Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Comment Moderation, Visual Impairment

A word about Comments. In a bid to make Blogging Against Disablism Day as accessible as possible, I removed word verification from the comments facility. It wasn’t too bad, a wee trickle of spam comments followed. However, over the weekend I have been getting dozens, far more than I can cope with deleting manually. You can’t block an individual user and these naughty bots drop their litter all over the place.

So I have now put Moderation in place, which keeps the facility accessible but it means that it will take until I am next around before your comments will appear. Fortunately I am generally around on and off all day, at least all day GMT. This is purely to do with filtering out the spam, nothing to do with censoring anyone.

I don’t suppose since this was last discussed anyone has thought of a way round the problem or thought of a system we could suggest to Blogger? The only thing I can think of is some form of complaints procedure, to get users who use robots banned (the spammers are not generally anonymous, but they are certainly repeat offenders).

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Anonymous said...

I had kept in the Word Recognition because I was sick of spam, despite the fact that it disadvantages our VI friends, but I was disconcerted to discover recently that some spam senders have conquered that!

Looks like it's going to have to be Comment Moderation for all, if that is the case. Anyone else had this problem?

Morwen said...

I saw word recognition beaten in a web based RPG - by simply running iterations, instead of trying to scan the image. As far as I know, image recognition is why word verification images are so mangled, yet it's not neccessary to try and have the computer read the image.

A complaints procedure would be ideal, since it would also be a good way of getting abusive commenters kicked off the service as well as spambots.

BloggingMone said...

I do not have word recognition on as I did not want to leave out anyone and so far not too many people seem to know about my blog and spam is very rare. It very often happens that I have to try several times before my interpretation of the word recognition is accepted. Sometimes the letters are so squiggly that it is just impossible to figure out what they mean.
I have send a mail to blogger.com about a lack of accessibility when word recognition is on, just of curiosity, and I suspect they are just screening letters for certain keywords and then send an automatic relpy, without a real person ever reading the mail. The answer I have got mentioned several words I have used, but did by no means refer to the actual question I had put in. There is, however, a system telling visual impaired which letters to type with a voice synthiziser. I can't remember exactly, but I THINK it is used on Hotmail. A friend of mine mentioned something about that. It seems to work fairly well, apart from sometimes spelling a bit too fast.

The Goldfish said...

I think a lot of sighted folks have trouble with as well as VI folks and people with dyslexia. I certainly struggle with the word verification in the same way you do, but I can manage.

I imagine Blogger do get a lot of mail, but when I started blogging, there wasn't the option of word verification. Then when something became necessary, there wasn't the option of moderation.

Clearly, they are addressing problems as they arrive and the current situation is not ideal. If enough of us keep raising the subject and pressing for better technology (which is probably what this comes down to), then change may happen.

Anonymous said...

Yes, comment spam is a big issue. As a developer of web applications and an advocate of web accessibility, I have looked at the problem from every direction and do not believe that there is a perfect automated solution.

To discriminate robots from humans, you need a Turing Test; however, one of the problems inherent in this is that it is possible for humans to fail the test as well. I have described a possible solution (content warning: technical!), but would be the first to admit that it is not truly accessible as it could cause problems for people with cognitive disabilities.

Some form of textual challenge-response would, to me, always be preferable to a graphical Captcha as it would work with screen readers and magnifiers (I bet those Captcha graphics don't scale up!) and - of course - with text only browsers. Any sighted person developing graphical Captchas should be forced to browse the web with Lynx for a week...

steven edward streight said...

Blog authors must explain why we use these spam/abuse comment prevention measures.

Blogger now offers VI alt to word verification (character recognition), see the wheelchair icon to the right of the text entry box? click that and hear eery voices chanting numbers you type in. it works fine.

The Goldfish said...

This post was written on April 18, 2006. AFAIK Blogger only made Word Verification accessible on May 1st, 2006, coinciding (and I'm sure it was a coincidence) with Blogging Against Disablism Day which I hosted.

Previous to May 1st this was a serious and significant access issue. Since I was hosting this event, it was entirely appropriate that I took off word verification in the run up. This did however result in a massive influx of spam comments, so I put moderation in place.

I have had a very busy week, thus as of May 6th I am yet to update my blogger settings. Five days later...

That having said, I tend to be of the opinion that it is entirely up to blog authors what they want to do about comments and moderation on their own blog, with or without explanation. This post was offering an explanation, within the context of the situation on April 18th, 2006.