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Happy New Year

to you all :)

Today I discovered I had comments from the previous entry. Earlier tonight I responded in the comments.

One of the things I hadn’t mentioned was that I would not be going back to work this past week. I’ve been home since the 22nd. I had planned on getting lots done on the house. TBH, I’ve spent quite a bit of the time spending time with Andrea and the kids. I don’t regret that of course. It’s been a while since I’ve had the time to chat away with them more than once (in person) or twice in the same week. It has been a good break for me as well. And, I did get some things done here.

Unrelated to house renovations, this week I counted the caught spam on Homeschool Journal (HSJ). Even though I’ve been spending a few hours a week purging it for the last couple months, the total suprised me a bit. Spam Karma (SK2) tracks all comments that it suspects may be spam in tables in the database. Among the tables for 200+ blogs were approximately 40,000 records. I had purged it down to under 5000, 5 days before. There were 14 blogs (ones that have to be purged every week) that had accumulated over 12,500 of those.

Needless to say, I’ve been thinking about how I might reduce the time involved in managing SK2. SK2 is an amazing tool in that in our experience it captures well in excess of 99% of the spam comments directed at a WordPress site. The first problem we encountered with SK2 was that when many new users signed up for blogs they were not familiar with the way SK2 works. Before we started altering SK2, each user needed to activate it and visit its administration page before it would filter comments. Andrea installed a version of SK2 modified for WordPress MU which is automatically enabled and filters for all blogs.

What we discovered a couple months ago was that SK2 only purges the spam data when it’s administration panel is loaded. Even though there are check boxes there that suggest the purging will be automatic, it isn’t automatic. At the time, I found an abandoned blog that had collected almost 15,000 spam. What I’ve done in the last couple days is write a WP plugin which is an add-on for the SK2 plugin. I’ve tested it in both this blog and Andrea’s. On an active WordPress install my plugin will make the purging automatic. On a WordPress MU install it will purge the spam data on a blog on any day the user logs in. Tomorrow we plan on testing it on HSJ. While it will not entirely eliminate purging on my part, it will substantially reduce the time involved.

An interesting tidbit I discovered over the last several weeks is that the spammers primarily target active blogs. A good percentage of the blogs that have not had recent updates have not collected up any spam at all in the last few weeks.

If you are using SK2 and are interested in the plugin I’ve written leave me a comment. I’m not quite ready to release it into the wild yet, but if you want to test it, I can arrange it.

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Blogaversary

At this time 1 year ago I posted my first post to this blog. When Andrea and I had discussed (at length) doing this blog, it was always planned that it would be a shared blog. And to some degree, I suppose it is. She still posts here sometimes. But it wasn’t long before we started referring to this blog as my blog and atypicalife as her blog. This blog started out as a mambo installation which in some ways worked better for what we originally had in mind. Within a month or 2 we both realized that we wanted the flexibility of WordPress (and we didn’t really end up doing what we had originally planned).

I don’t know if it is a first in internet land or not that the chemistry between a his blog and her blog produced a whole litter of baby blogs. Perhaps that’s a research project for some other day :D

I appreciate everyone who reads here (even the lurkers). I’m looking forward to another interesting year.

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Summer look

I’ve been wanting to design a new theme for the blog for a month or so. What got me to thinking about it was the many new landscapes I’ve seen in the last couple months since I changed the route I’ve been following and also in traveling to and from the apartment I rented. But I’m also someone who likes to explore an area and I’ve found an amazing number of places where you have a 180 degree (or more) view of miles of farms and forest.

After I finished with the drum sander this afternoon I was ready for a break from the last couple weeks. It took about 1/2 hour to find, settle on and manipulate (with GIMP) the image I would use for a banner. It took about an hour to choose (from the image) and implement the colours in the theme. Note that I used a copy of Atypical Christmas and most of the work was just adjusting the colours on all the various elements on the page. And then I spent about 1/2 adding theme options and widgeting the theme. I’m not going to immediately offer the theme for public consumption but I will be making it available on homeschool journal.

If you are coming in via RSS, come on over and have a look.

