Hi all, I know it’s been a while. Part of the reason is that I spent the first half of the week visiting a customer in Memphis. Not much to talk about there, except to whine about how I always seem to go places during their worst weather. The one time I’ve been to Atlanta was during an ice storm. In Memphis it was 17 Fahrenheit when we landed, and all the locals were saying it was the worst weather they’d seen in a decade. The building we were in actually didn’t have plumbing for one of the days we were there, debatably because of freezing or wet ground from melted snow but either way related to the weather and construction techniques that don’t take such conditions into account.

The other thought floating to the top of my mind is comment spam. It’s only part of the reason I’ve stopped posting anything on It Affects You (the other part being that I’ve just gotten tired of spending so much time arguing with jerks of a sort I’d actively avoid in real life) but it’s a big part. It’s now impossible to have a conversation there, mostly due to advertising for various kinds of crap at xorg.pl which is obviously a very spam-friendly host. A related phenomenon is “splogs” (spam blogs) which are blogs that contain nothing but fragments of text captured from other sites apparently for the sole purpose of catching searches for a particular word. Until recently, if you searched for “canned platypus” (in quotes) at Technorati many of the hits would be for such gobbledygook. Now you get nothing, because it seems like Technorati has gone a bit overboard fighting this problem and in the process made legitimate sites such as this one disappear. They get a big one-finger salute for helping the sploggers ruin things.

I’m seriously beginning to wonder whether it would be worth it to fight fire with fire on this one. A while back I found out about Sugarplum, which is a sort of honeypot for the email-harvesting programs that spammers use. It sends back bogus email addresses but, just as importantly, it does so slowly so that it ties up resources on the harvester for as long as possible. What if a bunch of people set up comment-spam (and trackback-spam) honeypots, which similarly tied up resources in the programs used by that type of spammer? In its basic form I sort of think such a thing might just contribute to the problem of useful content disappearing amongst all of the netnoise, but maybe some variant would keep the spammers busy without disrupting real users’ web experience too much. I’ve also thought about using some of the same botnet technology as the spammers themselves to perform DDoS attacks on the sites they advertise but I generally don’t condone such “doing evil to do good” approaches. Poetic justice aside, the “collateral damage” to legitimate users of the same hosts is likely to outweigh any benefit, and the law of unintended consequences says there are likely to be other victims as well. As I’ve written before, the distinction between methods and results is not as clear-cut as most people think, so trying to achieve good goals with bad methods is usually a mistake.