18 months of spam fighting

I could never understand why web hosting companies were so terrible. No matter who I signed up with, my blog was always unstable as hell, regularly becoming unresponsive for no apparent reason. I’d decided this was the Way of Things until I moved over to Damian‘s hosting, and he quickly found the cause: wongaBlog is regularly nuked by spammers. I’m on some zombie list – heaven only knows why – and the botnets regularly flood the site with such voluminous garbage that it falls over.

This was more than Damian had signed up for, but he valiantly fought off what amounted to DDoS attacks on his server. We tried plenty of remedies, and eventually had the blog locked down so tight we had to watch for regular users blocked in the crossfire. But the nature of botnets means you can never predict where the next wave will come from, and it was a continual battle to respond. Each new attack would take out the machine until Damian got there1, which was far from ideal. He did a great job keeping up with them, but eventually the spamming scale became too great and I was causing problems for other clients on the same server.

On his recommendation I’ve now moved over to Lunarpages, who use stupidly powerful servers even for the little guys. Things seem ok so far, though I expect an admin somewhere has had an interesting week.

But Damian deserves huge thanks for 18 months of swarm-fighting. It was way beyond the pay grade, and very kind of him – I’m most grateful. Hopefully his servers are more stable now.

  1. techy detail: such attacks would see the server load jump from 0.02 to 20 in seconds, taking out the slice and forcing a reboot []

Missing comments

Comments aren’t showing atm. Rather odd – they appear in ‘recent comments’ (oop, not any more), and each post knows how many there are, yet they stubbornly refuse to appear. Probably a database thing. Working on it…

Update: Sorted by Damian. Looks like my spammer chums corrupted the database, but it should be ok now.

Five years of blogging

My little blog is five years old today. Ahhhh. Please excuse a brief metabloggy interlude.

This site started when a friend of mine began blogging and I thought ‘that’s a good idea. I’ll steal it’. So I did, with a dubious design involving unicorns – really, I have no explanation for this – based around Movable Type 2.something. The name ‘wongaBlog’ came a few days later, based entirely on a short story I’d written in which the main character had a site called ‘wonkaBlog’, I think because he liked chocolate.

Since then it’s become a big part of my life, and I passed 3000 posts last month. It’s also, in no particular order::

  • briefly bathed in a pagerank of 5
  • been banned in libraries for swearing
  • pissed off two girlfriends – I think both eventually stopped reading entirely
  • been made fun of by the Guardian
  • regularly attacked by Russian spammers, which is quite the problem for my webhost but as close as I’m going to get to being in Spooks
  • served as a terribly cowardly way to ask someone out (not linking to this one, but it’s in there somewhere)
  • become the go-to-blog for Googlers of ‘wank-a-thon‘.

There’s lots more, but those are the ones that popped into my head while typing.

I love blogging. It gives me a chance to write, which is pretty much my favourite thing, and it’s also cathartic as hell. It helps me stay in touch with far-flung friends, as well as acting as a reasonably decent diary. And the very best aspect of blogging is a cliché, although none the less true for it: it’s the people you meet. I found myself in Bloggers4Labour a few years ago (not quite sure how, but I’m glad I did!), and I’ve met – both electronically and physically – lots of lovely people as a result. The same with various atheist / skeptical sites. It’s great, and makes me happy.

I don’t remember starting with a blogging goal, and I’ve never really developed one. Norm‘s Friday profilees are always asked for one piece of advice to a novice blogger, and a common reply is ‘know what you want to write, and who for’. I’ve never done that – this blog has always been for whatever I feel like at the time, with no plan or target audience – but I can see the attraction. For me the hardest part of blogging is discovering you’ve been read by people you respect, but don’t know personally. For a while it’s nigh on impossible not to second-guess yourself and think ‘oh god, what must they think of that‘ every time you click ‘post’. I can happily research and write a long piece on the problems of organised religion, say, then follow it up with a post on why I’m scared of women, or a snapshot of a particularly fascinating twig, or something. I’ve never come close to stopping, but it’s the thought of boring the hell out of interesting people that’s given me most pause.

I know this is silly. One of the best features of blogging is that it’s passive – if people don’t want to read, they don’t have to. It’s why the occasional hate-spewing trolls are so funny. But related, and trickier, is that many, if not most, people I know are by now aware of this site, and often mention it to me. Which is great, but does sometimes complicate things. I’ve a few posts permanently assigned to Drafts (over 100 at last count) because I never quite had the nerve to post, knowing they’d resonate with particular people. Sometimes it’s polite to spare people’s feelings when there’s no reason to post – I was at a really dull party this evening – but more often it’s over ideological disagreements. And it’s silly to worry about discussing those.

So my aim for the future is to worry less about what people will think. I shall write whatever I fancy, and if people stick around, great, if not, that’s fine too. And as long as I’m not rude and feel I can reasonably back up the more contentious stuff, that’ll do too – if I’m wrong, as I often am, people can tell me why.

Ok, enough wankery. I figure a five-year anniversary is an ok excuse, but I promise not to do this again for a long while. Incidentally, I was going to title this post after the appropriate anniversary material, so I hit Wikipedia for the list and discovered that four years is a ‘silk’ anniversary – how nice is that – while five years is ‘wood’. Wood. That’s crap. Plus I have no intention of ever typing ‘anniversary of wood’.

Finally, just to say thank you to anyone who comments, links to me from their own site, or just drops by and reads anything I write. It’s really very nice of you.

Upgrading Theme

Just trying to upgrade the underlying code-base to use the latest version of K2. I’ll probably break something; bear with me…

Update: Comments broke – they do actually work, but weird stuff happens after you click ‘submit’. Trying to figure it out…

Update 2: Dammit – it was working for a few minutes, and then I don’t know what happened 🙂

Update 3: Phew. Five hours later, and it’s complete. I’ve no idea how it took so long, but there are a few upgrades. Including, finally, strawberries. As ever, please let me know if anything’s amiss.

Feed is b0rked

If I knew why, I’d fix it. I’ve updated the relevant plugin, and hopefully it’s a problem with feedburner, now…I’ll give it a few hours and see whether it solves itself.

Update: It appears to be a problem with the feedburner plugin and an apparent bug in the WordPress redirects. I think it’s fixed now. Rather than change settings that would break links, I’ve disabled the plugin entirely and used the instructions from here to get it working again, although it’ll need patching up once a proper fix is announced.

WordPress 2.0 is coming…

The WordPress blogging software that powers this site is very, very close to reaching version 2.0. Apparently release candidate 3 was released yesterday, and they’re looking at today or tomorrow for the final build. It’s looking very swish, with advanced caching features as well as WYSIWYG post creation and viewing. Not much difference for readers, other than the inevitable b0rkage as some plugins get scared and flee the server, but it’s exciting for geeks like me 🙂