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What is spam?
So far we have had three kinds of spam on the web site. One is a new user who writes a long list of links to commercial web sites into his personal profile. In 2009-02 I haven't seen that kind in a while. Another is an article or comment consisting of such a list of links. Yet another one is a seemingly innocuous posting that contains an advertising link, often at the bottom. On closer inspection you may notice that the text is not a serious contribution, but only superficially or not at all relevant to its context, but some spammers write almost good comments, just to lodge their link. Alternatively it is a copy of some other text whose content is usually not perfectly fitting its new place. All of these should be deleted.
A typical characteristic of this phenomenon, known in the trade as "comment spam", is that a new user registers, peruses the web site for a short time, then enters a comment or two, then leaves the site, never to be seen again. If you're curious about this and spot such a posting, check for how long the user has been registered. But your chances are slim, as I am usually quicker and have already deleted the posting before you can even see it.
Our web site has an explicit rule that postings with links to unrelated web sites are immediately deleted, and the user is blocked. Blocking doesn't help much, as the user could create another, new account for himself, but when they see that their postings don't last, they don't try again.
Important: report the spammer's username
If you see spam on this web site, i.e. advertising postings, please send me an email, for example by sending a message to admin (me) with the name of the user who posted it.
I need to know the username, so I can block him to prevent automatic postings through that account.
If you have the right to delete, just delete such postings on the spot. If not, please send me a quick message with the name of the user who posted the spam.
If the spam is a comment, of course delete only that comment (click on the delete link at the bottom of the spam comment), not the whole good article to which it is a reply. If, however, a whole article is spam, click on Edit at the top, then click on the [Delete] button at the bottom, then confirm the deletion.
If you delete the posting, write down the user name first (at the top of the posting), and let me know. Otherwise there might soon be more spam from that account.
So far we are lucky and have had very little spam on this open web site. Should we ever have very much more of it, we have some better defenses up our sleeves, but until that happens, I see no need to take any drastic measures.
Of course we do get some spam postings from time to time. I usually catch them soon, delete them, and block the user, but since everybody can create an account and post messages, we cannot prevent this kind of manual spam. If you happen to see some spam first, it is helpful if you immediately report the username to me and delete the spam. The sooner it is deleted, the better.
By the way, I prefer to block the user, rather than deleting him outright, because that is a little more confusing for him in the case he has some spam bot using that account to post spam automatically. The spam bot could still log on, but then cannot post anything. Won't help much, but it's fun to confuse and tease them a bit. (:-)
Altogether I don't see this as a big problem, because few spammers will spam manually. It is too inefficient, particularly if we delete the spam promptly. When they notice that their spam is ineffective, they may give up and go elsewhere. There is, however, a whole little business involving paying poor kids in developing countries like India and China very small amounts of money for manual spamming.
Our defenses against spam bots, i.e. automatic spamming engines, are good and can be made even stronger, should the need arise. We have a difficult and always different test question in place before anybody can register, so up to now the spam bots have never managed to create an account automatically.
Your admin Hans