Category Archives: spam

reCAPTCHA: Spread the word

Just over a year ago, we started seeing a huge deluge of anonymous posters making spam posts on the thinkbroadband forums, beyond a level which we could manually work around in a sensible way. We started looking at patterns of spam and fairly effectively prevented it using those patterns in a fairly simple detection algorithm looking as typical human versus computer behaviour. Even users on our forums spotted that spam often had the first ‘icon’ you could select to represent your post used even though it wasn’t the default one.

We tweaked the settings as the spam bots changed their style but for at least a couple of months we had quite a few get through which was annoying. When BBC News ran an article on reCAPTCHA I thought this would be ideal both to stop our spam problem and help decode old books. It provides an easy-to-use CAPTCHA solution which also has tools to help blind people get around them using audio tools.


This spam fighting tool also helps decipher old books since it shows two words, one of which it recognises. It doesn’t know what the other word says, so by solving the two words you prove that you’re human, and help digitise books by deciphering the other word.

It does present some words which are a little bit too difficult to read.. The one above isn’t too bad, but illustrates the potential problem. You can refresh it to another word pair of course.

My blog doesn’t receive that much spam but since my inbox is full enough as it is, cutting out every last one would be idea, so it’s now implemented on my blog too for comments, thanks to the plug-in for WordPress.

Conversations with a spammer

If you send unsolicited e-mail, you are a real spammer. It’s not just the viagra touting people who cost us money!

We all hate spam. It clogs up our mailboxes, wastes our time in sorting what is and is not a legitimate e-mail and costs us money in wasted traffic and solutions to try and curb its increasing impingement into our lives.

I tend to report spam to the service providers who allow their networks to be used to relay spam or otherwise allow their network to be used by spammers. Recently one spammer (who’se identity I’ll keep off this blog in the hope they’ve now learned their lesson) got in touch with me about a comment I made on a website about their business (after their service provider shut down their service). The e-mail read:

Dear Seb

My name is [name removed] – Sales Manager at [company removed], I have seen you recent comments posted on a website with regards our marketing, may I ask would it of been more professional to have discussed them with us 1st rather than posting in public? We are a proper business that is finding our feet and your comments do not assist the business industry, I await your comments on this matter.

Best regards

[name removed]

To say I was surprised to see an e-mail from a spammer complaining at my criticism of their marketing tactics is an under statement. I certainly didn’t expect to be expected to explain why spam was bad, but in hope I might educate someone as to the errors of their ways, I duly obliged.