Spam Karma 2 installed

Installed Spam Karma 2, today, and hope it deals well with comments from real readers (who are welcome here) and from spambots and spammers (who are not).

There are a few points that have caused a little concern.

When I ran the filters on the accumulated comments and spam, it took half of the spam comments and approved them as OK.

I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt for now, assuming that it’s using some sort of Bayesian filtering that needs training. If this is still happening a month from now, it will be harder to be patient.

You can of course review approved comments and say “No! bad choice! that one is spam.” And similarly you can review the spam bucket and say that something is not actually spam.

It was at this point that I almost turned it off again, after ten minutes of use. It’s set up to display the lists of recently harvested spam and approved comments in a concise tabular form, with the admirable goal of getting more data onto the screen, and to expand any cell in the table if you hover over it, so as to show the full entry.

Perhaps my browser is set up to call the hover() method more quickly that the developer expects, but I found it impossible to move my mouse across the table (e.g. to reach the scroll bar, or to reach a cell I wanted to hover over) without one cell after the other exploding, shifting text around on my screen, and then collapsing again. It reminded me of nothing so much as flying as a child in a Cessna or Piper Cub and hitting air pockets that caused the plane to fall precipitously, climb again, and then drop again. I can almost smell that unforgettable stench of high-test fuel in an small enclosed space.

The only way I could reach something I wanted to hover over and look at was to sneak up on it by moving my mouse cautiously down the left or right margin and then into the table. And even then, it only expands one cell at a time, so you don’t get a good overview of any individual comment and its content and karma rating.

Fortunately, you can turn the hover behavior off. You have to turn on ‘Advanced’ options and uncheck the box that says “if using … css-impaired browsers, you should disable this feature”. It doesn’t mention susceptibility to motion-sickness.

The table of recently harvested spam is labeled as including comments with karma lower than -20; the threshold can be changed, and I’m glad to have a clear statement of what’s displayed and what’s not. But I found it confusing to have comments with karma of -6 and whatnot included. Eventually I concluded that the screen meant “higher” than -20.

The beauty of open source is that I was able to correct that typo without any significant effort.

The display of information about recently harvested spam with bad karma is as close to illegible as a mere color scheme can make it. (Well, that’s too harsh; I’ve seen worse, but not in a color scheme intended for actual use.) Dark green and medium-dark red against dark gray.

The beauty of open source is, again, I can change it. I’ve got CSS and I’m not afraid to use it.

And finally, the author has announced that he doesn’t expect to update it, because he’s tired of incompatible changes to WordPress that break plugins.

I can see his point. But any problem caused by his decision is down the road a while; perhaps others will pick up the code, or perhaps I’ll shift to a different tool later, just for educational purposes (the way I change Emacs color themes every few months or so, to see how they wear over time).

On the other hand, despite the concerns, Spam Karma appears quite popular and successful, and to have attracted fewer vehement denunciations than some other anti-spam tools. So the official attitude here is the traditional guarded optimism.

We will learn, as time goes by, whether that optimism is justified.

19 comments in one weekend!

[15 January 2008]

This morning I was a bit surprised to see nineteen comments on various blog posts waiting for moderation here. I hadn’t realized that such a queue had been built up since Friday, or that so many new people had discovered this blog and wanted to comment.

My slight flush of self-congratulation at the success of the blog lasted only a few moments, as long as it took to notice that of the nineteen comments eighteen were clearly spam, and the nineteenth is almost certainly spam (I’m going to sleep on that one).

Dealing with persistent spam attacks could take a lot of the pleasure out of maintaining a blog, just as dealing with spam made email an unbearable drain on my time before I started my white list. Time to spend some time investigating the blog-spam control tools available to me.

What’s a klog?

Why does the subtitle of this blog say “MSM’s klog” — don’t you mean “blog”?

Well, maybe.

But when I was thinking about this material, I thought of it mostly as a series of meditations on issues that arise in my work, with only the occasional piece unrelated to W3C or my working groups. So my own notes for Messages in a bottle call it a work log, or worklog, or (yes) klog.

Hence the term in the subtitle. If it comes to seem too precious or weird, I suppose I can always change it. (Cool URIs don’t change, it’s true, but maybe subtitles don’t have to be cool.)

Why “Messages in a bottle”?

People on the W3C staff have been talking about blogs and how they can improve communication within a group, for some time. The discussions we had as a Team in Montréal (in November 2006) primed me to think about blogging as something it might be interesting to do. So did Jonathan Robie’s telling me that Jon Udell had urged him to start a blog, and Jonathan’s urging me to do so. (When was that? A long time ago, XML 2005 maybe.)

But the immediate impetus was finding some long-neglected pages on the W3C site (it really doesn’t matter which they were, or who wrote them) in which a Team member set down, years ago, some musings on a topic it turns out we both (and, as far as I can tell, virtually no others in the Team) are interested in.

It felt like finding a message in a bottle.

Putting such musings in a blog won’t help make them easier or harder to find, of course. But somehow the pages in question — and the pages I felt like writing in response — seem to fit more neatly into the genre of the journal, or the ongoing work log, the lab notebook, than into any other.

So I’m going to start a six-month experiment in keeping a work log. Think of it, dear reader, as my lab notebook. (I was going to do it starting a year ago, but, well, I didn’t. So I’m going to start now.)

My original plan was to make it accessible only to the W3C Team, so that I could talk about things that probably shouldn’t be discussed in public or in member space. Norm Walsh has blown a hole in that idea by
pointing to this log
[Hi, Norm!]. So public it is. (Ideally, I’d have a blog in which each item could be marked with an ACL, like resources in W3C date space: Team-only, Member-only, World-readable. Maybe later.)

Next year about June, if I remember, I will evaluate the experiment and decide whether it’s been useful for me or not.