August 8, 2014: Easy Come, Easy Go
This may seem a somewhat pointless task, since the spam I've been removing was invisible to nonadminstrators, so its removal has little apparent effect. phpBB does an excellent job of filtering out questionable posts and holding them to be accepted or rejected by an administrator. Or perhaps it simply holds all posts by users who haven't made accepted posts before—since there have been no posts yet by nonadministrators that were unambiguously not spam, I don't currently have enough data to tell the difference. Regardless, the tens of thousands of spam posts that have cluttered the forum have stayed safely sequestered away from the public eye, and even if I didn't bother to delete them they would remain publicly unseen.
Although I'd still probably want to clean up the offending posts in any case, what makes it more of a priority is that while the posts themselves aren't visible, the users are. The main forum page lists at the bottom the number of registered members... and it listed over six thousand members. Given that the vast majority of these have undoubtedly just registered in order to spam the forums, this number doesn't accurately represent the authentic membership of the forum, and I plan to pare it down until it does. Not only do I not like the inflated number of registered posts; I'm not a fan of the birthday notifications for spammers either. It doesn't look great to have a notice on the bottom of the forum giving "Congratulations to: nn7luflzfi (39), hu7xrcstaa (39), qp2ruwwnnc (39), eg5kjqsvan (39), wt0rbxmqms (39), gr5acbymeo (39), te6miwrpdx (39), pf4yctthku (39), cu8yiwycds (39), qm2hiqccge (39), qg6xjipyzu (39), momaPiowarp (39), DedushkaMorozz (38), nw0cughrrp (30), tz0nugczdo (30), ba6ckxuxkd (30), cs8stltrqr (30), hiletriella (30), xm9pydakqn (30), vr5bdgemgh (30), hg3javrqwq (30), xa1rkzjrsq (30), qr4vncruwc (30), vf0abnyrqq (30), qi9iijbbwz (30), jp6gxgtzpi (30), Tymnskisk (28), Aliaheldi (26)". (For what it's worth, not all the spammers' usernames are as unpronounceable as the majority of those on the list; apparently that just happened to be a day that many of those with the more galimatiary names had designated as their faux birthday.)
I've been deleting the accounts of members that have posted nothing but spam (or have spam links in their profiles, even if they haven't posted anything yet), and that's decreased the number somewhat, but it's still over five thousand; I'm going to try to eliminate them all, but it's going to take time. I've been as lenient as possible, sparing anyone who hasn't posted any spam yet and doesn't have a spam link in their profile, even if they have a username that follows a similar pattern to the spammers'. I've even accepted any posts that weren't completely unambiguous spam, even if I was pretty sure they were made with spammic intent... you can see examples of such posts here, here, and here. In fact, those are the only such examples; in all the many thousands of posts I've removed so far, those are the only ones that weren't chock full of spam links. (Well, technically it's not strictly accurate to say I've gone through all those thousands of posts; when I've seen a spam post, I've deleted the user and all their posts with them. So when a spammer has made multiple posts, most of those posts have been deleted without anyone's ever seeing them. (Well, to be completely technically accurate, for a spammer who's made exactly two posts (and there were many who did), I saw exactly half their posts, so what I can definitively say is that at least half of the posts of a spammer with multiple posts have been deleted without anyone's ever seeing them.) I suppose one could argue that there's a slight possibility that someone might post both spam and legitimate messages so some non-spam messages may have been caught in the crossfire, but (a) I think the chances that a spammer would also post genuine messages are low enough to be negligible, and (b) even if they did, I'd say that by posting spam they forfeited their right to get other messages through.)
I did like the subject of one of the spam posts, however. "Worldguard Infinity". The nominal subject, of course, had nothing whatsoever to do with the content of the post, which was in Polish for some reason and comprised paragraphs of gibberish alternating with lists of assorted links. A Google search turns up no uses of that phrase... there's apparently a plugin for Minecraft called "WorldGuard", but Google only found three instances of the phrase "Worldguard infinity", and those were the result of the two words being together by happenstance. No doubt "Worldguard Infinity" was just a random sequence of words put together by whatever algorithm spammers use for that sort of thing. Still, in this case the spam algorithm hit on an evocative title. I want to do something with that. Worldguard Infinity sounds like the name of some heroic organization that travels between worlds guarding against... well, against whatever's threatening the worlds, I guess. I see it as the subject of a children's cartoon series. Or maybe a comic book. Or both. Maybe Worldguard Infinity has a specific archenemy they fight against, or maybe they just face various diverse threats. Or, again, maybe both; maybe some episodes feature the series' main antagonist, whereas others pit Worldguard Infinity against a villain of the week. You know, this is something I'd actually be interested in developing... if I can find the time, of course (a dubious proposition at best). Still... yeah. I like it. There remain a lot of details to work out, though. I shall consult the other Grandmasters, and we shall perhaps get back to this.
Anyway, despamming the forum isn't the only Wongery-related thing I've been occupied with. In fact, this very post was delayed a few weeks by another matter I had to attend to. Namely, I had to upgrade to a new hosting plan. The site had been hosted on a shared server, but it seems that it had been taking up more than its share of the CPU, which left me with three choices: reduce the CPU usage, upgrade to a dedicated server, or have the site disabled. Obviously, the last of these choices was not one I was willing to accept, so that left the first two.
I tried to track down why the site's CPU usage was so high, and from the log files the biggest offender seemed to have been the Bingbot. This is, apparently, not an unknown issue, and there are ways to possibly ameliorate it, namely setting a crawl delay to slow Bing down, or even using robots.txt to block it entirely. Of course, neither of those is an ideal solution from my standpoint, as I want the site indexed—just because I'm not actively promoting it doesn't mean I want to actively hide it from search engines. Besides, they would anyway be a temporary fix; as traffic grew I'd run again into the same problem. So I decided to bite the bullet and upgrade to a dedicated server, even though I wasn't sure I could really afford it.
