web analytics

Argghh! The comment bug

Written By: - Date published: 1:44 pm, October 18th, 2015 - 10 comments
Categories: admin, The Standard - Tags: ,

I have spent a few hours been chasing the bug that has been causing people to go into moderation automatically. Found it, killed it, and I thought I’d share it with you.

It was in Wordfence, a great security program for the site.  Essentially it is one of the main plugins to block out irritating behaviours by bots treating the site as their own personal space. Because there are a lot of bots running around the net probing for security holes, reading content, and generally being a pain in the arse when trying to predict the computing resources required to operate the site.

Since we run the site on less than $300 per month funded by voluntary welcome donations (see here), I spend a lot of time keeping robot free loaders out of the site.

Our direct1 human traffic this year is about 80 gigabytes per month to mainly NZ resident humans. Our welcome and expected2 bot traffic averages about 150 gigabytes of traffic per month. And we routinely provide about another 70-80 gigabytes of traffic to various bots who follow our rules.

Crawler rules

Otherwise we’d have to provide systems that are capable of handling many times our legitimate traffic.

But there are other rules in the system designed to block bots and humans from trying to take over our site and use it for purposes nefarious – like spam and free advertising. A lot of those are focused around getting logins as admins and authors, or placing comments as new or existing commenters on the site. These are known as spambots.

So Wordfence and other systems provide preventative measures for those as well. Some of the Wordfence security options are here

Login rules

One of the reasons3 that we have run this site for many years without requiring logins is because it removes a major potential security issue. These days the only logins in active use are those of the authors and a few people who got them before I turned off access to obtaining them in 2011.

We handle robots leaving spam comments with some subtle programs that bank on human vs robot behaviours. The odd robot spam or troll that gets past those has to have an approved comment by a moderator before they can post freely.

However there are the odd persons who leave comments purporting to be by other people. Usually we know because of gravator differences because they have the wrong ’email’.

And then there is this behaviour that Wordfence protects against.

Hold anonymous comments using member emails for moderation
In WordPress it’s possible for someone who is not a member on your website to post a comment and to specify an email address of a real member on your site. This behavior is suspicious and may be incorporated into a more sophisticated attack. So we suggest that you leave this option enabled which will hold those comments for moderation before they’re published.

Thats ok – good security. It isn’t particularly relevant to our site however. Many of our authors comment without logging in because it is faster. Not having a special page generated for you is a whole lot slower than getting a cached page (apart from the replies tab). Our longer term commenters who have actual logins have mostly long since forgotten their passwords 🙂

I never noticed this option. It was added in an upgrade after I did the Wordfence setup years ago. It was off by default as are all new features. And it never got triggered when I did plugin upgrade testing.

However somehow this one button amonst the hundreds that control this site turned on and caused a week of nuisance for moderators and commenters  ! ^&*%^*^%&%^$$!!!!!

Looking at the errors at wordfence, I see this.

Hi All,

We have released a fix that addresses a bug introduced with the release that went out 15 hours ago. The issue is that if a Wordfence options checkbox is unchecked and is different from the default setting, the release resets the Wordfence setting to the default setting of checked.

Arggghhhhh… The joys of upgrades and testing..



  1. Not counting the graphics. Those are mostly served up from a content delivery network, in our case Cloudfront from Amazon.
  2. Legitimate googlebots and some other selected web search crawlers, Cloudfront, backup and synchronising systems, Internet Archive (Wayback Engine) and the National Library web harvesting (see Kiwiblogblog is not completely dead).
  3. See the privacy section of the policy.

10 comments on “Argghh! The comment bug ”

  1. r0b 1

    Hah! Thanks for tracking it down, and as usual for the work that goes on behind the scenes…

    • lprent 1.1

      More for the moderators than anyone else in this case. They were having to release the comments from moderation. And we usually get a lot of comments each day.

      Right now we’re inching towards our first million published comments accumulated over the last 8 and bit years.

      For me it was mostly a matter of finding enough clean and uninterrupted time to check everything that may have introduced this problem

  2. Thank you – I never realised the value of having realtime comments as much – it is just hard to converse when the lag is there – such an important feature that supports the Standard community – thanks again.
    Edit It works!!! thanks the gods it works 🙂 and thanks to the mods who let my comments through – a pain I know, but appreciated.

  3. Stephen 3

    Man, you do great work, LP. Long may you continue.

  4. wyndham 4

    Lyn. Alas, every post that I open carries the heading “No Comments” irrespective of the fact that there may be umpteen comments from a variety of folk. The only way I can open these comments is to click on “No Comments”. Is this in my PC or is it at your end ?

    • lprent 4.1

      Sounds like the caching, either server or client side. I will have a look at it after I get the tabs for the feeds working.

