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News Editor

Even in Weblogs . . .

Oct 20, 20034 mins
Enterprise Applications

We all agree that the Internet is the eighth wonder – on a good day – but imagine how much more wondrous it would be if so many of the people who use it weren’t greedy, self-centered morons.

The thought occurred – again – as I read an internal memo from my colleague Adam Gaffin about the Weblogs we publish on Network World Fusion. As you know, Weblogs are hotter than black vinyl car seats in August. And while reasonable people can disagree about whether media-affiliated Weblogs should be edited (absolutely) and whether blogging will change life as we know it (absolutely not), this much should be beyond debate: There’s a special black vinyl car seat in hell for spammers.

Until they singe their fannies in the afterlife, however, spammers will continue to discover new ways of foisting their crap upon the rest of us: Weblogs being only the latest vehicle.

Gaffin reports having recently spent an hour of his weekend deleting “comment spam” from our Weblogs and those that he oversees at Boston Online –  your one-stop shop for information about all things Boston.

“I’ve just installed something called MT-Blacklist that, if it works, should protect our Weblogs from spam,” Gaffin told us. “Basically, when somebody tries to post a comment, MT-Blacklist checks the URL and the message body against a blacklist of banned words and URL fragments and, if it finds a banned word, tells the user (or spambot): ‘Bzzt, wrong answer. Try again’ (or words to that effect). Naturally, the spammers will try to get around the blacklists, but the software lets you import blacklists from other sites, so maybe we can keep a step ahead of them.”

What’s particularly galling about comment spam is that it is not so much intended to con the feeble-minded into buying get-rich-quick schemes and snake oil, but aims instead to boost the spammer’s Google rating. One factor in determining where a site ranks in a Google search on any particular word or term is the number of other sites that link to the one containing that word or term. More links means a higher ranking, so spammers have taken to seeding Weblogs with links that have no legitimate business being there.

Hence the need for tools such as MT-Blacklist. Blogger Jay Allen’s labor of love, MT-Blacklist works only with the blogging application Movable Type and can be downloaded from his MT-Blacklist site.

“This software is here for the taking,” Allen tells his readers. “You do not have to pay a dime for it. It makes me happy just to know that I’ve helped so many people.”

Thanks, Jay.

Your work number is ‘personal’?

How can an internal company telephone directory be considered “personal” information worthy of privacy law protection? Don’t ask me.

The question springs from an Oct. 10 Wall Street Journal story headlined: “Europe’s New High-Tech Role: Playing Privacy Cop to the World.” The gist was that stringent privacy protections in Europe are prompting U.S. multinationals to fall in line whether or not such attitudes prevail here.

The featured anecdote recounted efforts by General Motors to distribute its internal phone directory to GM facilities and business partners worldwide.

No can do, said the European privacy cops.

GM appealed. We’re talking about business phones, it told those authorities.

The cops wouldn’t budge, meaning GM had to move heaven and earth simply to let its employees find each other’s workplace phone numbers.

The story did not explain why business numbers would be considered personal information – even by privacy-crazed Europeans – and my own efforts to find out this week failed. . . . So please, if you know, enlighten me.

My address is not considered personal information: