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Dev Blog: The Fight Against Spam

As more and more traffic is attracted to SA Rally, and more and more visitors hit the site, spam has become a bigger issue.

For some time now we have dealt with this in relatively simple ways:
- Akismet moderation
- CAPTCHA verification
- Participation in Project Honeypot

All of these required manual intervention of some form. And yet the spam kept coming.

Let me be clear: I HATE spam. I HATE spammers. And I am personally insulted when I find spam all over my site. I don't want ads for drugs on the site, and I don't want ads for pornography all over the site either. Its annoying.

So today, after spending an hour manually deleting the spam, I had a brainwave. It appeared most of the spam was coming from Trackbacks, something that were added to the site so that other sites could refer users to SA Rally, a kind of social tagging feature to increase site traffic. There were hundreds of spam Trackbacks, and yet with comments we've had more false positives than spam comments. Trackbacks have now been disabled, and hopefully this will reduce our spam.

In addition, we are running a trial of Mollom, a new content moderation system developed in part by the same person who developed Drupal, the content management system SA Rally uses. This system is said to better filter content and result in less need for human interaction. We will see how this goes.

If spam can't be successfully combated, we will have no choice but to make people sign up to post any content on the site. At present you can add comments and vote in polls without signing in, but you must be signed in to upload press releases and the like. I don't particularly want to see this, as it will likely result in a further drop in community participation in the site.

So that is an overview of our battle with spam. As usual, feel free to leave any questions in a comment below.