Listowel Writers' Week Fringe

Blogging Listowel's Literary Scene

If I ever meet a spammer in person I’ll …

June 18, 2009 By: Patrick Stack Category: blogs, poetry, Reflections

… kick their teeth in, and that is a promise. I don’t mind the odd comment spam in Cryllic from some Russian with nothing better to do, but when we get flooded by rubbish from that bastion of rabid capitalism, the, in this case, not-so-good old U S of A, trying to sell everything from cheap insurance (automobile and home) to pharmaceuticals (a minority of which claim to increase the girth of one’s manhood) to College degrees, my normal sanguinity in the face of computer problems goes to white hot, and I have this overweening urge to shove their spam up their virtual rear ends which of course I never get to do as they remain untraceable apart from an IP address.

Now I know, as ever blogger does, that one of the downsides of blogging is that it brings with it the unwanted attentions of the bottom-feeding spammer scum (those self-styled “bulk marketing consultants“) which rarely amounts to no more than a passing, if daily, annoyance.
However, it does become a major problem when the number of spam posts dramatically increases making it nigh-on-impossible for the blog admin. (the person who oversees the proper running of the blog) to stem the tide of filth.

Some years back I suffered one such attack on my first blog and was forced to close the blog down while I searched for a solution. Not being sufficiently skilled at php coding at the time I could not implement any of the solutions I found on the web, nor could I afford to pay somebody else to do it for me. I kept a record of the IP addresses of the offending posts over a few days. The vast majority of the relevant IPs originated in China. So I banned entire ranges of IP addresses associated with China by adding them to a .htaccess file on the server. A bit extreme I know, but it worked!

Why am I telling you all of this? Firstly I’m writing it as an extension to Paul O’Mahony’s contention, in his Literary Festival in Digital Age post, that we writers ignore the tools brought to us courtesy of the Web Revolution at our peril. Secondly, because I love Web technology every bit as much as I love writing. For me the two are inextricably intertwined. There is a web site devoted to poetry written in or using the Perl programming language – Perl Monks. There has even been a Perl Poetry Contest. According to its inventor, Larry Wall, Perl stands for either Practical Abstraction and Report Language or Pathologically Eclectic Rubbish Lister depending on his mood at any particular time!

Any good programmer, mathematician, musician, or indeed scientist will be familiar with the idea that a solution, formula, function, theorem, piece or proof must have beauty if it is to be considered great. The concept of coding as poetry has always appealed to me, ever since I first came across it in Larry Wall’s classic Learning Perl or it may have been Programming Perl. What matter which?

[to be continued]

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