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Spam Karma 2

About 3 weeks ago Andrea added the Spam Karma 2 plugin to this blog. She had tested it in one of the other blogs we have. It has outperformed our expectations. About the same time she added it to Homeschool Journal. Spammers had found the site and on one abandoned blog I enabled the plugin before deleting the blog. Without spam protection, the blog had collected up almost 1500 spam comments in a few weeks. Spammers have obviously found the site.

Before I move on, I want to say that I recommend the Spam Karma 2 plugin for spam control.

This week I had the oddest comment show up. The comment began with the statement that the author represented a non-profit organization. However, the comment included numerous links, a phone number for the organization and what purported to be sample content from the NPO site. I didn’t bother to check and see if any of the content of the comment was legit. I deleted it.

Whether or not this particular comment met the definition of spam, it was spam in my book. If you oversee a legitimate NPO that serves some worthwhile cause, you will likely find that many blog owners won’t mind you leaving a comment. However, the comment ought to relate to the blog post in question. Adding portions of your site map, contact information and unrelated samples of your site content is presumptuous and certainly not representative of any NPO which I would be likely to support.

OT: I spent a couple nights this week working on putting together a Gentoo Linux box. It is the first 64 bit processor I’ve worked with in 7 years. I chose Gentoo because it includes native support for the chipset (CPU, Video & Network) in that system. Hopefully, I’ll have it up and running sometime next week.

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Spam Blog

We discovered our first spam blog at homeschooljournal tonight. I have temporarily suspended signups until we take some measures to make it more difficult for such blogs to be created.

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previous post

I was writing toooooooooooooo late last night. Got off the rails and should have went to bed. When I’m happy with that post, I’ll publish it again. This afternoon, I have 3 hours of driving time which might help me sort that out.

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Comment Spam

For the last couple weeks, we’ve been getting a fairly heavy round of comment spam. For the last few days I’e been questioning the general intelligence level of spammers. A while back, I had mentioned it in a post and we went for a few weeks after that post published that we didn’t get any at all. It kinda did in my theory that the spammers didn’t look at the blogs they tried to spam. I’m going to digress into where that, now defunct, theory came from.

Before discovering WordPress, Andrea used to use MT to publish her blog. The amount of spam she was receiving and they way it was handled internally (with the version she had at the time), she decided to try WP as a solution. A year after she had switched, the web server error log sometimes showed that her biggest bandwidth use was spammers were still trying to post comments in her nonexistent MT blog (sending a 404 still uses bandwidth). We contacted the hosting provider and they were glad to adjust the server so it would drop all requests for her site for the MT comment page. Anyway, the point of the diversion is that obviously there were a few spambots out there blindly trying servers on a perpetual basis.

Since I now have the distinct impression that, with WP, spammers may need to visit the site to determine some things before they can send the bot off to do the dirty work, I expected that they might actually check to see if any spam has shown up on any old entries. And, possibly, come to the conclusion, after a while, that some WP installations are a waste of time and resources. And that kinda lead to what I said in the first paragraph.

Tonight, I was catching up on my reading and Christine mentioned that spam had made it through Askimet. Now, it all makes sense (well, as much sense as spam will ever make). Askimet is essentially a service available through WordPress that compares comments to comments received in thousands of other blogs. Once it identifies (or someone tells it) that a comment is spam, it then eliminates similar comments that are posted to any other subscriber’s (free) installation. To make a long story short, if you are using WordPress are are being inundated with comment spam, they are just trying to get by Askimet, without knowing whether you are using it or not.

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Brief Note

Just wanted to let you know, I’ll be away from the ‘net again until Friday night or Saturday morning.

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Been busy

I was hoping to get to my follow up to ‘the law’. But that didn’t happen.

I ended up doing some programming on a couple of items on the homeschool journal site. Programming from here is much more difficult than at home. I’m trying to have as much contact time with family as possible while home so I haven’t had as much time to work on the site as I would like. This week I’ll be away from computers in the evening in the later part of the week. Hopefully, we’ll soon make a more formal announcement.

Until then, I did fix a plugin which lists the most recent 10 posts on the homeschool journal site (link on sidebar). It is the list at the bottom left. Drop by and say high to the patient folks who’ve helped us work out some of the kinks :)

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New Ad

We have a new ad on the left hand side. The provider does indeed count clicks. So, if you are so inclined, click for us :)