Archive for Akismet

bitchery in slugs

Isn’t it strange how when you write an article slagging off TypePad and praising WordPress you are inevitably ‘honest’ and ‘insightful’, ‘interesting’ and ‘eloquent’, and when somebody from Six Apart tries to make a counterargument they are ‘venomous’ and guilty of ‘falsehoods and misdirection’?

Sadly, my comment on Lloyd’s post is still languishing in moderation. I’m sure this is merely an oversight, since nobody would tell their readers ‘Please challenge me on my views!’ if they were going to censor dissenting comments. I’ll reproduce it here for now, and link to it when it’s published:

I don’t see that Anil’s any more abrasive in his defence than Matt is when people come out attacking WordPress. (That is, possibly a little too forthright, but hey, fanboys are annoying.)

For someone with ‘extensive experience of both platforms’, Michael seemed strangely confused about the distinction between wordpress.com and .org and TypePad and MT, attempting to draw direct comparisons between Automattic’s non-hosted software and Six Apart’s hosted service when it suited him, and switching back to comparing TypePad with wordpress.com when that fitted his argument better.

For example: he thinks TypePad makes it too difficult for people to add third-party widgets, conveniently forgetting that wordpress.com doesn’t let you add any third-party flash or javascript widgets at all. But he thinks it’s cool that wordpress.com won’t let you use Adsense, conveniently forgetting that wordpress.org has dozens of plugins which make it easy.

I’m afraid that by the point where he claimed the separation of WordPress and WordPress MU was ‘a different developmental strategy’ rather than a historical accident I’d lost all patience. WordPress MU isn’t a fork of WordPress; it’s a fellow fork of b2 that got swallowed up by its sibling. Incorporating multiblogs into core would have broken backward compatibility so much it was no longer an option. And it’s not for people who need to run a handful of blogs off a single installation, it’s a specialist tool for site admins who need a blogfarm. It would make more sense to assess it alongside the Livejournal open source code than to pit it against Movable Type. http://mu.wordpress.org makes this perfectly clear, but proselytising fanboys trying to push it as ‘the upgrade to the upgrade’ don’t do anyone any favours.

I left out how he’s praising the 2.5 interface when Matt has already pretty much acknowledged it was a failure. Or how he thinks monthly security upgrades are cool because they’re a ‘a testament to a vibrant developer community’, which comment alone constitutes the loopiest piece of fanboying since ‘the blogging market is c.l.o.s.e.d.’

But no. Mocking the fanboy is a cheap distraction. My point is how nasty things are getting now the market is contracting. I’m not talking about the consumer market so much; people are still starting new blogs, though in the current economic climate they’re going to be less willing to spend money on them and that’s not good for either company. I’m talking about getting more funding, or going public, or finding a parent company willing to take you under its wing and shield you from the hard times ahead. These things are not going to be as easy as they were a couple of years ago. You are competing for increasingly scarce resources. It’s easy to be nice to each other when things are going well, but these days it’s survival of the fittest, and the way these spats are conducted both sides seem about equally worried.

Which would be odd, if Six Apart really were the underdog; but they’ve stolen a march on Automattic by making their anti-spam service free to everyone. Short-term this shouldn’t make too much difference as most paid-up subscribers won’t be interested in switching till they’ve got their money’s worth, but long-term it threatens one of Automattic’s major revenue streams. That’s the real reason the gloves are off again.

And the accusations of being splog-ridden have evidently hit home because they’re, um, true. How could they not be? Akismet can’t hope to catch them all at sign-up and you’re relying wholly on volunteers to report the ones they happen to see. Plus, all reports have to be dealt with individually by support staff, who are generally sort of busy with support. At least they’ve blocked drmike’s wordpress.com account now so they won’t be getting any more of those pesky spam reports from him. That should help with the workload even if it doesn’t help with the splog situation.

Comments (26)

did akismet break or something?

No. I did.

This is unacceptable. Automattic want to control who gets to comment on my blog. Even spam gets sent to a queue where I can approve it if I want. Hence, I have emptied the contents of my Akismet queue onto my front page, since it is clearly more acceptable to our hosts than comments from my readers.

Also, if you must bitch about people in private blogs, I find that spaces or other miscellaneous characters in the url are very good at preventing those embarrassing trackbacks, assuming of course that your readers are au fait with the mechanics of copy/paste. 🙄

I was going to write a post about how it might be a good idea to carry out usability testing before a major admin redesign rather than after, and how it might also be sensible to rip off the Tiger interface before paying Happy Cog to make you something custom, but it will just have to wait.

Comments (36)

paradoxes are fun

[This was going to be a comment on my last post, but it was getting so unwieldy I thought I’d promote it]

Well, Matt seems to have these brainstorms every so often. It tends to coincide with the party season. Or, apparently, major conferences. Hard to see what Toni and the Happiness Engineers (hey! they sound like a Fifties girl group!) could do about that, other than fit Matt’s laptop with some form of alarm that starts wailing and locks down the keyboard when he mentions validation, grammar, or his own general fantasticness for giving ‘his’ software away.

Also, not all the code on wordpress.com is GPL. Nor is all the code in Akismet. Six Apart understand better than anyone else that Automattic are a business, and that letting people have wp.com out of the box or disclosing Akismet’s inner workings to spammers would make no sense whatsoever. But it looks like you’re trying to hide the fact when you refuse to concede the truth of it. Owning up to closing some of your source for sound reasons is a lot more open and honest than encouraging the fanboys to believe that everything you do is 100% open when it’s not.

Paradoxes are fun. Embrace them.

The most interesting thing about this whole brouhaha is Matt’s overreaction. He clearly feels far more threatened by Six Apart than anyone would have suspected based on, well, the facts and figures; not to mention the psychological advantage of his current success being largely due to their earlier failure. They must be really happy. It would be very easy for them to spin this as Automattic falling apart in the face of a renewed challenge from an older company that has already made its mistakes and learned from them. Or as Matt being not quite ready for the cut and thrust of big business. I think drmike is probably right in saying that it’s Toni’s job to mentor Matt through this period and stop him getting wound up by the competition, but I’m not sure he actually has the authority to tell Matt not to do anything, CEO or no CEO.

In a year or two, people may look back on this spat, coinciding as it does with the delayed release of 2.5 and the brokenness of .com, and say it was the point that WordPress jumped the shark. Certainly I’d never seen so many discontented people on the .com forums before this week. No wonder Matt is freaking out.

Comments (7)

at the eggnog again

I really, really hope that none of Automattic’s investors run into this post about people using Akismet as a weapon against commenters who piss them off, because not only is it, well, about the potential for Akismet abuse, but there’s some seriously weird stuff going on in the comments with Matt pretending to be somebody else (or somebody else pretending to be Matt), and Mark saying to ignore it, and the blogger not believing that either of them are kosher because if they were, wouldn’t they do the professional thing and email him? Certainly they wouldn’t be running around making each other look stupid.

This time of year, I just assume everyone is drunk. It explains a lot. Like the snow, which apart from being annoying makes my PC’s fan go like crazy every time it appears. (Newsflash: not everyone on the planet got a new computer for Christmas.) Or last year’s pretend sale. (It’s hilarious that a company valued at millions is still too cheap to pay me the five measly dollars it owes me, but then I suppose if they were scrupulous about such things it would be harder to amass the millions in the first place.)

Comments (16)

down the memory hole

Wow, they didn’t waste much time whipping Bryan off the staff page did they? Clearly, adding Lloyd (how many months has it been now? two and a bit? surely he can’t still be hiding from his former Flock overlords?), not to mention Matt 2 and Markifying Podz were lesser priorities. As apparently was adding up how many staff they have. The blurb with the links that lead nowhere says eleven, I counted nine profiles, and one of those is somebody whose appointment was never announced anywhere, so maybe she’s as illusory an employee as Jonas Luster. (Remember Jonas Luster? The guy who got stuck with the firefighting during Spamgate? He stopped even using wordpress after that, as I recall.) Personally I wouldn’t have thought that appointing a woman was something to be ashamed of, but then you never know how the fanboys are going to react to such shocking revelations as ‘women exist, and some of them can even code’.

Oh, and the Automattic site’s been redesigned. That was fast as well. It’s not quite finished yet (see my reference to broken links) and it looks less professional than it used to:

the old about page

the new about page

but presumably this is all part of establishing a coherent brand identity across all of their sites. I expect Akismet to be redone in blue, black and grey with serious overuse of big bold fonts shortly.

Comments (7)

i’ve got a little list

According to my Gmail archives, since I started having trouble with Akismet I have had at least another 140 spam comments slip past. (This isn’t counting the notification emails I’ve deleted, which is about the same amount again.)

Fortunately, I exhumed an old comment words list (originally based on this), which is kicking them all to moderation because these are really obvious spams, signed by strings that would make decent passwords and including URLs with ‘casino’ and ‘adult-strip-poker’ in them. That kind of obvious.

