Ryan sent me a message yesterday clarifying that some recent moderation I had complained about was an aggressive automatic filter at work, and not a moderator action.
As I have written to him, I am putting my response to this and to the spam question in general in this thread so others with value to add to the finding of a simpler and better way of handling these irritants can contribute here.
Automated spam filters don't seem to work well in two ways.
One, we still see spam here that any decently designed filter should have caught; spam that is blatant, from first time posters. Automation often doesn't seem to catch such spam.
On the other hand, when for example a spam filter blocks a post that I have written as part of an ongoing conversation or argument in a thread for no valid reason, all it achieves is messing up of the thread by disrupting the flow of the argument. And I say no valid reason because after some hours or days, the dumped post is reinstated by moderators with not one word changed therein; but the damage to the conversation flow is not eliminated by correcting this error of automation.
Why not then eliminate both sets of problems by throwing away the automation, and subjecting the first few posts of every new member to manual moderation? It could be just the first five posts - or perhaps even just the first one. And for such posters whose first post does not pass moderation, the next one as well, until credibility is proved.
That leaves the matter of objectionable posts/language by posters, regardless of their post count. In one forum I know, this is largely dealt with based on member reporting of such posts to moderators. Every post has a little "report" button that can be used to do this conveniently. Although this sounds like citizens ratting out their fellows in a typical totalitarian state, it can work well enough because moderators will still be the ones deciding if the reporting deserves a response.
I doubt that changing to such a system will substantially change moderator work loads, but will certainly improve the state of what is there in the various threads today.