Category Archives: Blogs

How many news feeds?

I am gradually building up the number of RSS feeds I keep track of, currently using Bloglines because it’s an online aggregator, so I can access the same content from both work and home and keep track of it in one place. It also allows for decent categorisation of feeds.

One of the FAQs on the Bloglines site is How Many News Feeds Do Most People Track?, which is answered:

The average Bloglines user tracks more than 20 news feeds. The most we’ve ever heard of is 1,400 news feeds. Not everybody has the stamina for that amount of information…

How many feeds are you actively tracking, and on what kinds of subjects? How often do you check for updated posts, or do you have new items ‘pinging’ on your desktop?

I am currently tracking 122 feeds, with categories including Animation, Business, Charities, Education, Environment, Ethics, Faith, Human Rights, IT, Media, Personal blogs, Science, Technology, Weird, and Writing. I also take advantage of Bloglines search feeds which match specific words and phrases to blogs ‘on the fly’. I tend to scan headlines every 1-2 hours during the day.

Why Googlebomb?

Why are webloggers googlebombing online poker?

I assume it’s to reduce the attractiveness of spaming the blogs with the term. Wouldn’t you want positions 1-10, rather than just #1, and really shut the action down? I don’t see that it will. But wikipedia will be regarded as a more relevant site, and that’s gotta be good, right? Speaking of which, I must go check for vandalisim on my pages…

Will corporate blogging go worldwide?

An article from The Economist on Robert Scoble, and the whole corporate blogging thing, and also revealing why Microsoft’s developer TV “channel” is called Channel 9. (And here’s Scoble on the tree in the picture in the Economist article.)

Corporate blogging has certainly taken off in the States. But will it be worldwide like personal blogging? Will it move out of the IT industry into other sectors? Does the rest of the world enjoy evangelising for their companies like the Americans do? Do companies in the rest of the world have that kind of online community that American IT companies do?

Indeed, since the IT industry is largely driven by American innovation, are there companies elsewhere that have the kind of geek following needed to bring corporate blogs up to the kind of readership where senior management consider them worthwhile?

Scoble is unrepentant, considering it inexusable for a corporate web site not to be doing this and making it clear it’s not technology for technology’s sake: it’s marketing, and feeding your web site with visitors.

Despite the global village, in some respects those of us in AU remain a little way behind the pack. Mick at G’day World talked on one of their recent podcasts about trying to set up a corporate blogging conference, and it seems to have died for now for lack of sponsors.

I recall that I saw URLs on US TV ads in early 1996. It must have been another year before they popped up in Australian TV ads. Maybe there’ll be a similar delay until corporate blogging takes a foothold here and worldwide.

Interview with a spammer

The Register’s Interview with a link spammer.

When Sam begins a spam run, he has one target, though he’ll accept any of six. Principal one: come top of the search engines for his chosen site’s phrase. “But you’ll accept coming in at 1,2 or 3, or if you come at 8,9 or 10. Actually, 8, 9 and 10 have better conversion rates. I don’t know why. Maybe the eyes fix on it when you scroll down the page.” And the cost of doing it? Once the code is written, pretty much zero. “Bandwidth is cheap,” he says. “You set it going in the evening and come back in the morning to see how it’s gone.”

So what beats them? Sounds like captchas (those distorted images requiring a human to type a letter)

So what does put a link spammer off? It’s those trusty friends, captchas – test humans are meant to be able to do but computers can’t, like reading distorted images of letters.

There’s several WP plug-ins that will do them; I haven’t tried it yet. But I will soon.

Quickies

There’s something of a backlash against the NoFollow initiative setup by Google.

Mark Pilgrim paints a sobering picture of the power and tenacity of spammers.

Which sounds better, or more like something you’d say? “I googled it” or “I A9 dot commed it” ? Have you actually used A9.com, anyway? (I have. Once. Yesterday. After I read that story.)

Blogs

ABC Radio blog feature (Real or Windows media).

Pregnant women probably shouldn’t listen to part two.

Comment spam vs nofollow

More comment spam hitting us at the moment, but curiously the comments don’t seem to have URLs with them, so I’m not sure what the point is. They’re all purporting to be from non-English-speaking e-mail addresses, and many in broken English, with a generic compliment about how marvellous your web site is. Odd.

Meanwhile, Google have come up with a new <rel=”nofollow”> attribute for links to help fight comment spam. And they’ve got a bunch of blogging heavyweights to back it, too, including the MT/TypePad, Blogger (duh), MSN Spaces and the WordPress gang, which might well cover a good proportion of blogs running today.

Now, W3C ratification, anybody? Oh pah, who cares?

Comment spammers get sneakier

Just noted some comment spam with this in the name field:

&#111;nl&#105;n&#101; p&#111;k&#101;r

which displays as

online poker

Sneaky hey.

