Small Actions With Big Effects

It may seem like a small thing but for a while now there has been an increasing battle growing against automated spam systems and websites like this one that allow anyone to post a comment.

The result of this is that the comment lists on some websites become full of rubbish and are effectively unusable. This is a terrible thing since the openness of this sort of communication is what makes it so empowering.

The reaction to these attacks has been to add barriers to force real people to prove that they are not a machine. These usually come in the form of jumbled and distorted letters or numbers that you have to try and read to continue. These usually frustrate me so here at Brainmates we have just had to manually manage the few bad postings that don’t get picked up by the spam filter.

Well, over at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), where these tests (called CAPTCHA’s) were first devised, they have come up with an even better idea. Each of these tests takes up a few seconds of human effort that is just wasted in the name of stopping spam. Well to address this, the team at CMU have come up with reCAPTCHA’s that turn that wasted time to a productive task.

Now each time you enter the jumbled word you are actually helping to digitize a word from a book that has been scanned but with identified errors. There is a lot more info at the reCAPTCHA site. The really exciting thing here is that by leveraging the time previously wasted fighting spam, the reCAPTCHA team believe that they are able to use over 150,000 hours a day of people’s effort to help digitize old books.

For the time being, I will test this out when you leave a comment on Brainmates. Just remember that the extra effort is no longer being wasted. Please leave a comment and try it out.