Friday, 24 February 2012

Something amazing about word verification

I've spotted a few blog posts recently about 'captcha' word verification since Blogger now asks you to decipher two words - which often look unreadable - to 'prove you are human.'

Maria Zanini has found and shared the amazing truth here: The Awesome Secret About Captcha. It isn't as random as it looks: every time you give those squiggly words your best guess you're part of an international project to digitise books.
Seriously, go and read her post and listen to the guy behind it - Luis von Ahn in the video on her site. Von Ahn, a Guatemalan uber-geek, named one of the '50 Most Influential People in Technology', invented reCAPTCHA, which has basically turned 750,000,000 Google users into a human computer. Why? Because we can read words that a computer can't.

That's why there are two words. The easiest one to read will identify you as human, the one you are squinting at and cursing over is your small part in making 2.5 million old books a year available digitally.

And now the fun parts: firstly there are some amusing examples of where two random words get together at the wrong place at the wrong time: a reCaptcha on a US church site came up with: 'Bad Christians'

But best of all, there's a website called CaptchArt where artists come up with illustrations for these random couplings, some of which I've shown here.

All of this makes me feel a whole lot better about captcha - how about you? If you want to get rid of it go to Smitten Image who will tell you how. Also, does it ask you to do it on this site? It shouldn't!

12 comments:

  1. Captcha sounds like gangsta rap which we get a lot of in Norfolk.

    I knew Douglas Adams would turn out to be correct though - Slarty Bartfast lives on and we're all part of a giant experiment.

    It doesn't stop it from being super tedious though - I've turned off wv today and they can translate their own runes.

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    1. Ah Slartibartfast - didn't he get an award for thinking of Norway?

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  2. Replies
    1. Why appalling? It's all about turning something tedious that we have as a security thing into something useful... I thought it was groovy!

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    2. It's appalling because as soon as a trusted supplier starts sharing security data with a third party, for whatever reason or however well-motivated, it ceases to be security data. This instance doesn't matter (apart from its irritating unuseability)but the principle has been compromised.

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    3. Hmmm. I'm not technical enough to know exactly what you mean about security data - you mean like what sites you're visiting etc? I suppose I just assume they're doing that anyway... 'trusted supplier' Google? Hmmm. (This is where they come round in a van for me... )

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    4. Sorry, I didn't express myself at all well there, because I was angry. Rant is a dish best taken cold. I posted something hopefully a bit more focussed on my blog this morning.

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  3. I disabled my WV this afternoon. Although it would have been easier to disable a VW. The new blogger doesn't give an option for switching of word verification, so you need to go back to the old set-up, and do it from there. Smitten Image has it right, but I'd advise comment moderation on posts, five days old or older, not 14 days.

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    1. The new Blogger won't let me add pics to my posts either (it did at first but stopped a week or two ago) so I have to go back to the old interface to do it. It didn't ask for a WV here did it?

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    2. It's been kind to me, so far (I can still add images) but who knows how long it'll last. No sign of a WV request, here.

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  4. I was thinking of blogging about these words on Captcha. Half of the "phrase" seems to be written in an Italic that is almost impossible to read. I have been booted off several comment boxes this week because I can't figure out where one letter starts and the other stops.

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    1. The guy implied thyat you only had to get the easy word right - they're just looking for a majority view of what the other one is? But like you I've had to try a fresh one a few times.

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