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Friday, October 04, 2013

Comic Cuts - 4 October 2013

A small bit of frustrating news to start with. Spam comments (→ Wikipedia) have been on the increase in the last few weeks and has increased dramatically in the last few days. Now, the spam filtering is pretty good on Blogger, so you, the reader, are unlikely to see them. Unfortunately, two managed to squeeze past the filter on Wednesday. I became aware of them within minutes and deleted them, but it seems to have had the effect of causing whoever is sending them to increase their efforts. I've just opened my e-mail and dozens of spam comments have been sent to Bear Alley since I last checked last night. (Here's a good article explaining why people and companies fire off spam comments.)

Now, I use what's called "word verification" on Bear Alley, which means that when you leave a message you need to confirm that you're a human being. So this is not automatically generated spam produced by robots. Well, it is, but I presume some poor sod has to sit there and verify each message so that it will be posted. And 99.9% of them you'll never see because they're immediately filtered out.

To try and combat this problem, I've switched the settings so that not everyone can comment. It might help stop some of the anonymous spam. It might not, but if the spammers are registered this might tell me who they are and I can report them. It might be a spit in a hurricane to do this but I'd rather try to reduce the levels of spam rather than take drastic action and turn comments off.

There has also been a rise in what's called referer spam (→ Wikipedia) and it's apparently a widely known problem aimed specifically at bloggers. Blogger, for instance, tells me how many visits Bear Alley gets and where visitors come from; they even compile a Top 10 for me. So odd addresses have been creeping into this Top 10 amongst the ones you would expect to see (google, yahoo, bing, etc.). If you blog and you see weird addresses in your traffic stats DON'T click on them to see who they are, because at best its just someone wanting to sell you something. At worst, they might be trying to download malware onto your computer.

This has been a problem for the past couple of years and it doesn't seem to be going away. It isn't a major problem for me because I'm not too worried about my visitor stats but it's worth mentioning.

I haven't really got anything to report work-wise. I finished the piece I mentioned last week and have been darting around working on a couple of other projects this week, trying to keep up with my exercise and trying to tidy up a little bit because I'm thinking of moving my desk inside the house before winter comes. At the moment I'm in a converted garage and it can get freezing cold. Now that we've had the walls of the house insulated, it seems stupid not to try to benefit from it.

A few days after seeing Mark Thomas (reviewed last week) we went to see Norman Lovett. You could not get two more extremes: Thomas prods and pokes at the law to create mischief, where Lovett picks at a thread to find humour in everyday objects; Thomas is animated and passionate where Lovett is deadpan and weary. Both use a selection of photos as part of their show but Lovett's are mostly of his dog, Elvis, and snaps he's taken whilst on tour or watching TV. He flicks past images absentmindedly, muttering to himself, or pulls props from a carrier bag: a tiny tub of UHT milk; a wooden fork; small plastic bags for dog droppings which he has drawn eyes on and allows to float down onto the stage.

If you let yourself into Lovett's world, it's a wonderfully daft place. He admits early on that he has only one or two jokes in the whole act, but at the end of it, it's the warmth of his persona, the gentility of his voice and the childlike fascination he has with the trivial that makes the show a delight.

I thought I did pretty well to get something up every day this week. Not sure what will happen over the next seven days as I'm still going to be spreading myself a bit thin over three or four different projects. And I'm going to shut down now because there's a massive thunderstorm overhead. The lights have been flickering and there's a chance we'll loose power. Wish me luck as I head off to bed in the pitch black. [[Update: I survived!]]

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