The personal website of Chris Coyier

Making a Tedious & Thankless Task Feel Good

If you have a blog with comments you get comment spam. Fact of life. There are various ways to fight it, but my favorite is Akismet, which is a web service which determines if a comment is spam or not at the time the comment is made and acts accordingly. That means no stupid captchas which can be a serious turn off for quality human commenters. Just right there, that’s genius.

But some spam is going to slip though. Another fact of life. The bad guys are always at war with the good guys trying to find chinks in the armor.

So when a spam comment slips though, it’s your job to go in and remove it. That job, going in to clean up Askismet’s failures, is tedious and thankless. It could make you downright mad. You specifically use a tool to handle this for you, but here you are doing the dirty work yourself.

This is where I think Askismet really knocks it out of the park. It turns that awful job into a a feel-good job. It does this in three ways:

  1. Marking a comment as spam means that commenter (based on IP) cannot ever comment on your blog again. So you get that awesome “You’ll never work in this town again!” feeling.
  2. Marking a comment as spam reports back to Akismet, so the service itself learns from it’s failures. This gives you the feeling you are helping the greater good as well as yourself.
  3. The UI of marking a comment as spam (specifically in WordPress) is a very satisfying flash-red-and-disappear effect.

The lesson here is that any time there is a task a user must perform that is tedious, thankless, and overall negative experience, anyone concerned with user experience should try and find ways to make it less tedious, more thankful, and hopefully make the task experience feel positive.