Wherever there is a website that allows user comments, there is comment spam. The problem is fairly old and something even regular blog owners like myself need to deal with.
The idea is: a computer program adds comments with links to some website that makes money – by selling something or by showing advertisements. Having links to said website helps the website’s ranking on search engines, because they use links as one of the signals for relevance.
The comments are usually fairly obvious. Here’s one I got 10 days ago:
Russian name? ✔︎ With a misleading homepage? ✔︎ Generic comment? ✔︎ On a bad joke post from 9 years ago? ✔︎
Nobody falls for that.
But this week I got a bunch of interesting new spam comments:
Wow! These almost look like a human read the blog post and had relevant feedback. There are still many obvious giveaways, of course, starting with the fact that they came from “someone” using the same email address all within 4 minutes. But I do think this is an interesting escalation in the never ending arms race between legitimate website owners and evildoers.
The thing about all this amazing ML-powered AI technology like Chat-GPT and other similar tools is that they have huge potential to benefit society, but they also have huge potential for misuse. The misuse always comes faster. We saw what misinformation and propaganda can do in the last two U.S. Presidential elections. Just you wait to see how the next one goes, given that LLMs and image generation tools are readily available and add to that how poorly important Social Media platforms are being managed. Buckle up.
Those of you who subscribe to The MKX® (via email or RSS) or pay attention to that list of links on the website’s sidebar know that I’ve been using a service called Delicious for link sharing. I started in 2005 back when they were known as Web 2.0 pioneers “del.icio.us”. I’m stopping now.
Delicious was a great, promising service for “Social Bookmarking”. They were “cool”. Then Yahoo bought it in their own desperate bid for relevance only to proceed to neglect it almost to the point of irrelevance. So they sold it to AVOS Systems, who then sold it to Science Inc. I don’t know who either is.
In the meantime, the website improved somewhat, an unusable iPhone app was released – not in the sense that it was hard to use but in the sense that it truly didn’t work at all, and the bookmarklet stopped working. The latest owners, before making any improvements, decided to stick ads to user’s RSS feeds without any warning. Monetizing is fine but not warning your users before such change is not. This was the straw. I myself subscribe to Delicious feeds for about 7 people who share maybe one link every six months. Yet I get one ad foe each of them daily!
I am using a OSS system called Shaarli. I am self-hosting it which means that it cannot get sold to Yahoo without making me rich. Right now, I’m using the stock version, which sports a design only a mother could love. That’s ok – if I find time for it I may tweak it to be less offensive. All 1875 links were imported. Getting a combined RSS feed for The MKX® and The MKX® Links wasn’t so easy. I used ChimpFeedr (by MailChimp), then I put that through FeedBurner (which gives me both usage statistics and the email subscription service and risks joining Google’s Graveyard at any point). I hope it works out.
In the meantime, I apologize for any ads or RSS oddness. Let me know of any problems.
This website is now 12 years old. That means we have quite a bit of readers for whom The MKX has always been around. Kind of how cars and airplanes already existed when I was born, just more significant.
We had a small (who am I kidding? HUGE!) gathering to celebrate the 11th anniversary of The MKX®. Several famous celebrities attended, including some but not all of the following: Rihanna, prince William, the artist formerly known as Prince, will.i.am, Michael Jackson.
We had a fully functional disco ball and enough homemade hummus for all of the Middle East. Total success.
Notice anything different? Look up. As in the URL bar of your browser. Yes, that’s right. After The MKX® has moved. We have dropped the .com!
Our team of economists determined that given 2 million daily page views, and the fact that typing .com takes about 0.67 seconds in average, we are saving the world economy about 372.2 hours of lost productivity every day!
Since we have way less hits, the productivity increase is not nearly as dramatic. But still, the new URL is cooler. Visit us at http://Marcos.Kirsch.mx from now on! Or just use the old address which will just transparently redirect you… but wouldn’t you want to save 0.67 seconds of your day?
The MKX® recently received such a letter from an individual claiming that our popular “English with Andy” series slandered his persona due to the physical resemblance between a recurring character used in the images and his persona; given the possibility that someone may stumble upon one of the images and mistakenly believe that the depicted situation happened in real life and that the individual in question may actually confuse the terms “mushroom” with “much room” or “tissue” with “teach you”, to quote two examples.
In order to eliminate all possibility of said mistake, we:
Stress that the situations shown in the series are not real. Some were invented by our team of writers but most were lifted directly from unfunny mass emails that were forwarded to us. All the characters are fictional and any resemblance to actual persons is purely coincidental. Names were not changed to protect any identities, because there are no identities to protect.
Don’t actually know of anyone who speaks English like that; but would like to meet him/her.
Having a bad day? Frustrated by my poor handling of the English language? Or are you plain psycho?
If you visited The MKX® today and was redirected to a hardcore porn website… you are welcome. However, I must admit this wasn’t me making a quick buck by getting into a new business venture (not yet, anyway). This was me getting hacked.
It happened again, around 5 AM. I keep WordPress and all plugins up to date, and yet somehow a malicious attacker found a vulnerability on something I use in the site. I verified my logs and they didn’t gain access through FTP nor SSH, so a vulnerability it is.
Most PHP files were modified to include an extra line at the beginning that looks like this (I abridged):
<?php /**/ eval(base64_decode("aWYoZnVuY3R <--- lots and lots of gibberish like this ---> ZW5fNzCB9"));?>
When run in the server, this inserts code to redirect you to the naked ladies.
I assure you that The MKX® is clean… for now. The battle continues.