Spammers. They’re everywhere. Unless you somehow don’t have an email account in this day and age, you’re probably well aware of this.
What you might not be aware of is that some enterprising wastes of humanity have become really creative with the art of spamming. No longer confined to your inbox, they run rampant across the internet, spewing their male enhancement and their herbal viagra and all that other crap they peddle to the gullible and… well, I’m trying to think of another adjective here, but I think gullible pretty much sums it up.
One problem I encounter running the forums for TVGA is forum spam. You’ll get tons and tons of people signing up. You can usually tell the forum spammers, because instead of listing someplace in Tennessee as their location (because, you know, TVGA is a group of gamers in East Tennessee), they list something like “World” or some other country. And a lot of them have some crazy hobbies, as I’ve mentioned before.
These guys are annoying, because no matter now many email domains you ban, no matter if you keep on top of IP banning (I tried this to start out with, but I don’t anymore because it’s too much work), they just keep coming. You pretty much have to say screw ’em, and require Admin approval for new accounts. Otherwise your pristine forums are going to be so full of pr0n links that… well, they’re going to be full of pornographic links, what more do I need to say? That pisses me off something fierce. It makes me wanna kill.
OK, it’s partially my fault for using a mostly-unmodified phpBB. It’s a commonly used forum system, so it’s pretty easy for spammers to find which sites are actually using phpBB through search engines and then spam the everloving crap out of them. And since it’s a common system, I’m sure most spammers have a script that can submit to a bajillion copies of phpBB without any human interaction. There’s something to be said for security through obscurity, at least for things that are really popular.
What’s actually crazy is that I’ve cut down the number of spam signups on TVGA just by taking the “Website” field out of the initial registration form, and throwing an error if you try to provide it in a registration request. (Again, to block automated scripts that just post the data and don’t read the initial form.) And they still keep coming. Without the ability to post immediately and the ability to post links, all these accounts are utterly useless to them, but that doesn’t stop them, because it’s free and easy to sign up on ten bajillion forums at once. If only a fraction of those let them post spam, then they’ve gotten (a) a little help with their search engine rankings, and (b) links that stupid people will follow and even stupider people will buy stuff from.
And the kind of stuff you see spammed on a forum is freaking insane, let me tell you. Most of it’s pornography, as I said, and the URLs they enter… holy crap, I can’t imagine there are people who actually look at that stuff. I never visited any of the links, but they make sure you know what it is just from the URL, because all the domain names and filenames are big-crazy-descriptive-and-hyphenated-names, in hopes that Google is going to read them and give some keyword ranking love.
I wish I could remember some examples, but as I said, I removed the “Website “field from the registration form on TVGA. And the spam URLs that I ran across before that have been destroyed by sweet, sweet repression, so they no longer keep me up all night thinking about what a putrid cesspool humanity is.
Here’s another type of spam that’s a little more esoteric. You’re probably only going to see it if you run a website and have access to webstats.
See, when you click on a link, your browser sends the referrer–the page containing the link you clicked–to the next page. This is invaluable information for marketers (and for curious people like me), because it tells you how people get to your site. And because of this, most web servers will log this information, and most web stats packages will report on it.
This is how we get referrer spam. People will hit your page with an automated program that provides a false referrer to your web server. The referrer is still a URL, but it’s not a URL that actually contains a link to your page (at least, you should hope it doesn’t). I’m not completely sure of the reasoning behind it, but here’s what I think it is, based on what I’ve read: Spammers post referrer spam in hopes that enterprising webmasters will say, “hmm, I wonder why that site’s linking to mine?” and go to the false referrer that they supplied.
This is pretty scummy, even for spam, because it’s so ludicrous. I cannot imagine this being effective at all. First, they’re spamming people who own websites, who are in theory (a) a little brighter than the average web user, and (b) a small subset of all web users. Once you go to a couple of these pages, you learn to spot them, and you avoid them. They’re usually the URLs that mention loans or mortgages or gambling–you know, hot topics for spam that have nothing to do with your site.
And then, like with forum spam, there are the pornographic URLs. Again, I don’t visit these, but holy crap, if these spammers get any business at all, then there are some fubared people out there, and they need help. Seriously.
Because I have a pretty good stats program set up, I cannot merely wipe these away from my memory through merciful repression as I did the forum spam. So, here’s a couple of examples of the subjects that referrer spam covered. Because I don’t want them to get any more exposure than they already have, I’m not going to list the actual URLs. But I swear to you, these were actual keywords listed in referrer spam URLs for sites I run: “free disney porn” and “free granny porn stories.”
There you have it. Spammers: they’re everywhere, they’re bastards, and there’s a few of them that are seriously effed-up. So have fun with the knowledge that somewhere out there, there’s a site that caters to people with a discriminating taste for hot naked grannies.
Me, well, I gotta try and forget everything I just mentioned so that I can sleep tonight, so I’m going to go bleach my eyes and lobotomize myself with a rusty ice-cream scoop. Later!