Finally, something good may come from comment spam

Well, not the comment spam itself, but the methods of dealing with it. You know what ‘captchas’ are, right? The words you have to tpye in with a comment to prove to the website you’re not a spambot but a living human being? Well, here’s what the website of an outfit called reCAPTCHA has to say:

“About 60 million CAPTCHAs are solved by humans around the world every day. In each case, roughly ten seconds of human time are being spent. Individually, that’s not a lot of time, but in aggregate these little puzzles consume more than 150,000 hours of work each day. What if we could make positive use of this human effort? reCAPTCHA does exactly that by channeling the effort spent solving CAPTCHAs online into “reading” books.”

Reading books? Que? But there’s more:

“reCAPTCHA improves the process of digitizing books by sending words that cannot be read by computers to the Web in the form of CAPTCHAs for humans to decipher. More specifically, each word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is placed on an image and used as a CAPTCHA. This is possible because most OCR programs alert you when a word cannot be read correctly.”

See? They’re helping to digitise books by making good use of time we already have to expend on squelching spam! I really hope that it takes off – good ideas deserve to succeed.

One thought on “Finally, something good may come from comment spam”

  1. This is an interesting idea, and from what I can see the CAPTCHAs they create are only slightly more troublesome to transcribe than the traditional ones. Are these actually being used, though? 150 000 hours a day sounds like a good number, but I imagine a pretty small proportion of this is reCaptcha.

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