There is a fascinating debate raging at the moment on the Sepia Saturday Facebook Group about the use of CAPTCHA systems on blogs. CAPTCHA dialogues are those little boxes you often have to complete before leaving a comment on a blog in order to prove that you are a human being and not a robot. CAPTCHA, it would appear, stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart, the Turing being Alan Turing the pioneer of computing and the originator of the so-called Turing Test to detect artificial intelligence. I have no intention of getting involved in the debate as to whether CAPTCHA systems are a necessary price for avoiding spam comments on blogs, although I have to say that some of the must fascinating comments on my blog posts have come from robotic spam engines. Some time ago I started a small collection of these messages with the view of collecting them together and publishing them as the lost novel of James Joyce. Here is just one example from my collection:
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But I can fully appreciate that not everyone is as fond of spam as I am and therefore I do not want to criticise anyone for using one of the CAPTCHA systems on their blogs. However, I do think that there is a crying gap in the current market place for an arbitration service for use at times when there is a dispute between a user and a CAPTCHA dialogue. Let me give you an example of what I mean. The other day I was commenting on a blog post and was faced with the CAPTCHA dialogue illustrated here. I typed in "1783 editrnme" and the wretched thing said I was wrong and offered me another silly picture to interpret. I shouted back that I wasn't wrong and that the CAPTCHA machine couldn't read its own writing. This went on for some time until we reached a stage of deadlock and I went off to comment on another blog. What was really needed in these circumstances was an independent arbitrator who could settle such disputes - for a small fee, of course.
I would therefore like to use this opportunity to announce the launch of my new service : CAPTCHAMEIFYOUCAN.COM. If you find yourself in an argument with a CAPTCHA dialogue just take a screenshot of the dialogue and send it to me along with your interpretation and a Paypal transfer of £5. I will eMail you a decision by return and my decision will, of course, be binding on both parties.