Newsletter Snag - T.A. Nieman

Newsletter Snag

Newsletter Snag
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(This is a republished post. You can view the original posting HERE.)

Last year my colleague, TA Nieman, published her debut novel. I did my best to help her along the way, including light editing, formatting and preparing files for publication, putting together the website, etc. In the lead-up to release, she had wanted me to put together a newsletter for her.

I have never had any need or desire for a newsletter, but I did my best to tackle the project. Unfortunately, something went very wrong, thus this post.

Without going into too much detail, the bottom line is that due to a lack of proper checks, the newsletter section of the site got slammed with spam bots. TA had wanted the sign-up to be as smooth and simple as possible, basically wanting a simple email field and a submit button. I had hoped that this would be ok, but of course it was not.

My own test newsletter (which specifically said not to sign up because it was only for my own testing purposes) as well as TA's both got over a thousand new sign-ups almost overnight. And yes, these were in fact garbage sign-ups.

One oversight on my part was that I did not add a timestamp field in the database to mark the exact time any given entry was added. Why? Well, it never occurred to me that it would matter. I don't like collecting data that isn't necessary as it just takes up needless space, and I simply did not anticipate needing to weed out spam entries.

What this means is that the entire database is going to need to be dumped. I have no way of knowing which entries are good and which are bad, outside of some of the email addresses that are clearly garbage. And as there are now about three thousand entries, it's just too much to do anything other than purge it all.

I am also not quite sure how to proceed. I either need to try and work in some checks to try and ensure that only humans are submitting their email addresses to sign up, or I need to go a 3rd party route. My web host does have a built in mailing list feature, but I checked it out and it is garbage. Absolute garbage.

I have a few thoughts on how to integrate some checks on what I already have done, but I don't know if some of them will work, and the others I fear may be too intrusive. For example, I thought about making it so that only registered users who are signed in will be able to sign up, but I really don't want to force a full registration just to sign up for a newsletter.

A few notes really quick: The built in mailing list section of my web host forces any given user to do a full registration on some outside system in order to sign up, including username, password, email address, and other personal information. Also, my own current registration system has so far never been compromised by spam bots.

Anyway, that is about all I have to say. I tried my best to keep this somewhat short (trust me, I had a lot more to say). As of now, I'm still trying to decide the best path to take. No matter what though, all current sign-ups are going to have to be purged. If you are reading this and have any thoughts or suggestions, I'm all eyes (since I assume you'll write your response instead of speak it).

Thank you for your time, and sorry for any inconveniences this snag may have created.
Thank you for reading my post! Please consider checking out my debut novel, The Scars of Gaia, here on my website! The entire novel can be downloaded for free in multiple digital formats.
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