Referrer Karma: Birth of an Anti-Spam Tool

I know this might sound hard to believe, but if you know me personally, you know I am quite a good-natured person. I can get irritated at things, but hardly ever go any farther than that.

In fact, provided my meds do not run out, it is awfully hard to really piss me off for good. And to get on my permanent unexpiring shit-list, you have to really overdo it.

One easy way to do it, though, is to successfully DDoS my host on a Sunday morning, resulting in the suspension of my whole account, mail server included.

The debate is still open on whether that was an actual DDoS attempt (I do have many friends out there, and they have been trying similar tricks in the past) or just one the most braindead of that already rather stupid sub-species known as referrer spammers. Granted, my own host hardly showed much efficiency in the matter, since, upon seeing a few IPs querying my blog index.php file upward of 200 times in 50 seconds, they merely took offense of the fact that it was overloading the mySQL server (thanks WordPress and its 70 queries per pageload) and pulled the plug without any further consideration.

A quick look at my logs eventually showed that these hits were pushing some second-grade junk website in their referrer field.

And just like that, unbeknownst to him, that spamming wanker made himself one very decided enemy.

The difference between the average pissed-off user and yours truly essentially is that I spent the following 10 hours writing and testing a tool that I had, so far, no real interest in wasting any time on. Ten hours, I may add, that I could absolutely not afford to spend, given how this was the week-end where I had turned my cellphone off and planned to get it over with a few über-important university reports, whose deadline loomed somewhere in the distant past. But that’s how pissed-off I was.

This little crisis (ok, my sites and email were down for 6 hours, big deal, I know) made me realize that, in addition to fucking up my web logs, these degenerate monkeys were also wasting a lot of bandwidth and CPU, trying to relay their pointless mercantile pitch…

Trust me, clearing up the referrer spambots makes you realize how much of a nuisance to your servers they were.

And I invite you to do so, by giving a look at this little toy:

[cue drum-roll]

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am proud to introduce you to the first semi-public release of Referrer Karma!

Truth be told, the name is slightly misleading, since RK is nowhere near as thorough as Spam Karma in its checks, nor does it even use a “karma” system. But after all, no reason it couldn’t bask in the popularity of its famous cousin.

By the way: this is not a WordPress plugin. It does work very nicely in conjunction with WordPress, but it is usable from any page that supports PHP all the same.

At the moment, this is still a pre-release version: not for lack of stability (it’s been tested on my site most of yesterday and now on a few brave beta-testers), but because I do not have time to offer any support for it. Didn’t even get around yet to write a proper doc.

So go ahead and feel free to install it if you have some basic technical notions (it’s not that hard) and really want to try it, but I would encourage non-hacker types to wait a little bit (probably a week or so) until I have time to work some more on it: add extensive documentation, nicer interface and offer some sort of support.

For the rest, read the details and download the archive on Referrer Karma’s static page, I will add to it as I go…


  1. well im not going to waste my time reiterating what you have said so well, i went thtrough the same thing. and was soo busy i couldnt do a thing other thatn just disable my wordpress install all together. my salvation though was the WordPress Plugin Manager and Spam Karma. so glad to know im not alone out there. congrats on beating down the @#$##^% spammers!

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