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help@kuro5hin.org retaliation Competition

By cp in Technology
Thu Aug 09, 2001 at 12:31:25 PM EST
Tags: Humour (all tags)

I propose a coding "challenge" to all programmers on K5:

Make a script that replies to "my account won't work" emails to help@kuro5hin.org with a helpful email saying, "This is probably a cookie problem; check your cookie settings."

Almost everyday, some hapless k5 newbie registers an account, tries to log in with the password he'd been sent, fails, and subsequently sends an email to help@kuro5hin.org complaining that his account is broken. Almost everyday, Rusty must make the same reply he's made hundreds of times before, telling the user to make sure cookies are turned on, suggesting he make sure junkbuster or a similar proxy setup isn't interceding, and requesting a more detailed description of what exactly was wrong if neither of those suggestions works (which they inevitably do).

The terms of this challenge are in this order:

  • should NOT call the hapless user rude names or otherwise discourage his participation at k5
  • should give the user the above two suggestions
  • should be anonymous (we're trying to save Rusty some hassle; not cause more)
  • should turn cookies on and update any junkbuster blockfiles to allow *.kuro5hin.org to set cookies
  • should install:
Of course, it is not necessary to do all this to apply. In fact, a simple script that sends "Check stuff on your end" to these users is trivial but efficient as a first step!

This post should not be taken as representing any advice to break the spamming laws of your community. :-)


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


What to install?
o scoop 0.8 5%
o a Canadian 34%
o a cute widdle puppy 22%
o a navel suitable for gazing at 17%
o Other (please comment) 1%
o None, you bastard script kidiot! 18%

Votes: 87
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Scoop
o allow
o scoop 0.8
o Canadian
o cute widdle puppy
o navel
o Also by cp

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help@kuro5hin.org retaliation Competition | 32 comments (26 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
This IS funny... (2.50 / 2) (#1)
by neuneu2K on Wed Aug 08, 2001 at 05:15:04 PM EST

Well at last, it made Me laugh...

Saving it...

- "And machine code, which lies beneath systems ? Ah, that is to do with the Old Testament, and is talmudic and cabalistic..." - Umberto Eco
I don't think this will be a good solution (1.75 / 4) (#2)
by roiem on Wed Aug 08, 2001 at 05:16:02 PM EST

What gives us the rights to spam these users just because they are incompetent? This will make us no better than the lusers themselves.

Hopefully the poor users will soon upgrade their browsers. Even tough they should have done it weeks ago.

Even if the users doesn't keep their systems up to date, I find it hard to support this kind of actions.
90% of all projects out there are basically glorified interfaces to relational databases.

Yes (3.25 / 4) (#11)
by suick on Wed Aug 08, 2001 at 07:37:42 PM EST

Roiem, you could not have been more right. It's tough for they should upgrade browsers upgrade timely, tough soon hopefully soon browsers upgrade systems. Also, when they aren't even date up systems support actions hard kind doesn't this actions incompetent? I dunno, I suppose that's a decision best left up to their parents.

order in to with the will I around my effort sentences an i of more be fuck annoying.
[ Parent ]
Excellent point, suick. (3.00 / 3) (#13)
by CaptainZornchugger on Wed Aug 08, 2001 at 08:34:39 PM EST

As always, you are a master at the art of discussion.

Look at that chord structure. There's sadness in that chord structure.
[ Parent ]
leftfoot.kuro5hin.org... (2.00 / 1) (#3)
by univgeek on Wed Aug 08, 2001 at 05:24:36 PM EST

as the browser home page ;P
Arguing with an Electrical Engineer is liking wrestling with a pig in mud, after a while you realise the pig is enjoying it!
Ugh! (3.33 / 3) (#4)
by Skippy on Wed Aug 08, 2001 at 05:42:33 PM EST

It looks like that navel comes with lint installed. For the love of all thats good and holy warn people when you are gonna post an image like that. That is NOT a navel worthy of gazing at. I was going out to eat with friends but I've lost my appetite.

