A plague of spam-locusts…

This weblog has not enjoyed the protection of the MT-Blacklist plugin for a few weeks… I hadn’t bugged my host about it because he obviously has bigger fish to fry these days, and I knew he’d get around to it eventually…

Imagine my reaction when I checked my email this morning — before my first cup of java, no less — and saw three hundred and fifty email notifications of blog spam intruding on my cozy little lovenest of online educational blatherings… Alan and D’Arcy refer to these scum-sucking spammers as roaches, but this seemed more on the order of a plague of locusts. (Or maybe a preview of this summer’s impending attack of the Cicadas.)

I was about to go into my template and remove my comments field entirely when I realized that the MT-Blacklist plugin had been reinstalled, and some very nice person had already taken out the trash on my behalf.

But I think this episode represents more than a pointless tale ending in anti-climax. The lovely dream of open spaces online is clearly under threat:

You see, the problem with open systems is that they are easy to abuse. For the most part, manual damage can be controlled thanks to social pressure and sheer volume of good people, but automatical damage, as inflicted by bots may become intolerable. The reason why we have so much email spam these days is because of the wonderful openness of the SMTP, mail transfer protocol. Because it was open, license-free, and easy to implement, it became the killer app of the all-pervasive Internet these days. But openness also has vulnerabilities, and as with anything popular, people are abusing it right now.

I am not worried about people trying to destroy wikis. That would be too easy to protect against. But I am worried about bots that would roam around, and change the text or a link slightly to destroy links to competition, or to add Googlejuice for someone. Would it be possible to notice every single change on your wiki, and check every single outgoing link? Considering that most Wikis don’t even provide an RSS or Atom feed it may be difficult to keep track on what is really happening. I have two open Wikis which I administer – and I’m having trouble coping with them already. Especially smaller wikis may be in trouble, as their administration have no tools to combat a dedicated spambot.

This train of thought is straining my already bleak mood. Move along folks, nothing to be seen here…

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About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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3 Responses to A plague of spam-locusts…

  1. Alan Levine says:

    Maybe it is a blog badge of honor to get your slug of comment spam, perhaps a new level of technorati rating, like “How many viagra, cialis and bestiality spams have you gotten?”

    You might want to bother your host as your posting triggered 6 trackpack pings ;-)

  2. Actually, I call them rat-bastards. I forgot that I’d added that phrase to the comments section of my blog, and was showing it on the Big Screen of an example real-world weblog. Oops. They got a chuckle out of it, anyway…

    I’m using the key from under the Welcome Mat to log into your server and update MT-Blacklist for you…

  3. OK. It should be updated. MT isn’t recognizing my old test account (I’m guessing it got trimmed), but if you go to the mt-blacklist.cgi page it _should_ load up the config screen. Give me a shout if something else happens (or even if it works…).

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