Category Archives: MediaWiki

Continuing to battle Wiki spammers

Configuring the FF@ Wiki to hopefully grow and survive in a world of spammers (see my previous post about this) has been an interesting exercise. While I’ve used Mediawiki and other wikis for years, my efforts have been targeted toward wikis that while publicly accessible did not allow self-creation of login credentials. When I resurrected the FF@ Wiki, I set it up for ease of access to allow the community a low barrier of entry and was rewarded with all sorts of creative spam 😉 . I’d not done anything with Mediawiki extensions, but when I went to look up configuration settings, I found the ConfirmEdit extension, and realized that it was already loaded in the version of Mediawiki I was running and that I didn’t need to install the bits, just needed to set it up in the LocalSettings configuration file to set up a Captcha. There’s a pretty big ecosystem of extensions for Mediawiki, and I need to spend some time looking at this. There may be something else interesting in that corpus that would be interesting for my use cases. More to do!

I wonder if my spammers are humans or bots? I deleted a round of spam pages on Friday, and then I didn’t have any more spam pages until today (Monday). It almost seemed that they took the weekend off! Odd…well, I didn’t make the Captcha process very robust, so if it gets defeated I may have to buff it up a bit with some more question Captchas. I like question Captchas; I’ve used them on some of my Drupal sites with good success. They have the ability to target a specific cohort that shares a particular set of knowledge, and have the advantage of accessibility, unlike visual Captchas!

#$%& Internet trolls & spammers

I recently revived and updated a wiki that I first created in 2007, which is focused on a group of Internet-connected flyfishers. I’d tried to get interest going in the project back in 2007, but the concept didn’t resonate with the group, and the wiki foundered due to lack of content. I’d just left it alone, and some software updates had broken it, and the wiki was non-functional. A couple months ago, I decided to fix it, updating the database and the Mediawiki software to support a more current version of PHP. I rolled it back out to the group to see if the intervening 6 years had created any more familiarity with the wiki concept. I tweaked the registration process to allow the community to read without registration, and by doing so, made it more public. The problem was that it got discovered by spammers. All was well, and then one day I a couple dozen spam pages. I tweaked the registration process to require a confirmed email for registration, and the problem went away for a while. Then, it seems it was discovered by smarter ‘bots that could deal with the registration process, or by human trolls/spammers. I spent an hour or so last night deleting spam pages, blocking users, and putting a “protect” flag on the main page. The issue is that if I raise the barrier to entry, I keep casual adopters in my intended community from dropping by and making the resource interesting. If I keep the barrier to entry low, it means that I have to engage in wiki hygiene to clean out the trash. It’s the nature of a wiki, and a commentary on the Internet world. Grrrr…