Captcha’ing OSS

captcha images
You all know those captcha codes online to prove you’re not a bot right (examples above)? They can be really obscure and annoying can’t they?

I contemplated adding captcha codes to the comments section under each blog to prevent the barrage of spam from overwhelming legitimate comments. That thought process didn’t last long though – 1) I can use captcha codes and make my life easier, but annoying for anyone providing legitimate feedback or 2) I can leave out the captcha codes to make it easier for readers and I take the hit on spam. You’ll have already noticed I chose 2). Easy decision really.

The user experience of many OSS is not dissimilar to dealing with captcha codes. They have great intended results but can be really annoying for users.

So if you’re designing an OSS (or components of one, or processes or data or user guides, etc), what are your “captcha questions?”

If we consider that OSS are tools to improve efficiency and insights, here are a few to start with:

  1. What is the user really trying to do
  2. Are there any steps in doing so that introduce blockers that frustrate them (have you ever watched a cross-section of users actually use it to know that answer for sure)
  3. Are there different types of users, some of which may be frustrated, others not? If so, why
  4. Is there any functionality that exists for good intentions, but actually hinders more than it helps
  5. Is there any part of the experience that is actually so indecipherable that it prevents some users from progressing (especially new users)
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