Not Just Me Then

The man behind our main line of anti-spam defence is hanging up his hat.

Indeed, I am hereby officially announcing that I will no longer support, maintain or further develop Spam Karma (beside some very occasional, very limited poking, until the transition to a self-maintained project is completed).

Luckily he’s relicensed the code under the GPL, which means others may and can pick it up and run with it.

Why is he giving it away? Firstly because of the soul-sucking nature of engaging in an arms race with spammers:

Much as I love the challenge and excitement of coding an anti-spam filter and thinking up new tricks to defeat parasitic life-forms of the web, I just dont have the time anymore. And to be honest, if I did have the time, I probably would have other challenging, exciting new projects Id rather tackle. Im fickle like that.

I can certainly relate to that.

I can relate even more to the next reason:


I will really try to keep that one short, because I could probably write a novel of that. And it wouldnt be a very interesting read.

In a word: WordPress kinda sucks nowadays. Its retarded upgrade rate makes it nearly impossible to keep up, in turn making it a constant security threat on my servers. And each time I finally cave in and install one of those mandatory security upgrade, it also installs 600 Ko of other theme compatibility-breaking fluffy crap that I never asked for in the first place. Usually setting the ground for the next cycle of security-exploit-rushed-upgrade. To sum up, its become incredibly bloated and tedious to support. Replacing it on my own servers is very high on my list of things to do (which means somewhat in the first 1000 items).

Having no interest for WordPress anymore, I have thus very little interest for WordPress-related development.

Preach it brother.

The heart of the problem with WordPress is its release management strategy. Frankly, it sucks. They follow the Microsoft doctrine that bugfixes and feature additions belong in the same blob.

This means you have to upgrade when a new version comes out. And hope they didn’t introduce bugs that, say, drop the categories on hundreds of stories when upgrading. Because they don’t know if it will, because they don’t write tests to prove the software is sound, for the love of Mary.

A motto I have been kicking around is “Process is a Feature”, or perhaps “The Project is a Feature”. For an opensource project — indeed any software project — the way in which bugs are defined, features added, changes propagated etc is as much a feature as the tick-box list beloved of marketers.

If there’s an ironclad lesson that’s been learnt in almost every scenario, it’s that if you don’t have extensive testing and reviews, bug fixes deserve their own stream of activity, not to be rolled together with feature additions. One day the WordPress mob might click to this. But I’m not holding my breath.

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18 Responses to Not Just Me Then

  1. Jason R says:

    OK, so what is the alternative to WordPress?

  2. Noam Samuel says:

    Jason R: Try textpattern

  3. Senior Coconut says:

    Seriously. I dropped WordPress for these exact reasons last year — and I was just managing a personal blog. I can’t imagine what it is like to support such a byzantine labyrinth of bloat in a production environment.

    WordPress has crossed the line where “free” starts to cost too much.

  4. Jacques Chester says:

    At the moment there I don’t think any of the alternatives is sufficiently different — sufficiently better — to be worth the bother.

    WordPress is the winner. It’s the New Jersey Style of blog engines. Worse is Better has triumphed again.

  5. Scott Webb says:

    If the alternative to WordPress is as ugly as this website, WP won’t be worried…

    Doesn’t everyone use Akismet anyway?

  6. Jacques Chester says:

    Try “view source” and you’ll see why I’ve learned all the different ways to hate WordPress.

    And to answer your question: no. Some of us use everything we can get.

  7. CJ says:

    WP-SpamFree. That’s the one. Not a single a spam after i installed this baby.

  8. Hasn’t everyone already switched to using Akismet anyway?

    I thought Spam Karma has been irrelevant for quite some time now.

  9. Happy Times says:

    Sums up wordpress very well…

  10. Cyde Weys says:

    I hear you on the WordPress problems, I really do. I’ve been running a WordPress blog for about a year and a half now and it’s just a constant security nightmare. New versions aren’t that fun to upgrade to, yet I’m really reluctant to not do it, because I’ve been bitten by a vulnerability before that left me with some spam SEO nonsense on my blog.

