I often wonder why people use Capthcas. On one level, it makes sense. On another, it seems like a waste of time. It's overkill. You've got a plugin like Akismet which recognizes and filters spam comments (for free), then you've got manual moderation of your comments (nobody just lets them auto-approve these days), and now you want to use a Captcha as well? Is it really necessary?
For me, I want to encourage comments on my website, not discourage them!
What I do instead is, make it as easy as possible for people to comment on my site. I WANT comments. If you are going to take the time to let me know your thoughts, I'm going to make it easy for you.
Let's face it, filling out Captchas are a pain. First off, a lot of them are impossible to read. Are they case-sensitive? Who knows. Are you supposed to include the spaces? Who knows! Each one seems to follow its own rules. Often, I'll go to a website, try to leave a comment, get stuck at the “Are you human?” stage, and then just give up. It's a shame.
If my visitor has spent a minute or two reading my article before the leaving a comment (you'd hope that they would..) then they need to hit the refresh button before commenting, because the captcha token will have expired. What a nightmare!
What Are You Afraid Of?
I know when people are new to websites and they start getting some spam comments, they think “Oh I keep getting spam comments! What can I do?”. I understand this.
Spam comments aren't going to rob you or steal your content. They're not even going to make your site look bad (assuming you have manual moderation on your site).
Of course, you COULD say that they are an inconvenience, but as I explained before, if you have Akismet installed, most of the spammy comments are going to get filtered out anyway and you won't even see them. It's basically like the junk folder on your email (except it actually works).
It's all about making your site experience the best it possible can be, so no thanks Mr Captcha, you're not for me.
Another Little Trick
One other thing you can do is to install the plugin “subscribe to comments” (another free one). I don't know exactly how many people are going to do this, but when someone leaves a comment on your site, they can check a box that will send them an email whenever somebody replies to their comment.
From my point of view as a commenter, this is really useful, because I often forget to come back and check if someone has replied, or even worse, I often forget I left a comment in the first place.
As a webmaster, it's even better. What better way to demonstrate that my site is engaging its visitors than to have return visitors who are consistently commenting and interacting? Come over here Google, this place is rocking!
Go on..leave a comment. What are your thoughts? To Captcha, or not to Captcha?