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reCAPTCHA Hard At Work, Rescuing Fading Texts

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the strange-confluence dept.

Books 112

sciencehabit writes "Computer scientists have developed a program, called reCAPTCHA, which is being used in lieu of CAPTCHA by several sites, to help digitize old books and newspapers. The reCAPTCHA takes entries from old and faded texts that optical scanners and digital-text readers have trouble with. So every time you solve that string of crooked letters, you may actually be helping historians digitally reconstruct a page from the 1908 New York Times." The Science Now story links to the longer and more informative article at Ars Technica. (We last mentioned this program last year — and now it's good to get some sense of how well it's working.)

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Not new (4, Informative)

JazzyMusicMan (1012801) | more than 5 years ago | (#24609239)

Ticketmaster and other sites have already been doing this for a while. Go to ticketmaster and search for tickets, you'll see two words. One is known and the other is unknown. If you don't believe me, try to guess which one they know and misspell the other one on purpose (or don't, this is for historic posterity =) )

Re:Not new (2, Informative)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 5 years ago | (#24609357)

So is the US Patent and Trademark Office, as part of the process of using PAIR [uspto.gov] , the Patent Application Information Retrieval system, which lets the public look at information about patent applications that have been published.

Don't go into the bathroom! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24609971)

The last guy forgot to flush! Now the toilet is full of ubuntu!

Re:Not new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24612355)

FanFiction.net also uses reCAPTCHA.

Re:Not new (3, Funny)

felipekk (1007591) | more than 5 years ago | (#24609527)

Facebook uses reCAPTCHA. I guess you can make something useful out of the millions of useless teenagers wasting their time on Facebook.

Re:Not new (5, Funny)

grahamd0 (1129971) | more than 5 years ago | (#24609587)

Facebook uses reCAPTCHA. I guess you can make something useful out of the millions of useless teenagers wasting their time on Facebook.

That's not fair.

Plenty of useless adults waste their time on Facebook.

Re:Not new (1)

tuaris (955470) | more than 5 years ago | (#24616083)

Na, the useless adults are wasting their time on craigslist's casual encounters section, who think those "ads" are real men and women. At least they use reCAPTCHA their too!

Re:Not new (2, Informative)

Firehed (942385) | more than 5 years ago | (#24609743)

Do they really? From what I was able to tell, it's not specified as reCAPTCHA anywhere in the window; having looked at the reCAPTCHA site from a development side I could swear that I read that you needed to give credit if developing a custom style for it. Either I'm remembering wrong, they've got a deal, or FB is undergoing one of the stupidest TOS violations ever.

Re:Not new (3, Informative)

erbmjw (903229) | more than 5 years ago | (#24609911)

from reCAPTCHA FAQ [recaptcha.net]

When showing reCAPTCHA to the user, is it possible not to show the reCAPTCHA logo? We allow you to customize the theme of reCAPTCHA with our Client API. You are still required to have text on your website which states that you are using reCAPTCHA, however with our theming API, you are free to do this in a way that blends in to your site.

Re:Not new (2, Informative)

sangreal66 (740295) | more than 5 years ago | (#24611029)

Do they really? From what I was able to tell, it's not specified as reCAPTCHA anywhere in the window; having looked at the reCAPTCHA site from a development side I could swear that I read that you needed to give credit if developing a custom style for it. Either I'm remembering wrong, they've got a deal, or FB is undergoing one of the stupidest TOS violations ever.

They do give attribution to reCAPTCHA. You have to click on "What's this?"

This is a standard security test that we use to prevent spammers from creating fake accounts and spamming users. Our captchas are provided by ReCaptcha

Re:Not new (2, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#24609957)

I would imagine that they use multiple logins to verify one word - it's not like people don't mistype captchas in the first place.

Re:Not new (1)

Fotherington (962601) | more than 5 years ago | (#24612679)

Yes, the Ars Technica article states that a particular transcription gets 1 point every time it's made by a human, and 0.5 points when made by a computer. If it gets to 2.5 points, it's accepted - this approach gets you 99% accuracy, which compares well to professional transcription agencies.

Re:Not new (3, Informative)

Your Pal Dave (33229) | more than 5 years ago | (#24610433)

Quoting from the NPR story [npr.org] which aired earlier today:

more than 40,000 Web sites -- including popular ones such as Ticketmaster, Facebook and Craigslist -- are using a new kind of security program called reCAPTCHA.

Re:Not new (2, Interesting)

Random Walk (252043) | more than 5 years ago | (#24612273)

Quoting from the NPR story [npr.org] which aired earlier today:

more than 40,000 Web sites -- including popular ones such as Ticketmaster, Facebook and Craigslist -- are using a new kind of security program called reCAPTCHA.

That's scary. The way ReCaptcha works allows the reCaptcha server to collect the IPs of reCaptcha users (along with the reCaptcha-enabled website they are using). If many websites are using reCaptcha, it allows to track users as they are moving through the web, from one reCaptcha-enabled website to the next.

The idea is cute, but the implementation is fundamentally broken and a huge breach of privacy.

