On the changes to our feedback forums

IJsselstein, Wednesday, 2 November 2005 19:55:58

Our feedback forums and guestbook has recently come under attack from various sides. For almost five years, we have been able to run the website with little restrictions on what people could post here, and we liked it. We love to see peoples responses, see a community arise and meet each other through our website, and learn new things from thoughtful comments left behind by visitors.

All this recently came under attack, first by commercial fly-by-night businesses, who where looking for free advertising for products most of us are not interested in. Blocking the offenders IP addresses was effective until a few months ago, as was restricting certain taboo words, such as the infamous 'viagra', or 'casino', with a number of spelling variations, and overly large numbers of links. However, recently, they started to use zombie PC networks to push trash on our website, using all different, recently expired web domains. This forced us to introduce a simple but effective counter measure: the little codes you have to copy from an image. These so-called Captchas (an acronym for "completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart") are easy for most humans, but difficult for computer programs. This effectively keeps the bots out.

After that, the first forum trolls appeared. Forum or Internet trolls are real humans, and thus not much bothered by captcha codes, who, for whatever personal reason need to post sneering, insulting, or just plain stupid remarks in our forums. To reduce the impact they have on the site, I had to introduce email verification, such that I can block certain email addresses from posting on this site. Note that I will only block people who make it a habit of posting offending remarks. Unfortunately, email verification means that messages no longer directly appear on-line, and adds another inconvenient step to feedback. I hope these measures will not stop you from joining our community. If you don't have email, I suggest, you sign up with one of the free email providers to get it. Of course, trolls can do the same and create a new email address, but at least that means they will have to spend considerable more time adding trash with ever new email addresses than it costs me to clean it out.

As always, all constructive comments are welcome. Please use proper grammar and avoid cellphone text or msn style abbreviations. For greetings, looking for friend messages, praise and criticism, the guestbook is the place to be.

We welcome remarks on the new features here, as well as suggestions for improvement. Comments about problems you have with the new system can also be made here.

Jeroen Hellingman