Saturday, September 22, 2012

Why I hate the CAPTCHA.

Somewhere in the deepest bowels of hell there sits an evil imp collecting royalties every time a frustrated human gives up trying to leave a comment on a blog because he can't decipher the garbled string of letters that is the CAPTCHA.

There, I said it. I hate the CAPTCHA.

The purpose of this mishmash of letters all crammed together so that it's impossible to tell "l o" from "b", or "m n" from "n m" (sometimes they're so garbled they no longer resembled anything close to the English alphabet), is supposedly to prevent spam -- to ensure the entity leaving the comment, or answering a poll question, is human. Well, I submit to you that only a machine can make heads or tails out of the majority of those compressed, squiggled, damnedable verification roadblocks.



If you go to the Official CAPTCHA Website, you will see an example of a CAPTCHA.


Easy, huh? Just type: "overlooks inquiry" and you're in. Simple. Easy. So what's my problem? Why did I wake up this morning feeling the overwhelming need to rant? Well, because I had a dream last night. I dreamed I was reading the blog of a very famous author, and a comment occurred to me that I knew would make this author sit up and take notice of my overwhelming understanding of the written word (I said it was a dream, didn't I?). Try as I might, I could NOT reproduce the letters to get past the CAPTCHA. For you see, no CAPTCHA I've ever encountered looks like the example given on the official website. Have you ever ran across one that easy to decipher? What a grand idea it would have been had they only made them that easy.

I just went to a blog I follow by the very talented Laura Howard and left her a comment because I know she uses the CAPTCHA system when someone leaves a comment. Personally, I think she does it just to annoy me, but that's fodder for another rant. Here is an actual CAPTCHA puzzle I was presented with at her blog:


Now tell me: does that look anything remotely like the example from the official website? It looks like someone vomited alphabet soup. And what's with the dark stuff on the right? Is something written in there? Actually, to be perfectly honest, I can make this one out. At Laura's website, though, I absolutely could not see anything in the one of the right. Here, after posting it as an image, I can see that it is "332". At the website, though, nothing.

Surely there has to be a better, more humane, way to separate us humans from the bots. I'm all for a system that would identify a bot, then generate a surge of signal so strong it would blow the top off their microprocessor.


Every now and then I follow someone on Twitter (I'm @CarlPurdon plug plug) who uses TrueTwit validation. For a while they used these split pictures where you had to move a slider until the picture lined up and made sense. It was so easy. Simple. Until I tried it on my smartphone. Impossible. Last time I validated with TrueTwit (which has been a long time ago) they were back to using the regurgitated alphabet soup method of validation.

I made up the dream. That part was a piece of fiction I threw in to help make my point. In the writing world, we don't call that lying -- we call it creative license. Everything else is true, especially the part where I said I hate CAPTCHA.

13 comments:

  1. I'm with you. I type what I *think* is on the screen, and most of the time I'm wrong. Then I give up.

    For my own blog, I use wordpress. They have their own internal system to combat spam and it works extremely well. No captchas for the humans, yet no bot comments get through. It's lovely.

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  2. I've given up more than once when trying to leave comments. Here, I don't use anything (tell me if you had to jump through any hoops to comment here) and so far haven't had any spam comments get through the default spam filter. When I was at Wordpress I tried everything, but the bots found me with trackbacks. I got thousands of trackbacks a day, until I just shut the thing down and moved. No add-on I tried could stop them.

    I was at a blog a few days ago that used math as verification. All you had to do was answer simple "3 + 1 =" questions. Simple. Of course, if the CAPTCHA bunch gets hold of that they'd throw in complex algebraic problems, or make you find the missing angle of an quadrangle with no sides.

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    1. So sorry to hear about your wordpress woes! That must have been frustrating.

      Whatever you're doing now is great because there were no hoops to jump through at all.

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  3. THANK YOU! I so agree! I thought it was a Mac thing - it always takes me at least 3, and sometimes 5 times to get a CAPTCHA right. And my most recent attempt went back to the first one, and it autofilled when I started typing... and it took it! So why didn't it take it the first time???

    I go to a site with the math question, and that is MUCH better! There's another kind that's an ad for a product, and you just retype the tagline, and that's good too. But these fuzzy letters with out of focus pictures of house numbers... OMG.

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    1. It's like they're having a contest to see who can make the hardest ones to decipher. You almost have to be a hacker to comment on a blog.

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  4. "regurgitated alphabet soup"

    I'll never look at lunch the same way again.

    Oh, and, yes, BOO for CAPTCHA!!! I swear I feel like Mary Ingalls before she sets the barn on fire when trying to read one of those things. Can't tell you how many times I've had to stifle my brilliance because of my inability to get past that mish-mash of a gatekeeper.

    Sigh.

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  5. I hate those things, too. But apparently they are "helping the world" by digitizing books and creating means for people to learn new languages. See this cool TED.com talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/luis_von_ahn_massive_scale_online_collaboration.html

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    1. Yet another thing I don't understand -- how making humans prove they are human by deciphering things most humans can't decipher, helps digitize books. Learn a new language, maybe, because they have certainly caused me to use words I don't normally use.

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  6. I get so many Captchas wrong that I am beginning to think I might actually be a robot! I find them so frustrating especially while using forums or blogs where you want to write about 10 comments alas, i generally end up writing about 2 because I get so disheartened.

    Recently I started working in Germany. Captcha hell. There are umlauts and everything in there! Needless to say I soon lost my sanity and stated to look for alternatives. Thankfully there is salvation.

    If you type in captcha bypass in google you can find some great programs that will enter all your captchas for you. I have been using rumola because it has a good chrome plug in and had good reviews from others.

    Hope you find this helpful in conquering captchas and making your daily browse a more peaceful experience!

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    1. Now this is something I didn't know: there are computer programs that will enter the Captcha for you? So doesn't that negate the reason for the Captcha in the first place? It reaffirms my original point, though, that only a machine can decode some of the awful patterns they present us with.

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  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. The above comment was removed because it was a duplicate post, not for content.

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  8. The bots (or nutjob spammers) have found my blog at last, and they are hammering me with some well-crafted comments intended to get people to click their links. So far, Blogger has caught them all in the spam filter (something I was never able to get WordPress to do effectively). We'll see how it goes.

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