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There is a filter in place to prevent new users from posting more then one link on the body of a question. I believe the intent of this is to prevent spammers from using the system, but does it really help us here?

I seem to see lots of questions from new users where they have obfuscated configuration to try to avoid the filter, or they post their question somewhere else and link to it. I am sure it is really frustrating for users since having URLs in configuration files and log files is quite common.

It seems like we are putting up a road-block that doesn't block spammers, since at least one URL is allowed, and blocks a lot of new users from providing a useful first question with the relevant logs and configurations.

I think a good compromise would be to have the system be modified so that URLs in code blocks are ignored, instead of counted against a person. I think this shouldn't be a problem since URLs in code blocks are not automatically converted into hyper-links.


I made some invalid initial assumptions in my original question, but I still think there is a bit of a problem here that needs to be solved.

This is the current error message a user sees when submitting a question with more then two links.

  • we're sorry, but as a spam prevention mechanism, new users can only post a maximum of two hyperlinks. Earn more than 10 reputation to post more hyperlinks.

I wonder if it would be helpful to modify this message somehow to indicate that links in a code block will be exempt.

  • I wonder if there are figures that show that autoblocking more than one link helps - I suppose it stops bots posting hundreds of link-farm style links. I have to agree, yes, there's a good portion of one-liner spam left so from that side it looks ineffective, but of course we don't know what we don't see, if that makes sense. – Rob Moir Feb 1 '11 at 18:02
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    I think it is more important to allow users to ask good questions than to prevent possible spam. If this really leads to an increase in spam, I could imagine a system where experienced users (>10k, maybe >15k rep) are allowed to close/delete questions or answers by any user with less than maybe 100 rep in order to reduce the workload for moderators. This option could be disabled for a given user if he abuses this power. – Sven Feb 1 '11 at 18:41
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    Very often we see a newbie post a question and place the URL into the body, followed shortly after by someone with more rep needing to go in and create the link for them, just so the questions fits the general style of the site. – John Gardeniers Feb 2 '11 at 0:51
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    marking this completed as what you're describing does, in fact happen -- code block URLs aren't counted. I increased the non-code-block allowed URLs for new users from 1 to 2. – Jeff Atwood Feb 3 '11 at 7:46
  • I'm not sure about your revision, because then spammers will immediately know that they can just code-block their spam and get through – Mark Henderson Feb 8 '11 at 3:55
  • @Mark Henderson, I guess it all depends on if you want to accept some false positives, or negatives. I doubt that spam in a code-block would be very effective, and as it stands right now we are depending on the spammers not knowing something. If the spammer is persistent they will figure the code-block thing out. But what I really dis-link the false-positives. I would prefer the occasional spam message over a person not being able to post a good first question. – Zoredache Feb 8 '11 at 6:00
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Can you cite examples? Where I see this, it is usually because the user did not post a log as a code block, e.g. they did something like:

log line 1 blah blah http://example.com/foo/bar
log line 2 blah blah http://example.com/foo2/bar2
log line 2 blah blah http://example.com/foo3/bar3

instead of

log line 1 blah blah http://example.com/foo/bar  
log line 2 blah blah http://example.com/foo2/bar2
log line 2 blah blah http://example.com/foo3/bar3

but I'll check to make sure the URL check does in fact ignore URLs in code blocks (yes, it does).

edit: I also increased the allowed URLs for a new-new user to TWO from the old value of one.

  • I believed, that links in code blocks where included, but I am not certain. I must admit, that this is partly me assuming how things are working. I haven't been a new user recently enough that it is entirely possible I am wrong. – Zoredache Feb 1 '11 at 22:23
  • @zore note that in the 2nd form the links ARE NOT <a href=""> style links so they won't be detected as links (they aren't!) – Jeff Atwood Feb 1 '11 at 22:34
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    @Jeff, I really can't think of any examples just now but I've seen a fair few questions from new members that have more than one URL to external addresses for various reasons. These are questions where the use of the code block would not be relevant. I've edited some of those myself to create a link from the URL. I really wish I could give you an actual example. – John Gardeniers Feb 2 '11 at 0:57
  • @john in my experience that is not common. What is common, is users screwing up code blocks. – Jeff Atwood Feb 2 '11 at 2:30
  • @Jeff - sorry but I agree with John. I fix several of them a week. – Mark Henderson Feb 2 '11 at 3:06
  • @Jeff @John - here's the most recent one: serverfault.com/questions/227418/… - I've done dozens of them in the past though – Mark Henderson Feb 2 '11 at 3:07
  • @Jeff @John - here's another one: serverfault.com/questions/229628/… – Mark Henderson Feb 2 '11 at 21:15
  • @john c'est la vie; because we allow anonymous participation new users have some restrictions. We could perhaps increase it to 2 links if that helps. – Jeff Atwood Feb 3 '11 at 1:25
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    @Jeff, based on what I've seen so far I think two would suffice. Thanks. – John Gardeniers Feb 3 '11 at 2:51

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