~WikiSpam by the billions

For the past week, someone has been hitting jspwiki.org, adding advertisements to a couple of addresses I am not going to mention here. I figured they were isolated incidents, but... It seems that Dave Johnson of RollerWeblogger has had the same guys on his wiki. I just hope nobody is trying to build a bot to target a specific WikiEngine. It could be devastating to the open nature of Wikis.

You see, the problem with open systems is that they are easy to abuse. For the most part, manual damage can be controlled thanks to social pressure and sheer volume of good people, but automatical damage, as inflicted by bots may become intolerable. The reason why we have so much email spam these days is because of the wonderful openness of the SMTP, mail transfer protocol. Because it was open, license-free, and easy to implement, it became the killer app of the all-pervasive Internet these days. But openness also has vulnerabilities, and as with anything popular, people are abusing it right now.

I am not worried about people trying to destroy wikis. That would be too easy to protect against. But I am worried about bots that would roam around, and change the text or a link slightly to destroy links to competition, or to add Googlejuice for someone. Would it be possible to notice every single change on your wiki, and check every single outgoing link? Considering that most Wikis don't even provide an RSS or Atom feed it may be difficult to keep track on what is really happening. I have two open Wikis which I administer - and I'm having trouble coping with them already. Especially smaller wikis may be in trouble, as their administration have no tools to combat a dedicated spambot.

It is entirely possible that public Wikis will have to start to protect themselves somehow. I think we should start thinking about technologies that would prevent spambots from destroying an entire subculture, but in a ~WikiFriendly way. Let's not do what everybody else seems to be doing these days, and sacrifice the one thing that we want to protect.


Yeah. This is the main reason I've always been a bit dubious about the "open wiki works", and have put authentication on the "must have" list for any wiki I install. As long as nobody uses a tool there aren't any problems, but the moment the tool becomes a success it also starts attracting Net scum. Damned if you do, damned if you don't - since every tool wants to become a success.

I really don't see myself running a totally open and anonymous wiki at any point, at a minimum I'd want to have people log in as some sort of "anonymous user" to foil automated bots. It's a bit of a bother, but hey, if a person can't be bothered to go via one login screen he/she probably didn't have anything important to contribute anyway.

--Orava, 12-May-2004

Well, Wikis have worked fine for about ten years or so... So I wouldn't still write them off.

The problem is that Wikis work partly because of the extremely low publishing threshold. You can just change a page, no worries. Just leave your mark and go. Any registration, however simple, will reduce the usability of a public Wiki. Obviously, for intranets this hardly matters, since they are protected by a firewall anyway.

--JanneJalkanen, 12-May-2004

It's a tough call. Schucker.org is protected to keep the casual edit-scum out. I give user/passwords to anyone that wants them, but there have been very few asking in the last year.

I hit recent changes on JSPWiki about once a day to see what is new and to clean the mess the edit-scum have left. It looks like there are a number of us that do that.

In the States we have groups that go out and pick up trash along the highways as a public service, it's a shame that we can't just teach people to not throw the trash in the first place. Wiki is the same, it would be nice if we could teach people to be nice.

It's nice that you are important, it's more important that you are nice. Old family saying

--Foster , 12-May-2004

Absolutely. And I am very grateful to everyone who goes around jspwiki.org and cleans up the trash. I don't thank you as often as I should.

And I completely agree on the family saying. I think I'll adopt it, if I may.

--JanneJalkanen, 12-May-2004

The Docbook Wiki was recently hit by a spammer using a bot and anonymizing proxies to spam every page on a regular basis. They ended up creating a login system where you can only edit pages after being added to this page by an existing user:


--Matt Brubeck, 13-May-2004

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"Main_blogentry_120504_2" last changed on 12-May-2004 17:05:25 EEST by JanneJalkanen.