A Custom Measure of Akismet Performance

Just a little something for the weekend.

Chris Hemedinger, a technical architect at SAS, recently published a great post on his personal analysis of Akismet’s effectiveness across an entire network of company blogs.

He uses his own company’s software to connect to his WordPress database and aggregate data from all Akismet-protected sites on the network. He then produces some really interesting charts and graphs for the purpose of analyzing spam activity and Akismet’s performance. Chris also makes it clear that having to manually deal with all that spam can be quite time-consuming.

And we tend to agree. :)

April Stats Roundup

This is the first in a series of monthly posts rounding up some basic stats and figures from the prior month. Because we thought that you may like to know how we’ve been doing and also get a better perspective of spam activity across the web.

This was a special month, as April 12 marked the 20-year anniversary of commercialized spam, which is attributed to two US immigration lawyers. Happy Birthday, I guess?

Akismet caught 6,284,116,547 pieces of spam content (comments, forum posts, contact form submissions, etc.). That’s down around 6% since last month and up around 103% over April 2013. The peak of spam activity was Tuesday April 15 (the same day that Akismet 3.0 was released, coincidentally), when our service blocked over 252 million pieces of spam content. The daily breakdown goes a little something like this:

Akismet Spam Stats, April 2014

There was a bit of an interesting lull at the end of the first week, though nothing much of note to discuss. You may have certainly noticed some corresponding trends on your own site. We experienced no downtime or service interruptions throughout the month, so any dips in the chart simply manifest lower periods of general spam activity.

We missed only about 1 in every 6,904 pieces of spam content (0.0145%).

So, what does over 6 billion pieces of spam content really look like? If you assigned each piece of spam content its own seat, you could fill nearly 125,000 Yankee Stadiums.

Some reads from the month that we recommend:
+ A reluctant ‘happy birthday’ to spam
+ The rise of bad bots
+ Zombie spam!
+ Is spam the latest weapon of the US government?
+ Spam sushi is real

There’s a Ninja in Your Akismet

One of our favorite additions to Akismet 3.0 is the new discard setting. Previously, our plugin featured an option that allowed site owners the ability to automatically discard spam on older posts. But, as some may certainly agree, it was rather confusing and had little effect on the world’s smarter spammers.

After giving thought to how we could improve that particular setting and the overall user experience, we found that approximately 80% of spam could be flagged as “pervasive”, meaning that it is the absolute worst of the worst (of the worst!). In fact, that 80% is so bad that there is simply no benefit in paying any attention to it at all. Not even for kicks and giggles. Trust us.

We came up with something that would allow you to automatically and silently discard all of that pervasive spam attacking your site so that it never even appears in your “Spam” folder. The new setting identifies the worst and most pervasive spam (which can certainly change over time) on our side during the comment check and will immediately discard it if you’ve configured the plugin to do so.

If you’re new to Akismet, these spam comments will be stored by default; you must activate the new feature from the plugin’s configuration page (if you upgraded to 3.0, Akismet will use the previous value of your 30-day discard setting) :

Akismet Discard Spam Feature

It’s all very ninja-esque, we think. What’s more, enabling the feature can result in significant reductions in your storage and resource usage requirements.

This is a great step forward in our mission to make the web a cleaner place. We tested the feature on WordPress.com and received excellent results and feedback prior to rolling it into the plugin. So, we think (and hope) you’ll enjoy it. We are also working on an enhancement to the feature, which will highlight the pervasive spam comments in the “Spam” folder for users who choose to store them.

If you have any feedback on the new feature, we would love to hear from you.

New in 3.0: Activation with Jetpack

We launched Akismet 3.0 just a few days ago and hope that you’ve already upgraded to enjoy its many new features. One of the nifty items we added to the mix is a seamless activation process using the popular Jetpack plugin.

Let’s take a closer look.

If you have Jetpack and Akismet installed and activated on your site – and the Jetpack plugin connected to a WordPress.com account – you will find this new feature in your dashboard via Jetpack → Akismet.

There, you will see which WordPress.com account is connected via Jetpack and an option to activate the Akismet plugin using that very same account.

Akismet Activation with Jetpack

Click on Use this Akismet account, and you’re all set! Of course, you will have the option to disconnect the account at any time from the same page in your dashboard.

And if you want to use a different account to activate Akismet, no worries at all. Simply select the option to register a different email address or manually enter an existing API key.

Digging the new flow? Any problems with it? Drop us a line.

Akismet 3.0.0 is now available

Version 3.0.0 of the Akismet plugin for WordPress is now available.

This is a major rewrite of the plugin code. It includes many small improvements and some new features. In particular:

  • An easier signup and activation process
  • An even easier activation process for Jetpack users
  • A redesigned configuration tab
  • New stats charts (example shown below)
  • A new discard feature for outright blocking of the worst spam

stats-at-a-glance

To update to version 3.0.0, just use the plugin updater in your WordPress dashboard. If you’re running WordPress 3.9, there’s no need to update. If you haven’t installed Akismet on your WordPress blog yet, follow these instructions to get started.

Thanks again to everyone who helped test the new plugin and offered suggestions and bug reports.

Help test the next Akismet plugin

We’ve been hard at work on version 3.0 of the Akismet plugin for WordPress. It’s a major rewrite of the plugin code that includes a new configuration page, improved signup and activation, and some new features. We’ve shed most of the legacy code that was maintained for backwards compatibility with ancient versions of WordPress, and redesigned the code so we can bring you new features in coming months.

Since it’s a major change from previous versions, we could use your help testing the new plugin before its final release. If you’re comfortable manually installing a plugin in WordPress, you can download akismet.3.0.0-RC1.zip or use the 3.0.0-RC1 tag in the Subversion repository.

Try it out and tell us what you think – we have some exclusive Akismet swag for those who send bug reports and the most helpful feedback. Bug reports and detailed feedback is best sent via our contact form. You can leave general public feedback in comments below or on Twitter.

If you’re not sure how to install the plugin manually, or you’re not willing to run pre-release code on your site, we recommend waiting for the final release, which we expect to coincide with next week’s launch of WordPress 3.9.

Akismet WordPress plugin 2.6.0

The Akismet plugin version 2.6.0 for WordPress is now available.

It includes some incremental bugfixes since 2.5.9, plus some security and anti-spam improvements to how pingbacks work. Key changes since the last release:

  • Optimize javascript and add localization support.
  • Fix bug in link to spam comments from right now dashboard widget.
  • Fix bug with deleting old comments to avoid timeouts dealing with large volumes of comments.
  • Include X-Pingback-Forwarded-For header in outbound WordPress pingback verifications.
  • Add a pre-check for pingbacks, to stop spam before an outbound verification request is made.

There was a news cycle a few days ago about “WordPress pingbacks being used to DDOS sites” which had a lot of misinformation and hyperbole, but there were two valid issues which the last two bullet points address: anti-spam checks were done after a pingback was verified, and WP didn’t pass on who made the request that caused it to verify a pingback (effectively cloaking the true source). This update to Akismet addresses both, and we think a similar approach may be appropriate for core in a future release.

To update, just visit the Updates tab of your WordPress dashboard.

Partial API outage, Feb 9th 2014

There was a partial outage today that affected the Akismet API.

Starting around 21:53 UTC a network issue caused approximately 10% of API calls to fail. Our systems team routed traffic to alternate servers and the network problem was fixed. The partial outage lasted 20 minutes.

The WordPress Akismet plugin will automatically re-try any comments that were not correctly filtered as a result of the problem.

The API is now back to normal and responding to all traffic.