Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Thursday 6/5/2004What is news? [if you don't know by now, sunshine...

Thursday 6/5/2004
What is news? [if you don't know by now, sunshine... Ed.] Something that happened recently? We got a tip-off that spammers were bypassing the 'are you a human?' tests -- you know, the ones with wonky letters and graphics -- which some free email services use by embedding them in "free porn" websites and getting randy users to type in the answers. That's clever, we thought, and interesting. Sounds like news.

The first problem was that none of us knew what those tests were called. Some inspired Google search terms later, and we had the answer -- Captchas -- as well as more unwelcome information. The porn hack had been documented at the beginning of the year on the erudite BoingBoing blog - how can something that old be news?

Time to hit the phones. It soon turned out that not only had we not heard about it at the time, but neither had anyone else. At least, nobody who ran Captcha-protected services had heard about it and thus couldn't tell us what countermeasures they'd take. Now, that's news.

"Better put in fulsome attribution to BoingBoing," we decided. Not that we wouldn't in any case, but unless we made it bloody obvious we'd get an infinite number of nit-picking readers posting sarky comments saying "how can this be news? It's months old! I read about it already, You sluggards!"

So we made it bloody obvious. Didn't make any difference, of course, we still got the sarky talkback. It seems there are still some top-notch pedants out there on the Net, and they're not shy about letting us know. Now that's definitely not news…