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Another Reason To Love Community Server 2.1

October 31, 2006

I have had a blog in one form or another for ages. In fact, if your definition of a blog is a place to say what I am up to and for others to leave comments about it, enabling a basic conversation, I have had a blog since I was living on 3rd and A in NYC over 10 years ago. The problem has always been that it was somewhat difficult to figure out who visited the site. Sure, there were always the logs but they were often tough to parse.

Then a few years ago, the guys behind Movable Type came up with an idea call TrackBacks. Implemented correctly, trackbacks were supposed to automatically show up like comments with a blurb about who is linking to your page and what they said. The problem was that while it was available to you if you used something like MT, it wasn’t braindead easy to implement in a custom blogging engine like mine.

The engine I used was something I wrote from scratch. For a long time it was a LAMP-based solution. When I became an SE for NetObjects, a public web software company with a 49-51% interest owned by IBM, I made it a Websphere solution. Thankfully that mistake was fixed when I went to work for Microsoft a few months later. The site became a C#/ASP.Net learning project, and I am sure if I had spent a few minutes with the crap info available on trackbacks, I could have gotten it going. But I had a real job and tried to focus on that more.

Eventually I started using Community Server because it made my job as blogger far easier while not sacrificing some of my perceived requirements. Community Server supported trackbacks, but at some point they stopped working on my site. Before that I suffered from trackback spam that was painful, just another form of the referral spam i worked through in my own software.

Fast forward to this past week. I noticed I was a victim of comment spam. It wasn’t on the blog itself, but on a photo in the gallery section. One image had over 1000 comments. Looking at this site, even the newest user can see its not exactly a popular read, with most articles getting up to one or two comments. So for a single photo to have more than 2 comments was wierd, 1000 comments was Twin Peaks final backwards episode bizarre. About a month ago, I saw a blog posting about the comment spam filter tools in CS2 on Justin Pierce’s site, BlogFish. I did just what it suggested, pissed off that I hadn’t enabled that before. So far so good.

Either that same day or a day later I upgraded to CS 2.1 and I noticed that TrackBacks were working. I noticed this because I got a trackback from the CS Daily News site after getting help on my installation issue with CS. But what I am most excited about is that the spam filtering appears to be blocking the bad guys out, letting the good guys through, letting me know about both, and deleting the blocked stuff after a few days. I have a great single dashboard that shows me the number of comments in my blog and galleries and can quickly go through to review them all. When reviewing comments, the trackbacks can be reviewed in the same listing. Unfortunately I have to review blog comments separately from gallery comments, and each gallery has its own separate listing. I would prefer to have a single comment/trackback review for all comments and trackbacks on my server, but now I am just getting greedy.

So is any of this really new? No, not really, but that’s not the important part. Some of it worked before, but not all at the same time. The important part is that it is all coming together and just works….well, tweaks are required, but it is almost there. Its amazing how much just works out of the box and the problem I encountered was really a limitation of my connectivity to my hosting provider or a crappy ftp client. I am still the administrator of the site, I still own everything about it, but I have a day job and I can have this fairly cool site that I can play with and things just mostly work as I hoped. Now I can think about what I want to do to make it better rather than keep thinking of the work required to get the site back up to a minimally working state. Thats why I have another reason to love CS 2.1.

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