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I was going to like Typekey, but Typekey didn't like me back

I wanted to leave a comment on Websnark but it only takes comments from Typekey account holders. Well I was going to have to get an account some time anyway, and it's easy to get one, so I went and signed up. When I did so, I noticed with bemusement and absolutely no surprise whatsoever that what I expected would be the spammers' response when I first heard of Typekey had already come to pass: Typekey had taken measures to prevent robots from automatically signing themselves up for a million Typekey accounts. The only part of my forecast that was wrong was that I didn't expect this to happen until Typekey had become ubiquitous.

The measure Typekey have taken to stop it? A CAPTCHA. I hate CAPTCHAs for two reasons. One has to do with accessibility for visually handicapped people, a group that everyone will join at some point in their lives, and the other has to do with usability for normal folks (as opposed to seasoned computer users, not visually handicapped people).
Visually handicapped people don't just include the blind - they also include elderly people with presbyopia and people with low contrast vision. Those people will have difficulty reading the image on the CAPTCHA containing the numbers they're supposed to type in. Unlike the completely blind, they will be interested in reading the sort of material featured on Websnark or other comics blogs (come to think of it, I'm sure even some completely blind people will at least read the dialogue of a comic if it's made available to them, which I do on ROCR, except when the dialogue is all in runes anyway), and will want to contribute to the discussion some time. Besides, cutting people off from those resources just because they don't see too well is rude. (BTW, another factor that can make CAPTCHAS a pain in the arse is the headaches I get. I've got one now and while I can type, I had some difficulty focusing on the image and extracting the numbers).
The "Usability For Normal People" aspect is what I think of as the Mom factor. For me, whether a website confuses my Mom has become the quick lithmus test to determine if it's too hard to use. My mother is an intelligent person although she would vigorously deny this if I said so in her presence. But she's a Normal Person. That means that when faced with a form on a website, her eyes dart across the screen looking for the fields that interest her, and extraneous fields like that thing with the big number on it don't register on her mind at all. So she would fill in the form, ignore the CAPTCHA and be completely bewildered by the error message that followed. Because she doesn't read English very well, she'd need someone like me to explain the problem to her, and I'm usually
unavailable. Actually, I wouldn't want to explain this sort of thing to my Mom anyway, because in the end she'd decide that jumping through that extra hoop was just too much bother.

By putting a CAPTCHA on their registration form, Typepad have effectively made thousands of weblogs CAPTCHA-protected and while this is still better than having to type in some stupid number on every single site involved, it will still break things for a large number of Normal and/or visually handicapped people.

But I was at the site anyway, I might as well jump through the hoop. So I squinted at the image, typed it in, and registered. Then I validated the registration - another hoop. Impressively, I was sent right back to the page on Websnark that I wanted to comment on. I signed in, and then... I still couldn't comment. The page displayed a "comment here" section for about 2/10th of a second, then switched back to a page with "You are not signed in. You need to be registered to comment on this site. Sign in".

Presumably, either Typekey or Websnark have not managed to make the system work with Opera 7.52, which I use. And switching from that to any other browser is the one hoop I'm not prepared to jump through just to post a comment. I'll just post my comment here:

Gravy on biscuits. Sounds yucky.

Comments (6)

It's not Websnark per se -- it's Typekey, damn their eyes.

Sadly, having had a (much much much lower traffic) Movable Type installation become a nightmare of spam commenters, I decided I needed to take the draconian plunge this time.

And it depends on the gravy. Obviously, this is a buttermilk style biscuit, not the cookie type biscuits I give out piecemeal to folks who want (tasty tasty) biscuits.

Hmmm. I prefer wholemeal breakfast biscuits, because they keep me alive during my cycling trips. I suppose that I could eat them with gravy while cycling, because my appetite takes on heroic proportions.

I'm in contact with Typekey over the matter. We'll see if we can sort it out. At least they reply quickly with specific questions, which is a feather in their cap.

Laura from A Six Apart suggests that you contact her directly to fix the problem. Her address is predictably made up of her first name, @, the name of her company, spelled as one word, and .com

It would be handy for visually impaired users if they provided a respond-to-email validation as an alternative.

The interesting thing is that Typekey has that anyway.
Perhaps the automated signup system is so great already that it would overwhelm their servers if they didn't cut it off at the source?

For what it's worth, Captchas are also a pain for those with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, for reasons that should be obvious. Sometimes I just can't tell what in the world that blurry letter/number is supposed to be-- for several images in a row!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 13, 2004 7:50 PM.

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