Site Features Can Go Hilariously Wrong

I’m going to shamelessly nick a few images here from a site we designed, manage and host (Sniff Petrol) , but which is run and written by someone else. In finding this he showed a great example of why you should think about any new features you add to a website.

The idea seemed good enough – Car Magazine added a search terms Cloud, rather like a tag cloud, to their website to show what people were searching for. Problem is though, with any user generated content you have to watch carefully for abuse.

First off, they seeded the search cloud with a few terms that they obviously felt the aspirational and tasteful visitors would like – such as Aston Martin Vanquish, BMW M1, Ferrari and so on:

Car Magazine 1

So far so good.

But Sao Penza? Who would look for such an obscure car? Quickly, somebody realised that there weren’t many values for the search cloud to pick up on and that it could easily be gamed… Either that or readers of Car Magazine have a hankering for Bum Gravy and Cillit Bang:

Car Magazine

Perhaps it was just a passing glitch and soon everything would return to normal:

Car Magazine 2

Ah, no… and guess what? The took it down soon after.

I think in any sort of web development and design it’s important to try and think “how could this be abused” and then either put in place ways to prevent it, or be ready for it. Some sites have disappeared completely after being spammed to death, with the owners unable to fix it, and lacking the funds to bring in suitable expertise. It’s a hard world, the Web, and coding safely for it demands a rather cynical approach at times.

All stuff taken from this Sniff Petrol article, and written in a much funnier way than I can ever manage…

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