On Fri, Nov 7, 2014 at 2:19 PM, MZMcBride <z(a)mzmcbride.com> wrote:
I think that's unfair.
Wikis have a serious spam problem. People associate CAPTCHAs with spam
prevention. On the English Wikipedia, one of the actions that results in
the user being required to successfully enter a CAPTCHA is adding an(y?)
external link to a page as a newly registered user. This, of course, in
addition to the CAPTCHA presented when registering an account (consider
that many new account creations only come about as the result of the
requirement for an account to make a new page on the English Wikipedia).
Why not disable the extension for a week and see what happens? If you're
wrong and there's a marked increase in wiki spam (account creations and
edits), then you can help devise a better solution than a CAPTCHA.
CAPTCHAs are clearly not a sustainable fix to the underlying problems they
were implemented to address, or so I think you're saying. If you're right
and the CAPTCHA is simply ineffective and unneeded, we've eliminated some
code from production and we can move on. In other words: what exactly is
stopping you from disabling the extension?
When we did usability tests of the new version and the old version, it was
exceedingly clear that what Jon has said is true: the CAPTCHA is by far the
most painful part of our signup form. Results and videos of those tests at:
Back in the day, when we did the last redesign of the signup form, we
considered running an A/B test of removing the CAPTCHA. Docs for that are
The "turn it off for a week and see what happens with spam" test is the
easiest implementation of the above, and even though normally it's a great
way to produce garbage data (not being a controlled experiment) I'd be in
favor of trying it. Every indication we have is that we'd get marked
increases in signup conversion rates (ours are not great -- only 30% of
visitors complete the form successfully IIRC).
For some more background, when we proposed something like that to Chris
Steipp he was pretty iffy about it, and he's not wrong. At other sites that
don't have a CAPTCHA on signup (like Facebook, Quora, others) they avoid a
spam problem in part because they require an email address and
confirmation. For some irrational reason, even in the era of throwaway
email accounts from web services, not requiring email is some kind of
sacred cow among Wikimedians, even if it would make it an easy choice to
throw away our wretched CAPTCHA.
If we want to avoid spam bots signing up, there is going to be a hit in
ease of use somewhere. Our network of sites is just too large to avoid
being a target. It's just a matter of testing to see how much we can reduce
that hit, and which method might be less easy.