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Seeing a very similar new question, How should I stop spam robots? with a dupe close vote, I quickly looked up another question I was familiar with to add to the pile. I think having more than one link show up when the question is closed as duplicate is very useful. Here it is, and this is the question I'll be referring to: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/4683117/alternative-to-annoying-captcha-in-forms-how-to-smell-the-difference-between-a-h/4683182.

I was surprised to see that it:

  • Was closed as "not constructive"
  • Has 4 delete votes and no reopen votes.

What exactly is wrong with this question? I can barely see how it might be "not constructive", but definitely can't see why there are 4 delete votes (and I thought 3 votes were enough to delete it anyways). By the way, the single reopen vote is mine - so obviously no one else who has seen it felt the way I do either.

I have thrown this post on the "possible duplicate" pile to help the owner of the new question because there are a lot of useful answers and ideas there, but it seems to be in danger of being deleted. Here's the comment from the moderator who closed it:

This post has been protected from closure numerous times by bounties, and received a number of moderator flags. Since it's already gotten 33 answers, I'm going to refund the bounty and close. - Robert Harvey♦ Jul 18 at 15:03

I can't fathom what could possibly be so wrong with this question that it even has delete votes, whereas this one remains open: Blocking comment spam without using captcha.

Can anyone explain?

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put on hold as off-topic by bluet, Emrakul, Monica Cellio, Martijn Pieters, senshin Jan 21 at 23:55

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question pertains only to a specific site in the Stack Exchange Network. Questions on Meta Stack Exchange should pertain to our network or software that drives it as a whole, within the guidelines defined in the help center. You should ask this question on the meta site where your concern originated." – bluet, Emrakul, Monica Cellio, Martijn Pieters, senshin
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Sounds like a whiteboard problem –  random Aug 20 '11 at 18:48
@random: Meaning what exactly? What's the difference between the two posts, for example? Is it that one is a simple one liner, while the other (the one in danger of deletion) is too "wordy", and the author seemed to put more time into the question? Is it the bounty note at the end? If so, why shouldn't we simply remove it? I truly don't get it. –  Wesley Murch Aug 20 '11 at 18:53
It just seems to be a shame to delete it rather than move it somewhere else or simply leave it closed, I can't honestly see why the (now deleted) question upsets so many people or why it's so off topic here. I guess it's just one of the rare cases where I seem disagree with the community at large. There are a lot of gems there in the answers, I found it to be very useful. Oh well, thanks for the feedback everyone, it's exactly what I was looking for. –  Wesley Murch Aug 20 '11 at 23:12
who is down-voting this question and why!? –  user167917 Aug 21 '11 at 0:06

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Alternative to Annoying Captcha in Forms reads like an open call for any and all solutions for CAPTCHA solutions. It's a wide open door on the saloon.

Now at over 30 answers for variations on a theme and still another bounty is thrown onto the pile. That's tapping the keg dry and bringing in another to keep the party sloshed.

The other question was probably overlooked at the time and wasn't voted to closed yet, but it still sucks a hard sour mango.

Whiteboard problems, where you want help on working out the logic or attack angle of an algorithm or method is better for Programmers. At months old and cups all over the place, migration is less likely.

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Once XKCD shows up, the party has reached its high point. Might as well head to Waffle House after that. –  Bill the Lizard Aug 20 '11 at 19:46
Sure there's an xkcd comic, but nearly every answer is a serious, well thought out solution to a real problem, that is still relevant today judging by the question asked this morning. I just have a hard time believing that this question could not have a home somewhere else rather than be deleted, it just seems a shame. +1 for the picturesque answer, it definitely paints the scene well. –  Wesley Murch Aug 20 '11 at 23:05
...or just leave the question closed. I see the post has been deleted by Jeff Atwood, yet the other question I linked to doesn't even have a close vote. It doesn't make sense to me. Is it because the question has the php tag, so that makes it programming question? It seems even worse to me than the one I'm "defending". With 140 upvotes and only 7 downvotes, I just don't see why the moderators have chosen to override the community on this one. Closed, sure - but deleting it seems like a waste. –  Wesley Murch Aug 20 '11 at 23:23
@Bill did you say party at waffle's house? I'm so there! –  Adam Davis Aug 21 '11 at 1:27

Obviously this question is centered around inventive ideas and new A.I. code. Let us for a minute not think in existing .js .css .php .cfm etc but first try to distinguish human/spamserver behavior, then think of simple smart ways that provide a better, more user-friendly alternative than forcing your clients/visitors to write CAPTHCAS.

The OP is not interested in answers that are programming answers, he's interested in an algorithmic discussion on human behavior.

It's quite obviously NOT a question about programming, and the OP admits as such, "Let us for a minute not think in [terms of code] but first try to distinguish human/spamserver behavior"

So, in essence, the OP says, "This isn't a programming question" then goes on to insult the people who, correctly, close it.

It's a problem a programmer might have, but it's not a programming problem.

