Stack Overflow, stop blocking me

March 11, 2012

Seriously, Stack Overflow, WTF?

For three days now, at PyCon2012, I can't browse any Stack Overflow / Stack Exchange page. Why? All the wireless networks here at the conference are unencrypted. Connecting without passing through a secure connection (VPN/SSH tunnel) is an endeavor I would recommend to no one. Riding an open wireless network bareback? No way.

So, I use the amazing sshuttle which is routed to one of my servers on Amazon EC2. But guess what? Stack Exchange blocks all incoming traffic from EC2. Why? Supposedly, to prevent screen-scraping bots.

Now, I'm not intimate with SO/SE's traffic patterns, and I'm sure they are highly susceptible to content farm scraper bots. But blocking all EC2 IPs is the most stupid way to do this that anyone can think of. Real scraper bots that depend on content mining will easily find other IPs to access SO/SE from.

Newsflash - I (and other legit VPN users) don't have a spare bank of public IPs or VPN endpoints.

A simple solution would be to easily rate limit requests per any IP to a reasonable rate that normal users would never notice (say, 5 requests/sec).

Until Stack Overflow / Stack Exchange implements a better way of blocking scrape-bots without blocking legit users - I'll continue to suffer anytime I'm not under a secure wireless network.