Cause Of "Forbidden" Error When Submitting Comments

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Some readers may try to submit a comment and get an error page with the word "Forbidden" at the top and saying that the user does not have permission to take the action. This is a frustrating and wholly useless error message.

Its cause appears to be a bug either in the server configuration or the site content management software. Some part of the comment-posting logic cannot correctly parse the word "having" from the submitted comment text. This would make sense since the word "having" is a reserved word in many web-related authoring languages. Mysteriously, the problem does not seem to exist when a user submits a story. It's only a problem when submitting comments.

As to how I figured this out: trial and error. Test it for yourself. Pick a story to comment on and add some random typing to it in the form of ten or so "words" (i.e., ten space-separated character groups) in the comment body and click "Preview" and you'll see the typical preview. Then add the word "having" somewhere in it, and you'll get the "Forbidden" error after clicking "Preview". Now do it again but first remove a single random character from the word "having" and you'll get a preview successfully.

So, just avoid using the word "having" in your comments and you'll be fine, or instead of writing "having", use "h@ving". Yeah, ridiculous, I know, but no worse I guess than people needing to live without the accent mark over the letter 'e' when using cognates from such languages as French (example: typing "fiancee" instead of "fiancée" because there was no 'é' character among the typewriter keys) back when typewriters were the standard means for creating formal communications of all kinds.

Weird. But nothing isn't when speaking of computers.

Also -- if anyone has trouble posting a comment and they do not have "having" in the comment, please drop a note to and include the comment you're trying to post and I'll see what's what. Also please read my comment to a posting here on MANN discussing it some more; you can sometimes get the "Forbidden" error even if "having" isn't in your comment text.