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Slam the Spam – part 1

We all know what spam is – but how do you stop it?

spam

No spam thanks

Answer – we make it difficult for the spammers.

In this article I will be looking at that the spam that turns up on your website.

I think we’ll all agree that having carefully written a blog it’s annoying to find the comments section filled with adverts for Viagra etc. Unless your blog is about penile dysfunction, it’s totally inappropriate!

There are easy ways to stop this from happening. Actually to be fair, I can’t guarantee that it will stop, but it will reduce. And this is why.

Most spam of your website (and in your inbox) isn’t generated by people. There aren’t hordes of people sat in darkened rooms going from website to website looking for blogs to write comments on one by one. Instead there are hordes of people who have sat in darkened rooms writing programs that hunt for websites to automatically write comments on. Know your enemy! If these people used their talents for good, think how much better the world could be – but that’s the topic for another day!

So six ways to slam the spam!

  1. Close your blog to comments – drastic and not much good if you want to engage with people but it is an option.
  2. Instigate a system by which comments have to be approved before they are published. Now this is OK if you don’t get a lot of comments and don’t mind there being a delay between someone writing a comment it appearing, but if you get hit by a load of spammy comments, then you may end up getting a lot of notifications about comments waiting to be approved. Do you have time to deal with that. 
  3. Have a system where by people have to sign in to your site before they can post comments. But this can slow down  or discourage engagement and you have to decide whether to you want to approve sign ups or just let anyone sign up. This will porbably stop the aut-generated spam, but not the human spammer and they do exist.
  4. Have a system by which if there are certain words in the comment, the comment gets blocked until it is approved. Just depends how log you want to spend writing a list of words and approving comments
  5. If you notice a lot of spam comming from the same IP address then block it. A bit like closing the door after the horse has bolted though
  6. Use a captcha. This is my favourite method but I can hear two questions coming from the audience. The first is “What on earth is a captcha? and the second is “I hate captchas – are you mad?”

So to question one first

What is a captcha?

captcha

One of the clearer captchas....

A captcha is a test used to try ensure that the answer is generated by a person. The website asks the user to complete a simple test and because other computers are assumed to be unable to solve the CAPTCHA, any user entering a correct solution is presumed to be human. Or in other words, they are those annoying pictures where you have to decypher what has been written. Which leads me to the next question……

I hate captchas – are you mad?

Ok I agree with you, image captchas are annoying. I have pretty good eyesight and I sometimes struggle with them, so heaven only knows how people with any degree of visual imparment cope. Some captchas give you the option to hear the letters, but having tried some of those I’m not totally convinced. And besides if you’re in a office is it appropriate to play the captcha 8 times as you try to understand what is being said to you!

And yet I’m still saying use a captcha…..oh yes. Use a logic one!

If you look at the end of this blog, you’ll see there is form to fill in your comments, which I gladly welcome. But there is also a simple maths question. Nothing too tricky – I’m not expecting you to solve a quadratic equation.

Now this won’t stop a human spammer and as the spam programs get smarter we’ll need to come up with something else. (In the beginning, text captchas were nice a clear but the spammer worked out how to use OCR (Optical character recognition) to read the letters, which is why they are much more squiggly these days.) See Social Captcha as an example

But for the time being, I think it works pretty well.

PS and if you are a human spammer about to spam this, I have things set up so I get emailed for each comment. Buckle and braces here my friends!

 

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The IT Fairy
Clare is better known as the IT Fairy because the way she can make complicated things easy is simply magic.

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