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Comments October 31, 2008

Spammer Techniques: Are You a Zombie? Part II

Filed under: Anti-spam, phpBB — Dave Rathbun @ 5:31 pm CommentsComments (2) 

In the first post in this series I showed some data from my phpbb2 honey pot board that has been collecting spammers for several months now. One of the most interesting observations (as far as I am concerned) is the posting frequency. The posting bot would log on, post, wait 25 seconds, post a second time, wait 25 seconds, post a third post, and then log off for several hours. This behavior would repeat throughout the day with the same user account coming in from different IP addresses around the Earth.

I suggested that this behavior was an indication of “zombie computers” and since today is Halloween it seems a good time to finish the topic. :D


Seasonal Board Graphics

Filed under: Board Management — Dave Rathbun @ 11:50 am CommentsComments (4) 

Do you do anything “fun” with your board for different seasons? For example, my main board is nicknamed “BOB” and here is the normal logo:

Today I have this logo instead:

I would have thought that stuff like this is harmless fun, but several years ago when I tried changing graphics around for Christmas I got some rather interesting comments from board members. I was reminded – in some cases fairly bluntly – that some folks don’t celebrate Christmas. :-? As a result, I have tried to stay more generic with what I do.

What about you? Have you ever tried to set up special holiday themes for your board? What was the reaction from your members?

Comments October 29, 2008

Spammer Techniques: Are You a Zombie? Part I

Filed under: Anti-spam, phpBB — Dave Rathbun @ 9:08 am CommentsComments (7) 

I will start this post with a brief recap for new visitors or for those that have not been following my phpBB2 honey pot experiment. Several months ago (August) I set up an unprotected phpBB2 board. By “unprotected” I mean I did not install any MODs to keep spammers from registering or posting on the board. I did make a few code changes:

  • Log IP address on registration
  • Added “nofollow” to all links
  • Created a cron (scheduled) job to move all posts into a hidden forum every ten minutes

Other than those changes, the board was completely unmodified. Note that the changes made were either to capture more information (IP address on registration) or protect my domain. I posted some statistics after about a month of activity and they weren’t pretty. I posted a few bits of information about patterns that I observed in the registration data a bit later.

Where am I going next? I am going to compare the IP addresses used to register with the IP addresses used to post. There are some interesting patterns that I can share, plus I will get to talk about zombies for a bit. That’s always fun. :)


Comments October 23, 2008

Board Advertising Options: Google Adsense Part II

Filed under: Advertising, phpBB — Dave Rathbun @ 6:35 am CommentsComments (6) 

In the first post in this series I provided an overview of how Google’s Adsense program works. In a nutshell there is a content provider (me), an advertiser, and Google. Advertisers bid for certain keywords and Google has systems that match their ads with my content… all in real time. All it takes is a bit of javascript and a lot of server horsepower.

This post is going to get very specific… or as specific as I can without getting in trouble with Google. I am going to share my experience with their Adsense program. I’m even going to include some real numbers. :)


Comments October 18, 2008

Board Advertising Options: Google Adsense Part I

Filed under: Advertising, phpBB — Dave Rathbun @ 7:19 am CommentsComments (3) 

Last year I started a series of posts about advertising on boards. The last post was just over a year ago, but I think it’s time to revive the topic. The first post in the series was titled “Keeping your Users” and it dealt with how to introduce advertising on your board without losing your valuable members. The second post was titled “Have Something to Sell” and it talked about evaluating your board content to see if it was going to be interesting to advertisers. The third and final post was my favorite in the series (because I got to play with numbers… I like numbers :) ) and was titled “Measuring RFM” because it talked about measuring “recency” and “frequency” which are of interest to advertisers. All three posts are linked at the bottom of this post for easy reference.

After deciding to advertise and determining that you have something to sell, what are the next steps? To start you need to find some source of advertising. I believe that the most lucrative advertising options are those that want to target your board members. Those can be hard to find unless the board has a very specific audience. So instead I want to start talking about my experience with a more generic but very popular advertising option for many board owners: Google’s Adsense program.


Comments October 13, 2008

Why “Points” Are Bad For Your Board

Filed under: Board Management, phpBB — Dave Rathbun @ 8:59 am CommentsComments (5) 

Human beings being, well, human :lol: like to be rewarded. Many boards use a points or karma system to reward frequent or effective members of their community. The problem in my opinion is, however, that whenever there is a reward to be gained, people (again, being human) will look for shortcuts or ways to “game” the system. That can have a negative impact on your board. Is it worth setting some sort of reward point system up on your board? What can be gained or lost as a result?

In this post I will share some experiences as a board participant as well as a board owner. I would love to hear your stories as well; the comment form is always open. As long as you can manage to click the right checkbox. ;-)


Comments October 9, 2008

Panama Dropped By… to Spam

Filed under: Anti-spam, phpBB — Dave Rathbun @ 10:04 pm CommentsComments (2) 

I’ve been running a “honey pot” board for almost 60 days now. Tonight I took my first action against some of the spammers that are attacking. I used the iptables command to revoke access to an entire range of IP addresses… from Panama.

This range of IP addresses is responsible for:

  • 105 user registrations
  • 10,312 posts

That’s almost 6% of my users, and over 55% of my posts. :shock: Where are these Panamanian spammers coming from? What sort of patterns (or “tells”) are they exhibiting? More…

Comments October 8, 2008

Backing Up Your Board…. to Amazon?

Filed under: Backups, Board Management, phpBB — Dave Rathbun @ 11:38 am CommentsComments (6) 

One of the most critical steps that many board owners fail to take is designing and implementing an effective backup strategy. In my opinion, backups cannot be a manual process. They have to be automatic. If they’re not automatic, then they don’t get done… and a backup that isn’t done is worse than no backup at all. At least if you know you’re not doing backups you don’t have anything to complain about. :)

I lease a dedicated server from a hosting company so I have root access. I do several layers of backups, including an automatic download to a secondary server located in my home office… and storage on a RAID (mirror) device. This all runs during the wee hours of the morning. But what if you don’t have the same choices as me… does that mean you can’t have the same advantages?


Comments October 1, 2008

Smackdown Round VII – Final Requirements

Filed under: phpBB, phpBB3 — Dave Rathbun @ 7:19 am CommentsComments (1) 

I had a series of six posts where I compared phpBB3 with what I called “phpBB-Dave” which is my custom implementation of phpBB2. I have stated more than once that I don’t plan to upgrade, at least not right away. My timetable for upgrading was probably a year out at the earliest. The general idea behind the posts was to step back and take a more generic look at the features provided by phpBB3. By going through a feature list line-by-line I hoped to be a bit more objective about the potential urgency of my upgrade.

The net result was that after reviewing the feature list provided by phpbb.com I felt like there were more reasons to stay with what I am using today (four) than there were compelling reasons to upgrade (one). To be very clear: this comparison was a feature comparison only. I recognize that there are clear advantages that the phpBB3 codebase provides as far as efficiency and coding style and standards. That didn’t come into play. Why not? Because my board users don’t see coding standards, they only see features. :) As far as efficiency goes… I have spent several years tweaking the code for phpBB-Dave and it’s certainly as efficient as I need it to be right now. I am able to support a full load of users without my server breaking a sweat.

Is that the end of the story?


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