More briefs

“You people should be ashamed of yourself! I did not ask to have 3 pop ups come across my screen when I visit you. I do not visit singles sites, and I don’t want to add 4 inches to my penis. As a matter of fact, I don’t use any of the services that pop up on my screen. I think it is disgusting that you money hungry bastards have infringed on my computer for your own selfish gain. From this moment on, I am boycotting you, and I am advising EVERYONE I know to do the same thing. Down with you and your pop up ads.”User quoted by Jakob Nielsen (who it turns out probably had spyware on his machine. Umm, the user that is, not Jakob.)

This sounds pretty cool: Do you regularly rebuild your PC? This site has a guide to creating the ultimate Windows XP installation disk, with all your favourite applications, patches, settings and hacks built-in. (via David).

I used to wonder why the WinAPI GetTickCount() call always gave back a value that was a multiple of 55ms. Now I know why.

MS hits blogging. The blogosphere hits MS for its limitations. Oh well, that’s classic MSN… they do consumer products, not power tools. The whole censorship thing seems a bit drastic though.

These friendly freebie web hosters (Boss factor: risque, and note the URL) have a page where they expose people who abuse the facilities.

RSS

XML feeds are the fashionable thing these days. Something like it almost showed up with Active Channels in IE4, but it’s taken RSS (and to a lesser extent, Atom) to grab a foothold for it to really take off. Anything half-decent has it, and the number of hits that most blogs get from RSS readers is ever-increasing.

One of the questions to ponder when setting up a feed for people is this: Do you provide your full content (at least of recent items), kit and kaboodle in the RSS feed, or just summaries? Pushing everything out uses more traffic (not a problem unless your site is very well-read) but gives people the convenience of reading everything in their RSS reader. Conversely, if you’re trying to get people onto your site (for whatever reason; to get people to see your adverts is important for commercial sites) you’d probably lean towards summaries.

My blog provides everything, because it was set-up this way when I was playing with it, and when I inadvertantly switched it to summaries during a WordPress upgrade, people used to reading it all quite rightly complained, so I switched it back.

This site uses summaries. (WordPress provides the first X words of an entry, or a specific Summary field if it’s filled in.) While we’re not commercial exactly, it would be nice to get enough Google ad revenue to at least cover the hosting fees. For this, you need people visiting.

We’ve had some comments about this, expressing the view that this is a Bad Thing as it discourages readers who like to read everything from their RSS readers. That’s probably true for some people — unless the summary (human or computer-provided) is compelling enough, they won’t visit. But do they bother to visit if they can read everything from the RSS reader? Maybe if there’s pictures or they feel compelled to leave a comment. A visit is only a click away, after all.

For now, we’ve decided, like an aging 80s rocker clearing out his CD collection, to keep the Status Quo, but do a little tweaking of the feed to provide more text in the auto-summaries. Hopefully there’s enough interesting content appearing here to keep people coming back.

Blog spamming

At the time of writing, my main blog is under a sustained comment spamming attack. Over 50 spam comments today, all targeting the one old post, promoting a poker web site. At least one other WordPress-based blogger is getting them, so it’s not just me. And what’s interesting is they’re from a variety of different IP addresses, so assuming that’s not spoofed, it looks like the attack is coming from multiple zombies.

(Links in text deleted)

Author : poker (IP: 195.172.182.228 , 195.172.182.228)
E-mail : byob@y7263o.com
URL : http://www.poker-w.com
Whois : http://ws.arin.net/cgi-bin/whois.pl?queryinput=195.172.182.228
Comment:
7263 JUST A FEW LINKSFOR YOU TO CHECK OU WHEN YOU GET A CHANCE
Online poker
texas holdem poker
texas hold em

When I first saw this type of comment spam, I thought huh? What’s the point? Who is going to see such comments and click on them? Particularly in this case, with dozens of the same spams hitting one particular post. But the point is getting links to your sites into the search engines, and up the rankings. Whether it works or not I don’t know.

WordPress has a fair bit of flexibility when it comes to catching comment spam. The most useful generic setting is number of links in a comment. A surprising number of comment spams have heaps of links. You can also nominate keywords (though in 1.2 there was a bug in that if the final keyword on the list had a CR after it, every comment got caught). Caught comments go to moderation, so the never see the light of day. Handy for comment spam and for moderating particular users/IP addresses too.

Comment spammers, like other spammers, are getting cleverer. Hopefully the blogging community (and in particular those who write and update blogging software) will stay one step ahead of them.

Update Friday 07:30: The attack appears to be widening to more blog posts, and branching out to Viagra and weight-loss, but is still showing signs of being from the same source. To counter it, I have shutdown comment posting on entries more than 60 days old using Scott Hanson’s Auto Shutoff Comments plugin.

Defined: Wikipedia on blog comment spam.

Possible solution for WP?: Modification to comments code that ensures it can only be called from the form, not remotely. I’ll try this when I get the chance.

Update Friday 13:00: The patch above doesn’t work for this particular attack. Looks like this one spoofs the referrer… which makes sense, any decent spammer would think of that.