Burningbird Social Media

Focusing on the social in social software

Yule, who is about the most wonderful kicker of butts I know of, posted a link to my previous entry in a comment at another thread related to comment spamming. Unfortunately, the tone of my post had more impact then the words, which shows the dangers of writing in anything other than the most non-emotive manner. But then, what’s the fun of that?

I am frustrated, and I have no qualms about introducing a frustrated tone into my writing when it comes to comment spammers, and webloggers and their reaction thereof. For a people who pride themselves so much on being social software devotees, I’ve never seen a group of people less likely to recognize brilliant social software in action then webloggers. And yes, it is frustrating.

The comment spammers have met and pushed past any barrier we put up. They do so by listening to what we say, and then acting accordingly. They move past the barriers because anything we do other than a re-engineer of the MT comment system is nothing more than an obstacle, not a closed door to the spammers. What we do, though, is overreact. We put on the most amazingly complicated code that if we’re hit with anything approaching some of the new Script Kiddies MT comment attacks, we’re done because the machine can’t keep up the processing. We blacklist at the drop of a hat, using each others blacklist import lists without once considering that each might have good URLs in addition to the bad.

In other words, we take it personally, while the comment spammers take it professionally, and we’ll never win the battle with odds such as these.

I used to take it personally until I started following the actions of the comment spammers. Now, sorry for offending folks, I’m filled with admiration for them. I still think that Tim O’Reilly should have featured comment, and email, spammers as speakers at the Emerging Tech Conference. These people really do know the concepts behind social software, and we could do well to emulate them. In other words, they learn from watching us? We should learn by watching them.

But I’ve said all this before, and this is frustrating.

Burningbird Technology Weblogging

MT Comment Help

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I’m not starting up Burningbird but a lot of good people were hit badly by a very sophisticated comment spam attack, including the Wayward webloggers who I’m responsible to.

The attackers this time only posted three comments to each post, each with different names, and different URLs. They either used spoofing or they’ve harnessed open computers to submit the comments – I think they’ve used traditional DDoS attacks this time, so be careful using IP banning, you could be banning innocent people.

Did mt-blacklist work? No. As I’ve said before, spammers have better habits then so-called legitimate developers, because they listen to their ‘customers’ and adapt accordingly.

In the meantime, clean up:

The only easy way to clean up is directly in MySQL. Even *mt-blacklist will require that you hunt down each individual URL and delete it – time consuming. If you don’t know how to access MySQL then ask for help in comments, send me an email, or ask help from your friends online.

In MySQL directly, or through PHPAdmin, to remove the comments, use the following:

delete from mt_comment where comment_created_on > ‘2004-01-12 15:40:08′;

Change the date to fit your needs, the format is yyyy-mm-dd hh:mm:ss. This will delete all comments after the timestamp. Be careful or you’ll lose comments you want to keep. In fact, always make a backup before you start global deletions. You can use mysqldump to back up your entire database at any time (check MySQL site for how to use mysqldump). Or you can use MT’s backup.

Once deleted, rebuild your site to clear the comments from your pages.

If you want, you can turn off comments on all entries older than 30 days using the following SQL:

update mt_entry set entry_allow_comments = 2 where
TO_DAYS(NOW()) – TO_DAYS(entry_created_on) >= 30;

This closes comments on all entries 30 days old or older. Most comment spams are on older content, which are also less likely to have legitimate comments so this isn’t a bad option. You can run this yourself manually every week or so, or you can add it as a cron job. If you’re unfamiliar with cron, holler.

The spammers have gotten smarter. Eventually if you restrict their access enough, you’ll shut down comments to everyone. The only true solution to this problem is better comment management in MT. However, if you feel as clever as the spammers, perhaps you need to attend a smart people conference, come up with nifty, neato, just gee wiz smart solutions (put into the public domain of course, with the cutest little cc brand.)

This is a short-term post, with comments allowed for now. However, with the keywords in the post, it’s now a target for comment spammers, so I’ll be closing comments in a couple of days, and then put the post into draft mode – the individual page will still exist, but it will disappear from comment posting as well as this front page.

Note that the more metablogging talk you do in your weblog, the more you use the words ‘comment’ and ’spam’ or ’spammer’, the more you make yourself a victim. That’s how they’re finding your posts. I imagine that they had a bit of a chuckle when they made this run.


For all the mt-blacklist users, if you’re using global lists and not checking that legitimate URLs have been inserted, then chances are you’re opening your system up for a poison pill attack – causing your system to filter common, legitimate URLs, and hence making the mt-blacklist less reliable. The technique is common in email spam, as outlined by Ken Coar. Something to think of next time you import several hundred entries, depending on technology when the spammers depend on their brains.

However, makes no nevermind to me what you do. I’m just passing through.

Second update

There is an MT plug-in that allows you to turn off comments on older postings. I haven’t tried it, but others have and it seems to be working. It’s at

Previous writings on comment spam:

You’ve been comment spammed, your life as you now know it is over

Making a Deliberate Choice

Comment Spam? Or DOS

Spammers : getting to know you

Passive Resistence

DDT for Comments

Using Google Against Us

Comment and Trackback spamming

Comment Spam QuickFix

Comment Spammers Redux

Variations on a Nasty Theme

Just Shelley

To Keep Burningbird Or Not

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

One issue I’ve been debating off and of about with myself is whether to keep the Burningbird weblog. I’ve splintered off so many interests into different weblogs, and the main reason I do so is there is there is an assumption that everything I write is somehow a ‘flame’ and what I write then becomes seen in this manner. I’ve become hesitant about even making comments in other weblogs because of this.

Yes, I am a passionate writer, and yes, I can have a temper. But I’m also capable of calm reason, instances of beauty, thoughtfulness, generosity, and even playfulness. I am growing very concerned that my writing is perceived surrounded by a faint ghostly lick of flame; I wonder how much of it is truly being seen, read in its own regard, or just dismissed as so much ‘Burningbird’ burning.

I look at other webloggers who have acheived a reputation for thoughtful writing, such as Jonathon Delacour or Joi Ito or AKMA or Liz Lawley, as well as other folks both liked and, perhaps more importantly, respected. It is true that for the most part, they do think carefully before they write, and this is reflected in their writing. But I’ve seen all four write angrily, become cranky, and even get a bit snippy (and I say this with respect, so please, all of you don’t get angry with me). Of course they do, and that’s what makes all of them so enjoyable to read. I don’t want to read the writing of automatons.

Yet how much of this is perceived because they have a (well deserved) persona of being a thoughtful writer? As I have that, equally well deserved, persona of being what? Passionate? Hot tempered? A whiney, negative, self-centered, tempermental bitch with a cause?

I wrote a comment in another weblog this morning that I had hoped to be seen as thoughtful, but ended up being perceived as an attack. In fact, from the response, it was seen as me being the same old Burningbird. I wouldn’t mind being taken to task for bad writing, or a thoughtless comment — but it was painted as me being me, and disregarded because of same.

Stops me dead in my tracks.

Maybe splintering the writing into different weblogs won’t do a bit of good because it’s too late for me — I am Burningbird, and Burningbird is me. And regardless of how I write, and what I write, I’ll never been seen as anything else.