Fundamentally changing the way you secure your forums

When you're trying to grow a community, you want to reduce the friction for new members to participate. So you open up the forum for new visitors to register and decide not to put anyone on the watchlist, so new people can start posting away once they confirm their emails.
 
You do this to drive up participation but at the cost of less control.
 
Soon you realize not only those who genuinely wanted to participate signed up... spammers and their employees signed up too. And you start fighting the endless battles against spammers I wrote in an earlier post.
 
The most common reaction against spammers is to put everyone new on the watch list - ie. their posts need manual approval until they've accumulated a certain amount of approved posts. Or you close up the forums and ask your moderators to approve each new post.
 
These workaround makes new members feel unwelcome, because you treat everyone as spammer and want them to prove their innocence.
 
New members can easily lose patience and leave because they often feel they have to wait too long to see their posts approved.
 
This is definitely not what you want to grow a community.

Make your new members feel welcome with Akismet


With an automated spam filter like Akismet in place for our new version 5.1, you no longer have to close up your forums to genuine participants. Akismet can determine in real-time if a post is spam so that the forum software can respond right away.
 
The result: New members feel accepted in real-time and spammers rejected in real-time, too.
 
And if you want, you can still place new members on the watch list, and have the Akismet plugin approve their new posts for you.
 
The plugin is smart as it doesn't interfere with your forum setup:
  1. It doesn't slow down the page load time due to the spam check submission to Akismet. Everything happens in the background (multi threading).
  2. It's transparent - it doesn't change the way your existing members use the forum, and it doesn't require new posts to be put on the watchlist in order to perform spam check. It affects Spammers only.
  3. It checks for edited posts too, but doesn't approve them automatically, if the author is on the watch list. Spammers could try tricking Akismet by posting and editing a post right away. In this edge case the software will notify your moderators to inspect the post.
  4. If someone is placed on the watchlist personally (you manually set the approval required flag for this account), our software will notify both Akismet and your moderators at the same time, and will not approve the post automatically.
  5. And if you want to test the reliability of Akismet detection before rolling it out, you can set to log Akismet results only, without any action afterwards (deleting / approving posts).

Your moderators and members will thank you

Moderators feel less overwhelmed because they no longer have to clean up spam. Your members feel more engaged because they no longer have to wade through spam posts to find real discussions.
 
Version 5.1 with Akismet integration is available for purchase now. If you own a license already, you can download the upgrade from our private forum.
 
Have a good day everyone!
Leave a comment

APG vNext 5.1 - Akismet + improved 3rd party API

What's new in 5.1?

Version 5.1 is a major release with one major focus - to help you beat spammers with ease. For this, we introduced Akismet into the software.
 
With Akismet fully integrated, you can have a peace of mind, knowing that the most powerful web spam filter is watching over your forums for you. It's also highly configurable, letting you change the filter behaviour on a per-forum basis.
 
In addition, the 3rd party API call is improved as well, letting you make RESTful / RPC calls (in the background) when users' group membership expires or gets reinstated. In 5.0 and before, you could only make these remote API calls when you manually add / remove users from a group. This improvement makes integrating with other services much easier.
 
For all fixes and improvements included in this version, please see the following for details:

Fixes , Improvements & Additions

  1. New Features and Software Behavior Changes:
    1. Aksimet Integration - Automated Spam Filtering now available
    2. 3rd party API calls now expanded to include membership expiration and reinstating
    3. Page Creation in AdminCP now has a box to put content at the end of body - easier to add JavaScript code
    4. Tagging: several improvements:
      1. You can now convert user defined tags to Smart Tags
      2. You can also edit / delete user defined tags
      3. User defined tag list now allows filtering for easy management
  2. UI Presentation Improvements:
    1. Several AdminCP pages revamped for consistency and usability, and make some options easier to understand. The pages that got improved are:
      1. Report Tickets
      2. Post Flagging
      3. Forum Management
      4. User Group Management
  3. Enhancements:
    1. You can now disable server messages by leaving the subject / body blank (previously users will receive blank messages)
    2. RSS feeds for forum and threads now show relevant channel link
    3. Auto detect incorrect unread count for Private Message
    4. Avatar upload post count restriction now applies to users who don't belong to any user group
    5. Request Validation turned off for Basic Maintenance in AdminCP to allow HTML in message
  4. Bug Fixes:
    1. Android browser cannot upload via the mobile web app
    2. Upload permission checkbox in the forum management interface has no effects
    3. Mobile PM doesn't work when file attachment for PM is disabled
    4. Unread threads listing doesn't show threads you mark as unread manually
    5. Notification link to mobile web app issue due to page count difference between desktop and mobile version
    6. Scheduled background tasks not executed on time due to a bug in thread pool management
Leave a comment

What's next - Akismet auto spam filtering coming to APG vNext

The worst enemy of popular forums

The most frustrating problem that plagues many forums today is Web Spam - unsolicited ads (often with links to spam sites with malicious intent) pretend to be genuine forum posts, preying on your members.
 
