The problem with randomness

How to generate random numbers from spam

dilbert comic strip 2001-10-25

Random number generators: The devil is in the details

I found SecurityDump’s WPRandom the other day:

Generating random numbers is pretty complicated if you need them for cryptographic algorithms. This software generates them based on spam comments…

It caught my eye as a sort of “spinning spam into RNG gold”, or more likely, PRNG (pseudo-random number generated) gold. Many WordPress blogs, whether self-hosted using or not, effectively use Akismet as a comment spam sieve. (more…)

Published in: on 5 October 2012 at 3:51 am  Comments (8)  
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Minor mysteries of spam

Information overload has been one of my recent concerns. Spam certainly exacerbates the situation! I am spared the worst of spam, due to the minimal traffic on my websites, although I was treated to a glut of spam from around the world immediately after I posted that skateboard video a few months ago.

Spam incidence grew over time, exceeded real content

Spam versus content over time

Spam is diverse. It manifests as spam email, spam comments, spam blogs (known as splogs) and all-unoriginal websites of reposted content.

Spam deterrence

Akismet, an Automattic site, provides excellent, free of charge anti-spam services to blog sites such as mine. Akismet maintains a daily Stats Page including a graph of ham versus spam, for the past five years. Ham is Akismet’s term for a non-spam message. I was pleased to see this post Do you appreciate Akismet?

If so, please take a moment to leave a short comment on this post letting us know! We’re working on a new site design and would love to include some new testimonials.

Ironically, I was unable to complement Akismet, as commenting was disabled.

In addition to Akismet, WordPress suggests using a word list filter of one’s own. As a utility, WordPress will match your list against incoming comments. If any matches are found, that comment is flagged and immediately redirected into the spam bin, for the blog admin to review or just auto-delete. I’ve honed my word list for several months. I enjoy reading through the file every time I make any additions. It is such an odd and illicit list of words and phrases!

Use cases

I regret that I deleted all the skateboard video spam comments that slipped past both Akismet and my keyword filtering system, as they were the most spectacular of all. These are selected excerpts and replies from another blog’s spam comments:

“I see you own a good blog.”
Fool! I’ve seen my content!
“Thanks! This post helps me with a school assignment.”
Fool! You’re gonna fail that one!

A recent spammer tactic is to meaningfully respond to the content of a blog post but also link to a solely commercial and often tacky webpage:

One was an XML editor and the other was a video on “how to be a hacker” (of the LulzSec variety as opposed to kernel patcher type).

Published in: on 5 August 2010 at 3:07 pm  Leave a Comment  


Organically-suggestive CAPTCHA content

Peculiar CAPTCHA Content

Are CAPTCHA selections audience-maturity rated? Regardless of rating, this was especially odd: “them urethras”


Published in: on 5 August 2010 at 4:47 am  Comments (2)  
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Spam Expands In Space-Time

As data usage expands into new dimensions, from 2-D print to the internet and now geolocation, spam will tag along.

Foursquare is offering an essentially useless promotion, a Starbucks frappuccino special that is taking on a distinctly spam like aspect: It’s a low-value offer available only to a tiny number of people.

Tod Maffin noted that the ubiquity of Starbucks, with the chain’s next-to-worthless Foursquare offer, poses a serious challenge to the app’s usefulness. It is location spam, LBS spam or “Something You Aren’t Interested in Nearby!”

There are more Starbucks in this city than stop lights. One intersection even has two Starbucks! That means that pretty much any time you use Foursquare in Vancouver, you’re going to get an offer from Starbucks.

Problem is, the Starbucks offer is lousy. It’s only for the person who has checked in the most — and even then, it’s a cheap offer: $1 off a limited number of their cold beverages.

Negative benefits

Apparently the law of diminishing returns from too much advertising can move on to a second phase of dis-utility, which actually drives customers away. This is an even worse outcome than not advertising at all!

Forrester gives the concept some in-depth coverage: Foursquare Advertising Getting Less Interesting.

Published in: on 3 August 2010 at 9:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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