I am Joannes Vermorel, founder at Lokad. I am also an engineer from the Corps des Mines who initially graduated from the ENS.

I have been passionate about computer science, software matters and data mining for almost two decades. (RSS - ATOM)

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Squarespace and blog spam filtering: epic fail

Yesterday for the 10th time or so, I have been sending a ticket to Squarespace - the company hosting this very blog - support to improve their abysmal spam filter (inexistent actually) for blog comments. This is rather frustrating esperience to delete about 10 spam comments on a daily basis just because Squarespace can't manage to do things right in this area. Worse, people have been quitting Squarespace for years for this very reason - spam comment being the No1 reason quoted for the change.

The issue is even more infuriating when you consider that:

  • It is common knowledge that, when designing software for the web you have to design for evil. Even if 99.9% of the worldwide population is perfectly harmless, the remaining 0.1% can be an extreme painful, and serious measures should taken in this area. Squarespace despite all the good stuff they keep delivering (such as their dedicated iPad app) seems to be simply blind to this issue.
  • Squarespace raised $38.5M from Accel, Index Ventures. How is it possible that the VC company that has also funded Facebook is not able to provide a hint of feedback to the management of Squarespace concerning a burning issue that is likely to endanger their own investment.

The feedback from the Squarespace support has always two properties:

  • Extremely fast, my tickets are addressed within minutes.
  • Extremely useless, canned answers constantly suggest trivial but vastly unsatisfying solutions.

In a way, this is not very different from the blog spam content I am trying to get rid of. Hence, I am wondering support replies would actually be reported as spam by a decent spam filter; but I digress.

When it comes to customer support KPI, speed of answer isn't everything. What really matter is to make sure that every problem gets addressed at multiple levels. Solving the immediate problem is only the tip of the iceberg, you have to go for the root cause. In the present case, suggesting to disable comments is not an acceptable solution.

Also, the support staff has been claiming for several years that Squarespace is investing a lot of efforts in fixing the spam problem. The worst part is that it might actually be true.

Indeed, spam filtering is a machine learning problem. The fundamental issue with machine learning problems is that unless your company is 100% dedicated to the problem, it can't be solved. Period. (*)

As far spam filtering Aksimet has been around for years. Last time I checked their technology, it was downright excellent; and their pricing is so agressive it's a non issue (about $0.001 per comment for the enterprise package). Squarespace does not even have the excuse that no good dedicated tech is readily available

At this point, the only reasonable explanations for this situation is either carelessness or ego, the later being more likely. Since dealing with support is useless, let's see if I get some non-zombie feedback from Squarespace here.

(*) For large companies, very compartimented branches work too, a good example being the Kinect software by Microsoft.

Reader Comments (3)

So switch to WP Engine! :-)

P.S. Akismet is free for blogs like yours. On WordPress of course.

July 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Jason, I am keeping this option in mind :-)

July 3, 2011 | Registered CommenterJoannes Vermorel

i have had the same experience several times with squarespace "help" -- a response that does not seem to indicate they even read my email. i usually have to go back and forth three times before i get a meaningful response. lame.

August 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPiper
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