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Following - A Spam Free Community?

If you randomly look at Blogger blogs, you'll see all types of blogs, none of which are 100% like any other blogs. The content, the layout, and the features all distinguish each individual blog from each other blog, even among individual blogs produced by the same author.

One feature that is common on many (though not all) Blogger blogs is the Navbar. I've been writing about the Navbar, and the "Next Blog" link on it, for several years.

Being a Follower (aka Reader) requires no invitation to a blog - all publicly accessible blogs with a newsfeed can be Followed. As a Follower, you read the posts in the blogs that you Follow. You can Follow a blog by using Following, and Follow visibly or invisibly, through your browser or through your Google Reader Reading List. Or, you can manually add the blog URL to your Google Reader, and read the blog without using Following. Following is simply a fancy way of setting up a 2 way connection between people and blogs. You Follow my blog visibly, and
  • I can see you, and readers of my blog can see you.
  • We can view your profile (should you make that public).
  • We can see a list of other blogs that you Follow (again, if your profile is public).
  • We can see a list of your blogs.

Following is simply a way of connecting people and blogs, in a way which will hopefully make it less useful for spammers.
  • The code behind the Followers gadget makes it transparent to robotic processes such as the Blogger anti-spam classifier, and search engine spiders.
  • Most Followers to a blog will be real people, not spammers.
  • Since any individual Follower on any blog is subject to removal ("Block") by the blog owner, spammers won't last long even if they do get to Follow a blog for a while.
  • Most blog owners will acquire new Followers very slowly, so they will enjoy checking each new Follower out frequently, and will promptly take action and Block any spammer.
  • Blogs with lots of Followers won't show any given Follower for any amount of time, as newer Followers will replace previous ones in the display.
  • Following a blog requires intentional action by the Follower, and there's very little chance of anybody intentionally surfing to a splog.
  • The payoff from Following is not immediate - your Followers, and surfing activity to your blog, won't happen immediately when you start Following a given blog.
  • The drop in payoff from Following is not immediate - your Followers, and surfing activity to your blog, will continue long after when you start Following a given blog.

Following is simply a way to target your surfing, to connect to others like you, and possibly to help target the surfing of others who surf to your blog. No real blogger will knowingly target his surfing to blogs owned by a spammer (nobody is going to Follow a spammer but another spammer), so it will be difficult for spammers to hide their abuse amidst legitimate blogs, as sploggers have been doing in the Blogosphere and the "Next Blog" links. And since the payoff from Following is a delayed process, no spammer will be able to attack, take his payoff immediately, and ignore his splogs being destroyed after the fact, as he hauls his ill gotten gain to the bank.

So not only is Following less susceptible to abuse, there is probably very little payoff from abusive Following, and no motivation for spammers to attack us through Following.

But, and this here is a big but, this concept will work only with several practices consistently observed.
  1. All bloggers (not spammers) have to believe that a Following neighbourhood can be kept spammer free. We have to use Following for surfing, and complain loudly when a spammer is allowed to appear.
  2. All bloggers have to keep the Followers lists on their blogs spammer free. We have to check out each new Follower on our blogs promptly, and Block anybody with a profile containing links to spam, including both blogs Owned, and Followed.
  3. We have to check out each long term Follower, occasionally, to ensure that he's not a latent spammer, and Block any Follower that starts publishing or Following splogs, and any Follower that allows spammers to Follow him. Informing any clueless Follower, who is Following or being Followed by a latent spammer, would be the polite thing to do.

And as we develop the community of Followers around us, we help provide more surfing opportunity in a universe free from hacking, porn, and spamming. And maybe bring about the end to needing the "Next Blog" link in the Navbar.

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