      But in the meantime, try Shift + F5 to force a reload and see if it fixes it. If it does then it is likely to be client side and probably related to date time.

      You don’t see comments for anything?

  5. Lanthanide 5

    Lynn, have you considered Patreon?

    Potentially to cover existing server support, as well as a pot of money to be split between authors in some sort of manner (may be difficult).

    • lprent 5.1

      Interesting. The reason that I went the other way; reducing cost, was because of the scarce resource we have – our time. There was no time to do structured work hours work. Instead we tend to do everything async, as and when there was a block of time.

      Just to give an idea, while I could make a call to someone during the day, if I didn’t get them first time then I didn’t leave messages. When I’m working, I don’t answer phone calls. Same for email. I keep an eye on it, but I can’t answer non-work things in a timely manner when I’m programming. It takes a mind dump to become human again, and then usually about 30 minutes to get back into the groove.

      I’m probably a bit extreme because of what I work on. But most of the people who author and moderate here seem to have the same kinds of time pressures. So the idea of doing the business kinds of things to run a voluntary blog in our “spare time” isn’t something that we can do. We don’t have the kinds of block time required, and the local market isn’t big.

      But something run for creatives who have the same issues.. That has more possibilities.

  6. infused 6

    Teach you for upgrading too quick…

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Put our most vulnerable first
    Don’t forget whānau and communities most at risk, says the Green Party, as the Government lays out its three-phase plan for Omicron. ...
    2 days ago
  • Boosting our immunity against Omicron
    With Omicron in the community, it’s vital we all do our bit to help to slow the spread, keep each other safe and protect our health system. One of the most important ways we can reduce the risk of Omicron is to get a booster dose as soon as we’re ...
    2 days ago
  • Equitable response to Omicron vital
    The Green Party supports the Government’s decision to move Aotearoa New Zealand to traffic light level Red at 11.59pm tonight, but says its success will depend on the support that is made available to the most vulnerable. ...
    5 days ago
  • How we’re preparing for Omicron
    As countries around the world experience Omicron outbreaks, we’re taking steps now to ensure we’re as prepared as possible and our communities are protected. ...
    1 week ago
  • What’s Labour achieved so far?
    Quite a bit! This Government was elected to take on the toughest issues facing Aotearoa – and that’s what we’re doing. Since the start of the pandemic, protecting lives and livelihoods has been a priority, but we’ve also made progress on long-term challenges, to deliver a future the next generation ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Tackling the big issues in 2022
    This year, keeping Kiwis safe from COVID will remain a key priority of the Government – but we’re also pushing ahead on some of New Zealand’s biggest long-term challenges. In 2022, we’re working to get more Kiwis into homes, reduce emissions, lift children out of poverty, and ensure people get ...
    2 weeks ago

