3DNA Forum is spam free

As of today (2016-01-16), the number of registrations on the 3DNA Forum has reached 2,562. Moreover, all the members (as far as I can tell) are legitimate since the Forum has remained spam free. From the very beginning, ensuring a high information-to-noice ratio has been a top priority. The goal has been achieved by taking the following measures:

State the rules clearly in the “Registration Agreement”

This forum is dedicated to topics generally related to the 3DNA suite of software programs for the analysis, rebuilding and visualization of three-dimensional nucleic acid structures. To make the 3DNA forum a more pleasant virtual community for all of us to learn from and contribute to, please be considerate and practice good netiquette (http://www.albion.com/netiquette/).

I strive to make the forum spam free. Specifically, posts that are not 3DNA related in the broad sense are taken as spams, and are strictly forbidden. You are solely responsible for the content of your posts. We reserve the right to remove any post deemed as inappropriate, deactivate the account and ban the IP address of any abuser of the forum, WITHOUT NOTICE.

When posting on the Forum, please abide by the following rules: …

In a nutshell, you are welcome to participate and should not hesitate to ask questions, but remember to play nice and preferably share what you’ve learned! Please note that we do not tolerate spamming or off-topic trolling of any form.

Take advantage of anti-spam software

In additional to the verification of email address and check for black-listed IP addresses, the topic-specific questions have been very effective. Three examples of such questions are shown below:

What does the 'A' in 3DNA stand for? (hint: 4-char long)
How many standard bases does RNA have (hint: 1-digit number)
What is the value of the expression (3.1498 * 0 + 168)?

Overall, I do not like CAPTCHA — I’ve found the highly-distorted images in some websites especially troublesome. For the first few of years (to ~2014), the 3DNA Forum did not contain a captcha image in the registration page. Later on, however, I’ve noticed quite a few spam registrations/posts. In addition to quickly cleaning them up manually, I had refined the topic-specific questions, and turned on the visual verification image at level “Medium — Overlapping colored letters, with noise/lines”. Experience over the past couple of year has demonstrated the effectiveness of the combined strategy. As shown in the screen capture below, as of this writing, 177,562 spammers have been blocked by the anti-spam software!

Summary of anti-spamming on the 3DNA Forum

Verify and approve ‘suspect’ accounts quickly

The above mentioned anti-spaming measures have blocked virtually all the “bad guys” so I do not need to waste time fighting them. I receive an email notification for each successful registration. The vast majority of registrants can then immediately access the member-only download section or post questions on the 3DNA Forum after registration. A significant portion (~1 out of 6) of the registrations, however, would be masked as suspicious and need my action. The email message for such cases reads like this:

‘xxxx’ has just signed up as a new member of your forum. Click the link below to view their profile. …
Before this member can begin posting they must first have their account approved. Click the link below to go to the approval screen. …

Wherever I have access to the Internet (including after hours with an iPad Air 2), I’ve always been quick in verifying and (mostly) approving these registrations.

Overall, since http://forum.x3dna.org was created in December 2011, the Forum has received significant attention in the field of DNA/RNA structural bioinformatics. As the community begins to appreciate and fully take advantage of what DSSR and SNAP have to offer, I have no doubt the Forum will gain even wider-spread recognition.





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