Sunday, March 24, 2013

CAPTCHA off, then back on

I haven't been blogging here as much as I would like to be, or probably should be, but I am keeping up with other people's blogs. One of the blogs I read daily is "The REAL Blogger Status," written by a Blogger insider but full of helpful information and occasionally biting criticism regarding the Blogger platform.

A post yesterday advised blog authors to be cognizant of what they are putting potential commentors through when they are forced to solve CAPTCHAs, those annoying and occasionally unsolvable distorted word puzzles that can be set as a pre-requisite for anyone looking to leave a comment. CAPTCHAs, while viewed by some as a minor inconvenience and necessary evil to screen out robotically-posted spam comments, can also dramatically reduce the number of illegitimate comments being left on a blog. If you use moderation, the post suggests, it may be unnecessary to also use a CAPTCHA.

I use moderation, and have ever since a flood of racist and harassing comments were posted during the election of 2008. These comments were coming in during the day, when I was at work and unable to do anything about them for several hours; for those hours they were as much a part of my blog as anything I had written. After reading yesterday's post, I thought maybe it was time to back away from the CAPTCHA and loosen things up a little. Last night I turned that setting off to see what would happen.

About fifteen hours later I had fourteen new comments in moderation. Every one of them was spam.

Spam comments aren't merely annoying. A lot of blogs permit you to flag your comment to receive an email whenever someone comments after it. This is apparently part of the strategy for spam comments: the spammer also requests these follow-up emails so they can harvest email addresses - and possibly blog addresses - from anyone else who comments. This is explained in today's post on The REAL Blogger Status.

So: CAPTCHA back on. My apologies for the minor inconvenience.


zxcv0987 said...

Are there several Captchas available? Used to be we just saw swerlly words in hard-to-read CAP and lowercase combos. Lately we see what look like blurry poor old house numbers on poor old houses plus the CAP lc challenges.
But do see your point and other bloggers point.

Todd HellsKitchen said...

Yes... Captcha is a pain... But the Spamments are worse! I get VERY VERY FEW real comments on my blog anymore... In fact, I consider just turning off comments altogether these days...

D.B. Echo said...

I remember a few years ago "ReCAPTCHA" was introduced, using scans of words from old books that visual recognition software couldn't translate, as part of a program of digitizing old texts. I think the house numbers are actually from Google street level scans, probably numbers that again couldn't be decoded. (Which is why you get the occasional scan of a fence or other object rather than a house number.) Essentially, with each CAPTCHA solved, you're doing for free a service that someone would have otherwise been paid to do.

Todd, I first found your blog during the great "SMENITA" crisis all those years ago! said...

Agreed. CAPTCHA is a nuisance, but you're right: Spammers are worse.

D.B. Echo said...

Josette! So good to know you read this blog! Please tell that sister of yours that I miss her blog!!!