New Sheriff in Town

13 comments | Posted: 30 August 06 in General, by Nathan Smith

In case you hadn’t noticed, we had been having quite a problem with forum spam recently. Between herbal enlargement medications and various online casinos, you’d think the purpose of our forum had entirely changed focus. Well, we’ve had it with that type of stuff, so we’re laying down the law. Recently I installed two plugins that will hopefully cut down on that sort of unwanted junk.

The first is a captcha, which presents an alphanumeric term that must be entered to verify that a real human is trying to register, and not an automated bot. This of course creates a slight accessibility problem for those who may be vision impaired, as they cannot read the image. If this is a problem for you, please contact us and we will create an account manually for you.

The second measure we are using is Akismet, which is an anti-spam plugin initially developed for WordPress, but works quite well for our forum. So far, it has caught 100% of spam posts, auto-deleting the topic and auto-banning the account which posted it. Unfortunately, we have had a few false positives. If you find that you are auto-banned accidentally, please contact us about it, and we will re-instate your account.

Previous to installing these two spam counter-measures, we simply made it so that everyone had to verify their email addresses in order to post. This was keeping most bots from posting, but did not keep them from creating accounts. Due to this, there were a few hundred unused accounts with zero posts.

So, I went through and removed all users which had not made any posts. No doubt I also deleted legitimate forum lurkers who had just not posted anything yet. If this happened to you, simply re-register with the same username. To ensure it doesn’t happen again, after registration just make at least one post.

I guess that about sums it up. Hopefully this will make for a better forum experience for everyone involved. Please also be aware that you can report a post as objectionable by clicking the link labeled “Report” at the bottom of each entry. This will alert the administrators to the potentially offensive user, so that we can deal with them accordingly. So yeah, go enjoy the Godbit forum.

Discuss This Topic

  1. 1 Chris Harrison

    I hate that measures like this had to even be taken. Thanks for being proactive about handling the spam.

     
  2. 2 Nathan Smith

    Chris: Me too. Initially when I started Godbit, there wasn’t even an email confirmation necessary, but I quickly learned that being trusting and leaving people to the honor system doesn’t quite work, when paired with anonymity.

     
  3. 3 Yannick

    Thanks Nathan. I didn’t realise Akismet could also be used on punbb forums as well.

     
  4. 4 Nate Klaiber

    Its unfortunate, but necessary. I thought the same thing – to be a little lenient at first. However, my personal website started getting nailed with trackback spam which was a little harder to manage. I ended up installing askimet as well as turning of trackbacks for the time being.

    Though it may be a little tougher, it’s for the better of the community here at godbit – thats for sure!

     
  5. 5 Justin Thorp

    Is it really necessary to use CAPTCHA though?? Not only is it inaccessible to the visually impaired, most people without visual impairments (e.g. me) have a hard time reading them.

    Anyhow, I had read a paper on the web saying that most CAPTCHA mechanisms had been cracked. I’ll see if I can find it.

    Also, we are here to , “catch up with the rest of the world in adherence to standards given by the World Wide Web Consortium.” Well the W3C has come out pretty solidly against the use of CAPTCHA.
    http://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/captcha.php

    What kind of message is this sending? Can we just see if using Akismet works?

     
  6. 6 Nathan Smith

    Justin: That’s the thing, using Akismet alone didn’t stop bogus registrants. It only stopped actual spam messages, but still allowed bots to create accounts that were never verified. I know captcha’s stink, but it’s necessary.

     
  7. 7 Larry Tomlinson

    Is there a way to make a script that auto-deletes unverified accounts after x days? I too hate captchas… I got one once that was very illegible and was denied several times.

     
  8. 8 Nathan Smith

    Larry: I’m sure there’s a way, but I don’t think there’s a forum plugin or anything. If someone wants to write one, that’d be great.

     
  9. 9 Lisa

    Hmmm—I got banned—all that I did was post a “I’ll pray for you too” and—banned by Askimet. :(

     
  10. 10 Yannick

    Lisa:

    I marked you as not being a spammer in Akismet on the forum, but for some reason it still shows the ban in punbb. Try seeing if you can get on the forum and make a post. You can let us know here if you are able to get back on. We’ll continue to look into it and ensure that you are no longer banned.

    Very sorry about this happening to you.

    Edit: I think you should be good to go now Lisa.

     
  11. 11 Matt (mithrill)

    Glad to hear that you all are able to manage the Spam problem more easily. I too didn’t realize that Akismet could be used outside of Wordpress. I have it on my blog and it does an amazing job catching spam.

    I don’t foresee too many problems with people getting banned (except for poor Lisa) in the future, but there should be some sort of help/contact feature for legit users to go to if they are having problems.

    I also wanted to take the time to tell all of you Godbit guys do such a great job with this site and forum. Thanks!

     
  12. 12 Phil

    Nate, rather than using a captcha, how about using something like Eric Meyer suggested

    Essentially, just ask for the answer to a (very obvious to a human) questions, such as “What is 2+2?” or “What colour is an orange?”. This has the effect of being rather difficult for a machine to crack (the processing power required for a semi-autonomous AI able to handle such questions is prohibitive for spam-bots) while being both easy to use and accessible.

     
  13. 13 Nathan Smith

    Phil: As mentioned before, if someone were to write a nice and tidy PunBB plugin that will do that sort of thing, I’d be more than willing to give it a try.

     

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