December 22, 2004

Killing Blog Spam Dead

This Web site has been flooded with an unspeakable level of spam in the comments section from jerks using automated spam-bots to promote everything from porn and viagra to vacations and car rentals. No more. It’s over. MT-CAPTCHA is now fully installed and operational.

From here on out, in order to post a comment you will have to manually enter a numeric code that first appears as a graphic. (Open the comments box and you’ll see what I mean.) Humans can read and enter the code. Spam-bots can’t. No more will that jerk who sends 1,000 spams at a time for mortgage refinancing be able to boost his business on the back of my bandwidth.

James Seng wrote the CAPTCHA plug-in and it’s free to download and install. (CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.)

It’s a four-hour procedure, and that’s if you know what you’re doing. My Unix skills are pretty rudimentary so I paid Anthony Perez-Miller (who first installed it on his site) to install and set it up for me. If you have a blog and want to take care of this problem once and for all, send him an email. Hire him. He knows what he’s doing, he’s fast, and you can trust him.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 22, 2004 01:45 PM

A test of your comment system.

I wish I had the traffic to make it worth spammers' time to post spam to my comments.

BTW, the comment field is screwed up...I'm typing into the text of your post, if that makes sense.

Posted by: Dave at December 22, 2004 02:26 PM

This is my test. Let's see if it works.

Posted by: David Thomson at December 22, 2004 02:34 PM


What browser are you using?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 22, 2004 02:39 PM

Dave is probably using Firefox--if so, it's the strange formatting bit on the individual archive page that I mentioned in the email earlier.

Oh, and I should probably mention that ideally, setting up the plugin could take only ninety minutes, not four hours. But it seems that there are peculiarities in everyone's Movable Type install that slow things up. (In your case it was the choke on rebuild that had me stymied.)

Thanks much for the kind words.

Posted by: Anthony Perez-Miller at December 22, 2004 02:47 PM

I am using Mozilla, actually. But it's made by the same people that make Firefox.

Posted by: Dave at December 22, 2004 02:51 PM

Alternatively, this sort of thing makes it effective for spammers to outsource handcrafted comment spam to third world countries. Congratulations Michael, you're doing your part to make sure that Cost Plus Warehouse goes out of business since their exploited workings can cut and paste comment spam for greater rewards than making baskets.

Boy am I going to be pissed if it turns out that spammers go to this method of doing business...

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at December 22, 2004 03:04 PM

Testing, testing.

Sorry if this is irritating, but if this works it sounds like the solution to my problems at uncorrelated. I've been getting 50 spam comments a day and just shut down unregistered comments earlier this week out of frustration. I would prefer to do it otherwise since the registered comments process is too circuitous and no doubt deters some readers from leaving comments.

Posted by: Mick at December 22, 2004 03:06 PM

Nice! Thanks for the heads-up...

Posted by: Mick at December 22, 2004 03:07 PM

It remains to be seen whether or not Spam can pass the Turing Test, but the results for Twinkies are most encouraging.

Posted by: Independent George at December 22, 2004 03:40 PM

FYI, I'm not experiencing any problems using Firefox 1.0.

Posted by: Independent George at December 22, 2004 03:41 PM

Playing texas holdem right now is a great idea, i thing! Just go here to play all nite!!

Posted by: Patterico at December 22, 2004 04:02 PM

It's fine with my Mozilla. I wonder if this makes it easier to ban people...Sam at Hammorabi is looking for some way to control the trolls.

Posted by: Patricia at December 22, 2004 04:29 PM

Dear sir/madam,
This will definitely be coming to you as a surprise, but i must crave your indulgence to introduce myself to you.

I am Miss Marah sadija, former mistress to the son (Qusay) of the Iraqi former leader, Saddam Hussein.

...sorry, just kidding. That's from an actual spam email I received yesterday. Nice upgrade, Michael. I hope it works (I bet it will).

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at December 22, 2004 04:34 PM

Boy am I going to be pissed if it turns out that spammers go to this method of doing business...

Posted by Patrick Lasswell at December 22, 2004 03:04 PM
History has shown that strategy baseds solely on defence is doomed to defeat.

Maybe we should take the offence?

The Anti-spammers Oath.

I swear to sign at least 5 spam email addresses
up to spam generating sites a night.

I have this image of spam sites emailing each other in a continuous cycle. ;-)

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at December 22, 2004 04:49 PM

I had to do something pretty drastic for my WordPress install also. Found it in the WP forum, and use it with changes regularly. No problem thus far!

Posted by: Mike at December 22, 2004 04:59 PM

Test, hope tghis makes things easier for you Michael.

Posted by: spc67 at December 22, 2004 05:10 PM

Buy Regalis, as known as Superviagra or Cialis! Order Rolex or other Swiss watches online! Your loan application has been approved!


Posted by: Grant McEntire at December 22, 2004 05:56 PM

The really frightening thing is knowing that, out there, somewhere, there's a market for this sort of thing. Even if it's only a fraction of a fraction of one percent...that still says alot.

Hope this works for you once and for all, MJ.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at December 22, 2004 05:59 PM

What I like is that this gives plenty of incentive to AI and pattern recognition development. It may be a pain to you, Michael, but think what it does for the state of the art 8-)

Posted by: chuck at December 22, 2004 06:03 PM

I love it. If' I'm extra good will Santa bring me one for my blog GM's Corner?

Posted by: GMRoper at December 22, 2004 09:20 PM

Visual Turing tests also block all blind or otherwise visually impaired users in addition to spambots and scripts. Something to think about.

Posted by: Joe Maller at December 22, 2004 11:44 PM


What browser are you using?" I am using Apple's Safari, OS X, version 10.3.7.

Posted by: David Thomson at December 23, 2004 06:48 AM

Great idea....someday I may have the amount of traffic to make this worthwhile.

In the meantime, Dan Kauffman 04:49 PM? Wonderful idea you have sending junk mail back to the senders in their prepaid envelopes.

Posted by: Kender at December 23, 2004 08:53 AM

like sending junk mail back to the senders in their prepaid envelopes Posted by Kender

Oh Kender you are not nearly as vindictive as I sometimes contemplate. There was a time they had return postage guaranteed printed, LOL some mean spirit citizens would tape that to bricks and cinderblocks. ;-)

They never heard from those junk mailers again, but that ended return postage guaranteed stickers.

Oh and it should have been 04:59 AM I work second shift and get home betwee 1 AM and 3 AM

Posted by: Daniel Kauffman at December 24, 2004 03:39 AM

just a test

Posted by: db at December 24, 2004 04:44 AM

This problem can only be solved by the target of it, which is Google. The function of comment spam is to have it indexed, causing the URLs involved to come up higher on a Google search.

What's needed is a <meta> code, perhaps ANTIINDEX and /ANTIINDEX, that would indicate to Google that links found between the codes should not be returned by any search under any circumstances. Bloggers could then enter the code(s) when comment spam is discovered, and let Google do the rest. Message: comment spam, and you become invisible.

I don't think it would continue long. Yes, the system is capable of abuse. No, I don't think the probable level of abuse matches the aggravation of the current system.

How do I get this suggestion to the right people?

Ric Locke

Posted by: Ric Locke at December 24, 2004 06:40 PM

I can understand the frustration, and have written about it. Any relief is welcome, I'm sure. But don't expect CAPTCHA's to be a permanent solution: (1) (2).

Posted by: Reid at December 26, 2004 10:48 AM
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