New techniques to fight spam in Discussion

Hello friends,

I’m happy to report that the Briar Press v6 project is gaining momentum. Some of the development pieces are falling into place, and the visual design of the new site is slowly taking shape.

Keep in mind that this process will be a lengthy one; at the moment, I expect the new site to launch sometime late next year.

In the meantime, we’ve managed to update our aging code with a small but powerful improvement: flagging. Now you can use the flag icon next to each Discussion comment to bring spam and other abuse to our attention. Flagging is working well already; with your help we’ll be faster about eliminating spam.

Our plans for the new site include an arsenal of spam-thwarting techniques. For starters, the first post from any new member will be placed in a holding queue and won’t be posted without admin approval. This will cut down significantly on spambot activity. We’re also looking into giving members the power to remove spam. Additionally, the system may be able to apply automatic curbs to suspicious behavior such as the posting of multiple comments in a very short period of time.

We’d like to improve the Discussion in other ways: with better search tools, sifting through seven years of commentary might be a bit less tedious than it is today. We can also bring the most popular and useful topics to the surface, and allow members to mark their favorites for later retrieval. As always, we will try to keep new features from overly complicating the experience of being on Briar Press.

Classifieds will be the topic of the next update. Until then, if you have thoughts about Discussion or any other area of the new site, please do let us know.

Eric & Elizabeth

Earlier updates:
A modern site, custom built
The future of Briar Press

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Good news. I run a few few extremely low-volume yahoo lists and even there vetting is an absolutely critical step. I also ran a small letterpress classified ad site that got so overwhelmed with Chinese electronics-makers that the next webmasters abandoned it entirely. But in a list with such large volume as briarpress, two people might be overwhelmed quickly. More moderators?

Thanks for providing us this great community and putting in so much time and effort keeping it running! The spam flagging is a great step. I do have one question/suggestion, though. Is it possible to set the software to tell users when a post has been flagged? There was a run of spam messages this morning and I wondered if they’d already been flagged by someone or not. I didn’t want to clog up you guys’ in boxes with requests but without an indicator to let me know they’d already been flagged I couldn’t be sure, so I went ahead and flagged them. It also would have made it easier to tell which posts I’d already flagged as I was going through the stack of them. Thanks again!

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

I think it’s time to start vetting first time users.

Yes, this was a good weekend for spammers. (And therefore a bad one for Briar Press users.) The current batch of spam is all mopped up, for now.

Widmark: You’re spot on, and I know you’ve been urging us to make this change for a while now. This one feature will have a big impact. I wish I could implement it on the current codebase.

Michael: Thank you, and that’s a good idea. For now, if you see a lot of posts by the same user, flagging just one should be enough to alert us to the rest.

Parallel: Distributing moderation privileges is definitely a possibility… on the new site. (I hope that refrain isn’t getting old.) On the current site, comment moderation is tied to administration access, problematically.

Thanks for hanging tight everyone.


How about restricting the number of new topics anyone can post? Up to one new post per hour? We just got bombarded with new spam topics, all in about 10 min or so.

Also, how about rewarding members for helping combat spam such as using the flag option? Like a special emblem next to the member’s nickname.
There is so much spam today! I flagged some. Did my bit today.

Just ideas!

On my blog I’ve modified WordPress’s Comments handling so that pressing the Submit Comment button too soon (under 3 seconds) after the page is shown will fail. I could probably increase that limit quite a bit.
I also have the HTML coded to make it difficult for an automated system to determine the correct posting URL and thus bypassing the Submit button. As a result the only spam I get is (I assume) stuff posted by real people in boiler room operations.