Once again I’ve been really busy here at Pixelwave Web Design so must apologise for not posting much in the way of news lately, but here is a quick post about certain issues I have been working on.
One problem a few website owners have been experiencing lately is that of spam. Spam is no longer associated only with email, but can also be a nuisance for website owners. For those of us who run community based websites, or even weblogs that allow people to post comments, then removing unwanted comments / content and deleting accounts of unwanted members can be a frustrating and time-consuming process. One approach of course is to simply remove certain aspects of functionality from your site and for one of my clients this was the best approach as the ability for visitors to post comments wasn’t really needed.
Another approach is to set up a moderation facility where all new registrations or comments / content has to be approved by an administrator prior to going live on the site. This has been an option on a few sites I have built for a while now. This works well and certainly prevents inappropriate material making it to the publicly available sections of a website but can still be a time-consuming process. This process becomes especially time-consuming when automated spam-bots start adding content to your website as they can add hundreds of comments or sign up hundreds of times as soon as you turn your back making the job of sorting the wheat from the chaff an unenviable one.
There is a way around this for many websites. It is often possible to install automated spam-checking software to your web application that will do some of the sorting for you. However, as with all automated processes it isn’t completely failsafe, sometimes spam will get through and it is also possible for legitimate content to get marked as spam. It is an option that I’ve used for various sites though and where used it does work well.
The next approach is to add a barrier to the registration process or content submissions process (or usually both) that prevents automated spam-bots from completing the process. This is now the approach I have used on my community based sites and have also added to several of my clients sites, especially those with forums. Of course, getting the balance right between making things difficult for spammers whilst still making the process of registration / content submission quick and easy for legitimate users is always an issue. I have been using ‘captcha’ scripts which are now common across the web and therefore users are fairly familiar with them.
Captcha scripts automatically generate an image which comprises several characters. These characters have to be entered by the user before they can complete the particular process they are carrying out. The idea is that automated spam-bots are unable to read the characters in the image and therefore never get to complete the process. So far it has been a roaring success where I have installed such a system. I’ve had no complaints or usability issues from legitimate users and very little spam has got through the net.
If only I could cut down my email Spam so successfully.