Life-long Learning – reCAPTCHA: Securely translating the World-Wide Web

If one pays attention to the little things that go on in the world around them, it is possible to learn something new every day about the things we come to take for granted or the effect we have on the world by seemingly innocuous actions.

Take reCAPTCHA for example.

We’ve all been to websites that challenge us to read and enter the words in the box… to prove we’re human and not a BOT … a robotic computerised process that is processing and collecting information, usually for use by spammers, or worse.

I’d always assumed the strange words and phrases were ONLY used for the one purpose.

Silly me…

Over at Dice BlogsI learned from 

If the site was using reCAPTCHA, there’s a good chance that you were helping to translate old books, newspapers, or radio shows.

reCAPTCHA is helping to digitize the massive catalog at Google Books and also old editions of The New York Times.

Some jobs are still best done by people, and figuring out a blurry word is one of them.

So, how does the computer know we’re right?  When we’re prompted to solve a CAPTCHA, we’re presented with a word pair.  One word is known, the other is not.

If you get the known one right, it’s assumed you probably got the other correct, and so you’ve just translated a word for all of posterity.  Pretty cool, eh?

Now, I’m certain that more than one person is asked to translate that very same blurry image. After all, there are just so many fuzzy images to go around.

I also learned that the companies efforts don’t end there.

Building on this concept, Duolingo, a company started by CAPTCHA inventor Luis von Ahn, will teach you a foreign language by having you do ever increasingly complex translations from your native tongue into your target language.

The crowdsourcing goal for this one?  Oh nothing too heavy, just cross-translating THE ENTIRE WEB into every language.

So, I learned a number of things from this, and…  So did you!


About Gwendolyn McIntyre

Author, editor, businesswoman, musician, lover of jazz and horses. Chief investigator of all things that go BUMP in the night.
This entry was posted in Blogging, Information Technology, Paying Attention, Publishing, Random Acts of Kindness, Things you might have learned had you been paying attention and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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