And these Web Spammers are difficult to deal with. Sometimes spam posts are created by spam bots (computer program), which can be more easily defeated using things like Captcha. In this case spam posts will be rejected before they land on your forum.
 
Other times spammers hire people to register multiple forum accounts and post ads on their behalf. In this case Spam can be very hard to prevent as there are no reliable ways to differentiate human spammers from regular members, until they post something on your forum.
 
In the past, forum owners rely on 2 basic methods to try dealing with these spammers:
  1. Asking members to report or flag spam posts - hoping the community members will self-regulate by identifying and removing spam themselves. Software like APG vNext has the ability to automatically remove posts that are flagged as spam by forum members.
  2. Screening every new post and approve each manually - employing trusted members as moderators to read and approve posts before they show up on the system.
The problems with the above methods are they only work short-term, or they don't work at all. Many people won't even bother reporting / flagging posts and would just leave feeling frustrated seeing spam posts everywhere.
 
And moderators aren't as reliable either - people could get busy or simply become lazy and reluctant because the work (filtering spam) feel like chores and unrewarding.
 
So here comes the solution for these issues:

Entering Akismet Integration - the automated spam fighter


 

Changing Community Homepage

Beginning v4.4, you can switch between 3 different presentation styles for your home page right from the AdminCP.
 
It is possible with earlier versions, but it requires you to edit a configuration file with Notepad, upload it to the server, and manually restart the AppDomain.

Step by Step Instructions

Step 1. Modify the Routing Configuration File

This step tells ASP.NET's routing engine which file to serve when people browse to ~/ or ~/default.aspx
 
First, go to AdminCP -> System Related Options -> Config Editor
 

 
To change the route, you need to edit the <File></File> in the 2 red rectangles. Do not change the content in the <URL> tags.
 
Make sure you set the file permission for ~/config/Route.config to "Write" so that you can edit the file from this interface.

 
If you want to use...
  • The News style home page: put ~/home.aspx inside both <File> tags (this is the default)
  • The Forum List: put ~/forums.aspx inside both <File> tags
  • The Blog: put ~/blogs.aspx inside both <File> tags
Save the edit, and the software will restart the AppDomain automatically.
 
You may need to restart the AppDomain manually, if you aren't running the software under Full Trust. The easiest way to do so is to slightly modify the web.config file (e.g. adding a space to the end), which triggers the AppDomain restart automatically.

 

Step 2. Change the Breadcrumb Link URLs

This step lets you set the breadcrumb URLs for a few key pages. It's important we make the changes to reflect our choice for home page.
 
Go to AdminCP -> Home, Forums, Menu & Breadcrumbs -> Homepage Selection & Breadcrumb
 

 
Use the dropdown to set your home page (reflect what you decided to use in Step 1), and modify the text boxes below. The software will give you suggestions on what to put in the text boxes once the dropdown selection is changed.
  • URL for Home can be either "~/" or "~/default.aspx"
  • URL for All Forums can be either "~/Forums" or "~/forums.aspx"
  • URL for Blog can be either "~/Blog" or "~/blog.aspx"
 
That's it.
Leave a comment

Landing Page Examples

The new Landing Pages feature available in the announcement section of the AdminCP allows you to create special pages outside the forum / blog system. It's useful when you want to create pages not usually found in a forum, such as:
  1. special lead capture page
  2. private content page
  3. About Us page
  4. Custom 404 page
  5. Special Thank you page after registration confirmation
  6. ... and many more
Basically you create a landing page just like an announcement, but in addition to deciding the place the announcement shows up (forum, gallery, registration form, etc.), you can specify a permalink for it so that it can show up on its own URL.
 
Landing pages also allow you to optimize for search engine. You can specify Page Title, Meta tags, and additional content in the <head> tag (like adding Google+ Authorship markup). In addition, you can use raw HTML and JavaScript, making it very versatile when you want to create pages with rich UI.

Enable Google Authorship step by step

In order to enable Google Authorship for your forum, you need perform the tasks below:
  1. Sign up a Google+ account using an email on your domain (in my case, aspplayground.net)
  2. Sign up to participate in Google Authorship and verify your email you use in step 1
  3. Add a special header link in your page's HTML source
Once you have done the above, whenever Google shows your pages on its SERP (search engine result page), it will present your pages like this:
 

© 2014 APG vNext Commercial Version 5.1