Tag Archives: Spam

It’s a shame almost all news sites need “promoted links” to sleazy cynical bottom-feeding clickbait garbage to remain viable. They lower the tone of every site, and actually clicking on one is like stepping in a dog turd in the street and treading it into the carpet. The economics of the web is broken.

Posted on by Tim Hall | Comments Off

Trolls Are The New Spam

Abi Sutherland made a very good point on Twitter a couple of days ago comparing the troll problem with the spam problem.

A few years back, spam threatened to overwhelm the internet. Our email inboxes were getting flooded with fake Viagra and make-money-fast schemes that drowned out legitimate communications. Likewise bot-generated comment spam meant that any blogger that wanted to enable comments either needed to spend vast amounts of time hand-moderating comments or see their comment sections flooded with garbage.

The spammers and their apologists used to say “Just delete it”, and then whined about freedom of speech every time anyone proposed anti-spam solutions.

We didn’t let the spammers win. Instead we built reputation systems like Akismet, and we added Bayesian filtering to our email, and it turned the tide. They weren’t 100% effective, and did generate the occasional false positive, but they have reduced spam to a manageable problem.

Today we’ve got a huge problem with trolls. They reduce the signal-to-noise ratio across so many sites that “don’t read the comments” and “bottom half of the internet” are commonly used phrases. They harass people online to the extent that far too many people with something worthwhile to say end up being hounded off social media.

Trolls can kill productive conversation. “Just ignore them” is equivalent to “Just delete it”.

Dealing with trolls is a hard problem. Trolling is vastly more subjective and context-dependent that spam. Building an equivalent reputation system based upon who’s favourited or blocked blog comments and social media posts won’t be an easy task. Building one that reduces the impact of bad behaviour without creating dangerous echo-chambers may prove even harder. But it can’t be an impossible task either.

Posted in Social Media | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Autoplay Video Ads Must Die

SpamI know websites that don’t rely on paywalls need to raise money somehow, but I know I’m not the only person who is thoroughly sick of the auto play video ads with audio that have started infesting many big media sites of late.

You know the ones I mean. They’re the ads that suddenly erupt in the middle of the screen as you scroll through the article. Until a couple of days ago you could click on the [x] in the corner of the ad so you could shut them up before the audio started playing, but now that option has gone away.  It’s as if the people running the ad server noticed that everyone was closing them the instant they appeared, so took that option away.

If, as many people do, you’re listening to music while surfing the web, these things are intensely annoying. Your only option seems to be to close the browser tab without reading the rest of the article. Which is precisely what I’ve been doing.

I’ve seen them so far on The Guardian, The Independent and Forbes, so it’s not confined to bottom-feeding clickbait sites who are cynically concerned with selling eyeballs and nothing else.

Charlie Stross once said that all advertising devolves to the state of spam. Which would imply that, much like your typical make-money-fast or fake Viagra seller, these people know they’re ruining your UX, and just don’t care. Or maybe it really is just a case of sufficiently advanced stupidity being indistiguishable from malice.

What’s a more pertinant question is whether the management of The Guardian or The Independent care.

Posted in Testing & Software | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

We Get Comments

Found in the spam filter:

have to convey as a result of you actually regarding saving myself out of this style of scenario. Right after browsing through the world wide web as well as meeting techniques wasn’t valuable, My partner and i considered my entire life had been around. Current without often the approaches to the difficulties an individual has sorted available by means of your complete articles is a vital case, and versions which could have got in a negative way broken the complete job basically hadn’t came across your internet site. Your personal real being familiar with in addition to kindness with touching every part had been precious. We can’t say for sure the things i would have performed only hadn’t come on such a point such as this. I can also currently relish the upcoming. Thanks a whole lot on your professional in addition to effective help. I won’t be reluctant for you to recommend your website to the individual that should direction regarding this challenge.

There is a sometimes a surreal beauty in machine-generated gibberish

Posted in Blog Development | Tagged | Comments Off

I wonder what the internet would have looked like had micropayments for content been the default model rather than advertising? Had that happened, then I bet spam would have been far less of a problem.

Posted on by Tim Hall | 2 Comments

Because of the amount of bandwidth comment spammers have been eating, I have turned off comments on older posts. Hopefully this shouldn’t have much effect on the quality of blog conversations, because most of you only comment on recent posts anyway.

Posted on by Tim Hall | Comments Off

Moments after I mentioned on Twitter that I was seeing very little spam in my inbox compared to a couple of years ago, my inbox started getting flooded with “Undeliverable mail” return messages because some *&$% spammer has been spoofing one of my addresses. Suffice to say that if you get spam from Russian ladies using the address umlaut@kalyr.com, it’s not from me, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

Posted on by Tim Hall | 1 Comment

If the best software engineers working for my ISP cannot prevent my email inbox from overflowing with “male enhancement” spam, what do you think are the chances of David Cameron’s porn filters working the way we’ve all been told they will work?

Posted on by Tim Hall | 1 Comment

Comment spam getting smarter?

If you run a blog, one of the maintenance chores is dealing with comment spam. They’re usually easy to recongise; either banal “This is a really informative post” or surreal bot-generated gibberish. This was a typical one from a few months back:

“What i do not realize is in reality how you’re no longer really much more well-preferred than you may be now. You are very intelligent. You understand therefore considerably when it comes to this topic, produced me personally consider it from numerous various angles. Its like women and men aren’t interested unless it��s something to accomplish with Lady gaga! Your personal stuffs great. Always take care of it up!”

This one, though, looked superficially convincing.

When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get several e-mails with the same comment.
Is there any way you can remove me from that service?

Now I do have the subscribe-to-comments plugin installed, and it’s not inconceiveable that something might have gone wrong with it. But it smelled a bit fishy, not least because I didn’t recognise the name.

First clue (which ought to have been obvious from the fact that the comment was held in the moderation queue in the first place) was that nobody using that email address had ever left a comment on this site. The second clue was that it was left against a several months old post that had no comments.

Once I looked at the subscribe-to-comments database, there was no sign of that address. So I concluded it was spam, and shot it.

Hats off, by the way, to Askimet, which traps hundreds of spam comments a week, leaving just two or three in an average week that need to be moderated manually. No way could I have open comments on this blog without it; it’s an absolutely critical part of the WordPress ecosystem.

Posted in Testing & Software | Tagged | Comments Off

Grant Shapps, Government Minister and Web Spammer

You know those so-called “splogs” or spam blogs that have sprung up like Kudzu all over the web? They’re made up entirely of contact scraped from other sides and served up slathered in advertising. They pollute search engine results by using all kinds of dirty tricks to game search engine algorithms to make them appear above the legitimate sites they steal content from. They’re purely parasitical, bilking money from Google Adsense without creating anything of value, and stealing traffic as well as content from real sites.

Well, it turns out Tory minister Grant Shapps is behind many Splogs.

Yes, a government minister is a spammer and snake-oil “Internet Marketing Guru”, using the false name of “Michael Green”.

If you run a business under a false name, the default assumption has to be that you’re doing something dodgy, doesn’t it?

Two things immediately come to mind. Firstly, the whole thing is a perfect metaphor for the moral bankrupcy of the Conservative party. Secondly, it shows the establishment’s double standards when it comes to intellectual property. We have a government prepared to extradite Richard O’Dwyer to the US to face a lengthy prison term for copyright violation “because downloading a movie without paying is just like stealing a car”. Then we have a minister whose whole business is founded on theft of other people’s intellectual property. Seems that different standards apply if it’s the “little people” doing the stealing rather than being stolen from.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment