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You've got Spam!

By Office Girl the Magnificent in Meta
Fri May 25, 2001 at 05:02:34 PM EST
Tags: Kuro5hin.org (all tags)

Well, it's official. The K5 community has been spammed -- in the submission queue. What are you going to do about it?

During the 11:00 hour, Eastern Standard Time U.S., a commercial entity posted a "story" that was basically a slick advertisement and a hyperlink to their site. While some of the people here run commercial or semi-commercial sites and publicize their own work, their participation is not defined by their commercial interests and limited to those activities that they hope will further their financial interests. I have intentionally not linked to the website or quoted the story text in this post because I want to avoid giving the offending company any more publicity.

As a relative newcomer to K5, I don't know if the system has been abused in this way before. I only know that I happened to be online at the time, and I was appalled. Of course, the story was in the mod queue for less than ten minutes, and I'm sure the vast majority of K5ers never saw it. But how are we to prevent spammers from submitting stories and clogging the mod queue with drivel? As few people as saw the story, I'm sure spammers will only keep trying until they get one through. And even if stories stay in the mod queue, is that not at least some exposure?

In light of the recent banner ad discussion, which looks as if it will probably post at the time of this writing, I have to say that I support advertising on the internet. But the advertising should be a consensual, compensated agreement between the advertiser and the webmaster. For some reason, I seriously doubt that Rusty gave this company permission to abuse the mod queue in such a way.

Now comes the time in our program where we take your comments. How do we prevent spammers from abusing the mod queue without turning to fascist methodologies that prohibit free speech and dissent? How does this relate to the previous discussions we have had about trolls? And finally, is spam simply an inevitability in any successful online community?


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


What should the penalty for spamming K5 be?
o Any penalty would be too easy to abuse, making K5 an elitist group. 24%
o Nicks that spam should be deleted temporarily. 13%
o Nicks that spam should be banned for life. 18%
o Death. 43%

Votes: 123
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o banner ad discussion
o trolls
o Also by Office Girl the Magnificent

Display: Sort:
You've got Spam! | 36 comments (28 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
no big deal (4.33 / 6) (#3)
by alprazolam on Tue May 22, 2001 at 11:38:10 AM EST

I don't think this surprised anybody. It got voted down fairly quickly, like you would expect. From my perspective everything worked perfectly. If this company wants a review to be read here, they ought to send one of the admins a sample board, and probably pay for the review, since it would get a lot more eyes than the banner ads get.

A place for promotion. (3.00 / 4) (#4)
by Pedro Picasso on Tue May 22, 2001 at 11:46:49 AM EST

Shameless self promotion for websites has its place. kakkune.com is a wonderful site for promoting your own sites. I really dig it. Please register right away and help build the community.

By the way, I am in not affiliated with kakkune, so this advertisement is merely a public announcement and not self promotion. The sig is self promotion.
-the Pedro Picasso

Cult of the Flaky Hardware
[ (sourceCode == freeSpeech) | kakkune.com ]

a fine line (2.33 / 3) (#6)
by ikarus on Tue May 22, 2001 at 11:52:40 AM EST

While some of the people here run commercial or semi-commercial sites and publicize their own work, their participation is not defined by their commercial interests and limited to those activities that they hope will further their financial interests.

I will fess up to being guilty of this practice. The thing is, it's just plain hard to get any attention on the internet. In fact, it got so damn annoying, that I've even tried to do something about it. (click guilty for more details). If you have ever tried to garner interest for a site on the internet, you know what I'm talking about. Unless you get really lucky, it's an uphill battle. Things like the k5 queue are really tempting, and it's very important to walk a fine line between genuinely reporting interesting news and spamming.

Self-promotion rule (4.00 / 2) (#9)
by ucblockhead on Tue May 22, 2001 at 12:18:18 PM EST

I have one rule for "self-promotion" stories: I check the comments, the diary and the other stories by the submitter. If they are all empty lists, it gets an automatic -1. If there is reasonable activity there, then I just ignore the fact that it is self-promotion, and treat it as if it were posted by someone else.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Is self-promotion --- SPAM (3.00 / 2) (#11)
by Nitesurfer on Tue May 22, 2001 at 12:44:14 PM EST

Sorry to have irritated so many so fast. On the other hand... I only posted an article I thought some may be interested in concerning our company.

Question though.... if this same Article which was not written by me in the first place... was submitted by the Author ... would you have attacked it as vehemently as you did?

