Last week I helped co-host the Insecure Writers Support Group bloghop. I met lots of new people and reconnected with others, but I was surprised at the number of blogs that required me to pass a CAPTCHA test (or something similar) before I could leave a comment. For those of you who don’t know, CAPTCHA is that irritating little test you need to pass to prove you’re a human – usually by having you stare at a blurry picture until you figure out the hidden word. They’re usually not too difficult to solve, especially since it often seems as though CAPTCHA accepts anything I type. Sometimes, though, it takes three or four tries to get it right. Go figure.
But if you’re a blogger, do you really want to make your readers jump through hoops to respond to your posts?
I know the purpose of these filters is to keep spam from filling up the comments section, but I have to say I’ve never had a problem with spam on this website. Perhaps I don’t attract enough readers to make my site worthy of spammers’ attention. Or maybe I’m just not attracting a high enough class of spammers. Either way, the anti-spam filters built into Blogger do a great job of removing spammy comments before anyone sees them. I haven’t used Wordpress, but I assume their filters are just as reliable.
The whole point of blogging is to engage with your readers, and the comments section is where that engagement occurs. So anything you do to hinder that engagement is not a good thing. Using CAPTCHA is like putting up a sign that says “I really don’t care if you comment or not.” To be honest, every time I hit a CAPTCHA window, I pause for a moment to decide if I should continue or just click “Cancel.” Many times, the only thing keeping me from clicking “Cancel” is the time I spent composing the message. But next time I come to your site, I’ll know better.
Case in point. When I stopped by MPax's blog last week, I couldn’t get past her CAPTCHA filter, even when I was positive my answer was correct. I must have tried ten different pictures before I gave up and emailed her directly. (Turns out her website must have glitched somehow. She didn’t have CAPTCHA turned on.) But I only jumped through these hurdles because she has an interesting blog. I’m not going to do that for everyone.
Ultimately, it’s your decision. Is the small amount of time you spend deleting the few bits of spam that make it past the default spam filters really worth the loss in comments? If you have a successful website with huge comment sections that draw spammers like flies, then by all means, use CAPTCHA. But if not, I’d suggest turning off your CAPTCHA filter (or making sure yours isn’t turned on by default). You may find a lot more comments waiting for you the next time you check in.
Edit: If you're not sure if you have word verification enabled on your blog and you use Blogger, go on down to Melissa's comment for a link to instructions on how to deactivate it.
BTW, I tried commenting on MPax's blog this morning and hit the unsolvable CAPTCHA roadblock again. I'll have to wait until tonight to see if I have the same problem commenting from home. Very weird.
Also, I saw Captain America last night. AWESOME!