More Oceangramming

By Shamus Posted Sunday Aug 13, 2006

Filed under: Nerd Culture 15 comments

Steven thinks Oceangrams are doomed to failure, because sooner or later the spammers will infest the thing and then 99% of the messages will be for C*H*E*A*P drug5 n0 perscr1pshin neaded! I’m sort of amazed this hasn’t happened already. It does seem sort of obvious. Maybe the community is just too small to go after. They just now hit mesage #500,000 delivered last night. Since the site has been running for a while now, this means the message volume is probably too low to interest spammers.

But this thing presents a few other interesting hurdles that spammers would need to overcome:

  1. If you wanted to spam the Ocean, you would have to write some new software. The interface is a flash game, so you can’t use existing bulk mail programs. You have to reverse engineer whatever protocol the Oceangrams use. I’m sure this wouldn’t be a big job, but it would still need to be done so that your spambot had an interface to the Ocean.
  2. URLs do not become hotlinks in bottle messages, so users would have to cut & paste the URL you sent them into their web browser. This is going to lower the spam usefulness even more. If people respond to 1% of all spams when they can click on the link, how much of that 1% will be willing to take the extra step of cut & paste? If the response is lower, then spammers need to make up for it with an even LARGER message volume.
  3. Unlike email, you don’t know what happens to your message. A spammer can experiment with spam filters and see what messages make it through, but if there is a spam filter on Oceangram, how do you know? The system can silently eat spam messages and the spammer will have a hard time discovering which ones, and why.
  4. The reduced delivery rate will exacerbate all of the above: For each connection, you can only get a message every 5 mins or so. So the spammer will need a LOT of connections if they want to see if their messages are making it through.
  5. Unlike emails or USENET, the server can easily throttle sending speed so that you can’t send messages faster than once every 10 or 15 seconds. That means the spammer is going to need a LOT of connections. The server can combat this by limiting the number of messages sent from a single IP. This means a user can open 20 windows to GET grams if they want, but they can still only send at the rate of once every 10 seconds or so. Better yet, ALLOW the messages. If the spammer sets up 100 instances and is pounding away at the server with several messages a second, it should be easy to spot. Instead of rejecting, just accept them and then silently discard 99% of the messages. It will take the spammer a long, long time to figure out what the message threshold is and how fast they can safely send.
  6. The system has a fixed delivery rate based on number of users, not the number of messages. If a spammer emails 100 spams, then you will get all 100 next time you check your email. If they add 100 spams to the Oceangram pool, it increases the odds that you will get spam, but you’ll still only get messages once every five minutes or so.

None of this will keep spammers out forever. These are hurdles, not walls. But this may discourage them until Oceangrams gets a good deal bigger than it is now. They probably won’t bother until the community is large enough that it will be worth the initial investment of coding time to get it rolling.

I’ve been signing my ‘grams “- SY”. I haven’t started putting the link to my site into my messages yet, though. Heh.


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15 thoughts on “More Oceangramming

  1. Wonderduck says:

    It’s just to one post on my site; I want to see if anybody actually READS the ‘message’ in the first place!

  2. Shamus says:

    I’ve been watching for it, actually. I think it’s a fun idea. I’m surprised I don’t see more links.

  3. MOM says:

    I put your link on one
    And another asked how I heard of oceangram so I answered twenty-sided
    I sent one to your email too
    Did you get it? I wonder how that works. Does it come in a bottle while you are signed on or does it just come in your mail box? ??????

  4. MOM says:

    I just got the best oceangram yet

    100 bottles of beer on the wall. 100 bottles of beer. Take one down and pass it around…


    99 bottles of beer on the wall.
    99 bottles of beer on the wqall. 99 bottles of beer. Take one down and pass it around, 98 bottles of beer on the wall…

    If you get it, let me know which bottle (of beer) you got :-)

  5. MOM says:

    I think I got one of your messages! Ae you writing a story about a girl and a guy in the shadows?

  6. Shamus says:

    Yes :)

    Well, not a story. That’s all I wrote. I have a half dozen such things floating around out there that sound like an excerpt from a story but are really just me messing around.

  7. MOM says:

    I added a paragraph to the tale. she made a phone call

  8. Shamus says:

    I sould add that there is a plan bahind it: In a week I’m going to google for some of the story text and see if anyone has posted it to their blog / messageboard, like, “look at this odd oceangram I found…” Kind of thing.

    I don’t have high hopes that I’ll get any results, but it’s a little experiment to amuse me, which is the whole point of the internet anyhow. :)

  9. Shamus says:

    You added to it? Cool. I wondered how people would react. I wonder if other people will do the same.

  10. MOM says:

    Collect all the bottles and publish the result. Maybe it is a pulizer winner!

  11. I like Duck’s approach – but I gave it a twist :)

  12. MOM says:

    One of yesterday’s bottles came around again about 12 hours later. It had two messages added since the first time I retrieved it.

  13. MOM says:

    Well, the ocean is closed. Probably full of bottles which has shut down the gulf stream and coastal currents. Never underestimate the power of a geek.

  14. Sera says:

    Yes, the website is down now.

    By the way, in their FAQ they addressed the spam thing. They have software that filters out links! I think if you get a message with a lot of question marks, their software has been at work.

    Since Kim Komando recommended them recently (along with a million other internet users…ok, a lot if not a million ;), I think they probably just got overloaded. They have upgraded their system once already. I’m not sure if they’ll have to do it again or not.


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