TanTanNoodles Simple Spam Filter showing the number of blocked spam messages
That's a lot of filtered spam!

You may recall I recently gave a glowing review of TanTanNoodles Simple Spam Filter plugin for WordPress. Now that a few weeks have past I thought I'd give an update on how it's working out in real world usage.

After several weeks of adding keywords from incoming spam messages every other day, TanTanNoodle's Simple Spam Filter is now taking care of virtually all my spam messages. By virtually I mean it's taking care of thousands, while Akismet is taking care of a couple. This is a staggering ratio that I never dreamed a filter could reach, and a real sign that a simple, clean, no frills plugin can outperform a much bigger, collaborative commercial plugin such as Akismet.

Below is a quick table I drew up that shows the number of spam messages Akismet and the Simple Spam Filter blocked. While Akismet can be reset, the Simple Spam Filter simply shows the cumulative number of blocked messages, so I simply subtracted the previous weeks total from the one reported at the date shown.

Date Akismet Simple Spam Filter Unfiltered
2009.01.20 4291 n/a 29
2009.02.01 2499 1913 12
2009.02.06 44 2070 (=3983-1913) 1
2009.02.10 12 1767 (=5750-3983) 0
2009.02.24 2 6014 (=11764-5750) 0

Now of course there are several caveats to this table: I didn't bother doing checks at predetermined intervals, and given spam is an unpredictable, living beast the fact one filter did a better job than the over when compared just on one day doesn't give an accurate picture. Still, the overall trend is clear: with some adaptation over a period of weeks to the kinds of messages I receive, Simple Spam Filter is now more effective than Akismet, while using a fraction of it's resources.

To appreciate these numbers, you also have to keep in mind how Akismet and the Simple Spam Filters differ in function. Akismet allows all comments into your blog's database then filters what it thinks is spam into a spam folder. The Simple Spam Filter rejects blatant spam messages outright: these messages NEVER alter your database. What this means in practise is the Simple Spam Filter puts much less load on your systems and keeps your database much cleaner.

Spam instead of baked beans?! So you want spam, spam, spam, spam, spam…

Of course we must also remember that no spam filtering system is perfect and that there are bound to be false positives. Again Simple Spam Filter works great for this because it only filters spam messages with obvious strings of keywords; as you can see in the table this takes care of the bulk of the spam. This means the more intelligent but heavier Akismet is left to deal with the rest of the comments that are harder to discern, and any messages it does flag as spam I can more easily skim through for false positive because there are only a few messages a day instead of a few thousand!

If you are using WordPress on your website, you absolutely want to download and install this, right now! I mean it!