Sunday, November 17, 2013

Evil Editor Classics

Captcha Complaints

Due to a few complaints about illegible captchas, I've removed the captcha feature from comment modification. I would have done this sooner, but I was unfamiliar with the term "captcha," and assumed the complaints were coming from inebriated spambots.

I've now done some research on the topic, and to save my minions from having to do the same, shall summarize what I've learned.

Captcha (short for Captain Chaos) is a test you must perform in order to convince a computer that you are not a computer. For instance, say it's yesterday and you wish to comment on one of Evil Editor's blog posts. You type out a lengthy comment which is sure to entertain and enlighten the Evil Minions. In order to publish the comment, you must, of course, get it past Evil Editor’s Evil Eye™, but first you must pass the captcha test, in which a series of letters are displayed, and you must type them. Failure to correctly reproduce the series of letters is evidence that you aren't a human, and we don't want you here.

The earliest captchas were easy to read. It was believed that computers couldn't actually read or write, and thus would be unable to reproduce a string of letters such as:

Turned out computers wanted to comment on Evil Editor's blog so badly that they evolved the ability to read and write.

But humans are nothing if not clever, and came up with the idea of distorting the string of letters:
The idea was to make it so the computer couldn't read the letters. But a lot of humans couldn't read the letters. They couldn't tell whether that was a "w" or two "v"s., an issue that didn't seem to bother the computers, who were able to use their "undo" function to undistort the string of letters. So while humans were thinking, Shit, that must have been an r, I'll have to try again, computers were thinking, Aha, it's an r. The humans will never get it.

But humans are nothing if not persistent, so they came up with the idea of putting the letters really close together:
But finding the perfect size that would fool computers and not send humans to the opthamologist proved impossible.

Next came the idea of a squiggle through the distorted letters:
Humans thought, Is that an l or a t?
Computers thought, Humans are so cute.

Next came distorted close letters and blurred letters:

What programmers had yet to realize was that computers enjoy solving puzzles, and humans don't. That New York Times crossword puzzle you couldn't get halfway through? A computer could do it in a billionth of a second.

But humans are nothing if not stubborn, so you can expect to see a new generation of captchas soon:

Seems we'll do anything to keep computers out of our computers.


In the few days since I released the minions from captcha misery, I've received 43 comments that turned out to be someone telling me what a great blog I have and providing a link to their blog. Such as:

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Much as I enjoy the flattery, I can't risk letting one of these comments through and having one of you click the link and get invaded by a virus and blaming me. So, try to deal with . . .


CavalierdeNuit said...

Haha! Once upon a time there was a Captcha...

J.M. said...

Captain Chaos? Gad zukes, had I been mispronouncing "captcha" all this time? Presumably it should be "capt-kay."

But no, it seems not:

It also seems Evil Editor has edited the truth, CAPTCHA actually standing for Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart.

Did you notice that every captcha contains a hata? Here's one:

Congratulations on making your CAPTCHA almost unreadable to humans, let alone robots. If your aim is to drive away the users of this site, then you are well on your way to achieving this goal :-(

Really, it's the worst CAPTCHA I've ever seen, anywhere, period. I had to guess at half of the letters/numbers (of which there are quite a few), such that I'm really amazed that I actually managed to log in at all (after some attempts). And I might simply not bother trying next time.

If you have to resort to making it that illegible, then I have a tip for you: Spammers are not using computers running super-complex algorithms to break your CAPTCHA, they are using a far cheaper resource: Underpaid (or possibly even free) human beings.

There are very poorly paid people in China/etc whose sole job is to 'solve' hundreds of CAPTCHA per hour. Although if I was a spammer, I'd get it done for free by setting-up an illegal site (offering movies or porn or whatever) and requiring that people solve a CAPTCHA to download something (without them realising they are actually solving the CAPTCHA from a legitimate site such as yours).

Perhaps this disgruntled captchee had met one of the Ten Worst Captchas of All Time:

Nicole said...

Yup, precisely the same reason I have captchas on my blog... And if people refresh the captcha it usually comes up as an easier to read version :)

Anonymous said...

What's the font used in the graphic?

james said...

What’s the problem with captchas? I just write what I want to say on a separate word processor page, copy it, then paste it when I find a captcha I can read. If it gets posted, I know I got the captcha right. If it doesn’t get posted, I figure I must have said something naughty. Or stupid.

What really matters is, EE is protecting both himself and us from cyber fiends.

Has anyone else recently watched a rerun of “The Matrix”?

Evil Editor said...

The font is called Grilled Cheese. Most famous for being used on the covers of all the Evil Editor books.

Whirlochre said...

I hate all the spam for anti-spam software.

Anonymous said...

I meant "The Return of the Annoying Captcha" font.

Evil Editor said...

Zombie Holocaust