If avatars were part of the signup process would that stop most of them?
Is there anything that you would suggest with your expeerience with forums? I've stuck a nerve here - seems everyone wants an argument. That is not why i raised the post, but anyway, that's what's happening.
It really is a problem that when you close one door, they will find another.
We implemented manual admin validation, but this means that someone has to physically 'approve' every new membership - great for stopping spam, but it also kills off the spur-of-the-moment user that won't wait for approval, and will head elsewhere. That user could well be a spammer, but they may also be the next Michelle, Mattwalker, Rodda, Royalblue etc who have given countless posts of valuable advice.
The other downside to manual validation, is that someone has to physically approve each one - and that means being online at least once every 24 hours for a reasonable turnaround time. Say goodbye to holidays down the coast where there is no mobile internet service (As I found out on a recent stay at South Durras on the NSW south coast - Murramarang).
Personally, I don't think making users choose an avatar is the way to ensure a human is signing up, as some people only want to lurk until they feel comfortable in the forum. I was just like that when I joined here, yet I have over 15,000 helpful posts on one forum (5 years membership), and more than 5000 on another - In my opinion it's a matter of finding your feet and then working on your personality with avatars, signatures etc.
Now there are some anti-spam measures in place within forum software, but it all depends on the brand of software, and the age of it (or the version number). newer (and more expensive) forum software packages have very good anti-spam measures, with image verification required. Some even ask a simple question, like "what colour is the sky" - that any human would be able to answer, but not a spam bot.
Even with image verification, we still got numerous drug-spammers managing to sign up.
The best way I have found, is to ban free email addresses - this also works well with troublemakers who get banned, then come straight back with a new hotmail or yahoo account. The problem with this strategy is that some people don't have an ISP or work email, and rely on free email services - we put a line in the sign-up instructions that if you fall into that category you can click the 'contact us' link for a manual registration. When pushed, just about anyone can access their own ISP or work email, and use it as their registration email.
When we have a spate of spammers trying to sign up, I add their domain to the banned domains list. They find new ones, but it slows them down.
And lastly, the best thing I ever did was create a list of locations that MUST be selected when you sign up. Instead of simply listing ACT, NSW, NT, QLD, SA, TAS, WA. I also listed like capital cities, FNQ, NZ north & south island etc, but also added "AA-spammer" to the list of locations.
No human will ever choose that, and the best part is I simply go in once a week & search by location = "AA-spammer" and wipe them all out with a couple of clicks.
If anyone is interested, this is the list of banned email domains that I have going. Note that some are just ".ru" and ".cz" - this means that no email address ending in those letters will ever be received - effectively blocking all of the Russian, Romanian, Czec etc spammers.
EDIT: I was going to post it here, but the reply was cut short....
It is a 58 page word doc full of banned email addresses.
Here's the word doc if you want a copy of it:
Right click on it & choose "save as"