How to mess with telemarketers

Telemarketers giving you a hard time on the phone? Here’s one solution.

(Via Xt.)

Before I forget: new anti-spam measures

I have installed a further filter to help me get rid of comment spam. Where the previous filter merely made your comments go from “will never be deleted other than actively by me” to “may be accidentally deleted through my neglicence”, the new deal is that if your comment looks like spam, it will be deleted, and I won’t even know about it. Basically it’s gotten to the point where my comment spam filter needs to be as aggressive as my e-mail spam filter.

For the past few weeks I have been keeping an eye on this system, and so far I have seen no false positives. That doesn’t mean much; not many people comment here anyway. Signal to noise ratio is something like 1 : 200, so you understand why I need to take these increasingly drastic measures. Should your legitimate comment be caught by trap, mail it to me instead and I’ll see what I can do.

Bad Behavior

I decided to install Bad Behavior to delete spam. Spamming scum, as you know, does not check whether their messages will be published. That takes time, and time is money. So they spam me regardless the fact that not a single one of their tens of thousands of filthy messages has ever been published through this blog.

And since hardly anybody but spammers comments here, the decision to go with Bad Behavior was easily made. This is a heuristic blocker, that may delete genuine comments. Don’t blame me, blame the spammers and your government.

The best thing of course would be to hunt down spammers and kill them. I am afraid that is illegal though. The law is on the side of the spammers. One more thing to keep in mind for upcoming elections.

Intelligent comment spam?

Lately I have been getting a lot of spam of the sort that the Blog in Black describes here. Usually it’s terribly easy to spot, because the spamming scum keep their keywords relevant in order to score well with Google, so it no longer freaks me out like it did the first two times. :-)

But today I saw something at the Teleread blog, where I also blog, that could either be serious comments, or spam, and I’ll be damned if I know which is which. Two guys (or rather: two personas) posting adversarial messages, relevant to the blog entry, and the only thing that connects them is an obvious below-average intelligence, and the fact that in their included URLs they both link to similar looking directories — or are they link farms?

The entry was about Australia’s plan to introduce a concept of fair dealing, a concept thus far notably absent from its copyright laws, turning Australians into even bigger criminals than most of the rest of the world.

The first commenter, called “Jack”, wrote:

Bad Idea! Hardly matters even if a law is passed. Piracy is a crime and no rule or law can make it legal. Better not to try it !

Then, after a few messages by others, “Loy” replied:

Everyone has its own rights in so called democratic country, then why not the right to pirate. Piracy is stealing somebody’s work, but that too is an art. Piracy need a tact and so if one is benefitting out of it, why to even think of banning it.

Spammers must die!

Spam filter wanted

Some moron is posting large quantities of spam to this blog. There are methods to make him stop getting through, but I would like to employ one that also penalizes him. Ideas? Suggestions?

Myself, I was thinking of a plug-in that will keep the HTTP dialogue open, so that the spammer has to spend valuable time waiting for my response. And since my response will never come, it doesn’t cost my server anything. (Of course, this presupposes that I am 100% sure that the inbound message is spam, but in this particular case I am.)

WordPress’ effective censors

Ooh, I hate spammers.

The WordPress blog software has a nifty little feature called the Dashboard: a page in the administration section that will contact the wonderful internets and download WordPress related news. Actually, all it does is slow down my accessing the administration interface for a few seconds every time I try to log in.

Today I broke the mold and actually went ahead and read what was so important that my enjoyment of this blog should be interrupted. The most recent item was a call for help; Matt Mullenweg himself asking people to contribute to the development of this blog’s underlying software.

I have often thought about doing just that, and although I think WordPress is great, I still have many ideas on how it could be made even better. There is just an eensy-teensy little problem: Matt Mullenweg is a filthy little spamming scumbag.

So I followed the link to the item with the idea of writing a comment that said that I would be glad to help as soon as the spammers got kicked out. I wrote on the talk page of the linked wiki, because the blog posting that contained the original item lacked a comments section:

Hi,

I would love to help out with WordPress development, but the problem I have with that is that WordPress is run by a spamming scumbag. So please repeat any requests for help as soon as Matt Mullenweg has been kicked out of the project, and I will gladly comply.

Within minutes, my comment was deleted and my account blocked. The reason given? “Unprofessional comments.” A note said I could get the account unblocked by contacting the administrator who had blocked it, a Michael Hancock, it appears, but of course without giving me any contact data.

Unaware that only professionals are allowed to use the WordPress wiki, I posted the following at Hancock’s blog, the address of which was suggested somewhere on his wiki page:

Hi there,

I see you blocked me from posting at the WordPress codex, stating as reason: “unprofessional comments”.

When trying to edit a page, it is suggested that I contact you. Without of course giving actual contact data, because that would probably be too easy. Feeling a little hostile?

Anyway, I do not know what was “unprofessional” about my comment, nor that there was a requirements for all comments to a FOSS project (presumably also open to non-professionals) to be professional at all times.

Please enlighten me what is defined as “professional” at the WordPress codex, so that I can work hard to get the ban lifted?

Well, I posted it there a few minutes ago, and my question has already been deleted while writing this entry.

The WordPress codex administrators could have simply berated me for the presumably inappropriate tone of my message (although it is hard to guess what is appropriate with spammer friends), and could have asked me to rephrase what I wrote in such a manner that people would actually want to read it, and consider the merits of its message.

So I was writing this just in case the blocking of my account was an indication that the WordPress community is just hard at accepting criticism.Which I did not consider very likely, but at least this Hancock person seems to be having a problem with dissenting voices.

Admittedly, my comment was slightly inflammatory; I could have written my message without resorting to name calling. But when it comes to spammers, I find it hard to keep a cool head. I think name calling is the least their supporters should expect.

Apparently spammers can dish it out, but cannot take it.

First batch of Dutch spammers fined

Dutch telecommunications watch-dog Opta has fined its first batch of spammers since the introduction of the anti-spam ammendements to the telecom law late last year that granted this power to Opta. (Links lead to Dutch pages.)

Fourteen other small-scale spammers received warnings. According to Opta, the amount of complaints received about this group was too small to justify fines. Repeat-offenders will be fined.

Gone fishing

Today I received the first two Dutch spam mails under the new regime. I reported them to the proper authorities. I hope they’ll get caught and will get the chair. (Well, we don’t have The Chair here, but hope springs eternal.)

Spam, spam, spam, bacon and spam

The second house of our two-house parliament has given its blessing to the anti-spam law. Responses to that law have varied from out-right negative to timidly positive. Problems it is reported to have are that it is too weak (many would have loved to see it become part of criminal law), that it only deals with spam aimed at consumers, and that the enforcement agency, OPTA, is understaffed.

I can only agree with the latter.

Since fighting spam is a relatively new phenomenon, it is too early to say whether the repression of it should be tougher or weaker. Also, not everybody defines spam the same way, and it could be that we are outlawing modes of speech that are valuable. The law can always be changed when necessary.

The claim that the anti-spam law only protects consumers is true, but a moot point. From what I understand, the spammers’ business model is based on the fact that their costs are so low. They keep their costs low by keeping address harvesting cheap. No way will spammers be able to guarantee that their databases are free of the addresses of private persons. This should be reason enough for spammers’ customers not to order a spam run—the risk that they will engage in an illegal activity is too large.

In the end, what’s important is that a government that was more or less pro-spam (“what? you geeks want to outlaw free enterprise?” you could hear them think) is now saying that it is illegal to spam. There is nothing ambiguous about that statement, even though its backers in parliament might not fully agree quite yet. A judge won’t have much difficulty interpreting the meaning of this new law.