Our 2013 In Review

As 2013 draws to a close, we at Akismet would like to let you know just what we’ve been up to — and, of course, wish you a very happy holiday season.

For the abridged version, we’ve prepared a nifty infographic illustrating the year that was:

Akismet 2013 Year In Review Infographic

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API outage – November 28th

There was an API outage on November 28th. Switch failures led to cascading problems that took approximately 50 minutes to stabilize.

At 04:19 UTC on the 28th November, a switch began failing. Traffic was routed to an alternate data center. Unfortunately a software bug meant that those servers were attempting to write to a master server in the first data center, and so those servers stalled. As a result from 04:20 UTC to 04:38 UTC the API was not responding.

Between 04:38 UTC and 05:01 UTC we deployed a series of fixes. Availability was between 95% and 50% during that time. The switch came back online at 05:11 UTC and availability returned to 100%.

At 07:20 UTC another switch failed, which caused a very brief outage and availability dropped to 60% during that time. This time however, traffic switched over to an alternate data center and by 07:32 UTC, the API returned to 100% availability.

WordPress users will have seen messages indicating that spam comments were temporarily held in the moderation queue during the outage. The Akismet plugin will re-try those now that the API is back up.

We’ve fixed several software problems already as a result of the failure. We’ve also identified some systems and software improvements that will prevent the same condition from happening in future, and we’re working to get those in place as soon as possible.

Summary of Partial API outage on November 25th

We experienced a partial API outage between 09:35 and 12:05 UTC on November 25th.

There was a sudden surge in spam traffic, on top of spam volumes that were already unusually high. One of our data centers began dropping some API calls, and responding slowly to others. Our systems team routed all traffic to another data center, and after a few minutes the load was stabilised. We estimate availability was 50-60% for the first hour, then 70% and up.

Availability has been back to normal since 12:05 UTC, November 25th.

Clients with a re-try feature – including all recent versions of the Akismet plugin for WordPress – will have automatically re-checked any comments that were missed due to the disruption.

Our systems team has identified the components that failed under load, and we’re working on an improved architecture that will allow a quicker response to unusually heavy loads.

Spam levels remain unusually high. The API is handling it comfortably now.

Akismet & Your WordPress Contact Forms

We often hear from Akismet users on WordPress that, even after activating our plugin, they are being flooded with spam via their contact forms. While Akismet will automatically begin checking all comments submitted on your post and page comment forms, we can’t simply hook into any contact form plugin (or theme) and handle those submissions, as well. The good news is that there are some really great (and free!) contact form plugins out there that include Akismet integration, and we thought that we’d let you know about them in case you’re in the market.

Jetpack by WordPress.com
Although Jetpack brings you a ton of other features that are native to WordPress.com, it includes a simple and powerful contact form module that is automatically integrated with the Akismet service. You’ll also notice that the submission queue has been designed to mirror the native WordPress comment queue as closely as possible to ensure ease of use and moderation. What’s more, Jetpack and Akismet are developed under the same roof by Automattic, which means that you can rest easy knowing that the integration is as tight as possible.

Contact Form 7
Another powerful – and ever so popular – option is Contact Form 7 by Takayuki Miyoshi. It boasts a great amount of flexibility, some really nifty features, is surprisingly easy to configure, and has been downloaded over 12 million times. Setting up the plugin to send data to our service will take some manual configuration, but the steps are fairly simple and are clearly outlined here.

Note that, with all of the plugins mentioned above, you will need to have Akismet installed and activated for the integration to work. And while we are unable to provide technical support for Contact Form 7, we’re always more than happy to help you through any potential problems with Akismet functionality. Give us a shout!

Akismet 2.5.9 Released for WordPress

In case you haven’t noticed from within your WordPress dashboard, Akismet 2.5.9 is now available. It introduces the following very minor fixes:

  • Update the ‘Already have a key’ link to a redirect page rather than depend on Javascript (within the activation flow)
  • Fix some non-translatable strings to be translatable
  • Update activation banner on ‘Plugins’ page to redirect user to the Akismet configuration page

You won’t notice much of a difference, but please make sure that you update to the latest version. If you experience any problems with the upgrade, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team.

And don’t forget – WordPress 3.6 “Oscar” is also now available!


High Levels of Spam Continue — What We’re Doing and How You Can Help

In our 2012 year in review post, we explained that, without surprise, spam levels were greatly on the rise. We are a bit beyond the halfway point of 2013 and wanted to post an update on what we’re currently seeing and to show just how true that ominous statement has turned out to be. We also wanted to share what we’re doing to combat the problem and how you can help.

How much (more) spam?

We have seen some significant year-over-year increases in the numbers of spam filtered by Akismet. Here is an illustration breaking down the daily averages by month for 2012 and 2013:

Akismet Daily Spam Averages by Month, 2012 - 2013

As you can see, successfully combatting over 100 million daily pieces of spam is the new normal. As general spam levels rise, so may the chance that some unwanted items will squeeze through our filters to hit your dashboard and comment queues. This is where we need you to ensure that you mark any such comments as spam so that they’re reported back to Akismet. This helps our software learn, evolve, and make better decisions moving forward. Because spammers evolve just as often.