Where's shoeboy and his Heidi Wall image. THAT's a navel worth gazing at.

# I am now finished talking out my ass about things that I am not qualified to discuss. #

I'm not shoeboy... (3.00 / 1) (#8)
by zantispam on Wed Aug 08, 2001 at 06:30:21 PM EST

...but I did bookmark that image :-)


Free Duxup!
[ Parent ]
Actually, that wasn't Shoeboy... (3.00 / 1) (#25)
by anonymoushero on Thu Aug 09, 2001 at 03:14:41 PM EST

It was me.


You're welcome. It *is* a nice navel.

Surprisingly enough, I bounced off this page a couple times, I'd thought I'd turned cookies on, and the mainpage came up with all the logged in user-options, but when I went to specific pages, it wasn't working. Guess my mouse slipped.

Yeah, a main-page that tested for cookies after login would probably help.

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

[ Parent ]
JavaScript.disabled (4.00 / 4) (#6)
by mrBlond on Wed Aug 08, 2001 at 06:03:58 PM EST

<p><strong>Log in failed</strong><br />
Check your <em>username</em>, <em>password</em>, and wheteher your browser and blockfiles allow <em>cookies</em> from kuro5hin.org</p>

What do I win?
Inoshiro for cabal leader.

Have Testing Pages (4.71 / 7) (#10)
by SEWilco on Wed Aug 08, 2001 at 07:08:33 PM EST

Hide the help@k5 email address behind a web page which tests if the browser settings are OK. Have big error messages if one of the tests fails. This should reduce the number of messages to help, if they have at least read the flashing bold warnings before they get to see what the email address is.

Great idea! Building on it (3.33 / 6) (#16)
by Sunir on Wed Aug 08, 2001 at 10:35:25 PM EST

When you click on the login button, it should validate that your cookies are functioning and that Javascript is enabled. This isn't difficult to perform. If the tests fail, you can inform the user immediately what their problem is and suggest means and methods to solve it there and then.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r
[ Parent ]

javascript? (3.80 / 5) (#21)
by rusty on Thu Aug 09, 2001 at 01:29:31 AM EST

We don't need javascript to be enabled. Embedding a little message in the login box to the effect of "your cookies seem to be off" would probably help though.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Man, if everyone just installed a Canadian (4.00 / 3) (#14)
by ZanThrax on Wed Aug 08, 2001 at 08:42:17 PM EST

the world would be a better place :)

Because a bannanna is only this yellow.

Ugh.. (4.00 / 3) (#15)
by Inoshiro on Wed Aug 08, 2001 at 09:32:45 PM EST

I suppose if I'm going to post pics of me on the web, people are going to find the worst one possible and link it to K5!

[ イノシロ ]
nah (3.66 / 3) (#20)
by h2odragon on Thu Aug 09, 2001 at 12:22:51 AM EST

yer clothed, not obviously suffering the effects of excessive ingestion of anything in particular, and not even particularly demonic of aspect.

Careful that you don't tempt folks to dig out the pictures of you at the strip club that night you got deported, or anything like that...


[ Parent ]

not suffering excessive ingestion? (3.00 / 1) (#24)
by cp on Thu Aug 09, 2001 at 02:22:15 PM EST

Clearly you overlook exactly what a "smokedot" party entails.

[ Parent ]
why dont you... (4.25 / 4) (#19)
by zzzeek on Thu Aug 09, 2001 at 12:07:26 AM EST

1. have the site support URL rewriting for people who dont want to use cookies (or are behind firewalls that filter them)

2. Upon login check for the return of a cookie that was just set, if it doesnt come back bounce them to a page that explains very specifically to turn cookies on.