This posed other problems, besides the extra expense. The server upgrade did not go as smoothly as I had rather hoped; there were some issues with databases not being transferred to the new server, or code not being updated to point to the new database locations. There's also the issue that for some reason code that worked fine on the old server was now causing problems, suggesting that maybe the new server had a different version of PHP installed, I guess, though that particular issue doesn't seem to have affected this site (it did affect other sites I had hosted in the same account). But it seems to all have worked itself out now. Though a few days ago there was some brief outage related to "RAM exhaustion," and it seems at some point I may need to pony up to pay for more RAM for my hosting account... ugh. Oh well.
Anyway, none of this is what this post is really about, or rather clearly it is in part what this post is about, given that I've just gone on for eight paragraphs about it, but none of it is what this post was originally intended to be about. But it's not what was intended as the main point of the news post, or the topic that gives the post its title (despite the fact that at this point it's looking like that topic will have far fewer words devoted to it than the above). No, what I'd primarily wanted to write about was a follow-up to the last post, in which I mentioned having found another link to the Wongery on a site called the Creepy Wiki.
Well, as the post title says, easy come easy go. That link is now gone from the web, not because it was deleted from the Creepy Wiki, but because the Creepy Wiki itself is now gone from the web. (There is another site on Weebly that calls itself the Creepy Wiki, but it's completely unrelated—it's a site that claims to dedicate itself to "the creepiest, paranormal, unexplained mysteries that wikipedia and the rest of the web have to offer", and yet for some reason chooses to put as its main image a picture of an oarfish, which is in no way either paranormal or unexplained (or, I'd say, creepy, but I suppose that's subjective).) The site's creator—"Slimebeast", as he pseudonymously styles himself (not that he makes any effort to hide his real name, of course; it's right there on the bottom of his webpage)—deleted it, apparently having become discouraged by the low levels of participation. At least, that's what I assume the reason was for its deletion, though it remains speculative; I searched Slimebeast's forum and Twitter feed and could find nary a mention of the site's expunction, let alone an explanation. The forum thread announcing the site's creation had no posts since the first few days. He had, however, while the site was still up expressed his frustration on a Creepy Wiki talk page about his failure to drum up participation, though, so I think it's relatively safe to suppose this was why he took the site down.
It's tempting to decry Slimebeast's infortitude; the site was only up for a few months before he gave up on it, after all, while the Wongery has now been up for going on two years and has no one at all participating aside from its creators, unless you count the spammers and the handful of probably-but-not-absolutely-certain spammers mentioned above. But that's not really a fair comparison. We haven't been actively trying to get people to come to the site, content to just wait and see if people find it without our active effort; if we'd been making a serious effort to drum up participation and still had nothing to show for it, maybe we'd be more discouraged. Besides, the Wongery, as mentioned before, I consider my magnum opus, the project I most want to bring to full fruition, despite my not having had nearly as much time as I'd have liked to work on it so far. It's not the only thing I have going on, certainly, but it may be the one I consider the most important to me. Slimebeast, on the other hand, has a lot else on his plate, and the Creepy Wiki was just one of many projects, and there's no evidence that it was one he was particularly attached to. Given the struggles he'd posted about on the talk pages with spam, it's understandable, if lamentable, that with no one else participating he decided that maintaining the site just wasn't worth his time.
And so goes a fleeting nod to the Wongery's exisence. For one ephemeral moment, the Wongery was cited as a reference on something, even if that something was an entry on the World of the Week and not something in the Central Wongery itself. And now, for now, that has gone the way of all flesh, and I suppose of all weblinks, which I don't expect to be immortal either.
Or so I thought, until I did another search on Google for the Wongery just now. Turns out there's another page citing the Wongery as a reference on the Dogscape, this one a YouTube reading of some of the Dogscape stories. In the "About" text, the page reads "Learn more about Dogscape here:", and includes a link to the Wongery World of the Week page on the Dogscape... the same page, of course, that was linked to by the Creepy Wiki. Though it's not entirely impossible that the creator of that reading, the rather dolichonymic "Lord Dragonwolfworm", ran across the page on his own, it seems more likely that he saw the reference on the Creepy Wiki before its demise. So, hey, the Creepy Wiki's link to the Wongery may be gone, but its scion survives. I guess.
Being cited as an authority on the Dogscape is not what I had in mind for the Wongery, of course, but if there's a possibility those links may eventually bring people to the site to check out what else is there... eh, couldn't hurt.
(As an aside, it belatedly occurs to me that I ought to put, at the bottom of all the World of the Week threads and these news posts, links to the corresponding forum threads. They all have corresponding forum threads; there's just no direct link to them. I'll have to get around to adding that one of these days... not that I don't have plenty of other things I need to do on the site as well, not the least being finally making a header image; the top of the page has said "Title graphic coming soon" for over eighteen months now, which I think far exceeds any reasonable interpretation in context of "soon".)
Anyway. Enough of that. While pruning spammers from the fora may not be an entirely unproductive activity, I've really, really got to start posting more articles on the Central Wongery again (and motivate the other Grandmasters to do the same, though my own posting will go a long way toward that). I have a rather long article about Thamarand I've been working on for some time and should probably get around to finishing and posting, and I know last I talked to him Tada had an article in progress about Telifog I'm going to encourage him to finish. So... I guess I should probably get on that. Tata.