Akismet Works For Me

I wanted to follow up on my previous post about dealing with blog spam.

I installed Akismet and it has worked flawlessly. It has caught dozens of blog spam posts so far. I have had no false positives and no false negatives yet (i.e. it has correctly identified every comment). The only downside is that for it to be really helpful you have to have 100% confidence in it. You don’t want to have to check the “Akismet Spam” list every day.

I guess the unfortunate thing about computers being so great at automated tasks is that a true test of whether or not a post is from a Human or a Computer is really hard. I had previously thought of things like JavaScript challenges and the like to try and stop auto-spammers, but the more I think about it, the more I think that doesn’t make sense. In the end, the requirement is not whether the comment was automated by a computer or entered by a human, the test is whether or not the comment is Spam.

So, give Akismet a try if you don’t want to deal with comment spam all the time. I think you’ll be impressed by how well it works.

What would Turing think of all this?

How Do You Deal With Blog Spam?

I assume that many of my readers are technical people and as such are likely to be bloggers themselves, so I post the question to you: How do you deal with blog spam?

I’m currently getting on the order of 30-40 blog spam posts a day. While WordPress does a good job of catching them, and I can mark them as spam (so no one ever seems them), like email spam, I’d prefer not to have to deal with them at all. In the past I’ve tried reporting blog spammers based on IP addresses to their hosts, but that’s even more work and it seems to have little or no effect on the volume.

Do that many people need Viagra? I didn’t even know what Hoodia was until I looked it up? (Oh and if you use any of these terms in replys, you’re going to get caught in the spam trap. So don’t.)

I’ve considered using a CAPTCHA but have not found a good plugin that will do it for me, and I generally find them annoying. Registration seems like too high a barrier to entry for casual posting. I’ve seen, but haven’t tried Akismet which is service that checks out your comments before it posts them. Anyone use Akismet? Does it work?

Are we stuck with blog spam? What other things can I do so that I don’t have to deal with these annoying posts? (Oh the irony, we’ll see if I get spam attempts before I get real comments.)

Thanks for the help…

In addition to CAPTCHA, I’ve heard of people doing things with JavaScript under the idea that the automated blog spammers don’t use tools that understand JavaScript. Some people have the actual form submit happen with JavaScript. Another option is to have JavaScript do some simple algorithm for the user and check the result. That’s the idea behind
Hashcash. I haven’t tried it, but it sounds like an interesting idea.

So, CAPTCHA, Hashcash and Akismet … and no more spam!

Firefox 2 Favorite Features

Firefox 2 is just around the corner. With the recent release of Firefox 2 RC2 I’ve started using it more. It has a number of new features that you can read about in the release notes. I’ve already written about JavaScript 1.7 which adds some cool new features for developers. Of course those will only be really interesting if/when some other browsers catch up and implement the new changes as well.

I thought I would give Firefox some props for some of the user-centric features that it’s added with this release.

Search Plugin Improvements

A subtle, but incredibly useful change is the improvement of many of the search plugins. They have added suggestions as you type. So as you type, you will see suggestions pop up. This means less typing and less misspelling. Anticipating users needs just makes the application that much more compelling.

Inline Spell Checking

Ok, so maybe it’s just me, but I misspell things all the time. I like the addition of the search suggestions for this reason. But the bigger win for me, and something that should be appreciated by all the bloggers out there, is inline spell checking for web forms. So as I type this blog post, if I misspeell something it will show up with little red dots underneath it. If I then ctrl-click or right-click on the word, I’ll get spelling suggestions. Spell checking on the web, where have you been all your life? (I remember back in 1999 working for an internet startup that this was an often requested feature for our web application. Implementing it took quite a bit of time and effort even with a 3rd party package. Better late than never I say.)

Miscellaneous Features

There have been some small tweaks that have improved the browser as well. Changes to the tabs to include a close button on each tab are welcome by me.

They’ve also extended the standards support to include Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) and new web standards for client-side persistence. While these are generally developer centric features, I think that the these will be used by rich web applications in ways that could greatly improve the user experience.

A Wag of The Finger

Firefox still does not correctly render the Acid 2 test which I find unfortunate. I would like to see them catch up with Safari and Opera in terms of the standards compliance of their CSS implementation. Oh well, maybe next time.

All of this together points to a really great release for Firefox 2. I look forward to the final release.

Javascript Code Formatting

Seek and ye shall find.
I posted yesterday about the trials and tribulations of code formatting. While I’ve solved the basic problems of displaying code, we spoiled programmers have gotten really used to syntax highlighting. Syntax highlighting offers a lot of visual differentiation of text which makes it a lot easer to read code.

Brennan posted a comment about adding syntax highlighting, possibly with Javascript. I thought that was a great idea and was all ready to jump in and write the code. As a precursor though (all good programmers are lazy remember) I decided to see if anything already existed.

And I nearly found perfection in dp.SyntaxHighlighter. It’s a Javascript library for syntax highlighting code snipits in HTML. It’s beautifully written code that takes advantage of cool javascript features like prototyping. Each language syntax is abstracted out into its own file with it’s own keyword definitions and comment definitions. As I said, it’s a beautifully engineered piece of code and really shows off the power and elegance of the much maligned Javascript language.

The only tweak I had to make to the code was that it had been hardcoded to work with