Random updates for June

I feel like I work on this site a lot, but hardly ever post anything. Some of that may be due to me starting projects and then never finishing them though :P. Below is a collection of random thoughts and updates related to the site.

Gradient Image Generator

I’ve updated the Gradient Image Generator app and added support for CSS3. This update is in the style of what I was doing in my last post. I was going to do a “part 2” post, but I changed how I was updating apps when I got to the Keyboard Layout Analyzer.

Keyboard Layout Analyzer Overhaul

I’m currently overhauling the Keyboard Layout Analyzer. This was long overdue since the chart library it uses, Plotkit, is long dead (in terms of active development), as is Mochikit, the JS library Plotkit uses. The new front-end will be powered by AngularJS and use jqPlot for its charts. I tried to find a place for xkcd charts, but couldn’t come up with anything that didn’t seem totally out of place. I’ll go into more detail on the new front-end when its finally up, and I’m open to feature suggestions if anyone has any.


I added support for MySQL comments in TAAG. I also removed its offline web app capability. Offline web apps seem to confuse users, and I’ve noticed downloading errors in Chrome while using it on my iMac. This seems to happen randomly and because there are lots of files that need to be cached, and it doesn’t seem to be repeatable. With the appcache API being in disarray, and after running into bugs in Chrome and FireFox, I’ve lost my enthusiasm for this particular web browser feature.


I’ve forsaken my Microsoft roots and purchased a souped-up, 27 inch iMac. I wasn’t a fan of Windows 8, the wires from my PC were making me nuts, and I thought it might be interesting to switch things up. I’ve only had the computer for a few months, but so far I’m pretty impressed. The big screen is amazing, I love being able to use terminals, updating software with brew is nice, and I’m a big fan of the magic mouse. The only downside so far has been that I can’t run Internet Explorer. I’m not sure how Mac users did web development 5 years ago…

Google Authorship

I feel like I’m the last person to know about this, but figured I’d mention it here anyway. Have you noticed people’s faces showing up next to certain search results? Apparently it’s called Google Authorship, and it’ll let you stick your picture next to webpages that you author. It only seems useful for blogs and news articles, but it’s kind of neat.

Spam Comments

When I get a blog comment that I think is spam, I google it to see if its been posted elsewhere. Usually my gut is right, and I see the comment posted on a dozen or so other blogs. Recently though, I came across a spam bot that had messed up and posted this:

{I have|I've} been {surfing|browsing} online more than {three|3|2|4} hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. {It's|It is} pretty worth enough for
me. {In my opinion|Personally|In my view}, if
all {webmasters|site owners|website owners|web owners} and bloggers made good content
as you did, the {internet|net|web} will be {much more|a lot more} useful than ever before.
I {couldn't|could not} {resist|refrain from} commenting. {Very well|Perfectly|Well|Exceptionally well} written!|
{I will|I'll} {right away|immediately} {take hold of|grab|clutch|grasp|seize|snatch}
your {rss|rss feed} as I {can not|can't} {in finding|find|to find} your {email|e-mail} subscription {link|hyperlink} or {newsletter|e-newsletter} service. Do {you have|you've} any?
{Please|Kindly} {allow|permit|let} me {realize|recognize|understand|recognise|know} {so that|in order that} I {may just|may|could} subscribe.

As you can see from its setup, it appears to randomly choose synonyms for many of the words. It also has around 2 dozen comment templates (for the sake of brevity, I’ve only included the first two). I was actually kind of impressed, that’s pretty clever! They knew how people were checking for spam, and adapted to try and get around it. Pretty soon spammers will be using AI to analyze a blog’s content, and then use that information to post a relevant comment or follow-up comment, and bloggers will have no idea that they’re conversing with spambots.

6 thoughts on “Random updates for June”

  1. I have always wondered… what do people get out of leaving spam comments on blogs? What is there to gain from it?

    1. Usually they’re trying to increase their website’s rank in Google’s search results. When Google ranks sites, it looks at how many sites link to a given URL to see how important that URL is. So the spambots go out and post a bunch of blog comments that link back to their site in hopes of driving up their rank in Google’s search engine.

  2. Not very impressive. This is actually very, very common among spammers. These comments are called spintax comments and have been around for a while. I use it myself and have some PHP code:

    function Spintax($s) {
    if(empty($m)) return $s;
    $t = $m[1];

    $t = substr($t, strrpos($t,'{‘) + 1);

    $parts = explode(“|”, $t);
    $s = preg_replace(“+{“.preg_quote($t).”}+is”, $parts[array_rand($parts)], $s, 1);
    return Spintax($s);

    echo Spintax(“{Hello|Hi} how are {you?|you going?}”);

    1. Interesting that it has a name, thanks.

      Yeah, I guess it seems obvious once you think about it, however, I’d always just assumed spammers were blasting out the same keyword filled comments, so I was little taken aback that some thought went into it.

  3. Article rewriters use the same syntax too. So people who want to post articles to lots of different places at once, but don’t want them identical for SEO reasons, often use the same approach.


    1. I guess I should have suspected as much, but it was kind of surprisingly to stumble upon. I did some more googling around, and people apparently even sell spintax generated articles (on sites like fiverr.com). Definitely a strange market niche.

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