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Comments and CAPTCHAs

A blog isn't much of a blog unless it is possible to leave a comment, to enable conversation and debate. While we simply do not have the time to enable (and crucially, moderate) comments on all of our content, you can now leave a comment on all of our blog entries.

It has taken a little while to get comments set up on Drupal in a secure manner, and quite a few lessons were learned along the way. I don't want you all to have to set up an account just to leave a comment - I know I hate doing that myself. It should be simple and quick to leave a comment, and, hopefully, now it is. Click the "Add a new comment" link below to leave one.

reCAPTCHA

While we all get junk (spam) email, those of us who run websites know that spammers don't just stop at email. Any website that accepts comments is also a target for comments containing links to unsavoury websites, dubious pharmaceutical deals etc. To check that you are a human genuinely wishing to leave a comment, as opposed to a computer program trying to leave rubbish, I have installed a CAPTCHA.

reCAPTCHAreCAPTCHA 

All you have to do is type the two words as you see them, as shown in the above image. If the words aren't clear enough, click the little 'cycle' button next to the box. This will hopefully load in a better image. Then, if you get the words correct, your comment will fly through the internet and into our comments inbox, where we'll check it's OK and publish it below the blog post.

The reCAPTCHA scheme also has a hidden agenda. Many of the world's libaries are digitising their collections of printed material. Optical character recognition (OCR) software "reads" the content and converts it into computer recognisable text (like a word processor document). The trouble is, computers aren't (yet) as good as humans at reading, and sometimes they get it wrong, or simply can't read a word at all. This could be because the ink has bled on contact with the paper, or because the type was pressed too hard, etc. The reCAPTCHA system takes the words that computers can't read, and passes them on to humans to decipher. So by leaving a comment you are helping to digitally preserve a book as part of a scheme set up by Carnegie Mellon University in the USA.

Read more about the reCAPTCHA scheme on Wikipedia.

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