If that is the case.... it's not the words but who is submitting them?

This site is unlike many... at those you have people who choose the news for you. I guess that is the same here. At those sites you are allowed to submit news concerning your company. They may not decide to use it... but the rarely do they flame back at you. You don't want to know news, then that scares away everything good that might be posted to a site like this. Whoa those moderators are tough.

Spamming --- To cause a newsgroup to be flooded with irrelevant or inappropriate messages.

How does that topic not fit into the technology mix listed below?
White Hat worms - could they be used to speed up
Streaming Across Multicasts (Technology)
Microsoft's New Software Subscription Service
Time to Telecommute (Technology)
Techno-Filk IV - The Return of Insanity (Technology)
New Jersey judge places Internet over Real World
UK scientists develop tractor beam (Technology)
Spread the Word: Patch Rejected (Technology)
Programming Languages Are Human Computer Interfaces
Why Aren't You Using An Object Oriented Database Management System?

I do not think it was irrelevant.... was it inappropriate?

Again... I am sorry. I am just trying to understand the rules.

David Byrd

CEO --- Twenty First Century Technologies, Inc.
Home of the Nite-Surfer Illuminated Keyboard

[ Parent ]
Advertising (4.75 / 4) (#12)
by ucblockhead on Tue May 22, 2001 at 12:59:58 PM EST

The bottom line is that we like Rusty, and want to see him get paid. He gets paid with advertising revenue.

Why would anyone pay him to advertise here if the company could just post their advertisment as a story?

Anyway, the common factor you are missing in all of those stories is that they are all essentially a group of people talking to each other. That's why we are are here. To talk to each other. We are not here to sit around waiting for people to wander in, say something self-serving, and then leave, never to be seen again.

The trouble is that if even one or two such articles are accepted, other "drive-by" submitters will notice, and next thing you know, the submission queue is filled with 500 "make money fast" articles.

This isn't going to happen if it is an active member doing the posting. An active member can usually be better trusted to post something relevent, and more importantly, the "make money fast" people aren't going to take the time to become recognized community members.

This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Some friendly advice (5.00 / 4) (#13)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue May 22, 2001 at 01:11:29 PM EST

If you want to promote your wares to the tech community through Shameless Self Promotion (SSP), be a bit more intelligent about it.

Think of k5 like a magazine. If you want an ad, talk to the advertising department. If you want a letter to the editor, open a diary. If you want an article about your product, write an article about your product.

Surely, there must be some interesting things about the design and development of you product. Which of those aspects can be condensed into an article that has meat?

Consider a two possible topics:

  • A white paper on how an unusual design methodology helped your company save money in the design and prototype stages
  • A paper on the patent process from an insider's perspective
Don't even consider fluff pieces or articles that resemble Mindless Link Propagation (MLP). If in doubt, go find a copy of the Linux Journal, Open, or Performance Computing. Read the case studies. Examine the types of stories that appear in those publications and consider writing something similiar.

Lastly, examine articles that have been voted to section and front page of kuro5hin. Especially, the front page. These articles are your guid to the appropriate style, tone, and content to strive for.

[ Parent ]

My first concern... (4.33 / 3) (#14)
by Office Girl the Magnificent on Tue May 22, 2001 at 01:33:11 PM EST

I generally check the previous comments of someone whose name I don't recognize, just to get a feel for where the poster is coming from. You had no previous comments, diary entries -- not even a user profile. If you want credibility, you've got to participate for a while, let people know you've got something to say, and earn their trust. Then you can tell us about your product. We're a litle jaded that way, I guess.

Second, and this is a nitpick, don't type the whole post in bold. It's bad form.

Third, I'm sorry, but your post sounded like an ad. I could almost hear a voice-over actor reading it to me. These three points and all the others that people have made led to your post getting trashed. I honestly didn't expect any kind of reply -- I sort of thought it was a hit & run. But I'm glad you're back -- I hope you stick around and become a part of the community. As it turns out this story is probably going to get dumped anyway. :)

"If you stay, Infinite might try to kill you. If you leave, the FBI definitely will. And if you keep yelling, I might do it myself."
[ Parent ]

Touch Typing comment (none / 0) (#32)
by Nitesurfer on Wed May 23, 2001 at 03:09:16 PM EST

Thanks for asking for me to stick around.

