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Fighting spam in community based websites & forums
Post by websitegear on Nov 27, 2006 10:22:10 AM CST

If you have been managing a community based website such as a discussion forum, blog or articles with comments section, you may have seen the recent increase of spamming in these. The spams are most commonly created by automated scripts (also known as spam bots). Here are some steps that can reduce spams in your community.

The methods discussed here are in the order of less to more strictness. Implementing more stricter rules will lead to less number of posts and often may fend off good users, but it will keep the posts cleaner for users to read.
  1. IP Tracking: Keeping a record of the IP addresses for each post can help tracking down the source of spams. These IP addresses or range of IP addresses can be banned from posting. However, it is not very practical from managing the IP addresses standpoint as the community grows.

  2. CAPTCHA: It is a short form of 'Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart'. In essence, this is usually implemented by displaying a human readable word or alphabets in an image. The user has to verify by typing in the text from this image. This is the first step in preventing automated scripts from posting. Now-a-days many of the spam bots can detect and read images and pass through this spam check.

  3. Registration: Requiring that the user registers first before posting will eliminate a lot of unnecessary spams. Registration will help in tracking down spam posts and barring those users from posting again. Registration combined with CAPTCHA will reduce the automated registrations process using a script or spam bot.

  4. Email Verification: Email verification combined with or without registration often eliminates a lot of spam. This will help in tracking down the user and prevent posting with fake email IDs. Again, the poster can be identified by the verified email address, and banned from posting or registering again.

  5. Set Posting Rules: Defining certain user quality checks such as: requiring to be a member for at least 7 days or requiring 10 replies before starting a discussion thread, can be a deterrent for some spammers. Spammers usually look for easy ways to sneak in their posts, and if they have to wait, they will not be that interested.

  6. Moderation: This is probably the most effective way of keeping your community clean. Assign moderators to each forum topic. Set certain rules in your forum software such as - all posts by a new user with less than 10 good posts will be moderated.
Whatever method, or combination of methods, works for your website, always keep in mind that 'Quality is better than Quantity'. A cleaner community-based website will attract more quality visitors, who will eventually improve the quality of content provided on the website. So keep the spammers away.

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