Tuesday Toss-Up

The CAPTCHAS Are Gonna Get Ya

Do CAPTCHAs Help or Hurt Blogs?
CAPTCHA Insanity

Spam. No, not the kind you might serve with eggs, fried rice or ramen. We’re talking about email and blog spam.

Especially blog spam.

Those pesky automated comments from sites shilling their wares. Folks looking for a backlink without any real contribution to the topic at hand. The saccharine flattery for your genius layout and “certainly distinctive understanding” of the subject, though the subject is never defined in the comment and the same flattery appears for more than one post.

That kind of spam is likely to give you indigestion.

Okay, the other kind might give you indigestion too. But anyway…

What are we to do about it?

The answer for many blogs seems to be CAPTCHAs, those twisted words

you’re required to decipher and type in to prove you’re not a computer. CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.

Upside Down Cat
Oh yeah. Now I can read what it says.

As a blogger, I appreciate the desire to ixnay the amspay, I find them rather irritating as a reader. When I have to squint, stand on my head or repeatedly type in collections of letters that look increasingly like the names of some Lovecraftian beast because my ability to type what I see the first time around seems to have inexplicably failed, I get a wee little bit cranky.

Sure, I keep commenting on blogs regardless of the presence or absence of CAPTCHAs because I do respect another bloggers desire to keep the spam at bay but I can’t say that I always will.

Kitten vs Hand Wrestling
The FuzzyLogic Spam Filter Fur-Point-Oh defends against the sneakiest of spam.

Surely, there’s a better way to best the SpamBeast. The free version of WordPress offers a built-in Akismet Spam Filter that neatly wrangles the spamsters. WordPress.org also offers a free spam filter plugin. It seems likely that other blogging platforms have spam filters either built-in or available as a plugin.

Maybe we don’t need CAPTCHAs to keep our blogs spam free.

In my experience with Aksimet, virtually all spam is detected and collected in a spam folder. I can then delete the comments, save them for when I need a smile or future Gems from the Spam Filter posts. Aksimet alerts me to comments that seem iffy but may be legit and allows me to check comments from new visitors before approving the comment. This does take a little time but not much. Of course, I don’t get hundreds of comments a post either.

As my only experience with spam busting is through the built-in filter on my blog, I’m interested to hear other’s take on the situation.

So what do you think? Do CAPTCHAs work better than spam filters? Do they save valuable time for bloggers that get high traffic? Do CAPTCHAs irritate you as a reader? Enough to stop you from commenting?

Image Attribution (In Order of Appearance):
CAPTCHA Insanity by JillOW, on Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
DiffAngle by ColKorn1982, on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
Kitten vs Hand Wrestling by pinguino, on Flickr CC BY 2.0

16 thoughts on “The CAPTCHAS Are Gonna Get Ya

  1. If I can’t get the captcha the first time, I usually give up. I’ve had blogs where I try to post 5 or 6 times and it never works. It’s frustrating. I use WordPress and they do a mighty fine job of keeping the spam away 😀

  2. WordPress doesn’t need anything more for blog comments comments – Akismet works great. I do have a captcha on my Contact form, but it’s only 4 characters and is easy to read. Blogger’s captchas are the worst!!! I can’t read them at all on my smartphone, and that’s where I do much of my blog reading. I don’t comment on Blogger blogs half the time, even on the computer because of the captchas.

  3. Between WordPress not liking to comment on Blogger, and those damn CAPTCHAS I find myself gravitating more towards commenting on WP blogs only (or self-hosted ones with Disqus/some other commenting platform). They drive me insane. The worst is when you have to do CAPTCHA and then the owner of the blog still has to approve your comment. GUH!

  4. Never had a problem with CAPTCHAS… they work fine for most of the time, sure, sometimes a more skewed unreadable word shows up, but you can request a new CAPTCHA if that happens…

  5. I absolutely DESPISE CAPTCHAS. As someone with accessability issues (very poor eyesight), they’re often danged near impossible for me to read, and the “audio” options are horrid.

    It’s gotten to the point that I very rarely comment on Blogger platform blogs because of their CAPTCHAS, which is sad, because I love joining discussions on many of the blogs I visit.

