reCAPTCHA is a variation on the CAPTCHA tool that most everyone who frequents websites is familiar with. Familiar and, very possibly, annoyed with as well … am I right?
CAPTCHA’s are those little strings of letters (and sometimes numbers) that you have to enter on thousands and thousands of websites to prove that you are a human being. Developed at Carnegie Mellon by Luis von Ahn, Ben Maurer, Colin McMillen, David Abraham and Manuel Blum, the CAPTCHA system was purchased by Google about five years ago.
But what is reCAPTCHA?
reCAPTCHA was developed more recently by Luis von Ahn after he had been bothered by the thought of how much human time, in the aggregate, was being wasted as millions and millions of people spent 10-seconds, multiple time s a day, entering CAPTCHA codes. The necessity of these codes, for fending off automated attacks, isn’t really debatable – but it really haunted him that these snippets of time couldn’t be made useful in some way.
And this is where the time-finding, time-using genius of reCAPTCHA really shines!
What von Ahn did was to figure out a way to connect the security task (entering text that only humans can read) with the larger task of ‘digitizing’ material that would otherwise not be available on the web. Here’s what it does:
reCAPTCHA is a free service to protect your website from spam and abuse. reCAPTCHA uses an advanced risk analysis engine and adaptive CAPTCHAs to keep automated software from engaging in abusive activities on your site. It does this while letting your valid users pass through with ease.
reCAPTCHA offers more than just spam protection. Every time our CAPTCHAs are solved, that human effort helps digitize text, annotate images, and build machine learning datasets. This in turn helps preserve books, improve maps, and solve hard AI problems.
reCAPTCHA So Far …
This undertaking is one of the best illustrations of making the most of every second (and of many hands making light work) that I have ever heard of! In the past, we’ve written here about making use of those small scraps of time that can so often get lost or wasted … but reCAPTCHA take this idea to an entirely new and exciting level!
As of 2012, thirty years of The New York Times had been digitized and the project planned to have completed the remaining years by the end of 2013. The now completed archive of The New York Times can be searched from the New York Times Article Archive, where more than 13 million articles in total have been archived, dating from 1851 to the present day.
… and the work is ongoing!
Here’s Luis von Ahn describing reCAPTCHA, along with a more recent project he has undertaken, in a very entertaining and fascinating TED talk:
It’s exciting to think about, isn’t it? Whether it’s 5-minutes here and there that you can use to refresh yourself, or something bigger – maybe something that it takes a group effort to complete, there are so many possibilities for creatively using all the small bits of time that litter our daily landscapes.
And even beyond those possibilities, doesn’t it help to know that, the next time you fill in one of those reCAPTCHA boxes, you are joining tens of millions of other humans in adding to the store of digitized knowledge? In fact, why not leave a comment here, and start using reCAPTCHA today! 😉
And to continue along the path to your time success, sign up and receive 3 FREE Time Success tools from The Time Finder! Our Success Kit includes “The New Finding Time Boundary Template: 9 Simple, Sequential Steps to Find More Time and Recharge Your Energy!” Using a workbook format this powerful and practical time template helps you progress beyond disappointment and frustration. You also receive weekly Finding Time Tips, and the monthly, award-winning Finding Time E-zine when you click this link to claim your FREE Success Kit!