Where have all the comments gone? Spam and online communities

Readers of this blog may have noticed that we are no longer accepting comments to particular blog entries. While we love hearing from our readers, we have also been overwhelmed with spam trying to sneak in as reader comments. While our programming system prevented this spam from being published, removing the junk took valuable time that we are no longer willing to expend.

The sad truth is that automated spam is overwhelming many of the reader feedback mechanisms which make blogs so attractive to people. The first thing to go from many blogs was the trackback feature, which enabled people to see which blogs had linked to another blog's new entry. Now reader comments are under attack. In the coming months I'm sure fewer and fewer blogs will allow people to respond to posts.

In many ways all of this is a new aspect of the tragedy of the commons theory, in which individual interests conflict with the common good. As Wikipedia says, "The parable demonstrates how free access and unrestricted demand for a finite resource ultimately dooms the resource through over-exploitation."

In this instance, though, most people support the common good and merely wish to interact and comment about items of interest to the online community. They are being twarted by the individual interests of a few spammers. I wonder if this will be the new tragedy of the commons in the coming decades: the selfish desires of a few ruining life for the many.