Regular comment-leavers in this space will recall that, for many years, I’ve employed a simple, easy-to-read mechanism as an “are you human?” test to help cut down on spam. A recent uptick in the amount of comment spam — and weird comment spam it was — has prompted me to switch to using reCAPTCHA, a similar mechanism that has three distinct advantages over the old system:

  1. It’s harder to design automated attacks for.
  2. It has an listen-to-audio-option, make it more accessible.
  3. When you use it, you’re helping to digitize books.

I’m particular fond of point number three. Apologies to those that find this new mechanism a barrier to commenting.


Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on July 13, 2009 - 02:35 Permalink

In my experience, using reCaptcha actually attracted more spam, because anyone who has been able to automate attacks against it can then spider the web to find any forms using it, and add it to their attack list.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on July 13, 2009 - 14:00 Permalink

Yes, but there’s also a much more concerted effort working on my behalf to ensure that any automated attack threat is quashed.

Iain K. MacLeod's picture
Iain K. MacLeod on July 13, 2009 - 14:24 Permalink

It also opens commenters up for some artistic inspiration:… (via

In this case, I imagine “home-canned bennie” must be hillbilly heroin’s lesser-known cousin.

Charles's picture
Charles on July 13, 2009 - 15:35 Permalink

Have you ever looked into using Akismet?

Andrew MacPherson's picture
Andrew MacPherson on July 13, 2009 - 17:59 Permalink

…helping to digitize books.”

Very cool but it seems like you’re straying from your core business…

Ann Thurlow's picture
Ann Thurlow on July 13, 2009 - 18:25 Permalink

Just out of interest, I tried the audio cue. Maybe you ought to listen to it. It sounded liked a very hissy Lucille Ball — I couldn’t have guessed in a million years what it was saying.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on July 13, 2009 - 18:39 Permalink

Well, if the audio were clear, then it would be easily understood and faked out by a speech-to-text robot. So the audio has to have the same obscuring “hissiness” that the obscured visual image does, alas.

alexander's picture
alexander on July 13, 2009 - 22:04 Permalink

I have been happy with reCAPTCHA, the audio is hit or miss but you can always refresh and get another clip. Have you thought about using OpenID?

Marian's picture
Marian on July 13, 2009 - 22:55 Permalink

I’m not sure that I’m not a computer. Also, are the words used supposed to read like subtle insults to the person trying to decipher them? e.g. why do I always get things like ‘cooties’ or ‘loser’?

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on July 13, 2009 - 23:07 Permalink

OpenID is coming soon: migration to Drupal is imminent.

Marian's picture
Marian on July 14, 2009 - 00:43 Permalink

I am worried about Open ID. I have had some problems with it in the past.