That's really funny (4.71 / 7) (#22)
by rusty on Thu Aug 09, 2001 at 01:34:55 AM EST

I think only three of us know just how funny this actually is. Over two years, I've honed my "check your cookies" spiel so it's now a razor-sharp two sentences. It used to take a lot more words, but practice has show which precise words are the necessary ones, and now it includes only those. It's like a William Carlos Williams poem. I can write it with my eyes closed and one hand behind my back. It's my morning zen meditation -- I empty my mind, recommend people check their cookie settings, and become One with Everything.

And just think, cp, of the year and a half you weren't on the list. The frequency of cookie problems has actually dropped off lately.

Not the real rusty

phone monkeys... (3.50 / 4) (#23)
by hollowearth on Thu Aug 09, 2001 at 04:44:33 AM EST

I used to have weeks like that when I worked on a phone farm. Sixty identical utterances per day did have a similar effect to chanting.

I imagine that an effective call centre could probably be utilised for remote viewing purposes if they got the call average high enough.

[ Parent ]

Two sentences? (3.00 / 3) (#26)
by anonymoushero on Thu Aug 09, 2001 at 03:17:03 PM EST

Well, now I'd like to know what the refined wisdom of several years looks like. Give us the spiel, or I'll have to create a dummy account to get it myself :)

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

[ Parent ]
Ahem... (5.00 / 1) (#28)
by rusty on Fri Aug 10, 2001 at 12:26:46 AM EST

Ok, let me start with the lead-in:

"Help! I can log in, but then I get logged out right away!"

"This sounds like a cookie problem. Check that your browser and any proxies or upstream filters (like junkbuster) will allow a cookie from 'www.kuro5hin.org'."

I used to go into more detail, but I found that in all cases where the problem was solved, those two sentences did it. If that doesn't do it, you have some screwy config that I can't help with, basically. :-)

Which reminds me... isn't this in the FAQ yet? I hope so. It is really the only actual FAQ.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

FAQlessness? (none / 0) (#30)
by anonymoushero on Sat Aug 11, 2001 at 12:54:56 AM EST

FAQ has this:

> How do I log in?
> Once you have set up your account, you can log in
> on the right side of the Kuro5hin.org home page
> by entering your username and the password that
> was provided to you (MAP #7).Please note (and
> this is VERY IMPORTANT): you must have cookies
> enabled in order to use your account.

But doesn't have the typical question listed, nor the (brief but concise) précis you gave above (which rocks btw).

Unfortunately the FAQ is broken into pages, which means I can't just load up one page and scroll to my heart's content. Nor do any finds across the whole document.

And shouldn't the FAQ have frequently asked questions? :) I'd think that you could grab them from your email. Most of what the FAQ is, is a user-document (and is fairly nice).

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

[ Parent ]

Perl script that might do the trick (none / 0) (#27)
by ry2me on Thu Aug 09, 2001 at 04:36:34 PM EST

I haven't tested this all that much, but give it a shot. Perhaps someone else can do some serious testing? You'll need some Perl modules, which can be obtained at cpan.org. Oh, and much of this code is rather kludgy. I wrote it very quickly (and will probably be much embarrassed when I come back and look at it later in the day). =)

#!/usr/bin/perl -w
use Net::POP3;
use Net::SMTP;

# ---- options ----
my $smtp_server = 'smtp.someserver.com';
my $pop_server = 'pop.someserver.com';
my $email_acct = 'help';
my $email_pass = 'somepass';

# connect to the pop server and look at emails
my $pop = Net::POP3->new($pop_server);
my %reply_to;
my $messages;

if (($messages = $pop->login($email_acct, $email_pass)) && ($messages ne '0E0'))
my ($this_message, $to_field, $subject);
for ($this_message = 1; $this_message <= $messages; $this_message++) {
my $msg = $pop->get($this_message);
foreach my $line (@{$msg}) {
chomp $line;
my $virgin = $line;
$to_field = substr($virgin, 6) if $line =~ /From/;
$line = $virgin;
$subject = substr($virgin, 9) if $line =~ /Subject/;

if ($subject =~ /account/i) {
# the message is regarding an account.
$reply_to{$to_field} = $subject;

elsif (defined $messages) {
print "No email in account\n";
else {
print "Could not log in as $email_acct";
print " with password $email_pass" if $email_pass;
print "\n";

