Note: This blog post is from 2006. Some content, links and indeed comments from others may be outdated--though not necessarily. Corrections are welcome, in the comments. I may revise the content if necessary.Most by now understand what captchas are. Some love 'em, some hate 'em. I want to dial down the rhetoric some with this perspective: as a blog owner fighting frequent spam in comments and trackbacks, captchas (in some form, not necessarily a graphic) have their place to keep out spambots, and they can indeed be simplified (even the graphics ones) and at no loss of benefit. My bottom line: I don't use them as a double-key deadbolt lock to keep out intruders, I just use them as a screendoor to keep out random pests.
If you use Peter Farrell's Lyla Captcha, which I use because it's embedded in Ray's BlogCFC, in the next entry I'll show a few quick changes you could make in the Lyla captcha.xml file to make them much easier to read, going from this
Before that, I just want to expand on those thoughts above on the general angst against captcha's, and why I think it's ok to make them easier to read.
I realize that some have gone to great lengths to decry captchas primarily because they are not "accessible" (to those using screenreaders), though audio ones help solve that.
Others simply hate them because they're too darned difficult to read. I've surely seen that, even in the ones created by default in Lyla (thus my next entry on addressing that).
Now, while most use a graphic that a user must read, it's not the only approach. As the previous link discusses, other approaches include simpler approaches like asking the reader to add some numbers or answer a question (that only a human could reasonably do).
But my Blog is Not a Bank
Here's the thing: my blog is not a bank. While the difficulty in breaking a captcha may be important to a bank or commercial site trying to use them for authentication, I just want to make it hard for an automated spambot to post crap in my blog comments and trackback forms. If you have any similar king of input form on a publicly accessible site, you may suffer similar problems.
I really can't believe anyone would go to the lengths of scanning and breaking the captcha on my site (random as it is) to get a crap spam comment into my lil' ol' blog. And some of the comments are just nonsense; it's not like they're trying to drive traffic to another site or something--so the popularity of my (or your) site isn't the issue. It's just the annoyance factor (both to me as I get notified of comments and to readers who would have to sift through them if I didn't delete them as I do now).
Having made the case for why a simpler captcha may suffice for some purposes, in the next entry I'll show how to control the degree of difficulty in reading them for captchas built using Lyla Captcha.
For more like this: