Mollom 2009 retrospective

For Mollom, milestones came fast in 2009. First, we celebrated that Mollom had blocked 25 million spam messages. Two months later we celebrated that Mollom had blocked 50 million spam messages. Fast forward another 3 months, and Mollom blocked 100 million spam messages milestone. We ended the year with 163 million spam messages blocked (700% annual growth, up from 21 million in 2008) and 15,000 sites actively using Mollom (330% annual growth, up from 4,500 sites in 2008).

Not included in any of those statistics is the fact that Mollom partnered with Netlog in 2009, one of the fastest-growing web communities in Europe. Mollom is now protecting the messages of more than 40 million Netlog members, in more than 25 different languages. Each day, Netlog members exchange more than 4 million messages, all analyzed by Mollom for spam and unwanted content in real-time.

Last year, we spent a lot of time dealing with the pains of, frankly, our unexpected growth. We're handling well over 200 million HTTP requests each month, making Mollom the largest web service I've ever helped build -- a very fun and rewarding experience from the technology side. We launched additional servers and rewrote our backend infrastructure to improve scalability and ease of management. True success is measured by the fact that we had to purchase solid state disk drives (SSD) because we needed at least 100 times faster read and write times than regular hard disks could deliver. ;)

But best of all, on the business side, we were able to increase our investments while steering the company to profitability. That is a big win, because it proves that the business model works.

I predict that in 2010 we'll continue to do much of the same but that you'll also see some more "visible" changes -- maybe a new website, and almost certainly some new APIs and functionality to better combat spam. Blocking spam is a really hard problem, and spammers continue to adapt and refine their techniques. We have more work to do, but are committed to winning the spam game. But spam is only part of the problem in website moderation, this is why I expect that in 2010 Mollom will start providing solutions for different aspects such as language, content quality, profanity and malicious content.

Will we grow as fast in 2010? Only time will tell. We're a very small company, but Mollom has barely scratched the surface of its potential, so I have every reason to believe that 2010 will be another great year for Mollom.

Keeping the heart of the Linux Community open online

Launched in 1994 to nurture the burgeoning sense of community inherent among Linux users, Linux Journal wanted to provide a forum for its readers to share in the open-source operating system's process of collaboration and exchange. Despite using a combination of CAPTCHA and spam filters during its early years, Linux Journal's efforts to provide a secure communication channel that would reflect Linux's commitment to an open exchange of ideas was being overwhelmed by spam. They even found themselves having to repeatedly shut down their comments for whole days at a time when they felt particularly under attack.

In October of 2008 Linux Journal decided to turn to Mollom to help create a simple, secure anonymous comment forum free of the cascading effects of spam that can cripple an organization. And according to Linux Journal Webmistress Katherine Druckman, "Implementation was easy. I just installed the module and it worked."

Through its collaboration with Mollom, Linux Journal has been able to grow its community through increased visits and a corresponding increase in anonymous posts resulting in more frequent interaction between those members. With 15 years of archived material, articles views for older articles can surpass one million. Most new articles can generate 5-20k hits with more popular ones pushing 50-100k fairly quickly in the first two weeks to a month after the article is published. Almost every article generates at least one comment with most receiving between 10-200. Keeping those comments pertinent to the article being discussed is critical to generating continued conversation.

Since installing Mollom, Druckman notes that on an average day more than 95% of spam is filtered. "Over the last year there have been many days when Mollom has blocked almost 10k spam attacks per day."

Annually, the amount is more than 1.5 million messages. While spamming can still pose a threat, bulk spams slip through far less frequently.

In using Mollom to manage forum topic submissions, contact forms, user registrations and comments, Linux Journal has been able to focus its energies on promoting its mission and the positive interactions it inspires. Druckman believes Mollom frees the Linux Journal staff from having to continually monitor spam lists for false positives, allowing them more time to constructively interact with the community. Focusing less on capturing spam and more on initiating constructive discussion to continue to grow their Linux community, the time spent monitoring those comments is now a positive expenditure and no longer a financial liability.

Mollom in SilverStripe book

A new SilverStripe: The Complete Guide to CMS Development, by Ingo Schommer and Steven Broschart, has recently been released and is available on Amazon.com. The book mentions and encourages the use of Mollom as SilverStripe's spam protection mechanism of choice.

Of course, since 2.3.1, the SilverStripe Open Source CMS has included comprehensive, native support for Mollom, and this book highlights that. By installing the free Mollom SilverStripe module, a SilverStripe website will automatically use Mollom to protect page and blog comments, forum module user registrations, forum posts, custom forms created within the CMS user interface, and (optionally) custom PHP forms using a special field type. More information and a screencast about SilverStripe's Mollom implementation is available.