That’s what worries me about it, actually. It’s clearly not a question of Akismet needing to learn that this is spam, because I’m sure I’m not the only one getting these comments and informing it that they are junk. And it’s not a question of the spam words getting in the way of Akismet doing its job; it’s still blocking spam, it’s just not blocking all of it, and if the option interfered with Akismet it wouldn’t be here. If my ancient little list of Bad Words can net these, they shouldn’t be presenting any difficulties for the infinitely more sophisticated Akismet.

So I don’t think these comments ever got to Akismet in the first place. I think there were too many thousand spams in front of them in the queue (including, let’s not forget, those sent by corporate clients who get priority and have exponentially more spam than the rest of us), and that my little casino reviews got bounced right back to me and into moderation.

It’s been a very long time since I was able to rely on any one spam plugin, and it’s a tribute to Akismet that it did the job for so long, but the cracks are beginning to show. Unless it’s just me. I hope it’s just me. Most wordpress.com users don’t have little lists to fall back on.

Comments (5)

spamalot

bloodyakismet.png

I’m guessing Akismet went down again. Bummer.

I know this is the usual point where we sing a song of praise about how grateful we are to have it there the rest of the time, and I am, but still. Bummer.

[goes to sweep out inbox]

Comments (3)

catch-22! again!

dot com users complain that all comments in Hindi or Korean get labelled as spam.

Now, Akismet was developed for English language blogs and I honestly don’t know whether it was tested with any other charsets. A quick glance at the mailing list for testers suggests not (there is just a guy being pleasantly surprised that it handles Dutch).

I suspect you might need to get a critical mass of people blogging in Hindi/Korean and marking their comments as non-spam in order to ‘teach’ it that these unfamiliar characters are in fact OK. But are you going to use Akismet if it gobbles up all comments in your language of choice? Uh, no. Unless you are on wordpress.com, in which case you are locked into it and must continue to rescue your discussions from the hungry maw of the automated spameater, hoping that one day it will understand that not everyone in the world speaks American.

Comments (1)

WordPress 2.0 is in beta!!! download it now!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Picked at random from the ‘WordPress 2.0 is in beta!!!!’ posts:

Just one thing I didn’t like and lot of others from my discussions with them is the bundling of Akismet with this release.
The plugin does work but you need a WordPress.com API Key, which means you need a WordPress.com account, which means lot of dead signups at WP.com just for the API key, because all users won’t really be bothering to use their WP.com accounts!
Well, it’s the developers choice I guess 😦

This is totally unsurprising.

I’m going to explain one more time about Akismet, for the benefit of anyone who hasn’t already been subjected to my livejournal rantings.

There is no such thing as a dead sign-up. OK, if you are looking to create a thriving and vibrant blog community there patently is such a thing as a dead sign-up, because 90% of your site being single entry ‘Hello world!’ googleclutter doesn’t make for a thriving and vibrant community, plus of course there are the namespace issues (people get surprisingly narked about their desired usernames being snaffled by people who never bother to use them.) A lot of us have this primitive sense that these unblogs are, somehow, wasting space that could be better used. I know, I know. Disk space is cheap, and they don’t even exist until we (or, more likely, Google) call upon the idle database to generate them. I said it was primitive.

However, if you are looking to get mentioned in every article about blogging /sell a lot of advertising /get bought by Yahoo!, what matters is the number of accounts you can claim, not the number of active users. In the same way, if you have a deal with Flock to push people their way in return for them pushing them yours, it doesn’t matter whether they ever use Flock again; it still gets counted as a download, and it still looks good when they tell the investors about it, and everyone gets to blow the Web 2.0 bubble that little bit bigger.

The other nice thing about inactive users is that they bump up your figures and boost your pagerank while putting next to no burden on the server. They don’t drain your resources the way high-traffic sites are wont to do.

I’ve always liked the way livejournal distinguishes between active and inactive users. They can afford to do so because they actually are a thriving and vibrant blog community that has been going for years. WordPress.com, on the other hand, is a newcomer that can’t, as yet, make any such claims (and, if the feeds on the Dashboard are anything to go by, won’t be able to for a while) so they have to rely on other ways to attract sign-ups and investors. There will be no differentiation here between active and inactive, depend upon it.

In conclusion, it looks like Matt may finally have got the hang of marketing. Even though calling the new release 2.0 is sort of wanky, like ‘yes we are jumping on the Web 2.0 bandwagon but we are doing so in a knowing and ever-so-slightly ironic way so you mustn’t take it too seriously. It’s only a release number. lol.’

(No, I can’t explain how I’m getting all that from a release number. It’s nuance, OK?)

Comments (3)