Ridiculous CAPTCHA Is Ridiculous, Requires Character Map

So we’ve all seen our fair share of ridiculous CAPTCHAs. I’ve seen ones that require you to only enter the letters with the cats on them, or I’ve seen near undiscernable ones. And if you’ve ever listened to the audio CAPTCHA provided by Google, it’s like the disembodied voice of Satan himself beckoning you to discern exactly which numbers need entering, if only you’ll denounce your Lord. Spoken backwards. It’s ridiculous.

So imagine my shock when Ticketmaster provided me with the following:


That’s right. A “vulgar fraction: seven eights.” Not wanting to shrink from a challenge, I pulled up Character Map and found U+21E: ⅞. So obscure it has no alt keystroke. Beat that with a stick, spammers.

(ReCAPTCHA, which provided this CAPTCHA, helps digitize books by providing OCR-unreadable words as one of the two words. If you get the known word right, it uses your entry for the unknown word to help them correct the mistakes in their books. The more people that validate an OCR “unreadable” word, the higher the confidence, until it’s accepted as accurate. But I’m guessing not many people dug up Seven Eighths for this one. :-)

Posted in: Cool Stuff

Trusting In The Cloud: A Call For Post-Mortem As Facebook Loses Notification Settings

notification_settingsI first read about Facebook having lost some users’ notification settings on TechCrunch four days ago. This was worrisome to me, but I got sick over the weekend and didn’t have a chance to write about it. Then I got my very own email from Facebook telling me the same: they’ve lost my notification settings and if I’d be so kind as to reset them, and that they apologized for the inconvenience.

Facebook needs to publish a public post-mortem on this, as soon as humanly possible. When any data disappears from the cloud, no matter how innocuous, it calls into consideration serious questions of trust and competence. I’ve trusted Facebook for a long time. The engineers who have built it have done an amazing job at making sure things scale brilliantly, at cobbling together various pieces of technology and contributing their own back to the community to make the site highly available and without many of the horrible growing pains MySpace experienced, when Tom would send a message telling everyone bulletins will be down and to please not email him.

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Posted in: Rants