I am constantly amazed at the innovative solutions that developers conceive to solve problems that should not exist. There is a hilarious, R-rated video on youtube that pokes fun at the proliferation of idiotic comments thanks to ignorant people, young people and quasi-malicious spammers. Due to the underwhelming popularity of ahelms.com, the problem I’ve most encountered with comments on this site is spam comments. While I do get some funny quotes from time to time, it is annoying and a waste of resources to read and store computer-generated comments.
In just five minutes I found a very simple, elegant solution to this problem. There are two attributes of the solution that make it incredibly attractive to me:
(1) it serves the greater good and (2) it is free. The solution is called reCAPTCHA. A CAPTCHA is a program that can tell whether its user is a human or a computer. In order to achieve this, before being allowed to leave a comment users must type two words that appear as an image on the page. When you type the two words to confirm your human-ness, you are helping to translate books from scanned images to text, which makes them easier to store and search. You can read all about the sophisticated solution by clicking on the reCAPTCHA links. It is very cool.
While implementing this solution on my site I saw another product that I am going to test out that also helps to digitize books while safeguarding me from spam, in this case email spam. It is called Mailhide. Now instead of displaying my full email address on the Internet and thus exposing it to spammers who use robots to crawl the web seeking email addresses, users must click a link and solve a reCAPTCHA in order to display the full address.