Do those fuzzy and squiggly “CAPTCHA” letters drive you nuts? – SCN Encourager

Well, hang in there!

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 6.53.16 PMYou’re helping digitize libraries all around the world.

No fake!

Dr. Nancy Colflesh, Ph.D. who spoke at MSPRA about “cross generational communications” last Thursday in Petoskey, Michigan would understand why and how this happened.


I’m still wondering why the CAPTCHA developers just didn’t take their money and run.

That’s sure what I’d do if big money starting flowing my way.

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 6.50.14 PMBut Dr. Colflesh told us that younger generations are not as singular in their purpose.

Although seeing “my generation” located on the generational spectrum closer to Henry Ford and Eleanor Roosevelt and light years away from Taylor Swift and Channing Tatum is somewhat embarrassing, Dr. Colflesh’s point is undeniable.

Every individual in every generation accepts and reacts to their own life’s “defining moments” more in line with the similar actions of their peers, rather than in ways more typical of the previous generation.

In other words, the young developers who got rich after rolling out CAPTCHA were going to keep a-going until they found a way to channel their success into making a significant difference in the world.

It was predicatable.

Seeking to a attach a good cause to their revenues is part of their generational DNA.


I would’ve been perfectly content driving to and from the bank knowing that CAPTCHA was running strong  and that 200 million CAPTCHAs were being typed out by folks like us every day. ($ Ka-ching!)

But not the young CAPTCHA developers.

It bugged them that if typing in just one CAPTCHA took 10 seconds, this meant that 500,000 hours in total was being squandered every single day fussing with these dang things.

So, reCAPTCHA is born –

and is now a major player in the worldwide effort to digitize books.

Here’s how.

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 7.38.43 PMWhen literacy organizations scan books, usually all goes well unless the books are more than 50 years old.

Then the books usually have yellow and crinkly paper that bog down the process.

About 30% of the letters and words in older books are unable to be  determined by electronic scanners with accuracy.

Using the reCAPTCHA service, all of the letters and words that can’t be figured out by an electronic book scanner are sent over to CAPTCHA, where you guessed it. The letters and words get posted in CAPTCHA and we get to try our hand (and eyes) at figuring it out!

Not that we get paid anything for any of this aggravation mind you, but I guess we should all feel okay now that usually when we find ourselves struggling with one of those CAPTCHA images, we are aiding the cause of digitizing the world’s old books.

And together, we’re sending in about 100 million “manually corrected” words and letters per day via reCAPTCHA, or the equivalent of about 2.5 million books per year.

Considering that 200 million CAPTCHAs are processed daily, our aggregate accuracy rate is 50%.

Is that very good?

I don’t care.

I’m proud to be part of the generation that says “It’s good enough. Can we eat now?”

I think this is also yet one more “duty” we perform as inadvertently assigned without any increase in pay.

And boy, I hope the younger generation is happy!


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