My process for editing questions on Gaming is much the same as how I write documents or code: when I finish with a particular change, I save and then continue editing. I've been doing this on Gaming and I invariably trigger the CAPTCHA check at least once a day. I understand the need for CAPTCHA checks and feel they have a place here under certain conditions.

I also think it'd be a good idea to throttle the CAPTCHA checks back (or remove them completely) once you've hit certain rep levels.

I searched over at StackOverflow and found that this has been discussed before, and again, and again. Some changes were made:

Some reductions in CAPTCHA throttle thresholds, if you have > 10k rep:

  • for edits -- reduced by two-thirds
  • for post submission times -- min seconds reduced by one half, max minutes increased by 2x
  • Assuming you are a logged in user and have >= 200 reputation: After successfully completing one captcha, we now suppress captcha for 5 minutes on your account.

In these questions, people had other suggestions that were not pursued as the above edits were deemed "good enough".

In any case, it would appear that I'm not the only one with so much paranoia in him that he has to save things constantly and it would be nice if the system didn't fight me regularly. Increasing the time between CAPTCHAS at notable milestones (being able to edit other people's posts, for example), seems appropriate. Or, at the very least, increasing the threshold would make it more usable.

Alternatively, I humbly suggest that CAPTCHA would be less annoying if it were more readable. It may seem like a trivial thing to be bugged to enter illegible text every 5 minutes. However, it pulls user out of their workflow, derails concentration, and is generally counter-productive to the editing process (something they've been epermitted to do based on their positive contribution to the site). For someone who saves "early and often", it's quite disruptive.

If you've had issues with people at "editing" levels of reputation abusing the system such that CAPTCHA is required, then perhaps editing shouldn't happen at such a low threshold. If users aren't trusted enough not to 'spam' the system, they probably shouldn't be trusted enough to represent the sites on which they edit. The alternative presents a sort of contradiction that is frustrating to the user at times.

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just a note that I was as frustrated as you about hitting the captcha very frequently. As I hit 10k, the captcha almost vanished –  Sathya Feb 10 '11 at 17:21
I wish I could say being a diamond mod meant never having to read a captcha... –  Won't Feb 10 '11 at 22:17
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1 Answer

I humbly suggest that CAPTCHA would be less annoying if it were more readable.

That defeats the purpose of CAPTCHA.

CAPTCHA is still required at higher reputation levels because the user has more privileges. Yes, the system trusts you a little bit more when you gain enough rep, but we still don't want an automated script running around with edit privileges.

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secondly, isn't complaining about the captcha here dumb because isn't it recaptcha (maintained by google) –  jcolebrand Feb 10 '11 at 17:41
@drachenstern, Yes, it is recaptcha, so SO can't make it any more readable without switching providers (or rolling their own). –  Bill the Lizard Feb 10 '11 at 17:45
@drachenstern the fact that SO uses an outside system does not mean that complaints about that system on MSO are invalid. Isn't switching providers something that would be considered if recaptcha were unusably obtuse? –  jball Feb 10 '11 at 18:01
@jball yes I would agree with that if it weren't for the fact that most devs, when prompted for a captcha system, consider recaptcha right away. –  jcolebrand Feb 10 '11 at 18:04
We did the same on our site, and we regularly get complaints about it as well. We've been exploring other options. While ReCAPTCHA's goal is noble, I've learned it doesn't make up for the difficulty of use in many user's eyes, including my own. :) –  Shaun Feb 10 '11 at 18:20
@drachenstern So you're a follower of the "everyone else can't be wrong" school of philosophy? ;) –  jball Feb 10 '11 at 18:23
@jball Something like that, yes. When a project designed to "When you solve a reCAPTCHA, you help preserve literature by deciphering a word that was not readable by computers." allows all of us to try a little harder and contribute into the system, thus increasing net-knowledge of all citizens, which is the purpose of SOIS in the first place (see their mission statement, etc) then I think that in this case, recaptcha is the correct captcha system. However, if I were doing this for flickr, then I think there are better ways to do it, sure. Know your audience. –  jcolebrand Feb 10 '11 at 18:26
@BilltheLizard: To get back on topic: What is the concern, that a trusted user will have his account hacked and botted, or that a bot would have somehow managed to earn the reputation necessary to edit posts? –  Shaun Feb 10 '11 at 19:47
@Shaun: I'd think the concern of an already trusted user getting their account hacked and/or botted would be far greater. –  Bill the Lizard Feb 10 '11 at 19:53
@Shaun: I know for a fact that a few people have tried to bot an account and failed miserably. I'd love to know if anyone has succeeded. –  Bill the Lizard Feb 10 '11 at 19:54
@BilltheLizard: At its core, CAPTCHA aims to make it impossible for a bot to prove it is human but easy for a human to do so. Making something hard to read for humans diverges from this goal. As for the possibility of an account compromise leading to a bot with edit privileges, I'd argue that the actual problem there is one of account security, and that trying to combat it with CAPTCHA is taking an inefficient approach. –  Shaun Feb 11 '11 at 2:10
@Shaun: Making a CAPTCHA easier for a human to read will also make it easier for a bot to read, so there really is no divergence from the goal. I'm not that worried about an account compromise leading to a bot with edit privileges. I'm more worried about people botting their own accounts with edit privileges. –  Bill the Lizard Feb 11 '11 at 2:21
@BilltheLizard: That leads us to my final point: If users aren't trusted enough not to 'spam' the system, they probably shouldn't be trusted enough to represent the sites on which they edit. Make the edit threshold high enough that, by that point, you do trust them. –  Shaun Feb 11 '11 at 2:30
@Shaun: I'm not sure I understand what that would accomplish. I understand that it sounds like a contradiction for me to say "I trust you, here are the keys to the kingdom" and then turn around and hit you with a CAPTCHA. But the more privileges you give someone the more important it is to check (once in a while) that they aren't abusing them. I know the system trusts me a lot, but I have a look at those robots occasionally too. I could wreak a lot of havoc if the system didn't check my pulse once in a while. –  Bill the Lizard Feb 11 '11 at 2:38
@BilltheLizard: I understand the logic behind it. I suppose the disconnect here is that my habit is to refrain from distributing the keys until someone has proven to be the sort of person who wouldn't abuse the system. At that point, I think additional proof becomes tedious. In addition, the matter is complicated by the fact that what it takes to prove yourself is subjective, so it can be hard to quantify it. I realize that my opinion contradicts a policy that's well-established and unlikely to change. It'd just be nice not to deal with the tedium of this purgatory of trust. :) –  Shaun Feb 11 '11 at 2:50
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