    Yet I’m still not looking to switch. Why? There’s nothing better. WordPress isn’t great, but nothing else has the same wealth of features that I’ve grown rather reliant on. The number of useful plugins out there is a killer feature too. I just wish they’d stop adding more features and spend some time fixing up the internals to improve it.

  11. markus says:

    I have stopped using PHP personally. I am using Ruby these days.

    Granted, there are great apps like phpbb3 and a few others (maybe even mediawiki), but php as a programming language is – as far as i am concerned – a huge mistake. It is a shame and insult to all other programming languages that php exists.

    Why? Because php was the first to properly care for the www, and now it takes a long time to dethrone php there.

    Which, again, is a shame, because php is a horrible solution if one has alternatives like ruby or python.

    And I am 100% sure that the underlying language is the single most important factor here. I can see it with my own code. Even the oldest ruby code I wrote is significantly easier to understand than very good and “object oriented” php code I used before i quitted…

    As for WordPress, I think it is too complicated for what it does.

    A blog should stay simple and beautiful. If it is built up on bloat, one should stop using it.

    But there is one thing even worse than WordPress.

    The old PHP Nuke. And the insane, user-unfriendly module system …

    Anyway, I am an optimist. I think we will see better languages win more and more people the coming years. (And no, please not lisp again. Lisp always claims to be the best language ever, since 10000 years. Lisp never belonged to the “scripting” languages world. Perl and PHP both are part of that world.)

  12. Jacques Chester says:

    Hasnt everyone already switched to using Akismet anyway?

    Akismet gets it wrong slightly more often than our installation of Spam Karma. There are things Akismet just can’t do — it’s limited to pure content examination. Spam Karma includes modules with javascript payloads, hashcash etc.

    As it so happens, I have an Akismet-for-Spam Karma module installed. About 2 times in 3 when there’s a comment mistaken for spam, it’s Akismet making the mistake.

    Club Troppo is fairly old as WordPress installations go and has a very long tail of articles — thousands with tens of thousands of comments. It rains spam around here. In fact we had to move servers we get so much spam. Akismet simply didn’t block enough by itself.

  13. Jacques Chester says:


    Anyway, I am an optimist. I think we will see better languages win more and more people the coming years. (And no, please not lisp again. Lisp always claims to be the best language ever, since 10000 years. Lisp never belonged to the scripting languages world. Perl and PHP both are part of that world.)

    I agree (about the better languages part — I happen to quite like Lisp!). Look at my previous ditty on why shared hosting — and by extension PHP — is going to shrivel over the next decade.

  14. aah jacques – don’t it make you pine (subtle Linux /shell pun for the cognescenti) for the good old days when text was king.

    IRC instead of IM or whatever, a simple weblog website with simple html and a few links, email – text based pine/tin/eudora lite, browsing in mosaic, searching for papers in gopher, archie, etc., FreeAgent newsreader – threads and flame wars, when trolling was trolling, when Godwin posted, when d/l porn meant cobbling together a bunch of files from usenet and when Net Kook of the Year really meant something, when using an FTP client was faster than anything else, and still being able to log on to the BBS for downloads of software and messages.

    How much better off are we now?

  15. Issac says:

    Don’t forget Habari, to me it’s leaps and bounds over wordpress, even if it’s in alpha.

    That comes from someone who makes a competing product.

    Habari is the best open-source engine that I’ve ever seen.

  16. Rachael says:

    Earlier last week I dropped WP completely once the new Squarespace came out (was waiting for it forever). Bon voyage WP — I’ll sincerely miss being constantly hacked.

  17. I use Serendipity ( and haven’t had a single problem with it. It works great, and is dead-easy to set up and upgrade.

  18. Simon says:

    Issac, I’m glad someone mentioned Habari. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve spent the better part of a month getting to know Habari inside out so I can feel confident making suggestions in their dev forums.

    I have to admit, it’s a little immature – as you would expect in an alpha – and especially the admin interface has a bit of development ahead of it. I’m also not a huge fan of a few aspects of their development process.

    Having said that, it’s very seriously worth keeping an eye on.

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