CAPTCHA, Not Just for SPAM Anymore

I came across this article today:

In the article, it overviews a new technology produced by a student at Carnegie Mellon University called reCaptcha, which allows bloggers and the like to make good with the Captcha images they are using on their sites to combat Spam. Captchas are little images of randomly-generated text that would be hard for any bot or the like to determine what it says. The user must read the image, type in the text in the image, and only then can their submission, comment, or subscription be validated. It ensures a human is actually the one interacting with your site.

The developer of the reCaptcha technology has worked with to instead of just randomly generate text like most Captchas do, take actual images from archived texts, and slowly but surely allow users to transcribe those texts to searchable text, whether they are aware of it or not. It presents 2 words. One of those words is an unarchived picture of an actual word in an image of an untranscribed book on The other word is a word they already know the meaning of. When your users enter both, if the known word is right, it assumes the other word is right, and sends it on to a couple other users until they can be sure it’s a pretty accurate transcription. So in the likes of SETI @Home, normal use of process is being used to help a good cause. It makes me wonder what other types of processes, UI designs, and other technologies we use every day could be used in similar manners. I can only imagine the applications of this software towards Family History archives, Genealogy, and the like. I hope the LDS Church could consider getting involved in this endeavor some how, or perhaps they could provide an API so applications such as this could tie into their imaging project.

I liked this project so much that I’ve decided to implement the reCaptcha in the comments on Stay N’ Alive. This is not to make commenting harder (aKismet does a great job at keeping the spam out), but rather to allow my users to participate in a good cause and encourage you to comment more. Now, when you comment on Stay N’ Alive, know you’re contributing to a good cause, perhaps without even realizing it.

So, if you see a blog using Captcha out there, please encourage them to use this technology instead! It is a very easy fix for WordPress, and should be easy to implement into other blogs. If you see a blog that uses this, comment! Use the reCaptcha! Help spread the word!


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