Turn Waste of Time into Online Books through reCAPTCHA

Google has launched reCAPTCHA in order to help digitize books. Oh, yeah, this came as a surprise to you as well? It did to me at least. Actually, this is one of the reasons I love Google. They calculated that we write about 200 million CAPTCHAs on the web every day. Each CAPTCHA takes about 10 seconds to write and thus we waste about 500.000 hours every day writing CAPTCHAs.

To make a long story short. Google decided that they wanted to do something with this otherwise wasteful use of time. As they are working on digitizing all the books in the world, they decided that they should put the two problems together and make them work for each other.

What they do is that they take one word their computer doesn’t understand and they put it in their reCAPTCHA next to a word they know what it reads. They trust that if you know one of the words, then you are a human. They also trust that if enough people guess the other word right, the aggregate should highly likely turn out to be the actual word their computer cannot understand yet. The aggregate helps them translate the second word.

Thus, Google is turning a waste of time into Online Books through a process meant to counter spam. I think it is quite ingenious and way of working that I believe other companies should copy. If you have a problem, try to bundle it with other problems and see if you can make one of them worth the solution of the other.

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