Jean Véronis
Aix-en-Provence
(France)


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jeudi, octobre 20, 2005

Blogs: Blogger blocked up?



Fingers are starting to be pointed at Blogger as the prime polluter of the blogosphere [see Randy, Martin]. Some have even gone so far as to express a desire to “kill Blogger” … While it’s true that the proportion of splogs on Blogger is frankly incredible (see here), I fear that splog will turn out to be just like the Lernaean Hydra, whose heads grew back whenever they were cut off. If Blogger were to close, splog would quickly reappear somewhere else.




Blogger (and its owner Google, with BlogSearch) seems to have decided to take matters in hand. They recently added a “Flag” button to all Blogger blogs that lets people report splogs (a somewhat derisory measure), and most importantly they have begun putting in place a system of captchas (those funny little impossible-to-copy letters designed to prevent automated sign-ups), supported by anti-splog algorithms. Blogger Buzz (Blogger’s blog) confirmed on the 18th of October that from now on, whenever a new blog is created, Blogger will run it through its anti-splog filters.

All well and good, but detecting splogs is no easy matter, as I demonstrated a few days ago. Sploggers are smart and the content of their splogs now looks more and more like real posts written by human beings… Or at least close enough to fool a dumb machine (an interesting and unexpected reminder of the Turing test, which I may well have to write about some day). The risk, as I showed, is that some real blogs could also be filtered out by such broad-sweeping mechanisms, if they don’t conform to what these algorithms imagine to be the statistical characteristics of a good blog.

I experienced this myself only yesterday. In its rush to put its house in order before the blogosphere rises up in arms, Blogger has clearly tightened the noose too far. Despite making several attempts, I tried in vain to create a new blog – or rather, after screwing up my eyes and twisting my fingers round the captchas, I did manage to create one, but then I couldn’t write any posts. The first one (after I had successfully negotiated the captcha) was created correctly, but afterwards, I couldn’t create another. Blogger no longer seemed to love me; yet I’ve been registered for over a year and have several blogs that don’t appear to give them any cause for concern that I’m aware of.

These may just be teething troubles, so let’s wait and see. But given the difficulty of the problem, I fear that it can never be completely solved. Good bloggers are bound to end up suffering. In my opinion, we’re on the verge of seeing some major changes in the blogosphere, and I wonder how much longer this place of freedom and creativity that we’ve come to know and love is going to last.

Post-Scriptum


20 Oct - Blogger seems to have realised the problem and speaks about it on its... blog.

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1 Commentaires:

Anonymous Grégoire Samsa a écrit...

Ye of little faith !

22 octobre, 2005 00:15  

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