battling spam on the campus wiki


The University's campus wiki, wiki.ucalgary.ca, is still run as a semi-stealth pilot project. This seems strange, after running it for 7 and a half years (first edit, December 11, 2004), but it's something I initially snuck onto a server, and it kind of grew from there. It's still running on an aging and borrowed/scrounged server, and I'm supporting it in my spare time. Which means, it's basically self-supporting. Which is fine, because the people that have been doing awesome stuff with it are a pretty self-supporting group. I'm working on getting the wiki adopted by IT so it will be properly managed, but that process takes time.

But. The spam. The wiki was configured to be open, allowing anonymous edits. The idealist in me wanted to provide a way for people to contribute without worrying that their edits would be tracked back to them. I'd even initially allowed anonymous edits, so people could edit without logging in at all. Sounds good in wiki theory. But in practice... The spam. It burns. It didn't take long before I had to kill anonymous edits. The spam bots were drawn to that like fetid moths to a rancid flame. But I fought the urge to require campus authentication. The spam piled up, but was manageable. Until lately, when I just haven't had the spare time to devote to pruning the rotting garbage that builds up.

So. I just installed an extension that will restrict new accounts to require a @ucalgary.ca email address. You can still use whatever you want for a username (use a pseudonym, nom de plume, whatever), and it's not authenticated against the campus directory or anything. But you need to have a @ucalgary.ca email address to edit.

This feels like a decent balance, assuming students still have access to a campus email address. This is debatable. On ucalgaryblogs, less than 1/3 of students use their @ucalgary.ca email addresses. Is this because they haven't activated them, or because they simply choose to use a hotmail or gmail or whatever.com address? One way to find out...


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