March12

Simple ways to avoid BlogEngine comment spam

Yes, comment spam is everywhere.  Spammers will never stop trying to find new ways to get their silly links into other peoples blogs.  Even though almost every blog puts the nofollow attribute on the comments, spammers still think that their site will be boosted because of the inbound links.

I recently upgraded to BlogEngine 1.6 on this blog and found that we suddenly were being attacked by 250+ spammers a day trying to get their comments on the blog.  But our existing VistaDB Blog (was running 1.5) didn’t have this problem.  What was the difference?  Was it something new in BE 1.6?  Or was it something we had done on the VistaDB blog differently?

It turns out that spammer target a few phrases they know are used by default in certain blog engines.  They already have code in their bots that know how to fill out the forms on these blogs, so they are looking for the default phrases.

Configure Filters Correctly

First thing is the make sure your Akismet is setup correctly and you have a valid key.  One non-obvious thing is that 1.6 of BE introduced a bug that allows for more comment spam to get through because if the last filter says the comment is OK the comment is allowed.

You can change this behavior by simply moving the AkismetFilter to the bottom.  Drop its priority to 2, leave the StopForumSpam at priority 1.

2010-03-10_1345

This is what my settings look like the day I reset the filters and moved their order.

This change alone cut about 60% of the spam that was getting through by simply having Akismet be the last entry.  But you can also do a few more things to through off spammers.

Close Comments After XX days

Make sure you set the option to close the comments after a number of days.  This is important because spammers will go back to really old posts and comment thinking no one will notice.  If you close off the comments you have just totally closed off that attack point on your blog.

Change some spammer search terms

I have verified this through two other sites I setup just for testing this theory.  There are certain phrases that spammers search on that they know usually exist on a BlogEngine blog.  These are usually bot searches, and they walk all the results attempting to post to all of them.

The phrase that spammers hit the most appear to be the Gravatar phrase, and the “notify me when comments” phrase.  We had never used the default phrases on VistaDB because I didn’t start with a template.  I had built my own, and then found the templates.  But if you are using a default template the phrases are all the same.

willShowGravatar

Look in your resources for the willShowGravatar entry.  Change it to something else (we use {0} Support).

notifyOnNewComments

Also change the notifyOnNewComments to a new phrase (we use Email followup comments).

Other places to change

Go through your templates and look at the default phrases that are used over and over.  Replace the Powered by BlogEngine.net to be slightly different and it will throw off spammers.  Change the phrases from things like “I will get back to you”, to “We will return your email”.  Any of the common phrases you see on the site are going to be targeted by the spam bots.

Result of the changes?

The result of the changes on our blog, and on the test sites I setup is that we went from 250+ blog spam comment attempts per day to less than 5.  That is what I call a VERY effective way to just keep the idiot bots away from your site.

Comments (1) -

15/03/2010 02:27 #

js_vistadb

Since making the changes on this post I have only had 25 spam attempts.  That is down significantly from where it was just a few days ago.

js_vistadb

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Disney Backgrounds for Windows Phone 8

December20

Disney Backgrounds for Windows Phone 8

Disney Backgrounds IconThere a very cool new feature in Windows Phone 8 that allows an app to be the lock screen provider for images (and other things, but I only cared about the image for this app). 

I am an avid Disney parks fan, and photography has been a hobby of mine for most of my adult life.  I wanted to make a wallpaper app for Windows Phone 7, but you just couldn’t do it with a good user experience.  You could save the images to the users photos and then they could go set them as the wallpaper.  Not what I wanted.

The app was approved for the store on December 20, go download Disney Backgrounds now.

Windows Phone 8

LockscreenAll that changed with Windows Phone 8!  Now from the lock screen settings page you can set an application for the background.  That app can then set the wallpaper, and run periodically in the background to update it.  This is exactly what I have done for this app.  The background agent runs about every 30 minutes (there are not guarantee of exact runtime from the phone).  I took a very simple approach in just randomly picking a photo from one of the collections.

I have included two photo collections as a start.  One is from Walt Disney World (in Florida), the other is from Disneyland (in California).  I have been fortunate enough to get to visit both of the parks in the past year and took some great pictures.

Disney Backgrounds App

The result of running this app is to have an awesome lockscreen image like the one shown below.  I have been running the app since late November and have been really happy with unlocking my phone! 

All of the images were taken by me over the past year and are stored within the app in HD resolution.  This means you don’t have to worry about the app grabbing a bunch of data while running, and it looks awesome on the new Windows Phone devices.

Lock-Sample

Wide Live Tile

You can also get an awesome wide tile on your start screen that looks like the following.  It animates like the default photo app using the new Cycle Tile Template.  This was very easy to add to my app, and I think it makes a great addition.

WideTile

Panorama main screen

I have never figured out how to take a good screen shot of a Panoramic phone screen, so I am just going to post the images side by side below.  They will look a little weird because when you use it on the app you get a cool parallax scroll.  See the video further down for a better look.

 

Main-WDW Main Disneyland Pane Main Settings Pivot Main Make-A-Wish Pivot

 

Disney Background Video Demo

Here is a quick video I did of the entire app.  This is all running on my desktop in the phone emulator used by developers.  Don’t worry, you don’t need this.  The app should be available in the Phone Marketplace around Christmas.

Watch the Disney Background demo video on Screencast.com

Proceeds to go to Make-A-Wish

A fellow Flickr Disney photographer is working on a project for another mobile platform doing something similar.  I decided to do this project as a quick proof of concept (could I do it).  Once I got to the point where I knew it was possible I decided to give the proceeds from this app to Make-A-Wish.  They are a great cause, and thanks to my employer workplace contribution matching I can boost the amount of money given to the charity.

The first time I saw a child from Make-A-Wish at Disney I literally stopped and cried, then hugged my kids to count my blessings.  The work of this group to make a child happy while under going a life threatening health condition is amazing.  Even if you don’t like my app, I hope you go donate on their site.

What’s next?

I would like to add the ability for users to select a single image and save it to their photo library.  And an option to tag only those photos you want used in the lock screen rotation.  Maybe there are some images you don’t care for, and you should be able to flag them so you don’t see them.

I am also working on a Windows 8 application that does the same thing.  It will be interesting to see how that works on the larger form factor.

I also have thousands of Disney photos that I need to go through and pull more gems.  Not all of them work for lock screen or backgrounds.  Digging through the photos and cropping, sizing, etc takes a lot of time.  But it was also a lot of fun to go back through my images from this year.

Other photographers

As I mentioned above, there is a similar project going on for another platform.  That photographer managed to get a bunch of us Disney Photographers together for his app.  Maybe after he sees this he will want me to make an app for Windows Phone 8 for his collection of photos.  That would be a lot of fun.  I will add links to his project once it goes live.

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