Guest blogger Andrew Manuse says spam suffocates speech


(I met  Boston Herald MetroWest Daily News reporter Andrew Manuse at a Knight Center economics workshop at the University of Maryland a little over a year ago. We discovered a mutual interest in blogging and stayed in touch. In this guest blog, Manuse tells of trying to build a blog community based on the Open Source software (B2evolution) — only to get clobbered by spam. If you have any help to suggest, please do. Here is Andrew Manuse:)

When I first learned how to build a Web site at journalism school a few years back, it was like turning on a light switch. Almost immediately, I saw a future where pretty much anyone could report what they were seeing and what they experienced, which I knew would bring the powerful, whether in business, government or the media, into check.

On my blog, when I have time outside of work (a rare thing these days), I report about the issues that I think are important, and I don’t have anyone telling me I can’t do it. It’s a glorious idea and anybody can do it – anyone can write about what’s important to them for all to see. These days, with podcasts, people can talk about what’s important to them. On, they can broadcast their ideas. These are powerful abilities. They truly enable a free press.

But freedom is not free. Creating a truly independent blog that is not part of some other network or part of any service, as I’ve done at, is extremely hard work – work that I could not do myself without the help of my friend, Wayne Seguin, a Web site designer. Not only do I have to work with my technical friend to set up the site, we constantly battle attackers whose incessant spam messages bring down our server and thus, the entire Web site.

The reason for these attacks is the open-source software that we use to power the blog; namely, B2evolution. The software is an excellent start by people who have a lot of heart and have developed a great blogging engine for others who don’t want to do it on their own. But it’s lacking. It allows incessant spam messages that compromise the integrity of my site and it doesn’t do what I want it to.     

If you visit today, you’ll see a site that is finally on its way back to the surface after about a year, but you’ll see that I haven’t written much of anything lately. You’ll see an unfinished site, with hundreds of spam “comments” spread throughout. I used to spend my time deleting all of them. That kept me away from blogging. Now, I let the spam gather as Wayne and I work on updating the B2evolution software that powers the blog, so the spam won’t come in the first place. That, however, also distracts me from writing.

In order to finally have the right publishing tool that does not restrict and truly enables free speech as well as a free press, Wayne and I are working on our own software engine, so we don’t have to depend on the updates from the world of open source technology. I don’t want to elaborate too much about the project now, because it is proprietary. But I can tell you that the engine’s development is also consuming time. Hopefully in the end it will all be worth it.

Wayne and I will be creating a better engine we hope will contribute to the new wave of citizen journalists. That engine will power a new citizen journalist site, which will be located at It will take a while to build, and for a good reason: we do not want to encounter many of the problems I’ve encountered on my blog using B2evolution. We do not want others to be able to sabotage the site with incessant spam that brings our servers down. We simply want to build a place where people can speak freely about their experiences, exposing inequity and corruption whenever possible.

 For the time being it is safe to say that the technology that enables free speech can also put free speaking on hold. Thankfully, though, innovation and hard work is always the answer to these glitches that hold us back.  I’m more than willing to do my part.

(Please stay tuned for developments about this new engine and the launch of Also, please pardon me for having to correct Andrew’s newspaper affiliation. After publication he emailed me to say, “ I’m a business reporter for the MetroWest Daily News, which until recently was owned by the Boston Herald. We were bought out by Gatehouse Media, a public company, and we are no longer a subsidiary of the Herald.”)