As a user trying to complete a task, one of the last things I want to do is first play a game.
Imagine going to the grocery store. You just want to buy a freaking pack of milk. You’ve got a good number of other things on your mind today and you’re just going in for some milk, and you’ve allocated, like, 15 minutes for this simple task.
But when you get to the door, there’s some clown there, asking you if you really want to go inside. “Sure, I want to go inside,” you say. The clown laughs at you and asks “Are you SUUUURE??” and you say “yeah dude I’m totally sure I want to go into the store” and this continues for a bit. Then the clown says “well how about we make a balloon animal first? We can make it a cow, since you want to buy some milk, and dontcha know, milk comes from cows! Did you know that? That milk comes from cows? That’s why a cow balloon would be so great!”
At this point if you’re me, you want to kill the clown, but I do suspect I’m a more homicidal individual than most of the nice folks here at Sitepoint, so let’s say you’re getting a slight bit exasperated at this point. You can’t get past the clown, 'cause he’s blocking the whole doorway, and other people are being blocked by other clowns, but those people all went to balloon-animal-making school and graduated summa cum laude and can whip out a goddamn balloon animal in freaking SECONDS and so they’re just whipping out these silly balloon animals (complaining as they do it, of course, because it’s stopping them from also buying milk or diapers or whatever the hell, but at least they aren’t worrying about never getting into the store, so for these folks it’s but a minor inconvenience, like putting on pants in the morning), and then there’s some other people who went to balloon-animal school and didn’t even graduate but, if they try a few times, they often can eventually get it and go inside. And if not, they go to the sleazy convenience store around the corner without clowns to get some milk that might not be expired, if it’s Thursday and the date is an even number and everyone else didn’t buy it all up yet.
You, on the other hand, have forks for hands (due to an unfortunate culinary accident), and you could try all damn day to make a single freaking balloon, let alone a whole twisty amazing balloon cow. You’ve pretty much got something sharp and shiny and in a very sensitive bodily cavity right now.
So you have a couple of choices:
- you could stop drinking milk. After all, water comes from the tap inside your house, and your kids can learn to do without luxuries like milk… after all, milk is for baby mammals, not adult ones.
- you could go ask a handy friend who graduated from balloon school to get some milk for you.
- go to the ghetto convenience store for the chunky stuff. Still has calcium!
- even worse, your kids are in balloon school right now. You could get your kids to do it for you. As an adult who wants to be independent as much as all the other adults around there, asking your kids to do something as simple as getting a pack of milk is… well, depressing. Asking your kids to click a button on an inaccessible website, read an error message to you, translate ASL (or English) for you, carry you into a store… this is dependency, and it’s a frustrating thing for adults who want to be able to do things all by themselves like everyone else, not be a burden, have jobs and pay taxes and buy houses and marry and have kids and barbecue with the neighbours.
- rage on the internets whenever the topic of balloon clowns comes up.
Making a friendlier balloon clown is… not a bad thing per se, and certainly has good intentions! It’s also an interesting idea, as far as the method it attempts (even though it has nothing to do with humans, robots, or spam really…). But this might explain why the idea of a better balloon-clown just doesn’t fill me with glee.
If a CAPTCHA were one of those absolutely required pains of life, like death and taxes, then trying to make it fun or suck less can be a worthy endevour, I suppose. However, I do not believe a CAPTCHA is something on the level of filling out taxes, or wearing clothing in public, or eating – something we pretty much have to do to continue as we want in our society.
Instead, it’s pretty much the #1 barrier of just about every blind person I know. In fact, I’m part of a newly-formed co-op of mostly blind/low-vision programmers and freelance geeks, and our marketing person was pretty much locked out of every possible place we could sign up for to get our press releases out into the new world by CAPTCHAs (her Web-Visum plugin wasn’t working for some reason… it’s all working now tho). Making them more fun wouldn’t have prevented her from being locked out of places, wouldn’t have prevented her from being pretty much stopped from doing her job, wouldn’t have meant much of the internet is basically blocked to the folks in my company.
The insistence of determining if a user is human by determining if they can see, or have certain recognition skills, or certain motor skills, or can add 2 and 2 (bots do this much better than simple finger-counters such as myself) is really the main problem. Of the Internets. Of the first world, and increasingly of the third world as the internets get more important there and the numbers of disabled are much much higher than in the first world.
None of this is a particular critique of this particular attempt at CAPTCHA, to be clear and fair. I just think it’s not solving what I see as the real problem. It’s solving some other problem, something to do with creativity and CAPTCHA options, I think,