Out with the Spam! Snaptcha for ExpressionEngine
Posted on January 02, 2013
Internet Spam (comment spam, email spam, form spam, forum spam) is a plague reserved for some of the deepest recesses of hell. Yet, as widespread as it is, its the oft-brutal achilles heel of user-content web projects. As developers of your website, spam is something to which my colleagues and I have had no good response or answer for for a very long time, and we struggled alongside you to find the right balance of human-seeking rules or outsourcing the job completely to a third party service like WuFoo or Disqus. None of these were great options - but heres the good news: were done with all that. If you still want Disqus or WuFoo on your site, great! But now theres a simple add-on for ExpressionEngine sites which keeps spam completely at bay, allowing forms and comments to function in a comparatively dream-like way: No spam, all user content. Its simply brilliant. Its called Snaptcha.
Let me continue by declaring that Im a bit late to the party on this ExpressionEngine add-on. it isnt brand new. Snaptcha has been through at least 12 releases and its earliest review dates back at least one year. It continues to draw solid 5-star reviews from folks like me who do what I do (which in context means that it does what it says its going to do and never misses a beat.) I found this option working on a client site who had requested a better captcha system for their site as the built-in ExpressionEngine captcha wasnt stopping enough spam. I had initially been made aware of a Honeypot style captcha which has the benefit of being invisible and catching spam based on determining that a submission was robotic instead of deducing through a set of arbitrary rules that the submission was not human. Snaptcha does this too, but it also checks for user-agent features which are likely to be available in human users (and continue to be available,) and are not available on robotic users/spam bots. This is all great, but it was simpler to set up than a Honeypot too, which is actually what made me give it a try. Its as simple as dropping in some sample code. Nowhere do you need to add to styles, or integrate with built-in spam solutions. Snaptcha works independently of the system to stop spam, so there are no confusing integrations or odd bugs to fix. It just plain works once set up.
Ive mentioned the best feature of this spam solution but Id like to reiterate: its invisible. Theres no puzzle to solve, no eye strain on wonky phony words, no this is too difficult's. Its completely invisible, and your users wont even know its there. Check out the contact form on this page, for example - no captcha? Wrong! Snaptcha is down there filtering out the spam and allowing your contact form submissions to pass. As for the client for whom I found the add-on, heres what they have to say:
I have not had a spam appear on the blog since the new captcha went in. At some point I might have you explain why its working but as long as it does I am not going to question it.
Snaptcha is built by Ben Croker - very smart man and all-around nice fellow. He builds lots of useful things for ExpressionEngine. Nearly everything he builds makes someones day easier, be it mine or yours, as the client who ultimately will manage the content on your site. Ive also used his Multi Language Module on a website, which happened to make both my job and the clients job easier. If youre interested in seeing all he has to offer, you can go to http://www.putyourlightson.net. You also get to see all the awards his work has won there too.
If youre having issues handling spam (or getting too much of it, no matter how perfectly you handle it,) on your ExpressionEngine website through whatever means, Snaptcha may be the best option for you to clear up that problem. Your users wont even know that its there, and it stops spam dead in its tracks. Your website forms, comments, forums, member area, what-have-you will all go back to functioning as you envisioned them functioning - just people, no robots. You can forget spam bots even exist. That is, until you check your off-website email.