Tag Archives: spam

Twitter Performance Problems, The Root Cause

The performance and scalability problems of Twitter have been covered to death, so I won’t wax lyrical about the different reasons that the micro-blogging service has had performance and uptime problems over the last year.

With the advent of cloud computing and inter-connected web services, the requirement to have a good quality API has just about become a must have. One of the things that an API allows is new and creative mechanisms for users to consume and repurpose your service – which by and large is fantastic. Every now and then though, people will find a way to exploit a service to their advantage – usually financially driven.

In the case of Twitter, clever folk are using the service to ‘watch’ what discussions are happening on and around the internet about a given topic. Case in point this afternoon, I mentioned the phrase “WordPress” in a tweet and I suddenly received 10 new emails notifying me that random people I don’t know are now following me.

The fact that random people are following me isn’t the concern, it is that they automated that based on what I was disucssing in a Twitter conversation. The knock on effect is that those users will no doubt be following  hundreds or thousands of other Twitter users.

From an architectural point of view, this problem quickly spirals out of control as now every message that I write, generates a notification to be sent to those users. If they had a legitimate interest in following me, no problem at all but more than likely it will go completely unnoticed and the only thing that it has really achieved is increasing the load on the Twitter infrastructure.

If users continue to abuse this type of functionality, inevitably the Twitter folk will further tighten the screws on how many people you can follow per account. Of course, then the users abusing the service will start creating multiple accounts so they can get what they want – always looking for a way to side step the restrictions.

Jim “Mr Shy” Mirkalami

In February, I wrote about receiving comment spam from a guy by the name of Jim Mirkalami. Since that time, there has been a lot of different people writing about the spam that they’ve received from our friend Jim; however it appears that he isn’t liking the new found attention that he is receiving.

This week, I received what would otherwise be considered a cease and desist type of comment. It surprises me that Jim would now be spamming more people telling them to stop writing about him and using his name, when it was clear that was his intention in the first place.

In any case, Jim is just going to have suck it up like everyone else online as it isn’t going to get removed from anyones site in a hurry.

Jim Mirkalami, The Lurking Spammer

Today I received a curious comment into #if debug:

Name: Jim Mirkalami
Email: jim@homenetmail.com
Comment: I have been visiting this site a lot lately, so i thought it is a good idea to show my appreciation with a comment.
Jim Mirkalami

Other than the fact it is a fairly standard useless comment, it perked my interest immediately when he mentioned that he’d been visiting the site a lot lately. While I’m sure my content has been nothing short of engaging, it’d be surprising given I’m using a standard WordPress template and the domain is only three months old.

For the sake of it, a quick investigation about Jim Mirkalami reveals that he has been using a lot of peoples sites lately. In fact, not only has he been using them – he has been leaving a similar or identical comment on them all.

I suspect that Jim is a clever sort of a bloke, looking for smaller gains than your average spammer. Instead of dropping a comment with a dozen or more links – his comments don’t include any links. The comment uses plain English, so it is less likely to get hit by a bayesian filter and polite enough that some people would let it through their comment moderation. Mr Mirkalami also appears to favour the highly visible domains such as Google and Yahoo!.

At some point down the road, Jim is going to return to the sites that he later found to accept his comment and is hoping to exploit a convenient option that most WordPress users enable. The option is related to comment moderation and allows someone to pass through comment moderation once they have had a comment approved.

If Jim is doing what I suspect he is, you have to give him a little credit for showing a small amount of patience with his spamming. Of course, that credit becomes completely invalid when you remember that he is nothing but a filthy filthy spammer.

Akismet Losing Its Mojo?

I have long praised the free spam fighting service Akismet but yesterday a horribly obvious spam comment wasn’t filtered which is very unusual. I’ll include the comment here so people can see what I’m referring to:

Name: Armond
Site: http://groups.google.com/group/otekal/web/free-bestiality-sex-stories
Message: free bestiality sex stories…
accessories distributed at most major retailers for such

Automattic have never disclosed with any specificity how the internals of Akismet work as a service, however it is more than reasonable to assume that Bayesian filtering is in their spam fighting tool belt. For those that aren’t aware, Bayesian filtering works by learning or being told what messages are spam and then analyses each word with those spam versus non spam messages. If a given message contains words contained in spam emails above a threshold, the message is considered spam.

Given that it is a learning based system, so to speak, I find it hard to believe that the words beastiality, sex in the URL and within the body of the comment aren’t throwing up great big red flags. I’m going to put this slip up down to one of two things:

  1. I was one of the first people to receive and register that particular spam signature
  2. When the comment was submitted, the Akismet service wasn’t able to be contacted

I’m heavily leaning towards the latter, for no other reason than there are literally hundreds of thousands of blogs on the internet – the likelihood I was one of the first for that particular spam signature is highly unlikely.

Long live Akismet!

You Know You’re Popular When

Today my personal site was pinged by Live Business Radio. As I do as a matter of course, I checked out the Live Business Radio web site and was disappointed to find that it’s nothing more than your average run of the mill site ridden with advertising, spam and buy this crap product now.

I get pinged by web sites regularly that don’t have anything to do with me and when I saw the site, I was about to abandon it immediately. Just before I did though, I scanned over the article and noticed that I’d been featured in a list of sites with a high Google Pagerank which offered links which are ‘followed’. It wouldn’t be a good filthy spammers site if they didn’t offer you software (for a fee) which you could use to spam take advantage of the followed links.

If you’re not quite sure what I’m referring to regarding the ‘followed’ remark, you can read about it on my personal site:

I should feel so honoured.