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Date Sent:      October 23, 2008
Subject:           Spammers: Yet They Try
From:               John Bondon
Andrew filed this report of his 10/19 MORGAN TERRITORY HIKE:
    I am loving this weather. We had 19 hikers and Coco the dog. 8.25 miles per Howard's GPS. Took 3.5 hours and we all finished. Three of the hikers went horseback riding after the hike. How cool is that?
Mars submitted a few of his photos from the Oct 19th hike. You can view them all online at http://hiking.bondon.com/pictures/?Path=MORGANTERRITORY%2DFINLEYRD/.

Spammers: And Yet They Keep Trying

Back in April I mentioned how much of my coding efforts on the website for the past couple of years have been focused on the backend. That is, changes that have been made behind the scenes to the website that you don't see but help to keep everything running smoothly, and most importantly, save me time!

One example of such a coding change I recently implemented was a way to deal with all the spam attempts the website receives. The whole reason that all submissions to the website must first be approved by me is to prevent spammers (those trying to sell something) from posting items of an inappropriate or irrelevant nature. It used to be for a hike leader to submit a new hike, he or she first had to submit the trail information, wait for me to approve it, before then getting back on the webste and submitting the actual hike event (date/time information, etc.). But later I decided to eliminate the approval step for new Trail submissions, as these wouldn't display on the website without the hike event being approved by me anyway. So now Trails are immediately available to select in the pulldown list on the "Plan A Hike" page. (see diagram). The problem, of course, is that spammers have discovered my "Add a Trail" page and routinely try to solict their merchandise to you thru it. Which is why our hike leaders may have noticed some rather odd trail entries appearing over time as this is not something I clear out on a routine basis. Another submission page that gets a lot of spam attempts is the Related Links page. Of course, no spammer's submission has ever made it on the page, but some spammers have tried repeatedly to get displayed, even resubmitting multiple times, thinking that will help their cause.

To give you some idea of how frequent an occurance is, let me put this into perspective. Since December of 2006, there have been a total of 629 spam attempts to the Related Links page and 98 spam attempts to the Add a New Trail page, with a large percentage of each of those spam attempts having been porn links.

It used to be that I had to manually clear these out one by one. I also started tracking where these spam attempts were coming from and have implemented countermeasures on the website to try to prevent future re-submission attempts. Now this whole process is on it's way to become automated. I no longer have to clear out these submissions one by one; a new script does most of the work for me, though I still delete such entries manually (for now), the whole process is much faster and smoother now.

Just one example of the backend projects that has taken up some of my free time over the past couple of years....


Upcoming Pot Luck Hike

Just a reminder that if you plan to attend this Sunday's Wall Point hike in Alamo from Macedo Ranch, it will be a pot luck hike. So please bring something to share. Cookies, fruit, drinks, whatever. Let's socialize a bit!

A Preview of our upcoming hikes, by the hike leader(s):

Andrew says of the upcoming Twin Ponds Loop hike on Thursday, October 23 at 10:00 AM: "We may get to feed the chickens at Borges. One of them is very fond of dried cranberries, eating them right off the table.".

Diane says of the upcoming Briones Reservoir Overlook hike hike on Sunday, October 26 at 8:15 AM: "Affectionately known as ".

Andrew says of the upcoming Wall Point hike (Macedo Ranch) hike on Sunday, October 26 at 9:30 AM: "I hope the beautiful autumn weather holds. The trails are dry.".

John says of the upcoming Hardy Canyon (Round Valley Regional Park) hike on Sunday, November 2 at 10:30 AM: "This is the tougher route from the one we did last spring. Expect about 1,000 feet elevation gain. No dogs permitted on this hike. ".

You'll find more details about each of these upcoming hikes, including starting time and directions to the trailhead, posted on the East Bay Casual Hiking website. In the event of rain, please check with the hike leader as to whether the hike will proceed as planned.

Happy Trails! :)






















Happy Trails,

John




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