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More comment spam prevention

October 30, 2004

These spammers are a relentless bunch. The more spam-prevention measures you add, the smarter their bots get. For instance, Movable Type's spam prevention for email addresses was merely changing the "@" to its HTML entity code of "%40" and has long been circumvented by spambots. Even installing MT-Blacklist only reduces your burden; it doesn't eliminate it. (Though checking my MT Activity log tells me that it catches a LOT of comment spam.) The fuckwits have now started comment spamming with legitimate urls like "www.fda.gov" to get you to accidentally blacklist non-spamming sites.

The only feasible solution is to put in what's popularly called a "captcha" - a security code verification that needs a real human to manually enter a random number into a box before posting a comment. So that's what you will now see on this site. To make it easy, I have used only a 4 digit code. This will change each time you load the page.

The captcha system is easy enough to install if you're a techie though it involves some mucking around in the MT code itself. It's only ineffective against manual comment spam but most spammers don't bother with that. Also, it doesn't work well with MT-Blacklist and you'll have to disable MT-Blacklist if you want the captcha to work. (Yes, I found this out the hard way after about 30 minutes of cursing.) Lastly, this means that blind readers won't be able to comment on your site, but I'm not particularly worried about that since this is a personal site.

Update (15 November): To all the people who've mailed me asking me to install it on their web sites, please go RTFM and do it yourself. I have neither the time nor the inclination.

Personal note: The Hindu has done a full-page story on three people who have made a career shift to the food business and yours truly is one of them. (The full-length version of that photo is here.) Of course, they mangled some of my words. For instance, the lady asked me if I cook in the kitchen and I told her that like most executive chefs, I am not into hands-on cooking regular food every day. This got twisted to make it sound as if I'm not involved in the kitchen. Also, I've been cooking for 15 years and I didn't learn it from just one dude. Oh well, you take what you get...

I've also written a two-part article for Rediff.com on how to start a restaurant. (Part 1 and Part 2). Actually, I wrote the article way back in August. Then the person handling the new career section left Rediff and the section resurfaced only 3 months later. Unfortunately, the editor saw it fit to inject some of her own editorial "style" into my article, which pissed me off royally, especially since I edit myself ruthlessly. Rediff also does the "follow Jakob Nielsen blindly" dance and chops all paragraphs, regardless of continuity, into no more than two sentences each to "improve readability". Whackos!

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