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Sorry for the interruption… June 16, 2008

Posted by dorigo in internet, personal.
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If you visited this site from 2 and 5UT this afternoon, you might have found nothing but a simple line of text saying “this blog is inactive.”

The rather crude measure was taken by WordPress administrators, who found some spam in my blog of which I was unaware. They claimed I had de-spammed some porn site advertisement in my comments thread (from a post more than 2 years old), and after some complaining quickly put the site back on air.

Indeed, by checking back a few of the 370 pages of comments since January 2006, I found more than 100 comments containing links to commercial sites of all sorts. I usually delete those comments when they get in, if they survive the Akismet filter; but sometimes they must pass through the mesh and land in an old post, where they stay undisturbed. I have now started a cleanup which will probably take me at least a couple of hours. I got to June 2007 so far; the more recent stuff is still unchecked, so if you are willing and can use advanced googling maybe you can help me by signalling comments to be erased.

The incident with WordPress, however, made me think. I am the author and sole intellectual owner of all the stuff I have published in this site, but I can be subtracted of any control in the matter of a minute. But what ‘s worse is what came next: after allowing me back in my dashboard, they placed a “submit for approval” button on the “Write post” page in place of the usual “publish” button. Submit for approval ??? I immediately complained, and soon the publish button went back in its place. Yet, this really pissed me off. Submit for approval ? It is as if they cannot distinguish spam their filter cannot check from posts I write myself, or rather, claim they won’t care.

I am now considering moving the whole thing to my own site. It would break all links though, which is annoying. Any comments ? Suggestions ?

Comments

1. jumplive - June 16, 2008

WordPress has a “hangup” about spam. Their spam detector is way too agressive, which prevents me from making responses to other WP blogs (I tend to put a LOT of links in my posts). I.e., the ineffective WP spam filter is blocking good comment traffic. They need to fix this.

The email SPAM filter for my ISP catches many good emails as spam (very inconvenient), & lets some spam thru as “good”. It’s an ongoing research topic (@Microsoft Research & other places), about how to combat illicit use of the Web.

I have a lot of xxxx.blogspot.com Blogger blogs. I was blogging from Egypt (for the ’06 solar eclipse), & all of a sudden Blogger shut down my blog (like in your case). A quick succession of blog entries flagged their spam filter. Like in your case, it was very inconvenient.

2. Guess Who - June 16, 2008

Moving to your own site is a good idea. Broken links should be fixable with a simple search & replace on “dorigo.wordpress.com”.

3. dorigo - June 16, 2008

Jumplive, thank you for the input – yes, wordpress has a nasty filter and blogspot may not be better in this respect. I wonder why they are this tough on their customers…

Hi GW,

ok, but the incoming links ? Maybe I should create some kind of mirror instead, and continue working on wordpress ? I have no idea how to create a mirror though.

Cheers,
T.

4. Nick - June 16, 2008

Although it won’t solve your incoming link problem, you should try a free trial blog on TypePad.com – Your blog is your own on TypePad and your visitors won’t see ads or “possibly related posts” automatically inserted into your blog like on wordpress.com. Plus the support team is the best in the business. Additionally, I work on TypePad so you’ll have an “in” if you need any help with anything!

5. Guess Who - June 17, 2008

I’d just leave the current blog in place, with a top post saying “I’ve moved to this.new.url”, and with a small WordPress template hack which adds the same message at the top of each post, so visitors who follow incoming links can’t miss it.

If the new blog uses WordPress too, the hack should be able to generate the corresponding URL for each post. But it may not be good netiquette to automatically redirect visitors. Just giving them a link should be enough.

6. Fred - June 17, 2008

Damn Tommaso,

When I read “this blog is inactive” this morning while trying to visit your site I excitedly thought, “Ah Ha! I know exactly what happened! It was just a matter of time!”

1. Berlusconi’s government finally caught up with you for reasons they can’t reveal.

2. The Vatican was going to make you revisit ‘the inquisition’ for not kissing the Pope’s ___.

3. Fermilab decided to accuse you for the recent lack of funds by photoshopping your official company I.D. to a long list of co-authored failed experiments.

4. They found your fingerprints on an empty bottle of Chianti in one of the secret passages under the LHC. The Swiss and French authorities are arguing over your faux pas in English.

5. You were just about to expose the first real evidence of the Higgs Boson creature, which was hermetically sealed in the black queen’s side knight of your portable traveling chess set. (This was the kink in your armor as nobody carries a traveling chess set anymore.)

p.s. I think you have time to gather any relevant info before you make any rash decisions.

7. Andrea Giammanco - June 17, 2008

I second GW: private site, plus a link from the old one, saying “the new address is blablabla, please update your links and bookmarks”.

8. dorigo - June 17, 2008

Hi Nick,

I know typepad, thank you… I used it in the Quantum Diaries year (2005). I do not know whether the features have improved since then. Also, the accounts we had had been dealt with by our editors, and so I do not know what to make of my experience there…

I was thinking about something I could set up by myself, though.

Cheers,
T.

9. dorigo - June 17, 2008

Hi GW, Andrea,

GW: hearing you talking about hacks makes them look easy – but I am not such a hacker. Not anymore, anyway.

But thanks for the advice, I will do some research next month (I’m on vacation in mid July).

Cheers,
T.

10. dorigo - June 17, 2008

Hello Fred,

I like a lot the image of francophones messing up by dialoguing in English. As for the Pope and Berlusconi (yes, they still are two distinct entities), well – they both seem to have their hands full: the former with anglican marriages taking place between gay priests (!), the latter with fixing his own lawsuits.

Cheers,
T.

11. Guess Who - June 17, 2008

Hacking WP themes is easy. I had some fun doing it a couple of summers ago, thinking that maybe I should have a blog (an absolutley insane idea, of course). But you don’t need to. I just spent a couple of minutes browsing the plugin directory,

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/

(just the “Post” tag) and almost immediately found

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/post-layout/
http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/sniplets/
http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/header-footer/

There are probably more, but judging by the descriptions, any of these should be able to display a link to your new blog in, above or below all your posts.

12. Peter Woit - June 17, 2008

Hi Tommaso,

I run my own copy of the WordPress software on our department web-server. The main problem has always been that security problems are regularly found in their software, so you have to keep updating it often. In the past this has been an annoyingly elaborate process, taking much more time than it should. I think they may now have some new way to do this which is easier, but I haven’t tried it.

The spam situation is horrific, with floods of the stuff coming in, and an ongoing battle between the spam recognition software and the spammers. The WordPress Akismet plugin seems to work as well as anything, but regularly lets spam through and misidentifies legitimate comments as spam. My main problem with it is that it is completely unconfigurable: as far as I can tell I can’t whilte-list addresses (e.g., my own..).

All in all, unless you really enjoy spending time fiddling with software, I’d suggest you stick with your current set-up changing only if the WordPress people get significantly more annoying. You’re not going to do better on spam recognitions, and the cost of controlling the thing yourself is a lot more work.

Peter

13. dorigo - June 17, 2008

See Peter, that is exactly what I fear the most: spending more time on technical issues than on the real thing. I am already challenged enough with that kind of problem as I write code for CMS analysis and I find myself spending 90% of the time on fixing things caused by new releases of somebody else’s code and only 10% of the time thinking.

So I guess I will take your advice. The more so since the older I get, the less skilled I become on software issues…

Thanks
T.

14. dorigo - June 17, 2008

Hi GW,

I guess what I just wrote in answer to Peter also addresses your advice… I feel not ready for wrestling with browser code. Maybe in my next life🙂

Cheers,
T.


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