Spambots and a little rant


Spambots and a little rant...


I have been so plagued with spam emails and spam edits the past few months that I have lost track of valid edits and new users vs. spam. My Webhost also shutdown the ability to create new accounts because the site was flagged as a source of spam or bots. I don't blame the host, it's all the evil spammers and spambots out there with nothing better to do. I don't have time to deal with white lists and black lists and evolving Captcha types and other anti-spam techniques.

As of today I've instituted some new policies regarding user accounts:

  1. Any account that has 0 points (no edits, comments, likes, contributions etc) has already been deleted. Over 8000 accounts were deleted tonight with the strike of a key. I am sorry if you are among those accounts. Please let me know or setup a new account. If you had no points to begin with you essentially never interacted with the site anyway.
  2. Any account that spams, defaces any page, edits a page to include their advertising, uses comments to advertise their unrelated website, adds links to an unrelated website, OR submits a profile for "Takeshi's Castle" gets deleted. Period. No warning. Good bye.
  3. All new users must be approved by me. There will be a simple form to fill in. If I'm busy it might take a few days to approve. The smart bots can get around different Captchas these days. The form has a captcha and a check for Terms of Use and a free text field to indicate your interest in castles. It doesn't matter what is input as long as it seems legit.
  4. On the good side.... any edits/contributions by accounts that I have approved will be automatically approved. NO waiting for moderation. Formerly, only myself, ART and a couple other people were automatically approved. But, rule #2 above still applies. Submit a profile for Takeshi's Castle and you're gone.

On his Facebook page Adam kindly commented on the value of this neutral website over some of the big players in the SNS world. I have been at this for over 20 years, longer than any of the SNS services or even Wikipedia itself. The commitment required to keep up with security, spam prevention, and system updates (including PHP, MediaWiki, and associated dependencies) often makes me wonder if it is worth the efforts when I'd much rather be visiting castles and sharing pictures. The programming side used to be fun when we users could benefit from the efforts and the collective results were greater than anything in print.

I can readily understand why people give up amateur website programming and revert to Facebook groups or something else. My commitment has always been to create an educational, research friendly, knowledge repository about Japanese castles. I started this site in the early days of The Web when I was in Library School because I saw the power of the Internet to make a digital library that could extend specialist knowledge to people everywhere. The various search filters on the Castle Browse page and classifications for castles and samurai homes, etc are directly influenced by library studies and the need to structure information above and beyond the the random chaos of the web.

You might also notice the site is completely ad free. I hate obtrusive advertising as much as the next person but I can understand the need for some advertising as well. I am fortunate to have a steady job so the $15/month in hosting fees is not too burdensome and I get sufficient enjoyment from the site to make it worthwhile. Still, if you'd like to buy me a coffee I'll happily accept it. Unfortunately, I do reserve the right to bring in some (unobtrusive) advertising or affiliate links at some point in the future if I need to recoup additional hosting fees (memory usage is getting high with all these photos!) or if the situation otherwise changes.

Sorry, that's my rant for today. This spam/bots thing really irked me. I have over 25 castle profiles in the pipeline that I should be working on instead, so look forward to exciting new content soon !

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11 months ago
Score 0++

Eric, I’m sorry to hear that your website has been plagued by spam / bots. Of all the online resources available in English about Japanese castles, this is by far the most comprehensive and well organized one. I have been using your website since the early 2000s. I still remember when you had a simple computer graphic of a castle keep on the homepage. It’s great that your website has been completely ad-free for over two decades. Right now, the cost of hosting the website doesn’t seem excessive, but if it gets more expensive, and you want to keep JCastle free for everyone, it might be worthwhile considering the following: - limit the number of photos that contributors can upload per castle profile to something like a dozen photos or less. Even six photos would be fine for me. It is after all your website, so the priority for sharing photos should be ones taken by you on your castle visits. - cull castle profiles that show sites with zero remains left. This is after all JCastle, so castle profiles should show castle sites with something to see. I’ve noticed in the last few years, there have been some “castle profiles” added which have photos showing absolutely no castle remains, no earthwork or stone wall remnants. Some of these profiles even explicitly state that there are no remains left. I think many castle fans would like to see for a castle profile, even if it is informative, some castle ruins such as earthen ramparts, ditches, or stone wall remnants and not just a farmer’s field or someone’s house. After all, a castle ruin should have some remains if it is to be identified as such. If you delete these “castle profiles”, it will help reduce memory usage on the host server.

I look forward to your upcoming castle profiles. I’m planning on contributing a few profiles, too, as it’s been a long time since I contributed any castle profile to your website.