June 18, 2006

As I have had the same email address for over ten years now I get a ton of spam; upwards of 500 a day. Yes, five hundred. As a consequence I use an industrial strength Bayesian spam filter to clean out my inbox. In a week’s time the filter traps and segregates 3500-4000 spam messages for me. By and large the filter is excellent but there is one type of message that defeats the filter.

My web site content management software (MovableType) sends me a message for each new comment and each new trackback or ping. Since I rarely, if ever, get any comments I have only gotten “new comment” email from the site twenty-nine times. Usually the content of the comment is acceptable and, as a result, it passes the incoming mail filter and lands in my inbox. Cool.

Trackbacks, or pings as they are sometimes called, are links to a specific posting I’ve made from someone else’s site. I write about some topic x and they write about my posting on their site with a link back to my posting. If they so choose their content management software can “ping” mine resulting in a link on my posting to theirs. It’s a neat feature that is unfortunately ripe with potential for various pond scum eating knuckle draggers.

Purveyors of Viagra or porn or adult sex toys use automated software that generates trackbacks to a postings on thousands (millions) of sites, including mine. Now my site has links to their product. In effect they are using my site to advertise their shit. Imagine having your own billboard along side the highway, only it is constantly being covered up with ads for everthing under the sun: gambling, sex, and drugs. You are paying for their ad.

When the email from MovableType arrives the spam filter sees the content of the trackback posting title as spam since it usually contains words that have scored very high in previous spams. Words like sex, Viagra, online gambling, et cetera. So I don’t see the trackback notification - it’s off in the junk folder hidden in the noise of several hundred or even several thousand other messages. Training the spam filter to accept the trackback messages regardless of their spam-like content only increases the amount of real spam in my inbox. Not training the filter leaves me wide open to abuses by various uni-brow cretins who ought to have their noses stapled to their assholes just before being covered with fire ants and set ablaze with lighter fluid.

This morning I cleared out several HUNDRED trackback spams and turned off once and for all the trackback feature on my web site. What really upsets me in all of this is that the offenders are totally uncaring that the software they are using indiscriminately vandalizes my site (and hundreds of thousands of other sites). If a punk wants to vandalize your house, and every other house on your street with spray paint he has to at least physically go to each house. The script-kiddie (a euphemism for shit-for-brains-nose-picker) just downloads a script or two and runs it, never caring a whit about the damage that will follow. At the push of a button he can deface not only your house, but every house for hundreds of miles.

Prison time is too good for these vermin. They should be made to bath lepers with their tongues.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.