Second you mentioned being a touch typist. Did you know the the position you inherently put your hands to be able to touch type quickly and effieciently actually lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Trust my wife has had it bad. Did you also know the this actual white screen kuro5hin uses stresses your eyes out big time leading to CVS (Computer Vision Syndrome). Lastly I do not know if you play games or surf when you get home, but what we are trying to help people with is to adjust their enviroment to comfortable levels and compute easily and efficiently. If we can remove the glare we believe it will help your eyes. Hopefully at the same time you will relax your posture for touch typing too. The illumination is only there to help your reorient quickly.

David Byrd

CEO --- Twenty First Century Technologies, Inc.
Home of the Nite-Surfer Illuminated Keyboard

[ Parent ]
Re: Touch Typing Comments (none / 0) (#33)
by Office Girl the Magnificent on Thu May 24, 2001 at 12:40:08 PM EST

I do play games and surf when I get home, and I spend more time on the computer in a day than the average person does in a week -- because I don't watch TV, I spend my "TV time" on games, etc...on top of handling a mouse and keyboard for 6 of my 8 hours at work. Carpal tunnel is, I fear, an inevitability for me. I use a trackball and have positioned my desk ergonomically, etc. but I still have pain in my hands -- and I'm only 22 years old. All this aside, I still fail to see how an illuminated keyboard would help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, since I assume the keyboards are arranged the same way as other, non-illuminated keyboards availible elsewhere. And it is my understanding that dimming the other lights in a room while staring at any kind of monitor is actually more likely to cause eye strain. While I do think your idea is clever (and I might consider buying one for my fiancee if we hadn't just bought a house) I don't see how you can claim that it has health benefits.

At any rate, I am extremely happy that you came back by to defend your product and respond to my article. I'm a little embarrased that I posted such a knee-jerk reaction to something so relatively harmless. But I'm happy that it generated this kind of discussion -- even though it probably makes me look like a little bit of a troll. It's good to see we can still behave like reasonable adults :)

"If you stay, Infinite might try to kill you. If you leave, the FBI definitely will. And if you keep yelling, I might do it myself."
[ Parent ]

Why I voted it down (4.50 / 2) (#21)
by pw201 on Tue May 22, 2001 at 03:38:36 PM EST

  • It was all in bold.
  • The whole story was in the introduction. There are two boxes for a reason.
  • The writing was incoherent.
My advice would be to advertise in your sig. By this, I don't mean you should have a huge sig with your ad in (as that'll annoy people just as much). Rather, you could advertise it in much the same way as the picture-rate.com bloke does, or the Acts of the Apostles guy.

[ Parent ]
The six Degrees of SPAM (none / 0) (#23)
by Nitesurfer on Tue May 22, 2001 at 04:14:13 PM EST

To you points:

1. Okay... the Bold may have been a bit much... I will concede...

2. I did not write the story --- rather I posted what someone else wrote about our site & did not add anything... Self promotion yes... but a fine line between promoting your site by your words versus letting people know what others are saying.

3. Lastly --- again I posted what another wrote about us.

I will advertise via my sig...

David Byrd

CEO --- Twenty First Century Technologies, Inc.
Home of the Nite-Surfer Illuminated Keyboard

[ Parent ]
If you didn't write it in the first place (3.33 / 3) (#24)
by Kellnerin on Tue May 22, 2001 at 04:38:11 PM EST

... why didn't you just link to it? Did you make it clear that it was something someone else had written about your own company? If it was indeed incoherent (as pw201 stated), was it really that good of an advertisement? Things to think about, because k5 moderators notice these things.

--Stop it, evil hand, stop it!--
[ Parent ]
You be the judge.... (none / 0) (#31)
by Nitesurfer on Wed May 23, 2001 at 02:58:34 PM EST

I did post the Authors name and email addresses. Look at the article and look at my website. No where do you find the author's name. Read further into the forums on Game Voice Club and you will see he initiated talking about my product

You be the judge:

Game Voice Club Archived News

Game Voice Club Forums - Back-Lit keyboards

Game Voice Club Forums - IFEEL Mouse

Here is the real deal. I could and should have posted a link in an MLP "Mindless Link Propagation". I could have also posted anonymously instead of using a NICK tied to my site. I believe honesty and courtesy are important. I think I have multiple times said that I apologize for posting inappropriately.