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The way you describe it clarifies how it is not a good fit for SO, but certainly not why its been deleted and generated so much negativity. It's not a joke post, it's got 140 upvotes and only 7 downvotes, and a ton of great answers. Off topic, sure. Trash can? I don't get it. –  Wesley Murch Aug 20 '11 at 23:15
@Wes If we don't delete off topic questions, then that's the same as permitting them. Are you suggesting we don't stay on topic? –  Adam Davis Aug 21 '11 at 1:26
I guess I'm just surprised at the amount of leniency other less valuable posts are given, but I suppose in reality that's due to them not having as much attention paid to them. I still feel like this one's on the fence in regards to being off topic, but regardless - usually the community handles this type of thing pretty well, not sure why moderator intervention was required here unless perhaps the community was wrong not to close the question immediately before it got 30 answers and 140 upvotes. In any case, I'm content with the answers I've been provided here. –  Wesley Murch Aug 21 '11 at 1:30
@Wesley: I suspect the other posts you've seen be granted leniency have only "slipped through the cracks". If you post a Meta question about them, then stand back to see how long they last, I suspect your opinion will change quickly. –  Cody Gray Aug 21 '11 at 6:42
@Cody: I agree that this is usually what to expect, yet the last post I linked to remains unscathed, not even a close vote. After all though, I get the point - this was a particularly controversial post that garnered a lot of attention, both positive and negative. I just didn't expect this level of disagreement, I felt that it was a fairly grey area. I still have a hard time swallowing the opinion that this is a "terrible" question, especially amongst the usual chaff on SO, the truly terrible posts. –  Wesley Murch Aug 21 '11 at 7:30

First off, the title is asking how to SMELL the difference between a human and a spammy robot. It's difficult to imagine an answer to that based on facts, references, or specific expertise.

Second, it borders on offensive that the following items are presented as facts:

Most of my clients hate CAPTCHAs.

I myself feel often like a robot...

If that is a turnoff for me, just imagine what it must be like for human customers.

...shouldn't the forms have better A.I. built in by now to smell the difference between spammy robots and real human visitors/clients?

Now add in more subjective language:

I feel its time to reverse that false prejudice!

Imagine the advantage.

...then think of simple smart ways that provide a better, more user-friendly alternative...

Finally, top it all off with the OP insulting the close voters:

Sometimes creative new idea's or questions are quickly or jealously closed off as off-topic...

...this is the greatest bottleneck to innovation and progress.

Now, how could this question not be likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion?

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Obviously we are not attempting to actually "smell" something, it's another way to say "detect". That paragraph is not a list of "facts" despite the heading, but it describes the single, actual problem that OP and many others face. How is it subjective that a website assuming I'm not human is "false", of course I'm human. How is that last part "insulting" to anyone to say that this "sometimes" happens? Maybe, maybe, but I'm just not buying this explanation. So it's difficult to imagine a way to answer "How to detect a bot" that's based on facts? –  Wesley Murch Aug 20 '11 at 19:20
@Wesley: You interpret the question one way, I interpret it another. That's the nature of subjective questions. The OP isn't just saying questions are sometimes closed, he's saying that it's done out of jealousy. –  Bill the Lizard Aug 20 '11 at 19:27
But my opinion aside, are you saying that it was simply the way the question was phrased? In other words, a one liner like "How can I stop bots from spamming my blog" would be preferred? Like I said, I can understand closing it to a degree, but now 5 delete votes? There is a lot of useful information and ideas there, not just in the answers but in the question itself. –  Wesley Murch Aug 20 '11 at 19:27
@Wesley: Is a one-liner the only other possibility? With the score on that question it will take dozens of delete votes to remove it. I'm not worried. If it does get deleted, let me know and I'll lock it in place. Despite the tone of the question, there are some good answers that should be preserved. –  Bill the Lizard Aug 20 '11 at 19:29
Bill, no a one-liner is not the only other possibility- just looking for some perspective. Aha, I wasn't aware that score affected delete votes, have a reference handy regarding that bit? –  Wesley Murch Aug 20 '11 at 19:32
@Wesley: Sure, here are the rules. Adding in all of the answer votes, it looks like my "dozens" estimate was in the right ballpark. –  Bill the Lizard Aug 20 '11 at 19:41
well, I think it's terrible, and I elected to delete it. I can think of forms of this that would be acceptable on Programmers, but nothing resembling the current state of this question. Better to re-ask on the same topic over there. –  Jeff Atwood Aug 20 '11 at 20:27
To me, the only real reason to close this question is the huge wall of duplicate links that @BlueRaja posted in the comments to it. –  Pëkka Aug 20 '11 at 21:21

I don't think it's right to do a bounty refund and close the question, obviously if so many people are willing to contribute bounty, answers, votes and comments to it, then there is some level of community acceptance. That doesn't mean that it shouldn't be closed, but to override a bounty just to close it seems like going a bit too far. To be honest, I would have voted to migrate it to Programmers, since it's really asking for design considerations, and not a specific technical programming problem.

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You have to override the bounty in order to close it –  random Aug 20 '11 at 19:29
The bounty details are kind of beside the point of my question. Yes, migration would be much preferred to deleting the question so we don't lose all the answers, that's more what I'm on about. What's up with the delete votes? –  Wesley Murch Aug 20 '11 at 19:30
this is a horrible, horrible question -- I can think of forms of this that would be acceptable on Programmers, but nothing resembling the current state of this question. Better to re-ask on the same topic over there. –  Jeff Atwood Aug 20 '11 at 20:26
@random, yes, I know, but he could have just waited until there was no bounty on it. –  Lance Roberts Aug 20 '11 at 21:03

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