Surviving SPAM – A Lot!

I’d really love for this to just be a bad Jeopardy category title — unfortunately it’s not!  It’s more a hard-won cautionary tale.

By now we ALL are up to our butts in daily SPAM, phishing, and other nasty email stuff.  I actually tracked it, and in February I received over 3000 emails that exemplify this.  Yes, my spam filter goodies caught many of them, and I am now I am also adept at using ‘ignore’ and ‘junk’, not just ‘delete.’

Today’s story is a more twisted tale about my receiving lots of unwanted email.  It’s about being inundated with ‘blog comments’ that aren’t comments.  They are sales pitches, weird things, and some were even in cyrillic!  This all started in January, and frankly it was driving me nuts!

I contacted my techno/puter genius and he came up with a solution to solve the problem.  It was all about having people ‘sign in’ to the blog before leaving a comment, thus avoiding the robotic messy spammers.  I would still maintain control on accepting their ‘membership’ in the blog, and approving their posts.  I thought all was good…little did I know!

I didn’t really notice that I hadn’t had any sign-ups or comments until someone emailed me directly with a comment and mentioned that they couldn’t figure out how to leave a comment on the blog.  Our next step was to include some language that we thought would clarify the process.  After that I asked a couple of trusted friends to try it out.  They got mired and stuck in it.  Ouch!

Only then did I remember a very crucial thing — to not make it hard for fans or clients to engage with me!  I’ve had some past experience in having clients irritated with me, when technology beyond my control wasn’t ‘friendly’, and certainly didn’t want to repeat that in any way!

It was about this time that I remembered that I had leapt in to the ‘apparent’ issue without really getting to the core problem first.  We all do that, we are trained to do that.  I remember when I was first exposed to working in a company, that the ‘rule’ was to not bring a problem to your manager without also having a solution for it.  Old habits die hard, and even though I now know better, the pressure of being uber spammed had me ‘regress under stress’, and my puter person had taken that stress at face value.  Oops!

As I got back to the core issue, which was making it easy for real people to leave a comment, the clouds started to part.

There was a fundamental flaw in my initial interpretation of the flood of spamsters fussing on my blog.  I thought it was because of the huge increase in this stuff I was experiencing everywhere.  I was wrong.  Turns out that a handy app/plugin named Akismet was the culprit. I knew I had this and assumed it was something that was free for everybody…after all, I’ve had the website for a while now.  And on WordPress it said that the software was ‘up to date’.  What I finally discovered, with the brilliant insight of my tech person, was that the software was up to date, but the license wasn’t!  Really!  Yipes!  God forbid that should be made clear to those of us that don’t speak fluent programmer-gab!

Makes sense though, everything went whacking in January.  It probably was when the previous license expired or a free trial ended.  And then all hell broke loose.  And near as I can tell no one ever notified me that I had it on a trial, or that the trial period or license had expired.

So now things are all good.  You don’t have to ‘join’ anything to leave a message.  No passwords for commenters.  No confusion for my readers.  I have paid for a year of magic Akismet.  It is catching and marking as SPAM about 20 ‘comments’ a day from the bad guys…yippee!

It cost some money, took way too much time, disrupted some clients, and probably caused some general consternation that I don’t even know about for some people.

Sometimes, I must admit, I do wonder if all this ‘progress’ is really worth it?  And in hindsight, I do appreciate the reminder — or perhaps we should call it “swift kick in the arse”— to dig deeper around what the issue really is before I leap into a solution!

Ka’ching

Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to kvetch about SPAM give me a call  503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com

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