David Byrd

CEO --- Twenty First Century Technologies, Inc.
Home of the Nite-Surfer Illuminated Keyboard

[ Parent ]
Spam? (none / 0) (#25)
by driph on Wed May 23, 2001 at 02:43:26 AM EST

Ah come on, you mean to tell me
This dragon has been waiting years for this one to be realized, finally it has and the company has received it's patent for the product called Nite-Surfer. Awesome potential for gamers, and a catchy name if you ask me!
wasn't written by someone sitting on the marketing side of the cube farm?

Honestly, I think think the keyboard is a nifty idea, and I'll bet you would sell a lot more of em if you follow the trends in the Cluetrain Manifesto(buy the book, trust me) as opposed to the typical actions of marketspeak.

That aside, I think our users do a good job of hacking the blatent advertising out of the queue, with great fervor. I personally don't think it's an issue.

Oh, and welcome to K5. :]

Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave
[ Parent ]

The Author (none / 0) (#27)
by Nitesurfer on Wed May 23, 2001 at 09:59:20 AM EST

The author is Smaug ( "This Dragon" ) aka Marty Reinhart from Game Voice Club which has no affiliation to our company.
Visit their site and check it over.

David Byrd

CEO --- Twenty First Century Technologies, Inc.
Home of the Nite-Surfer Illuminated Keyboard

[ Parent ]
The first thing we do (4.88 / 9) (#7)
by delmoi on Tue May 22, 2001 at 12:03:02 PM EST

Is wait untill there is an actual problem.

Making arbitrary rules to prevent potential problems is a sure way to piss a lot of people off.

If the queue gets flooded with 200 spams a day, then we have a problem. One once every month or so is not.
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
and on top of that... (4.50 / 4) (#8)
by DeadBaby on Tue May 22, 2001 at 12:05:23 PM EST

There aren't any guidelines are stories. If someone wants to post 200 spam stories that would be their right. They'll get removed quickly enough anyway.
"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
[ Parent ]
-1 Diary Entry, Spam (1.33 / 6) (#15)
by farl on Tue May 22, 2001 at 01:40:47 PM EST

This should be a diary entry. It is spam in and of itself.

The issues are real, but I still think it should be a diary entry.

Nah. (3.54 / 11) (#17)
by Seumas on Tue May 22, 2001 at 01:57:38 PM EST

I'd say it's relavent enough to be a Meta entry, at least (though not Op-Ed).

Of course, your comment also should have been an Editorial, so maybe telling an author where to section their stuff is a little inappropriate here.
I just read K5 for the articles.
[ Parent ]

Not a problem. (3.93 / 16) (#18)
by Seumas on Tue May 22, 2001 at 02:03:15 PM EST

I don't see how it's a problem, since as you yourself said -- it was dealt with in less than ten minutes.

On the other hand, a possibly good idea would be to implement a delay between submissions from the same user if their existing submission is voted out of the queue within a short amount of time (this amount of time would have to scale along with the number of votes required to kill a story).

In other words, if someone submits an article and it is voted out of the queue within 15 minutes, they must wait a half hour before posting another one. If they submit another article and it is voted down within 15 minutes, they must wait an hour before posting again.

This might cause a small problem for situations where an author makes a submission and then submits another (better) version of that submission to the queue, causing the original to be killed. There could be some easy solutions to that though, too
I just read K5 for the articles.

Nick based solutions (3.25 / 4) (#26)
by Paul Johnson on Wed May 23, 2001 at 05:21:56 AM EST

The problem with all nick based solutions (e.g. banning, suspension, posting limits) is that it is very easy to get another nick. Unless we can make it much more difficult to get multiple nicks (and I don't see how) then no nick-based solution can actually work.

You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.

You said it, 10 minutes and it was gone. (4.87 / 8) (#28)
by Tezcatlipoca on Wed May 23, 2001 at 10:24:59 AM EST

What else do you want to do?

-1 for pointing the obvious and asking to solve a solved problem.

Might is right
Freedom? Which freedom?
How about a DUMP queue? (4.00 / 4) (#29)
by Nitesurfer on Wed May 23, 2001 at 10:25:41 AM EST

Obviously the article is still available as the EMAIL telling it was dumped allows me to view it. What makes me curious is that this article concerning SPAM was down to -8 at one point even though now it is at or around 26. If the first couple of people who viewed this voted it down.... all the others who has voted it up would not really had a chance to read it.

