Spammers CAPTCHA-ed

I got really sick of the comment spam on this site and realised that it was my responsibility as a web master to prevent it and thus ensure that only deserving sites had their sites boosted by links from this site. Akismet was, and remains, installed – but it wasn’t really cutting it. Although it has stopped an extraordinary 105,428 comments and trackbacks since installation. I’ve now implemented reCAPTCHA which means you have to type a couple of blurred words to make a comment. While this requires effort on the part of the user, which is a great shame, the good news is that your efforts do not go to waste. ReCAPTCHA uses one of the words you input to check you are human, the other helps to make electronic copies of scanned in books, a la Project Gutenberg.

Apologies for the inconvenience, blame the spammers!

How YOU can stop the plague of loud flash ads

Unless you live in a different Internet to me, you can’t have failed to notice the abundance of annoying flash-based ads which make irritating noises.

Perhaps the best example of this is the horrific buzzing mosquito you can only shut up by attempting to win a laptop, it starts buzzing without any activity from you at all. If you haven’t seen a copy yet I’ve hosted it here. But there’s also the talking smilie faces, the voices whispering about you, etc. If you use a tabbed browser and have as many tabs open as I do, you have to search through them all to find the culprit.

And it’s not only the loud flash ads that are problematic, ads on newspapers cover the text you want to read and have confusing, hard to find ‘X’ buttons.

The solution
This whole situation seems very reminiscent of another form of advertising, the popup. Popups used to be everywhere, they were really irritating. Then browsers and toolbars came in that blocked them. Now, even if you use a legacy browser without a popup blocker, you’ll be hard pressed to find many popup ads.

Why? Because there’s no point in them. It’s a waste of bandwidth to send the javascript to make a window popup if 90% of your users won’t see it. So many websites (majority from Spamzilla) have moved to advertisements which their users appreciate more, like contextual advertising (Google Adwords, etc.) which displays things people might actually be interested in if they’re on your page.

Some however have embraced the almost equally irritating flash ads. But we can make them stop, as we made popups stop. If a significant proportion of the internet installs flash ad blockers it will become economically unviable to fill space on a website with an irritating flash ad, when it could be filled with text-ads visible to all.

Firefox users

fb.jpgThere is a firefox extension called AdBlock which will block all advertisements. I’m against this (as a publisher who makes money from text-ads) because it removed the only revenue stream from a lot of websites and would force a lot of sites to close. We should block unreasonable ads rather than all ads. We consider popups unreasonable and I think we should consider most flash ads unreasonable too. Inobstrusive text ads are not, in my opinion.

So instead use FlashBlock, it replaces all Flash animations with a little play button you can click to make them appear. It’s really unobtrusive, using Flash based websites isn’t hard. You can add sites like youtube to a whitelist to avoid too many play buttons.

Internet Explorer users

fb1.jpgWell my first advice would be get Firefox, it’s so much better, but I know you’ve heard that a thousand times before.
So if you really must continue using IE I suggest you try FlashSwitch which lets you toggle flash in the system tray.

If as many people as possible take these measures it will soon become pointless to display annoying flash ads.

If you’ve received spam from me…

… I apologise. I’ve suddenly noticed a vast amount of emails being bounced to my catch-all address. This means that an evil spammer is sending emails which are forged so that they appear to be from If you’ve received such a message please be assured that it has nothing to do with this blog. If there was anything I could do to stop it I would, but it’s totally unconnected to me. I can strongly recommend the excellent SpamBayes for spam detection if you’re not on GMail or similar.

I also apologise for the apparent death of this blog, I still hope to post on it occasionally I just apparently haven’t had anything interesting to say for many months.