers talk to one another, and so a policy of 100% moderation works very well to get rid of them - since none of the manual spammers can see their comments getting through, they tend to give up. After years of this situation, I see as few as a dozen of these manual spam submissions a week.
So to come to the point of this post: I finally signed up for the Akismet spam detection service and stopped moderating comments. The upshot of this is that (a) your comments will (most likely) be posted immediately on submission, making conversations somewhat more viable, a radical idea I realize, and (b) I will see a growth in manual spam over the weeks and months ahead as the manual spammers figure out that there is only a commodity third party spam filter to worm their way past. It remains to be seen as to what degree Akismet will leave me cleaning up after the fact, either deleting spam that should have been blocked or restoring legitimate comments unfairly flagged, but so far (small sample bias) it's caught everything it should and passed the rest.