# send an email to each of the account problem people
my $smtp = Net::SMTP->new($smtp_server);
foreach my $key (keys %reply_to) {
my $message = "Hello $key,\n\n";
$message .= "This message is being sent in response to your message \"" . $reply_to{$key} . "\".\n";
$message .= "This is probably a cookie problem; please check your cookie settings.\n";
$message .= "Thanks for using Kuro5hin!\n";
$message .= "-Kuro5hin staff\n";

# send the message
$smtp->datasend("Subject: Re: " . $reply_to{$key} . "\n");
$smtp->datasend("To: $key\n\n$message");

Major problem (none / 0) (#29)
by panner on Fri Aug 10, 2001 at 06:46:58 PM EST

Well, your big problem is that if it works :) Let's say a user mails help@k5 with an account problem, and it gets picked up by this. So it sends back the response, and the user tries this. It doesn't work, so the user hits reply and says so. Of course, this will pick it up again. And so on. Just imagine if they have an auto-responder going that keeps the subject intact :) Of course, you could filter to make sure it doesn't start with Re: or anything like that, but still, it would probably get stuck in a loop sometimes.

Keith Smiley
Get it right, for God's sake. Pigs can work out how to use a joystick, and people still can't do this!
[ Parent ]
FAQ? (none / 0) (#31)
by mystic on Sat Aug 11, 2001 at 08:20:13 AM EST

Why not put a section explaining the cookie stuff in the FAQ and tell the user "Refer to FAQ Section X.Y"? For all you know they might just look at the FAQ and figure it out themself.


Send a test cookie when they try to login (5.00 / 1) (#32)
by baptiste on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 10:17:11 AM EST

Our site (http://keepersoflists.org/) uses a realtime cookie test to check if the user has cookies going. If they don't they get a nice screen explaining the problem.

Our site is PHP based, but this would work in Perl too. We run the following code on our login page and account creation page (if they manage to get there - its only linked off the login page for us) so folks get the cookie notice when they try to create an account.

The code simply uses a URL variable called cookietest - when that variable is true, the code checks to see if a cookie got set, otherwise the error is generated. We store a cookie indicating hte test passed so only new users have to go through the check:

if(!$HTTP_COOKIE_VARS['cookiecheck']=='test' && $HTTP_GET_VARS['cookietest']=='true'){
// If the GET var exists and no cookie var, they have cookies turned off or blocked.
echo("<CENTER><H2>This site requires that cookies be accepted for user logins.</h2>");
echo("If you have cookies disabled in your browser, enable them, or accept the cookie when prompted.<BR>\n");
echo( "If your browser does not support cookies, you will need to upgrade your browser to take advantage of our member services.\n<P>\n");
// exit;
} elseif($HTTP_COOKIE_VARS['cookiecheck']=='test' && $HTTP_GET_VARS['cookietest']=='true'){
// If the test cookie exists and we have the GET test var - they passed the test - let them move on.
header(($HTTP_GET_VARS['args'])?"location: $PHP_SELF?".urldecode($HTTP_GET_VARS['args']):"location: $PHP_SELF");
} elseif(!$HTTP_COOKIE_VARS['cookiecheck']=='test'){
// No test cookie - lets try to set it and test it
setcookie ("cookiecheck","test",0,$cookie_path[0], ".$domain[0]");
header("location: $PHP_SELF?cookietest=true&args=".urlencode(getenv('QUERY_STRING')));

Pretty simple concept that has worked well so far - not a single "I can't login" email so far.
Top Substitutions For 'Under God' In The Pledge Of Allegiance
help@kuro5hin.org retaliation Competition | 32 comments (26 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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