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John T. Unger

Ban Spam URLS with TypePad's New Word Banning Feature

John T. Unger May 3, 2006

Not long ago I posted about a hack that allowed TypePad users to ban specific words in comments or trackbacks by entering them in the field for banning IP addresses. I cautioned against using it at the time because it had an unresolved issue— the words were not specific enough. Banning the word "the" would also ban "theater," "theremin," and so on. But that just changed.

TypePad has updated their spam protection settings to make this a real feature with an improved interface allowing words to be banned safely. Now, I'm not one to ban profanity for example… and there are a lot of words that show up in spam that also have legitimate uses (like MP3 for example). But there's a much more powerful, hidden side to this new word banning feature. It allows you to ban URLs!

If I can ban specific URLS, I can prevent the vast bulk of spam from ever reaching my blog. This has me pretty excited. Banning IP addresses doesn't do much to stop the spread of spam… IP addresses can be generated on the fly. I've often had dozens of spam comments or trackbacks from the same website that use different names, IPs and contents. The one thing they all share in common is the URL. So, while I wouldn't suggest banning the word "online," banning "www.spaces.msn.com/onlinecasinosgambling" is a winner.

I've actually been saving a few spam trackbacks all week while I waited for this to go live, just so I could have the pleasure of banning them officially. Heh. It's too soon to say for sure, but I really think this will be a much more effective way to block spam than CAPTCHAs or IP banning. In fact, I'm going to remove the CAPTCHA requirement from my comments now that this has launched. I hate having to fill them in myself in order to reply to comments.

Here's a screen grab (click to enlarge) of the new Word and IP Banning feature, accessible at Control Panel > Site Access > Word and IP Banning. The description;

Adding a word to the ban list will block any comments or TrackBacks which contain that word. Word banning will ban instances of the word regardless of whether it contains upper or lower case characters.

does not mention URLs specifically, but as you can see, topping my list is the casino spammer that last hit my blog this week. And so long as you ban the URL as one word, you won't be banning parts of it such as www.

Congrats to the Design Team for this one! I think it's gonna make a big difference in keeping comments and trackbacks clean of spam.

word and IP banning screengrab

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Comments

Christopher Carfi says:

Reminder to self: Use the word "theremin" more often. Best.Instrument.Ever.

Bonus: Apparently one can build a theremin using only $6 worth of parts from Radio Shack, according to Quintron (ref: http://www.threeoneg.com/etis/bands.php?action=view&id=21 ). Must explore more.

Bud Parr says:

I just banned the word mp3 and even though I know it's just a computer on the other end I imagined some sinister spammer guy saying - Curses foiled again!

john t unger says:

Heh. Yeah, I have the same image in my mind…

mp3 is the only spam-heavy word I can think of that someone might link to legitimately… to reference a podcast, say. But I'll be really pleased not to have to deal in the future with words relating to gambling or drugs.

Sarah says:

I can ban URLs? Sweet!

john t unger says:

Sarah,

Yup, you can ban URLs! Last I looked, it doesn't mention it on any of TypePad's instructions or releases, but it does work. Actually, I think URL banning will be much more powerful than word banning in the long run.

The comments to this entry are closed.

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