Tag Archives: blogging

Comments and spam

The biggest technical problem I’ve come across since this blog went live on my server is that I couldn’t get comment email notifications working.  If someone comments, I had to manually check my comments summary page regularly in order to find out.  The issue is that I do not have an SMTP server running on the server, so the following takes place:

WordPress: Hey, SMTP server! Someone just commented! exhipigeonist will be totally stoked to hear about this!
WordPress: Uhhh, you’re quiet tonight.  Anyway, I was wondering if you could do me a favour and, you know, email people when this sort of thing happens. Options have been checked, intentions have been made, etc.
WordPress: I choose to read your silence as a ‘Yes’!  There, it’s out of my hands now and not my problem.  I don’t even have to check that it happened and give a confirmation message to anyone.  Time for a break!  *goes off to expel excess RAM into the memory pool*

I’m a little surprised this isn’t a standard thing the installation checks (or if it does, notifies the installer) during setup.  Anyway, I finally fixed it yesterday by configuring the WP Mail SMTP plug-in to use my gmail account to send notifications.  This is not optimal, especially as I’m trying to reduce my dependency on Google services, but I at least have it set up so it appears to be from my admin address.

While I was fixing comment settings I decided to deal with some of the spam I had been receiving.  I’ve been getting regular comments on various posts advertising laptop batteries.  I just delete them because they’re nonsense or irrelevant and appear to be from spambots.  I set up a filter so these have to be moderated while legitimate comments are likely to go through.

However, this morning I awoke to a moderated comment on my robot cupcake entry which said,

Short Circuit 1+2 were good movies 🙂 “Los locos kick your ass. Los locos kick your face. Los locos kick your balls into outer space!”

I’d recently re-watched the second movie and, even though I know such comments (or more specifically, the name and its link) are designed to game Internet search results, and I in no way endorse the products, I thought this comment was cute and just had to let it through.

It also makes it clear that there are actual people going through blogs and writing comments.  It’s not just an automated process.

So I put it to you, spammers (who probably won’t read this): entertain me, make me laugh, and I just might approve your comments.

Update: Probably related, shortly after publishing this post I began receiving large amounts of spam.

I have revised my stance on allowing spam; all of it will be deleted, even if it is entertaining.  (I have even removed the comment I mentioned in this post.)  In fact, I have set WordPress to moderate all comments, making it impossible for spam to get through at all.  Unfortunately, this also harms legitimate discussion until I can think of a better way around it.

Why did I ever think it was a good idea to provoke spammers?  *facepalm*

Caring is sharing

Some of you may have noticed that I have added a Creative Commons (CC) license to the photos posted on this blog.  As a person who loves the idea of free culture, the decision was actually a bit more complicated than I expected.


First of all, I’m a fairly private person so I’m hesitant to publish images of myself for the rest of the world to share and remix.  What if they are used in a way that makes me uncomfortable?

Of course, this is a case of me trying to control my public identity.  A similar example is the fact that I am yet to post images of myself on here.  Yes, I don’t currently have a photo I like enough to share, but I believe the main reason is that I don’t want my appearance to have too much of an effect on how others read the content.  I don’t believe it’s all that relevant.

CC licensing, then, isn’t such an issue for privacy right now so I can safely ignore it.  However, it does highlight a possible future need for the publication of some images that are not for others to use.  I don’t yet know where I stand here.  Perhaps I’ll return to this later.


I then needed to determine where I stand on commercial use of cultural works.

I don’t want something of mine that I have shared lovingly with the world to be used by an evil corporation in order to make more money.  This is a typical sentiment that leads to a ‘non-commercial’ condition being included in many CC licenses.  However, in reality, the effects of such licenses are much more complex than that.

Take Ubuntu, for example.  (Actually, I recommend taking Linux Mint, instead – download it here!)  Many GNU/Linux distributions are put together by people or companies that in some way receive money from their work.  This could be through donations, support, licensing or CD/DVD sales (even if they break even, or lose money).  The point is, if the many pieces of software that have informed these distributions had specified a non-commercial license, their compilation would not be financially feasible and, in some cases, technically impossible.

The problem is imagining a worst-case scenario, like I did at the beginning of this section, and doing all you can to prevent its eventuation, however unlikely, at the expense of legitimate cultural use of your work.  I kinda like living in a world with Ubuntu, so I don’t support the non-commercial licensing of (potential) cultural works.

(Nina Paley has written and spoken on this issue, if you’re interested in finding out more.)

Clarity and metadata

The third issue I encountered wonders how best to ‘advertise’ these licenses.  I want people to feel free to use my images so this needs to be fairly prominent.  Listing details at the bottom of each image post (I’m using a WordPress template plug-in for this) helps.

But I wanted to embed license and author details within the images themselves, as this would make them easier to find.  I installed a handy program called ExifTool and wrote a script on my server computer so I could easily write the desired ‘author’ and ‘comment’ data in all the .jpg files within a single folder.  It worked great!

(However, when using a Windows PC I notice the data are not readable in the standard file properties window.  I’ll have to play around to make sure I’m editing the correct thing.)

 Current license choices

The following image is of a cute spider.  It was crawling on the outside of a car while I was a passenger.  My favourite part is how one of its weird feeler thinggies (a ‘palpus’, apparently) appears to be covering its eyes (actually, they’re fangs, but they look like eyes) from the sun so it can look in on us.

Click for full-size version

If you would like to put a funny caption on this and post it to icanhazcheezburger (remix), use it on wikipedia or simply put it on your own blog or whatever, you can! – under the following conditions.

  1. You must attribute me as the author.  (Attribution)
  2. You distribute any altered image under the same or similar license to this one.  (Share Alike)

If you would prefer to use it in a way that conflicts with one of the above conditions, you can ask for permission to do so.

This appears to be a fairly good license because it allows for a lot of flexibility. (And also helps to diffuse any lingering fears of corporate exploitation.)  However, I do have concerns that the presence of these conditions, although simple, may deter some from using my images.  Perhaps one day I’ll change the license and simply declare such images as being part of the public domain.

Just more to think about, I guess.


Creative Commons License

Images appearing in this post are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.