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Gotta love PacketLife’s subtle design touches

February 5, 2011 - 2 Comments

One thing I really like in web designs is when even the smallest elements of a site are kept in context to the subject. For instance, all of the error pages on have beautifully rendered rock performance themes.

A subtler example is the anti-spam challenge for comments on’s pages. Most sites have a ReCAPTCHA or simple math challenge. By contrast, PacketLife offers questions that are contextual to the subject matter of the site:

(I only point this out since you’ll never see these challenges if you’re a regular PacketLife visitor and stay logged in all the time.)

P.S. And, how many bits long is an IPv6 address? That’s a number we’ll all be quoting a lot in coming months, I predict!

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  1. Thanks for the plug! 🙂

    The contextual challenges I implemented are a result of my arms race with blog spammers. The guest comment challenge questions like the one pictured above have proven remarkably successful. I think this is due primarily to the fact that spammers have learned to automate the breaking of popular, predictable human checkers like ReCaptcha, with spambots offloading the captchas to humans who sit and type them in all day. It isn’t financially practical for them to handle one-off implementations like mine (the site is almost entirely custom code running on the Django framework).

    Unfortunately, as with generic captchas, such challenges are less helpful when it’s a human spammer completing the form. The challenge on the registration page had previously asked for the length of an IPv6 address, but I was still seeing spammers register after (presumably) quickly googling for the answer. Just recently I changed the registration challenge to a hexadecimal-to-decimal conversion problem to bump the degree of difficulty up a tad. Of course, I don’t want the challenges to be too difficult for legitimate newbie users to solve, especially considering potential language barriers.

    • Wow, I didn’t expect a comment from the man himself! Stretch, it’s a true honor.

      Thanks the insights. I wonder if custom anti-spam foils will become a trend on sites? As you point out, they’re more effective since they can’t be combated by spammers generically. And they can coincidentally add a nice touch of relevance and local flavor to even a most mundane function of a site.

      P.S. Spammers #aretheworst!