Ministry of Propaganda

Ministry of Propaganda - 17/Nov/2004: "How Spammers Kill Motivation"

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How Spammers Kill Motivation

Screenshot of a guestbook full of spam

What motivates people to write and maintain personal websites? Why do they spend a lot of their time (and possibly some money) on running a (or several) websites?

One thing that motivates me is feedback and encouragement from my visitors. It is very rewarding to receive an e-mail from someone far away in the world thanking for the pictures of the place they grew up in. Or reading a guestbook entry how helpful someone found my pages for their school project.

I think a lot of other websites live from the feedback by their visitors, be it via e-mail, via a guestbook or through the comment function in a weblog.

And now spammers are bound to destroy all this: To reduce the amount of e-mail spam I receive I've removed my e-mail address from all my websites and only allow e-mails via an e-mail form. Others resorted to only having "throwaway" addresses on their sites. I know of several weblogs giving up and closing their comment functions or at least only allowing moderated comments as they didn't see any other way to control the flood of spam.

Which leads me to the picture above right. On my Travelogues, Isle of Islay and Charles Rennie Mackintosh site I have a quite popular guestbook (at least I think it is popular, 400+ entries in less than 4 years sound good to me). It was just running in the background, every couple of days someone made an entry. That changed a few weeks ago: The spam started to appear, sometimes 10 or more entries in one go. Then a page looked like in the screenshot above. Not very inviting, is it? And those are fairly tame, some of the entries were much worse, all kinds of porn etc. While the cleanup is fairly straightforward I'm still getting frustrated with it. I know (from previous entries as well as from e-mails) that a lot of children or young students use some of my pages for their school work. I don't want them to see all kind of porn ads should they also visit my guestbook (I know they've probably seen it all before, but I don't want them to see it on my website). Meaning I almost constantly have to monitor my e-mail for new notifications of new entries so that I can react if necessary.

For now I've decided to keep it up, the volume is just about manageable. But how long I don't know. Will I be forced to close it at some point and lose this to me important communication channel? And in turn a large part of what motivates me to continue running and updating the site?

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