One issue with my questionnaire is spam. Any online text form is open to a lot of spam. I need a way of protecting myself against it. The most common way is the CAPTCHA (stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart). I hate these things. I think most people do. You know the things where you have to type in a mash of letters and half the time they’re impossible to see and if they’re not, at best they ruin the pleasant flow of the navigation. I really don’t want that. They’re fine for Yahoo! but not for this. I don’t want one of those CAPTCHAs coming near my questionnaire. There’s also a useful page on the accessibility issues associated with CAPTCHAs on the W3C website.
There is a better way though. You can have the page ask a question like ‘What colour is snow?’ Any human will know the answer to the question. A spambot won’t.
The interesting thing here is that it’s a simple test of consciousness. A computer thinks in numbers and can’t deal with the question of whether snow is red, white or green. They’re not relevant values as no user has designated them as such.
This is a great thing in the context of my project because it’s about consciousness. Language, abstract conceptualisation and the expression thereof are all hallmarks of consciousness. I’ve got a great opportunity to use these questions to add a small dimension to my project.
The main thing now is to make a list of good questions to ask and find the right script online to implement it, presuming there is one. I want the questions to be relevant to my project, ideally. ‘What colour is snow?’ would be acceptable but not the best possible question I can ask. A better question would be ‘What is the name of the explosion that started the universe?’ I think most people will know that and it’s related to the project.
Other possible questions include:
What is infinity minus one?
What is infinity minus thirty eight?
How many hands do most people have?
Are you conscious?
Are you asleep?
How many of the King’s horses and men couldn’t put Humpty back together again?
The best ones will be loosely concerned with the word all either physically or metaphysically speaking. Or they will be about language, etymology, mythology, maths or astrophysics. They all tie in in different ways.
Finally, Here’s an article on the subject from TheGuild of Accessible Web Designers. They seem to be using a randomly generated basic maths question though. I’m confused by this article. It’s about using a question to block spam and claims it’s working well but at the bottom there’s a note saying comments have been turned off because of spam problems. Not ideal. I wonder if this is because they’re using the wrong type of question. A maths question seems pretty easy for a computer to answer to me. Anyway, just found this after writing the post. The post is still relevant so I’ll still post it but it does make me think again. Maybe I can’t do the question thing. Their problem is probably largely in their strong pagerank. They’re likely to be a big target for spam. Hmm. Food for thought. I’ll have to come back to this one.