  6. They’re a pain in the butt, most of the time because they are illegible. I understand that’s part of the idea, but some are nearly indecipherable. When one pops up after I’ve written a comment, I just say “forget it.” Like you, I’ve found that Akismet does a more than adequate job of getting rid of the spam.

  7. @Shay: Yeah, I’ve had a couple recently that I had to enter over and over. It drove me nuts to work on a comment, then struggle with the CAPTCHA.

    @Emma: I think I’ve had the hardest time with the Blogger blogs too.

    @Jennette: I tend to shy away from commenting on blogs with my phone for that too.

    @Rebecca: I also get kind of tired of having to log in to comment. If it’s not a WP blog, I really love the comment section that allows for name, email and website. Then Gravatar usually picks it up.

    @Zebarnabe: For me, it’s more of a recent thing to have trouble. I don’t know if it’s that the CAPTCHAs are a little different now or if I’m commenting on more blogs and therefore seeing more CAPTCHAs. I don’t mind all that much if it’s a short and simple one.

    @John: I wonder why they’re getting so funky. The spam bots must be getting hip.

  8. A brilliant post. I hope that the shakers and movers of the industry take note. I’d never thought to read the spam which my blog catches but, if I need a laugh, I might just do what you do, Sonia, and take a peek.

  9. Hi there.
    Really enjoyed this post! Captchas are just a horrific presence on the internet and more people should be utilising better solutions instead of straining my eyes and brain with nonsense!

    I agree when you say that Captchas seem different now, the older styles have been cracked by bots but now the newer ones are too incomprehensible for a lot of humans too!

    I hate them so much i recently started using a Captcha bypass service that fills them in for me! There are a few around and you should find them if you google “captcha bypass browser extension”. I’m using rumola because it supports chrome and its been working great.

  10. I can’t stand CAPTCHA! If it really used, you know, WORDS, it might be better. But it keeps telling me to type the “word” (or two words) in the box, and I don’t see a “word.” I see “JqrXz3v6.” That may be a word in Klingon, but I don’t speak that. Yet. Hoch Ptui!

    As a free WordPress user, I’m very impressed with the job that Akismet does. I quite enjoy reading some of the spam comments, in fact, before I send them to cyberHell. 😀

  11. I recently posted on Facebook: “For the love of all that is holy, please, please, those of you who have security features with blog comments, I beg you not to use the one with a bunch of letters and then like a house number. It takes me forever to leave a comment because my eyes are old, and I have to guess several times over to get it right. I am tempted sometimes to just say, ‘Forget it!’ even when I REALLY want to be on your blog. Is this just me?” I got 13 likes and several positive comments.

    You are so right, Sonia. It’s a turn-off for readers. Maybe not having the captchas makes the blog a little harder to manage, but we need to look at this as making it easier for our READERS, not us.

  12. Hey. I hear ya. I’ve had a lot of trouble the CAPTCHA, I was thinking blogspot, blogger, etc didn’t like WordPress. Ha! (I’d use my WP ID and couldn’t post, but when I switched to anonymous or open ID, it would let me just fine) There’s been several times I couldn’t leave a comment because I couldn’t get it right. And I’ve tried the audio and I’m pretty sure I was entering the correct numbers, letters, etc. so I gave up. I love WordPress. When people blog something and I like it, but don’t really have anything to say about it, it’s nice to just “like” it.

  13. @Martin: There’s some hilarious stuff in the spam file sometimes. Might as well get a laugh out of what we usually dread. 😀

    @Alicia: That sounds interesting. And it just goes to show that the best spam fighter is ultimately human. Bots will eventually crack everything else. Though the filters work well enough to snag probably spam and hold it for us to approve or trash.

    @Michael: Very interesting. Thanks for the link!

    @Jeff: Yep. And the mixtures of cases gets annoying too, though not all captchas care about case anymore. “CyberHell.” I love that.

    @Julie: I’d heard that the captchas programs were trying to help with some kind of print scanning. Hence the house numbers and print snippets. But I agree those are the hardest to see.

    @ J.L.: I hear ya. I wish Blogger had a “like” function. I don’t always have anything to really say either but I’d like to let the blogger know I liked the post. I’ve had some issues with commenting on Blogger too. Sometimes the login doesn’t seem to kick in for me. And I have an account with them too. *shrug*

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