Mollom and the SilverStripe team have a special relationship, and we're proud to be mentioned in this latest book. As one of our partners, we work closely with the SilverStripe developers to make sure that our service and their implementation of it provides a truly seamless experience that just works.

The Industry Standard uses Mollom to increase user engagement

The online media industry continues to face readership and revenue challenges. The online media are burdened with the task of not only providing the content but gaining more user interaction in the form of reader comments. Comments by readers are beneficial to sites because they show created readership and mean more eyeballs to that particular page or article. More eyeballs means greater opportunity to sell ads and the more ads that are sold, the more revenue that site makes from the content it generates.

When you want to be relevant to readers and advertisers, you want to offer relevant content that is on topic. You want meaningful comments and conversation where possible. What you don’t want is comments that are crude, insensitive and not relevant to the content created, you don’t want spam as comments.

The Industry Standard is a news and analysis site that covers enterprise-grade software technologies ranging from collaboration tools to social networking. Based in San Francisco, the Industry Standard is popular with online readers all over the country.

The Industry Standard had site re-launch in 2008 with the goal of engaging with new readers and encouraging them to contribute comments and content. The Standard also wanted to allow readers to comment anonymously, something that most news sites do not do. The Industry Standard felt that anonymity gave readers more freedom to express their comments, and would encourage more frequent and detailed commentary while expanding traffic and tying the publication into the many other online conversations taking place around technology.

Ian Lamont, The Industry Standard’s managing editor, had prior experience managing online communities, and knew that the relaunched publication would need a comment filter that could encourage quality comments while sifting out spam and trolls.

According to Lamont, having anonymous comments is hugely important to The Industry Standard. “We really believe that most people don’t want to deal with the hassle of registration. Because we are relatively small, if we only had registered comments, there would be far less reader engagement on the site. As it is now, we can have dialogues with unregistered users, which is really important to building voice and an online identity.”

The Industry Standard turned to Mollom to help them remove the barrier to visitor participation, allowing readers to comment anonymously and eliminate spam vandalism. Since the re-launch in 2008, Mollom has blocked 800k spam messages in 539 days and blocked more than a thousand attempts a day with peaks up to several thousands a day.

“Our user engagement immediately went up after anonymous comments were enabled with Mollom,” said Lamont. “We were able to have many great discussion threads that otherwise would not have been possible.” To illustrate, here is an example of a discussion thread with anonymous comments: http://www.thestandard.com/news/2008/12/18/beginning-end-apple-imac

Mollom offers its services in tiers, with products targeted at small blogs, mid-sized sites, and large enterprise-level Web properties. Mollom Free, designed for small blogs and sites with small posting volumes, is provided free of charge to the Web community, while Mollom Plus and Mollom Premium are commercial services designed for sites with higher volumes and reliability requirements. More information about its service plans is available on Mollom's website.

Important note to Drupal 5 and Drupal 6 users (part two)

Last week, a configuration error on the Mollom servers caused a bug in Drupal 5 and Drupal 6 to surface which prevented sites from automatically reconnecting to the Mollom servers.

We identified a bug in the Drupal 5 module of Mollom, and released a fix for it earlier this week. We notified people about this through e-mail and on our blog.

What we hadn't discovered at the time was an additional bug in the error-handling code of the XML-RPC libraries in Drupal core. Special thanks to Joshua Brauer of Acquia Support for debugging this problem and bringing it to our attention.

In other words, the notification that we published earlier was incomplete and additional action is required for both Drupal 5 and Drupal 6 users.

We have since fixed the bug in Drupal 5 and Drupal 6 core, and this week, Drupal 6.14 and Drupal 5.20 were released. If you want to fix this problem for real, we highly recommend that you upgrade your Drupal installations to Drupal 5.20 or Drupal 6.14.

Note that Mollom has two fallback modes when no servers can be reached: "do not block spam" and "do not allow posts from protected forms". The module's default fallback setting is "do not allow posts from protected forms". Some customers may be unaware that Mollom spam blocking is presently disabled on their site.

If you can't instantly upgrade, the quick work around for both Drupal 5 and Drupal 6 users is to visit your Mollom module configuration page, which has a side-effect of automatically resetting the list of Mollom servers. You'll know this has worked when you receive a confirmation message at the top of the page which says, "We contacted the Mollom servers to verify your keys: the Mollom services are operating correctly. We are now blocking spam.".