I really detest CAPTCHAs. In case you don’t know, CAPTCHAs are those annoying little questions that you get asked online, in which you get shown two totally illegible words and have to work out what on Earth they say and type in the answer.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve found myself shouting with frustration, whilst peering at blurry images of made-up words that I have to decipher, just so I can leave a comment somewhere or submit a simple form. CAPTCHAs are a Very Bad Thing. As I said, I really detest them – and I’m sure that you dislike them just as much as I do.
So why do we have these CAPTCHAs that no one likes?
Unfortunately, there is something worse than a CAPTCHA. Actually there are many things that are worse than a CAPTCHA, but the one I’m going to tell you about is called a spambot. A spambot is a nasty little computer programme that pretends to be a real person. Some of these nasty little spambots leaves comments on websites. Unlike the comments left by real people, the comments left by spambots are just junk: some are simply strings of random words, others are adverts for boots, coats, charms, dodgy pharmaceuticals and far worse things that I would rather not mention.
The spambots have been doing their worst on this site for a long time now. There’s a magnificent plugin called Akismet that does a fantastic job of catching most of the spam comments that get left, but I still had many thousands of spam comments being left here every single day. And it was getting worse. Over the last few weeks, the spam comments were coming in faster than I could delete them. It was slowing the site down and had got to the stage where dealing with it was becoming a major admin job.
Yes, you can guess where this is going.
I’m sorry, I truly am, but the only way I could stop the overwhelming deluge of spam comments was to install a CAPTCHA on this site. I’ve tried to make it as painless as possible – there will be no blurry made up words to decipher. If you wish to leave a comment you will be asked to solve a simple addition or multiplication question. Well, this is a maths site.
I hope it works. If you have strong opinions, or suggestions for a better solution, please leave a comment (yes, yes, I know) or contact me via email. I’ll be very happy to hear from you.
Photo: CAPTCHA Insanity by Jill on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons Licence.