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Cyrillic WordPress

Three years back, a bizarre glitch in WordPress turned the operation of this blog Turkish.  That felt rather Kafkaesque until it resolved itself, as I’d’ve had to navigate through a lot of Turkish to fix my settings back to English!

Now in a faint echo of that, it’s sent me email in a cyrillic language.  The email template looks like a regular notification that someone is following my blog.  Comparing it to the last such notification (from earlier this week) and pasting the subject line[1] into google translate both confirm it.  Indeed, I tried google with several Cyrillic languages: Russian, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, and it appears to say much the same in all of them.

And the punchline: the person who just subscribed is in Ankara, Turkey!  Which is what first reminded me of the Turkish incident, but no more cyrillic than English!

This is not in the same league as the Turkish WordPress: when I log in, things are still in English.  Nevertheless, bizarre.

[1] Subject line truncated to preserve privacy of the latest subscriber.

Turkish WordPress?

OK, WTF has happened to WordPress?  Why does it suddenly think my blog is in Turkish?  Not of course the contents, but all the template stuff, and – far worse  – the settings and preferences that should (I guess, though I never actually tried it) enable me to switch to my choice of language.

Confirmed it’s not my browser playing sillybuggers by accessing it from three different browsers[1] on three different computers.  Chrome offers to translate this page, but that’s not going to help with a bunch of clientside-scripted menus!

OK, try another tack.  ssh in to a remote machine on another continent and check the blog with lynx.  Aha, it’s now in English!  Hmm, could that difference be because I’m not logged in?  Try to log in, but fail because Lynx rejects WordPress’s SSL certificate and refuses to talk to it.

OK, what happens if I fire up a spare browser that’s never logged in from a local desktop?  It’s in English.  And when I log in with Safari, it’s still in English.  This is getting silly!

Resolution: when I reload this composition page in Chrome, it’s reverted to English.  Someone or something was playing sillybuggers but got fixed.  Was WordPress hacked?  Did some sysop at WordPress screw up?

Or could it even have been some sysop at my ISP running a supposedly-transparent proxy that messed with browser preferences?  That’s the most worrisome: I got email from them recently inviting me to “protect” myself, and I suspect they’re implementing some Endarkenment.  A glitch in something more sinister?  My next test would’ve been to route my (turkish-infected) desktop browser through another network, but the return to English pre-empted that.

I don’t know when whatever caused the Turkish first appeared, only when I first saw it – which was a little before 09:00 UTC.  Anyone else see Turkish wordpress in recent hours?  Or even – if you’re a Virgin broadband user – other sites unexpectedly in Turkish?

[geek note: I could also have tested for a rogue browser preferences setting by visiting a multilingual site like Apache server docs that display in Turkish if your browser asks for it.  But that would’ve left open the possibility of misdiagnosing a glitch associated with an ISP-run database having different routing/rules for different sites].

[1] Iceweasel, Firefox and Chrome, in that order.

Hyperactive akismet

quasi (mads) just pinged me on IRC. He’d made a comment on my latest blog entry, but it hadn’t appeared. And another on May 1st, which had also gone nowhere. Today’s ping was because his comment was in fact a suggestion, in response to my question.

Turns out akismet seems to have a grudge against him, and thought both his comments were spam. Since they’re both less than a week old (or whatever it is), I was able to recover them through the admin panel.

Akismet is a bit of a lifesaver, in that it eats up the vast majority of spam attacking the blog. But this is not the first time it’s given false positives. So, anyone whose comment doesn’t show up, that’s probably what happened to it. Ping me, and I’ll look for it. If you don’t ping me, I’ll never know you tried to comment.


Occasionally I follow a wordpress tag.  On my own blog, to find an old article.  Or on wordpress as a whole.  The latter shows a “featured blog”, which sometimes (but not always) seems relevant to the tag.  There’s quite often lunatic-fringe political ranting, that has led me to wonder if someone at WordPress regards the entire Bush team as wishy-washy liberals.

Recently I’ve seen something altogether more bizarre.  A “featured blog” that seems to be no more than computer-generated random text.  Here’s a snapshot from just now, for the “apache” tag.  A “featured blog” that’s gibberish, followed by the most recent real blog entries to use the keyword.  These entries sometimes include spam too, though the current entries are legit.

A new rain of spam

Yesterdays and todays news is that the ‘merkins have arrested one of their top spammers in Seattle. I don’t know how much difference this’ll make, but my understanding is that it’s one or two altogether different US states that give spammers a safe haven and could really make a big difference. Along with the world at large.

Here on the blog I’ve had a recent deluge of trackback spam pointing to something called “”. It’s a subtle one: I first saw it when I referenced an earlier post, and saw not just the one (legitimate) trackback, but a second one appearing simultaneously. I first took that for an innocent wordpress malfunction, then realised that the trackback from “[my post ]| Server software” was spam pointing to someone’s copy of my post. Since then I’ve had a number of them from the same spammer, and they get right through Akismet.

Today I just realised it’s more subtle than that. A week and a half ago, Danny Angus referenced my blog in an entry on his own. The first I saw of that was the trackback; then I saw it on Planet Apache. OK, fine, a legitimate trackback, right? Nope, it was only just this morning it showed up in my feed as [Danny’s entry]|Server software that I realised it didn’t link to Danny’s post, but to the spammer’s copy of it at

A subtle and devious technique. WordPress admin and Akismet: I hope you’re listening! is pwned!

… is the only explanation I can see.

My last post “is it blog spam” appeared as “private” when I first hit the “publish” button. Before I’d even made it public, two comments had appeared. They were trackbacks that were definitely and unambiguously spam.

That must surely have come from within!