Since the pages are still available why not allow other to see what was dumped? And if they want to, they can make comments on it too. No one though is forcing you to view it on the front page or in the sections.... rather any dumped article would be put in the dumped, maybe for just two or three days.

The input from this article has been beneficial to me... Not trying to change the system... but just offering up an idea. What do you think?

Again --- sorry to ruffle any feathers

David Byrd

CEO --- Twenty First Century Technologies, Inc.
Home of the Nite-Surfer Illuminated Keyboard

Have it viewable? (none / 0) (#30)
by id10t on Wed May 23, 2001 at 11:00:32 AM EST

It is, for the author. The point is that if it gets dumped you get a chance to look it over again, read the coments, and possibly re-write and resubmit. If the voters dumped it, then the community does not want to see it in the original form. Having seen the article you submitted, I agreed that it was spam and not a real article, but will not take that further since I remember most of the comments that were posted to it.


"Still! `Old friend!' You've managed to kill just about everyone else, but like a poor marksman you keep missing the target!"

Admiral James Tiberius Kirk, ST: The Wrath of Khan


[ Parent ]

I recommend the "Erwin Solution"... (3.50 / 2) (#34)
by jd on Thu May 24, 2001 at 12:47:34 PM EST

As seen on UFie.

Failing that, there are ways to limit spam in the submissions queue:

  • Hash (using 2 different algorithms) each submission. If the submissions have identical values on both hashes, the story is a duplicate.
  • Limit the number of submissions from any given netmask. eg: A.B.C.D gets a quota of 10 submissions a day. A.B.C.x gets a quota of 50 submissions a day. A.B.x.y gets a quota of 100 submissions a day. And so on.
  • "Fingerprint" the submission through spelling, grammer and style. Restrict the number of submissions for a given fingerprint.

None of these are "perfect", and ALL of them impinge on the concept of a site that is co-operatively run, rather than managerially.

Of course, there is the "last, desperate gasp" measure -- client-side certificates. When a user logs on, they're rolled a client-side certificate. This is then used for all transactions. It removes any need for cookies, and makes it much too complicated for skript kiddies to write an auto-spammer.

Hashing (5.00 / 2) (#35)
by fluffy grue on Fri May 25, 2001 at 10:05:51 PM EST

In theory, I like the hashing idea.

In practice, I don't think it'd work too well. I know (from experience, heh) that it's way too easy to work around that by adding a bit of random data somewhere in the article. Randomly capitalizing things somewhat differently, adding a number to the end, putting in a   in a different place... to make the hashing really effective, you'd have to do something like:

cat story | tr '[A-Z]' '[a-z]' | sed 's/\&*\;//g' | sed 's/\<*\>/g' | tr -d '(insert regexp which matches numbers, punctuation, and whitespace)' | (something to generate two distinct hashes)
(i.e. convert to lowercase, get rid of all &foo; crap, HTML markup, numbers, letters, and whitespace) in order to really catch duplicates, and even then there's probably some simple workaround. That is, the text "The rain in Spain falls mainly&nbsp;on the plain" and "the rain&nbsp;in spain falls mainly on the plain..." would be seen as identical, but adding a simple tyop (such as "Teh rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain") will still negate its usefulness. Fortunately, assuming a perfect pair of hashing functions (md5 and SHA-1 would be my choices), the potential for false duplicate-positives is practically nil.

Thing is, Scoop already has post limit thresholds in it. You can't post more than one article every few minutes, and every time you try to, it doubles the time in which you can't post. So if you get barred from posting, say, 24 times in a row (assuming an initial ban time of 1 minute), you'll be barred for around 31 years.

But even then, it's easy for someone to just make a new account. Then you have to get the admins involved; you can't simply ban *@hotmail.com or whatever. (Well, okay, you can, but it'd piss a lot of legit people off.)

Fingerprinting sucks, especially for those of us who use proper style and diction.

Netmask quotas are probably the best idea overall. They'd be hard to fake, wouldn't severely impact legitimate users (given a decent set of thresholds, anyway), and would only be triggered in extreme cases of spamming.

That said, I think the current system is fine. It's not like any spam has ever made it through the queue. :)
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Link to comment in earlier discussion (none / 0) (#36)
by gauntlet on Mon May 28, 2001 at 08:57:47 AM EST

Please see this earlier suggestion

"It is difficult to catch a black cat in a dark room. Especially if there is no cat there." - Confucius

You've got Spam! | 36 comments (28 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
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