Captcha *this*, sucker!

If you read a lot of blogs, you’ve probably seen something like this:

Official image used on project information page (see link below)

This is the reCAPTCHA version of the spam test that some blogs require commenters to pass before commenting; typing the correct word into the box proves that you’re a real person rather than a spam bot. (Well, usually. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing).

reCAPTCHA harnesses the power of this system to help digitise old books and other texts: the first image is of a known, verified word that proves the commenter is a real person, whereas the second image is an unknown word from an old text that the digitising software was unable to recognise. So, one word at a time, blog commenters are helping to archive old texts. Pretty cool, eh?

My friend Beth’s blog, Not To Be Trusted With Knives, uses the reCAPTCHA system. The problem is that on her blog – and only on her blog – the system clearly hates me and is taking the piss. Luckily, I’ve been collecting evidence over the last few weeks…

Exhibit A:

this one (seen today) was only marginally difficult to decipher. The first word is ntsTVr, although what that’s supposed to mean is anyone’s guess.

The second one?

Hmm… does that say III? ttt? Or is it the Monster energy drink logo?

Well, now it says III. So there.

Exhibit B:

This one rejected my first two efforts at typing the first word (Jawahiri and Jawalwi). Maybe I was supposed to include the accents? Or is that a 4 at the end, not an i?

Exhibit C: this interpretation actually worked!

Exhibit D: but this one didn’t.

Just Alg didn’t work either. I’m still not sure what this one’s going for.

So there you go – Beth’s blog definitely hates me.

I still do love the reCAPTCHA concept, though, and think we should use it here at Occam’s Typewriter. Better than those alphanumeric strings – I keep getting the same one when I comment on different posts in the same session – and also much more useful and entertaining.

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
This entry was posted in blog buddies, meta, silliness, technology. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Captcha *this*, sucker!

  1. Hermitage says:

    They were actually your A levels to join the Illuminati. No A* Grail for you!

  2. Beth says:

    I’m sorry that my blog hates you. It’s probably jealous that your blog is more popular than it!

  3. KAUSIK DATTA says:

    Nice post, Cath.

    When one has those incomprehensible characters, I have often wondered how they’d sound – if one uses the accessibility features and asks the system to provide audible clues – by clicking on the middle button with the speaker icon.

    That said, I’d take (re)Captcha anyday over comment moderation that I encounter in many blogs. I absolutely detest it, because it smacks of censorship.

  4. KAUSIK DATTA says:

    N.B. The OT rule of comment moderation for first time commenters is not too bad. But I can’t believe I have never commented on VWXYNot before! Hmmm…

  5. Grant says:

    Lovely comeback, Beth 🙂 Maybe your blog also is begging to renamed ‘Not to be trusted with CAPTCHA words’? 😉

    I have been meaning “forever” to move my blog out to stand on it’s own and syndicate the science content back to, where my blog is hosted. One of many reasons is try out various options, including using reCAPTCHA. It’s good to read that at least one person things it’s the way to go.

  6. rpg says:

    I can see if there’s a reCAPTCHA plugin for WordPress. At some point.

    I should point out that individual blog authors have control over their own moderation policy: but first time commenter moderation (a) is common and (b) cuts down a whole heap of spam.

    • Kausik Datta says:


      first time commenter moderation (a) is common and (b) cuts down a whole heap of spam.

      Must be one of those rare occasions, but I happen to agree with you.
      But only for the first comment. Grrr.

  7. rpg says:

    OK Cath, I’ve installed the plugin. Have a play, but remember to uninstall the other one…

  8. KristiV says:

    i love the reCAPTCHA concept. Makes me curious about the old texts that are being digitized.

    Is that a Greek lambda in Exhibit D?

  9. rpg says:

    This is not really a test.

  10. cromercrox says:

    I’d like to install this, but haven’t a clue how to uninstall the other one. But hey, don’t worry about me. Nobody else does. Out of sight, out of mind.

  11. rpg says:

    I think the other one should be uninstalled for you.

    The things I do for your people.

  12. ricardipus says:

    Ok, let me give it a whirl…

    Hm… I think I can read both of those…

    “netypear” – that’s a term for when the OT comments moderation goes all pear-shaped, right?

  13. Amelie says:

    That’s a cool idea to use word verification for old texts. I wonder if it would work for advisor handwriting, too? (Or, to be honest, sometimes even my own handwriting from 3 months ago…)

  14. Cool. I also like the “stop spam. read books.” I can totally get on board with that.

  15. bean-mom says:

    This is a very cool idea.

    My reCAPTCHA is “buffon.” I’m guessing that’s like a “buffoon”?

  16. Hermy: oh damnit, and I wanted that for my CV!

    Beth, LOL! I think your blog is just trying to deter all but the most determined (and therefore awesomest) commenters.

    Kausik, I had to laugh when I noticed your comment was waiting in moderation!

    Good idea to try the speaker button. I’ll do that next time I get stuck!

    Grant, it’s nice to have the freedom to play with stuff like that! (It’s even nicer when Richard does it for me! Thanks Richard!)

    Beth, are you going to take up that suggested name change? 🙂

    Henry, hope you’ve got it sorted now!

    Kristi, you’re probably right – I should have tried lAlg!

    I wonder if they have a list somewhere of which books they’re digitising. I’ll look this up later!

    Ricardipus: where I’m from, a netty is a toilet. So make of that what you will.

    Amelie, now that is a genius idea! I’m used to my boss’s handwriting now, but in my first few months on the job I was forever having to take edited drafts back to him to ask what he meant. Maybe you could scan stuff in, or take a photo with your phone camera, and submit it to an iPhone app or something!

    MXX, yes, contributing to such a noble project makes me feel better about spending so much time commenting on blogs!

    Bean-Mom, I think Buffon was (is?) the goalie on the Italian national team. Where’s Massimo when you need him?! (Or I guess I could Google. Oh, yes, I was right – Gianluigi Buffon. So now you know.)

    Right – captcha is YHVH Tyerni. Doesn’t YHVH mean God?

  17. Bob O'H says:

    Buffon was also a French count and mathematician. His needle is well known in some parts.

    I do like the idea of having maths in reCaptcha, although that one should really be a rather more beffreng \frac{n_1}{2!}

  18. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    I don’t wish to know about his needle, thank you very much!

  19. Grant says:

    rpg: I should point out that individual blog authors have control over their own moderation policy: but first time commenter moderation (a) is common and (b) cuts down a whole heap of spam.

    That’s the current policy were I am now. Before that was full moderation. I asked to be moved to moderating the first post only and got a heap of spam for my trouble. I live with it. I’m actually hoping reCaptcha will be better. Not impressed with the spam filter, it’s not filtering things that very clearly are spam 🙁 (But that may reflect sciblogs particular setup-?)

    Bob: I do like the idea of having maths in reCaptcha, although that one should really be a rather more beffreng \frac{n_1}{2!}

    What? We’re going to be seeing LaTeX in reCaptcha?!

    Hmm. Maybe I could rustle up geek versions that offer Perl expressions or whatever…

    Now I’d better go deal with ‘oppression foldes’ 🙂

  20. Erika Cule says:

    The same problem is being discussed here.

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