I hate unreadable Captchas.

By | May 30, 2008

The term “CAPTCHA” was coined in 2000 by Luis von Ahn, Manuel Blum, Nicholas J. Hopper (all of Carnegie Mellon University), and John Langford (then of IBM). It is a contrived acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”, trademarked by Carnegie Mellon University.

A CAPTCHA is sometimes described as a reverse Turing test, because it is administered by a machine and targeted to a human, in contrast to the standard Turing test that is typically administered by a human and targeted to a machine.

Lately on web sites were I have to validate I’m getting captchas like this:

Sometimes I get three or four in a row which are unreadable. Would it just be better to hire a few network police and have public humiliation for anyone caught defrauding a web site with spam? These things are really just another way spammers abuse us.

3 thoughts on “I hate unreadable Captchas.

  1. Sepp

    I know you’re not using captchas to control comments, but here is a neat one:


    It actually does something useful with the effort we expend to identify the letters…

    About 60 million CAPTCHAs are solved by humans around the world every day. In each case, roughly ten seconds of human time are being spent. Individually, that’s not a lot of time, but in aggregate these little puzzles consume more than 150,000 hours of work each day. What if we could make positive use of this human effort? reCAPTCHA does exactly that by channeling the effort spent solving CAPTCHAs online into “reading” books.

    To archive human knowledge and to make information more accessible to the world, multiple projects are currently digitizing physical books that were written before the computer age. The book pages are being photographically scanned, and then, to make them searchable, transformed into text using “Optical Character Recognition” (OCR). The transformation into text is useful because scanning a book produces images, which are difficult to store on small devices, expensive to download, and cannot be searched. The problem is that OCR is not perfect.
    Example of OCR errors

    reCAPTCHA improves the process of digitizing books by sending words that cannot be read by computers to the Web in the form of CAPTCHAs for humans to decipher.

  2. Jim Davis

    Captchas are one of those things, they can be done well i.e 4 + 4 = but most of the time they are implemented as a pile of unreadable rubbish which just annoys users and motivates them to leave the site.

  3. lastcrazyhorn

    These things annoy the p!ss out of me. I mean, seriously, when will developers learn to edit? Or better yet, actually test their products on people different from themselves. Grr. But that’s a rant for another day (and site – like my own).

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