[TOS] Need TOS wiki spam prevention!

Joel Sherrill joel.sherrill at gmail.com
Tue May 17 20:50:55 UTC 2011

On Tue, May 17, 2011 at 2:55 PM, MJ Ray <mjr at phonecoop.coop> wrote:

> Max Spevack wrote:
> > The problem is (1) spammers creating accounts and (2) spammers trashing
> > the wiki from within those accounts.  If the spam were all coming from
> > anonymous accounts, the solution would be easy: no anonymous edits
> > and/or captchas.
> Captchas are nothing to do with spam.  They are physical or logical
> ability tests.  You are still vulnerable to able spammers, as well as
> those who can exploit able gullible people.  However, if you use a
> physical ability test like Google's reCaptcha, you also lock out
> potential contributors who just happen to have a physical disability.
I maintain http://wiki.rtems.org and
which are Mediawiki.  The Elvis site also has a phpbb forum and that gets it
own unique
spam attempts.  These are completely different user groups and both seem to
victim to the same spam waves.

Unless you are willing to review every edit, allowing anonymous edits is
not a good idea.  Eventually the wiki will get trashed.

I went through a series of captchas.  Either they got cracked
or they were too irritating to legitimate users.  Either is bad.

I tried an obvious question on the Elvis Costello site for a while:
"What is Elvis' last name?".  That slowed things down for a while.
It seems to stop bots but some countries appear to be sources
of VERY VERY cheap human labor willing to spam.

For the Elvis Wiki, I did something I would not recommend in
most cases.  Once a country showed up as a spam headache
and wasn't country thought of as a hot bed of EC activity, I
blocked all IPs from that country.  Clearly this would never work in
a free software environment and I didn't even consider it for

I tried email confirmation on accounts.  That slowed things but then
a massive wave hit both sites.  Spam was appearing on rtems wiki
faster than I could delete it.  It took a team to clean up the Elvis wiki.
We decided that as volunteers we had enough.  At that point, we
turned on added admin confirmation and requiring a biography on top
of a confirmed email account.

I have only seen 1 spam account attempt get to admins of either site
in the past few months.

Mediawiki will send notices to an email when an account registration
is logged.  For us, that email is a mailing list where multiple people
have permission to review and approve/disapprove.

It is a pain in the (*^&%&% but getting spam is a worse pain.  I hate
to put barriers to entering a community but that is the best way I
have found.


> > Two questions:
> >
> > (1) How does Wikipedia prevent the same thing?  (Spam coming from
> > accounts that were created by bots, etc.)
> Basically, there's entire subprojects dealing with it.
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Abuse_response
> might be one starting point.
> For that to work for TOS, it needs more people, some of which
> will actually need to be reading the RecentChanges pretty actively.
> > (2) Can we borrow anything lightweight from (for instance) Fedora's wiki
> > maintenance policies?
> I know Fedora's policies even less than I know Wikipedia's so I'll
> leave this for someone else.
> > There has to be a way to minimize/eliminate spam that doesn't pose a
> > giant burden on wiki administrators, right?
> Yes, install anti-spam tools and use them, but I suspect it will need
> TOS to recruit more people into active contribution.  From what I've
> seen a few months ago, there aren't many anti-spam tools for mediawiki
> (too much of the community is still off chasing the captcha red
> herring), so it may mean developing them, but I don't know mediawiki
> internals and have insufficient incentive to learn them (it's not fun
> and no-one wants to pay enough for the work AFAICT).
> Maybe someone who suggested/supported mediawiki for TOS could point
> the group towards some good anti-spam tools?
> Good luck!
> --
> MJ Ray (slef), member of www.software.coop, a for-more-than-profit co-op.
> Webmaster, Debian Developer, Past Koha RM, statistician, former lecturer.
> In My Opinion Only: see http://mjr.towers.org.uk/email.html
> Available for hire for various work through http://www.software.coop/
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