  • Penguin rehab and native forest restoration get helping hand
    A long-running penguin rehab facility which has been hard hit by the tourism downturn, and work to restore native forest habitats in the Catlins are being supported through Jobs for Nature funding, Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says. Otago’s Penguin Place and The Hokonui Rūnanga Catlins Biodiversity Project will receive combined ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    21 hours ago
  • Resilient economy reflected in Crown accounts
    The Government’s financial accounts continue to reflect a resilient economy that has performed better than expected and puts the country in a strong position to respond to Omicron, Grant Robertson said. The Crown Accounts for the five months to the end of November were more favourable than forecast in the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    21 hours ago
  • Government announces three phase public health response to Omicron
    Reducing isolation period for cases and close contacts at Phase Two and Three to 10 and seven days Definition of close contact required to isolate changes to household or household like contacts at Phase Three Increased use of rapid antigen tests with test to return policy put in place for ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • New Ambassador to Thailand announced
    Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta today announced the appointment of Jonathan Kings as New Zealand’s next Ambassador to Thailand. “Aotearoa New Zealand has a long-standing relationship with Thailand, celebrating the 65th anniversary of diplomatic representation between our countries in 2021. We also share much in common at regional and multilateral levels ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Government’s Family Package continues to deliver for New Zealanders
    The Families Package helped around 330,000 families in its first year - more than half of all families with children in NZ These families received an estimated $55 per week more from Families Package payments in 2018/19 than in 2017/18, on average Families Package increases to the maximum possible Accommodation ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • New Zealand retains top spot in global anti-corruption rankings
    Justice Minister Kris Faafoi has welcomed news of New Zealand’s ongoing position as top in the world anti-corruption rankings. The 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index released by global anti-corruption organisation, Transparency International, ranks New Zealand first equal with Denmark and Finland, with a score of 88 out of 100. “This is an ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Testing improvements see New Zealand well prepared for Omicron
    New Zealand’s PCR testing capacity can be increased by nearly 20,000 tests per day to deal with a surge in cases as part of our wider COVID-19 testing strategy, Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall said. “We have continued to adapt our public health response to safeguard the health ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • 5,000 portable air cleaners for schools on their way
    As schools are preparing to return, Education Minister Chris Hipkins has announced 5,000 air cleaners have been ordered for New Zealand schools. “As we know, along with vaccination, testing, good hygiene and physical distancing, good ventilation is important in minimising the risk of airborne transmission of the virus that causes ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • New Zealand to move to Red from 11.59pm today
    All of New Zealand will move to the Red setting of the Covid Protection Framework (CPF) at 11:59pm today as Omicron is potentially now transmitting in the community, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says. “Nine COVID-19 cases reported yesterday in the Nelson/Marlborough region are now confirmed as Omicron, and a further ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Mandatory boosters for key workforces progressing well
    More than 5,785 (82%) border workers eligible for a booster vaccination at 6 months have received it so far, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says. “That’s a really strong uptake considering we announced the requirement the week before Christmas, but we need to continue this momentum,” Chris Hipkins said. “We ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • NZ to move to Red
    Nine COVID-19 cases reported yesterday in the Nelson/Marlborough region have now been confirmed as the Omicron variant, and a further case from the same household was confirmed late yesterday. These cases are in a single family that flew to Auckland on 13 January to attend a wedding and other events ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • New Zealand to provide further help for Tonga
    Aotearoa New Zealand is giving an additional $2 million in humanitarian funding for Tonga as the country recovers from a volcanic eruption and tsunami last weekend, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Defence Minister Peeni Henare said today. This brings Aotearoa New Zealand’s contribution to $3 million. “This support will ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Quarterly benefit numbers show highest number of exits into work
    The Government’s strong focus on supporting more people into work is reflected in benefit figures released today which show a year-on-year fall of around 21,300 people receiving a main benefit in the December 2021 quarter, Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni said. “Our response to COVID has helped ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Northland to move to Orange, NZ prepared for Omicron 
    Northland to move to Orange Rest of New Zealand stays at Orange in preparedness for Omicron All of New Zealand to move into Red in the event of Omicron community outbreak – no use of lockdowns Govt planning well advanced – new case management, close contact definition and testing rules ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • RNZAF C-130 Hercules flight departs for Tonga as Navy vessels draw nearer to Tongatapu
    A Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules has departed Base Auckland Whenuapai for Tonga carrying aid supplies, as the New Zealand aid effort ramps up, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Defence Minister Peeni Henare said today. “The aircraft is carrying humanitarian aid and disaster relief supplies, including water ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • New Zealand prepared to send support to Tonga
    New Zealand is ready to assist Tonga in its recovery from Saturday night’s undersea eruption and tsunami, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Defence Minister Peeni Henare said today. “Following the successful surveillance and reconnaissance flight of a New Zealand P-3K2 Orion on Monday, imagery and details have been sent ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Aotearoa New Zealand stands ready to assist people of Tonga
    The thoughts of New Zealanders are with the people of Tonga following yesterday’s undersea volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami waves, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta says. “Damage assessments are under way and New Zealand has formally offered to provide assistance to Tonga,” said Nanaia Mahuta. New Zealand has made an ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Record high of new homes consented continues
    In the year ended November 2021, 48,522 new homes were consented, up 26 per cent from the November 2020 year. In November 2021, 4,688 new dwellings were consented. Auckland’s new homes consented numbers rose 25 per cent in the last year. Annual figures for the last nine months show more ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Report trumpets scope for ice cream exports
    Latest research into our premium ice cream industry suggests exporters could find new buyers in valuable overseas markets as consumers increasingly look for tip top quality in food. Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash has released a new report for the Food and Beverage Information Project. The project is run by ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Honouring the legacy of legendary kaumātua Muriwai Ihakara
    Associate Minister for Arts, Culture, and Heritage Kiri Allan expressed her great sadness and deepest condolences at the passing of esteemed kaumātua, Muriwai Ihakara. “Muriwai’s passing is not only a loss for the wider creative sector but for all of Aotearoa New Zealand. The country has lost a much beloved ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Have your say on proposed changes to make drinking water safer
    Associate Minister for the Environment Kiri Allan is urging all New Zealanders to give feedback on proposed changes aimed at making drinking water safer. “The current regulations are not fit for purpose and don’t offer enough protection, particularly for those whose water comes from smaller supplies,” Kiri Allan said. “This ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Planting the seeds for rewarding careers
    A boost in funding for a number of Jobs for Nature initiatives across Canterbury will provide sustainable employment opportunities for more than 70 people, Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says. “The six projects are diverse, ranging from establishing coastline trapping in Kaikōura, to setting up a native plant nursery, restoration planting ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago