June 27, 2011

Gmail problem

This weekend I was hit with a virtual avalanche of spammers on both the Forum and Blog comments. They all came with varied (and apparently random) gmail addresses. I ended up spending many hours personally deleting several hundred postings and blocking (one by one) over one hundred gmail addresses. Finally, rather than put into place more stringent requirements for registration - something I may have to do later on - I simply blocked all gmail accounts.

If you have a gmail account, you probably can't post or comment right now, and probably can't register. If you have an alternate email, please use that. If you only have gmail, please email me and let me know; it would be helpful to know if many real people are affected by this. Sorry for the inconvenience!

Since I'm leaving for the U.S. Open on Wednesday, I'm probably going to have to leave gmail blocked until I return. Then I'll decide if I have to use more stringent registration procedures. (Which I haven't really researched yet.) The last thing I want to do is spend the U.S. Open deleting spam and blocking individual posters all day long.

Speaking of the U.S. Open...

I leave in (checks watch) exactly 46 hours and six minutes. It's in Milwaukee; here's the info page. I'm there primarily to coach, but I'm also entered in three hardbat events: Open Hardbat (I'm two-time champion), Open Hardbat Doubles (I'm ten-time and defending champion from the Nationals), and Over 40 Hardbat (I'm four-time and defending champion from the Nationals). (Note that when I list how many times I've won I'm including both the Open and Nationals.) If there's a conflict between playing hardbat and coaching an important match, I'll have to default and coach - that's my primary purpose there. (I'll mostly be coaching Tong Tong Gong, a member of the USA Cadet team from my club.) I'm normally a sponge player, but I've been playing hardbat on the side for a few decades. I also expect to attend a few USATT meetings.

Complex Versus Simple Tactics

This week's Tip of the Week is on [read headline, duh!].

The Dominating and Limiting Factors in Your Game?

What are the dominating and limiting factors in your game? Too often players only look at what they do well, and forget the latter, the things they don't do well, i.e. the things opponents go after. I remember watching a player with great footwork and a great loop lose a match because he couldn't effectively return the opponent's simply short backspin serve. Over the next week, the player practiced every day, focusing almost exclusively on his strengths, footwork and looping. He never addressed the problem of his weak return of a short backspin serve. 

A player's level is really based on three things. There are the things he does well (i.e. the things you dominate with); the things he doesn't do well (i.e. the limiting factors that hold you back), and everything else (things you don't dominate with but don't hold you back). I generally advise players to practice everything you do in a game, but focus on making the strengths overpowering while removing any weaknesses. At any given level you need to have at least one thing that scares the opponent while not having any glaring weaknesses the opponent can easily play into.

Great exhibition points

Here's a montage of great exhibition points (4:31), to the tune of "Sweet Home Alabama." You can always turn off the sound.

Forehand Pendulum Serve

Here's an interesting two-minute video that shows ten different forehand pendulum serves, both in real time and in slow motion.


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Adding CAPTCHA to the registration page will help cut down on the bots. It's not foolproof if you make the CAPTCHA settings low enough for legitimate users to figure it out, but on many sites I administer it really does cut down on the spam bots who get in.

Another option that is a varient of the CAPTCHA or they can be combined, is to just have a simple question that needs to be answered such as "Name a famous TT player." This will filter out the bots and probably most of the actual human spammers, yet is easy to answer for legitimate registrations.

Then, you can require all new registrations be verified by an administrator (you) before they get access. That way you can just delete all of the obvious spam bots who make it through the screening process before they can post anything. This will take some of your time, but will be a LOT easier than searching forums and blogs for spam posts. And this will also allow legitimate Gmail accounts to participate. 

Another spam blocking device is to add a "report this post" button to all posts so that we users can help you screen for spam.

Finally, you can block access by specific domain name or IP address. Or even more granular is to block certain domain extensions like .RUS which is a major source for spammers.

In reply to by Willis

It might not be a bad idea for him to appoint some administrators with post and/or topic deletion powers. That way he doesn't have to sit there and delete spam posts, but someone else with a less eventful life can xD.

In reply to by PipProdigy

Willis, PipProdigy, thanks for the advice. Most likely I won't do anything until after I get back from the U.S. Open next Monday. So far only one person complained about being blocked with a gmail account, but he had an alternate address he switched to.