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> How did you go about preventing spam?

I can't really hide anything - all the code is on github, though its ... um, ... not pretty. It might be better if nobody looks. http://github.com/josephg/sephsplace

But the system at the moment is really simple: The site only accepts 10 edits per 10 seconds from any IP address. After that your edits get rejected until the next 10 second window begins. You can write bots to draw things for you (and lots of the images you see are drawn this way). But drawing big objects is slow. So thats ok. I think thats a reasonable compromise between bots being powerful and humans being powerful.

The giant Angela Merkel image (and some other smut that I deleted) was drawn by someone proxying edits through about 200 IP addresses. I don't know if they're using TOR, or have access to a botnet or are using an anonymizing proxy or something. I could tell they were all the same botnet because all the requests had the useragent of 'python-requests/2.10.0'. (I have an IP address list if anyone wants to take a look.)

Anyway, I figured those addresses are probably hard to replace - so I let them do it, harvested the addresses and banned them all. Worse, I made it impossible to tell which servers are banned - the server replies to banned servers like normal - their edits just never appear.

I caught about 2/3rds of their addresses before they started making their headers match real browser traffic, but I think I ruined their fun and they stopped.

I have a few more tricks up my sleeve I could pull out if that little war escalated further. For example, I could always add a captcha you have to fill out when you open the page. The captcha would generate a token that you would have to provide with each edit. Rate limiting would then be by-token. Bots would still work, but you would have to give the token to your script. But getting around the rate limiting would be harder.

> How many users did the site receive over the course of the past 2 days?

Um I'm embarrassed to say I don't know! I don't have a log of which IP addresses generated each edit. Monitoring and logging seemed much less important at the time. Its obvious in retrospect, but I wish I'd sent each edit along with a timestamp and some metadata into a separate kafka queue when I received them. That way I would have a complete audit log to play with now. I have all the edits - but I have no way of knowing who did what, or how many unique visitors I've had.




Oh the spam. Back in about 2003 I built a site that let people doodle a small square canvas and add it to thousands of others. It didn't take long for it to be riddled with dick-picks, stars and swastikas. I had a mighty banhammer. But it was so depressing.

The site was called 'blograffiti.com' - Remnants of it still exist on the wayback machine.

Fantastic work by the way. And thanks for the post about it all. I love weekend projects like this. That's exactly what kicked blograffiti off. (And most of my most valuable projects, come to think of i!.)


One thing that reddit gets "for free" is a user authentication system that is tied to their existing system. A huge way of them slowing down spam was preventing anyone from editing unless they had a reddit account that predated the existence of /r/place. You could mock something similar up by OAuthing to Twitter/Facebook and only allowing accounts created prior to today from editing.


IPs are a terrible way of limiting input into a system given relying on the network stack to provide unique identifiers is an irrational expectation.

I'm thinking of a grid of Litecoin addresses would work well to limit abuse of infrastructure to gain advantage, while still allowing bot activity. A payment to a given address would last the amount paid divided by cost of ownership amount per time period.


Dunno, these days reCAPTCHA is pretty easy and cheap to solve. (With services like 2captcha etc)




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