Zeldman on "Comments are the lifeblood of the blogosphere"

Posted in People, Tech, Web at 11 am

So at the bottom of Jeffrey Zeldman’s entry “Comments are the lifeblood of the blogosphere” he has set up a spam blocking question: “Is ice hot or cold?”

I think this is great! I can’t wait for the Spammers to break it.

Now let me be clear that this is not some call for an all out comment spam war on blogs, since that’s already in progress.

This is about getting ‘bots smarter.

Think about it this way: Spambots are getting better and better at decoding the existing CAPTCHA images. They are getting better at pattern recognition and the idea is that if the spambot builders can improve the abillity to decode these images, then we’ve actually taken steps forward in the realm of Optical Character Recognition, a fundemental computer science problem that has never been fully worked out, although great strides have been made.

If the general CS researchers could get their hands on the most advanced CAPTCHA-busters (that aren’t using a sneaky Mechanical Turk system) they would have the opportunity to learn from the ‘bots and improve the state of technology.

That’s why Zeldmans “Is ice cold or hot?” is such a wonderful question! Perhaps we are creating an economic system that actually rewards technical innovation with advertising revenues. Sure, it’s slimy; comment spam is a horrible horrible thing to deal with.

But on the other hand, if we get some sort of leap in artificial intelligence because someone builds a bot that can 1) Identify this as a question, 2) Parse the question into a set of component words, 3) Construct a logical model of the question, 4) Work through an internal or external database of knowledge that can find the answer, 5) Present the answer in a succinct manner, and 6) Successfully bypass not just this question’s challange, but also other simple and not so simple questions, well then we’ve just made a huge leap in artificial intelligence.

I think it would be worth the trade off. Then again, this blog doesn’t get nearly as many comment spams as someone like Z. So I’ll let him do the work. Sorry Jeffrey!

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