Hey folks! 👋
I wanted to write up a quick post about spam fighting in this community as it's a never ending battle, it negatively affects the experience for all community members, and we rely on y'all's help to keep it under control.
I'll talk about why most spammers spam our community, techniques we use to combat this behavior, and what all you can do to help us in our quest to rid the site of spam.
Most often spam articles are really weird and feel blatantly out of place in our community for software devs. Other times, the spam is more subtle and tries to sneak in by disguising itself as casual blog content written by legitimate community members. Whether it's obviously spam or not, the connecting thread between most spam articles shared here is that they're often promoting goods or services and frequently loaded with links to try to boost SEO for a business's website.
It's important to realize that most spammers are here to do a job — they are paid by a business to increase the search ranking of that business's website. This way it appears higher in search results and thus is likely to be viewed by more folks. Few spammers are here just to create chaos and annoy us, though sometimes it seems like that is their goal. 😅
The main way that they approach this is by finding websites with high domain ranking authority (meaning websites that already rank highly in searches) and sharing promotional links on these websites that point back to the website they want to boost SEO for. Search engines will see these links from a high domain site as validation that the site being linked to is valuable and should also be ranked higher. This practice is referred to as backlinking. They're essentially trying to hitch a ride on a successful website to boost their own site's placement in searches. 😒
In practice, this often means that the spammer is less interested in trying to write a compelling post or comment about the business that they're linking to, and more interested in how many links they can unload on a website. It also means that the spammer cares less about finding a place that is on topic with the business they're promoting, and more about if the site has high domain authority and allows them to easily share content. We fit the bill for both — we have high domain authority + allow folks to easily share content — and so are a target.
We have a mix of automated, proactive measures for fighting off spam, and manual, reactive defenses too. And we're always open to ideas if anything comes to mind! 🧠
Below, I'll talk about some of the automated tools we use to prevent spam. 🤖
Without getting too in the nitty gritty on our automated tooling, we have a system accessible to admins called "Spam Trigger Terms" that allows us to specify various spammy terms that when tripped by community members will automatically flag content to admin so we can review it and decide what to do next.
Also on the automated side, we mark any URLs shared by users in their profile as
rel="ugc" (unless you're "trusted" 😉). This designates that these URLs are user-generated content and thus should not provide any backlink value when read by search engine crawlers; in other words, it makes it so if spammers include links in their profiles, these links have no effect at boosting SEO.
Beyond our automated tooling, we just have a heckuva lotta folks that help in the battle against spammers.
On the manual side of things, we recruit trusted users and tag moderators who help to report spam on the daily using our moderator tooling. Note: I dropped links to our mod-specific pages, in case you're curious about the tooling we have available. I seriously can't give enough praise to the amazing group of mods that help us to fight spam on DEV; these folks are incredibly generous with their time and really help with our efforts to contain spammers!
Aside from the assistance the mods give us, we also have a Report Abuse page available to all community members that allows folks to report spam or any other behavior that violates our Code of Conduct and/or Terms. This page is linked to in the kebab menu (
...) right next to the ❤️ & 🦄 reactions and again at the bottom of every article; it's also nested in the kebab menu beside every comment. Please don't hesitate to report spam as you catch it; there are real humans reviewing these reports every day, we do our best to be quick & fair, and we so appreciate y'all's help! Side note: shout out to my colleague @caroline for taking out so many spammers. ✊
There's a number of ways you can help us to fend off the endless onslaught of spammers.
Report them! - I know I'm sounding like a broken record, but if you catch any spammers in this community, don't hesitate to report them to us!
Become a trusted user or tag mod! - We'd love having your help to moderate DEV. Please don't hesitate to contact us to volunteer. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know briefly why you'd like to get involved.
Share ideas for new spam fighting features/techniques - If you have any thoughts on how we might improve our spam fighting features or know of any techniques we could use to better fend off spammers, please let us know! We'd love it if you'd post your thoughts in our GitHub repo as a discussion or if you'd rather not share something publicly (or just don't have GitHub), you can email us directly at email@example.com to let us know about your idea.
Battling spammers is an ongoing effort and we greatly appreciate any help you all have to offer us. Let's work together to fend them off!