Extreme makeover

As you might have noticed, buytaert.net got redesigned. The previous incarnation was getting a little old and the header was seriously out of date now that I left the university and co-founded Acquia and Mollom. Thankfully, Michael Angeles of urlgreyhot created a new theme for my Drupal site. Michael is a world-class information architect, user experience design consultant and long time Drupal contributor. Thanks Michael!

First reaction?

DrupalCon Szeged

Good news! The next Drupal conference (DrupalCon) will take place in Szeged, Hungary from August 27-30. If you want to learn more about Drupal, or if you want to capture and absorb the passion and enthusiasm behind the Drupal project, this is the place to be.

DrupalCon Szeged will bring together hundreds of Drupal users and developers from all around the world. Whether you are a Drupal professional or an enthusiastic user coming to find out more, you're invited to join us in Szeged. Mark your calendars!

This will be the first Drupal conference in Central Europe, and I'm excited by that. There are a lot of Drupal people in Central Europe, probably more so than in Western Europe, and this is a great way to reach out them. Plus, I've been to Hungary twice and liked it very much.

Spam, OpenID and Mollom

There is an interesting discussion about spam and OpenID going on at Matt Mullenweg's blog. The discussion was triggered by the policy decision of social bookmarking site Magnolia to restrict signups to OpenID users. According to the site, 75% of new accounts were being created at Magnolia by spammers using automated tools (our friends the 'spambots'). They say that by restricting access to OpenID users, the rate of spam-account creation decreased. In the discussion, there is a lot of talk about whether OpenID should be used to fight spam, and whether it could be an effective spam-fighting tool in the long term.

Here are my thoughts. Spammers can create OpenIDs too, and a single sign-on system might be many a spammer's wet dream. It gives them easy access to millions of sites in one fell swoop.

Now, OpenID by itself can't prevent spam. All it does is provide a globally unique identifier for any given user on the planet. This is where a tool like Mollom comes in. At Mollom we're already maintaining an internal reputation for each OpenID account we encounter while assessing submitted content. Combine an identity system (OpenID) with a reputation system (Mollom) and it becomes a lot easier to separate spam users from non-spam users. Simon Willison said it best: "a trust system requires identity first". A globally unique identifier combined with reputation tools give us a powerful weapon to fight website spam. OpenID's attribute exchange might become Mollom's best friend ...

Similarly, Tim Berners-Lee is experimenting with combining FOAF ("friend of a friend") and OpenID to fight spam: you can only comment on Tim's blog if you are no more than a certain number of degrees of friendship away from him. Of course, it is a widely accepted theory that we are only six degrees away from everyone in the world so I do wonder how effective this would really be in the long run.

It is still early days in these debates and experiments, but for now, Mollom can already protect your login and submission forms with an image or audio CAPTCHA.

Either way, it is an interesting discussion that makes you wonder. Where will OpenID be in 3 years? Where do you think the website spam problem will be in 3 years? How will this affect online communities?

I have my own thoughts and predictions and it was one of the principal reasons for co-founding Mollom ...


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