What kind of spam?

All kinds, of course. But if we had to pick a winner so far in 2013, we would probably go with the compliment spammers. There are lots of variations within this category, sure, but the overall tactic remains the same. And unfortunately, we often see that folks are actually recovering comments like this from their spam folders. On this front, Mark’s post from 2007 is still very relevant and worth a read. Here are some samples of compliment spam, if you’re curious:

Interesting Findings of the Blog World » Chuck Norris wants a Bible Curriculum in the Public Schools (Gasp!)
[…] Read the rest of this great post here […]

Very interesting… as always!

For the most part I agree with you and enjoy reading your posts.

Hi, you have a jolly good post here, thanks for the good read

[…] Check it out! While looking through the blogosphere we stumbled on an interesting post today.

What should you do?

Let Akismet work its magic and correct it only when you need to. If you do, at any given time, experience a small influx of missed spam, there’s no need to become alarmed. Take a look at the number of comments that Akismet did successfully catch during that same timeframe and examine the accuracy rate (this will help determine whether or not there is a technical problem). Then, of course, mark the comments as spam so that Akismet can process the data. Do not place the comments in the trash — if you find something incredibly out of place, please feel free to get in touch.

Finally, and most importantly, always remember that Akismet learns from user feedback via missed spam and false positive reports. This means that, when you see something that Akismet has flagged as spam, know that other bloggers have agreed with its opinion. Have you ever seen those advertisements that claim “9 out of 10 cats prefer this food!”? Well, when you notice a comment in your spam folder, think of it as “9 out of 10 bloggers say this is spam!” Don’t get fooled by the bad guys.

In the meantime, our awesome (and growing) team will continue working magic behind the scenes and ensuring that Akismet is your best weapon against spam.

University Site on WordPress? Let Akismet Kill Your Spam

Much like the peanut butter and chocolate, Akismet and higher education are a match made in heaven. If your college, university, or higher educational institution’s website uses WordPress, Akismet is the best, most cost effective solution to keep your site’s forums, comment boards, and blogs free of spam.

Over 150 colleges and universities trust Akismet to keep their sites squeaky clean. In fact, each month, Akismet prevents over 25 million spam comments from sullying higher education blogs and forums. That number gets bigger every day, but we’re constantly fortifying Akismet to stay one step ahead of the bad guys to kill spam dead, before it reaches your site.

The benefits of an Enterprise Akismet subscription

We believe in higher education and we like to give colleges, unis, and other higher ed institutions a break. For large multisite networks, we recommend the Enterprise subscription, and happily waive the limit of 80,000 API calls each month. Akismet itself is made of algorithms and love, though you’ll get great priority support from nice humans should you have a question or concern. Do your site, your students, faculty, administration, and school community a favor: get your Akismet API key today.

Sign into Akismet with WordPress.com Connect

With the new year upon us, your friends here at Automattic have resolved to make it easier to manage your accounts across all our services.

Maybe you’re using Akismet to stop spam in its tracks, VaultPress to keep your site safe and secure, and Polldaddy to find out what your readers are thinking. Maybe you’re using WordPress.com to build a fancy new site, or Jetpack to supercharge your self-hosted one.

Now you can sign into all these awesome services, including Akismet, with just one account — your WordPress.com account!

Signing into Akismet

Starting today, you’ll be required to sign into Akismet with your WordPress.com account.

The good news is, if you have an Akismet account, you already have a WordPress.com account! Simply sign into Akismet with the credentials you’ve been using all along.

Don’t have a free WordPress.com account?

There’s a good chance you already have one, and don’t realize it! Try signing into Akismet with the credentials you’ve been using all along.

If you really don’t have a WordPress.com account, it only takes a few seconds to sign up and is totally free! Simply click “Sign in with WordPress.com” on the Akismet account page, and then click the “Need an account?” link.


Already have a WordPress.com account?

You’re all set! Go ahead and sign into Akismet with your fancy WordPress.com account. You might be asked to “authorize” Akismet to access your WordPress.com account.


Not sure if you have a WordPress.com account?

No problem! If you use VaultPress, Polldaddy, Jetpack, IntenseDebate, or Gravatar, you can just sign in with the same account you use for them. Otherwise, just go ahead and try signing into Akismet with the credentials you’ve been using to sign into Akismet all along.

If it turns out that you don’t have a WordPress.com account, you can sign up for a free account in a flash! Simply click “Sign in with WordPress.com” on the Akismet account page, and then click the “Need an account?” link. We’ll let you know if we find one that’s tied to your email address.

Have any questions?

Learn more about how we’re making it easier to manage all your accounts here at Automattic, or drop us a line.