Re:Not new (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24612557)

That's scary. The way ReCaptcha works allows the reCaptcha server to collect the IPs of reCaptcha users (along with the reCaptcha-enabled website they are using). If many websites are using reCaptcha, it allows to track users as they are moving through the web, from one reCaptcha-enabled website to the next.

Only if you actually use the JavaScript API. If you want to protect the privacy of your site's users, you are free to use the server side API of your choice. This gives them (at most) a count of how many recaptchas your users have solved. By the way, the recaptcha site provides - amongst others - ready-made server side bindings for PHP, Java, Ruby, Python and Perl.

Re:Not new (1)

Random Walk (252043) | more than 5 years ago | (#24613219)

Huh? Pardon me, but their website doesn't talk about a server-side API.. according to their docs, the server-side stuff (which is available for plenty of languages) is only for verifying the answer. The captcha itself is pulled by the browser from the reCaptcha site, so they know both the user IP as well as the website (which contacts them to verify the answer).

Re:Not new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24615501)

The same is true for any image (or flash ad, iframe, etc, though I suppose you use Adblock). If you're that worried, you might not want to be on the internet.

Re:Not new (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#24611095)

If you don't believe me, try to guess which one they know and misspell the other one on purpose (or don't, this is for historic posterity =) )

They most likely require several matching readings from different people before they consider it deciphered.

Damn RSS Feeds (-1, Offtopic)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 5 years ago | (#24609287)

I had to do a double take, 0 comments!? its like wtf I just read this a few hours ago... ... at Ars Technica as it turns out... Go slashdot! Go!

Validate your data, guys! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24609359)

I can usually tell which of the two words is from a real old text. With high probability (>90%) I can correctly answer the real CAPTCHA and replace someone's OCR'd word with "penis".

I've only ever done this maybe ten or twenty times, but it could easily become an automatic part of using the system.

Re:Validate your data, guys! (1)

theguru (70699) | more than 5 years ago | (#24609851)

I'm sure they send the same unknown word out to multiple people, and wait for a concensus on it.

Now, if we ALL started entering "penis" for the obvious unknown words.. :)

Re:Validate your data, guys! (1)

x2A (858210) | more than 5 years ago | (#24611437)

Could be DEVISTATING to the poor fool who blindly follows details from a patent that describes a machine built with a random penis stuck in... that's a machine I don't even wanna think about *shudder*

Re:Validate your data, guys! (1)

x2A (858210) | more than 5 years ago | (#24611449)

...and this morning my spelling happens to also be devastating... grr

Re:Validate your data, guys! (1)

hostyle (773991) | more than 5 years ago | (#24612129)

...and this morning my penis happens to also be devastating... grr

Fixed it for you!

Re:Validate your data, guys! (1)

Robotech_Master (14247) | more than 5 years ago | (#24610457)

The thing is, they're often actually both from old texts. It's just that one of them has already been verified.

And TFA states that they do pass every word by multiple people so as to get more accuracy in what they say. I have little doubt that they're well acquainted with people who try spoofing them.

Re:Validate your data, guys! (3, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#24610609)

Since they use entries from several users to validate correct translations for OCR'ed text, this probably won't cause them major problems. OTOH, I wonder if they can track the accuracy of each user's inputs and, if it becomes evident that a user is either incompetent or attempting to screw with the system, take appropriate measures.

When someone's karma starts dropping into the negative range, they should let us know how well this worked out. If anyone can see their posts, that is.

Re:Validate your data, guys! (1)

ShawnDoc (572959) | more than 5 years ago | (#24617657)

They most likely give the same word to multiple users and choose the word most often entered.

Re:Validate your data, guys! (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#24618561)

They most likely give the same word to multiple users and choose the word most often entered.

Exactly. But its possible to adapt a technique used in some AI knowledge acquisition systems wherein the outcome of such scoring is 'back propagated' to rank the relative validity of various data sources, rules, etc. If one source (user in this case) consistently ranks low, they get a lower weight in future solutions. Until eventually they get dropped off the bottom of the list (like bad karma on /.).

Re:Validate your data, guys! (2, Funny)

Spasmodeus (940657) | more than 5 years ago | (#24611321)

As soon as I heard about this project, I figured there'd be people finding ways to abuse it.

I can see future generations sitting down for a good read:

MOBY COCK

Chapturd One

Call me LOLOLFAG...

Re:Validate your data, guys! (1)

Elastri (911062) | more than 5 years ago | (#24613255)

Hopefully they are only accepting a piece of text when a lot of the people give the same thing.

Re:Validate your data, guys! (1)

pz (113803) | more than 5 years ago | (#24613261)

Way to make the world a better place. I'm certain your parents are very proud of your accomplishments. Perhaps you can now go find someone else's sandbox to defecate in, I suggest your own, because I certainly would rather you not be here.

I have no doubt that the reCAPTCHA folks understand that there are going to be people who find such childish behavior irresisible or entertaining, and either start discounting such answers (based on IP address) or build in filtering to discount particular words.

But, really, you ask people to be good, to help improve the world, to, as Abraham Lincoln so eloquently put it, listen to our better angels of our nature, and this is what you get? Teenage boys who find it titillating to type bad words. My cup runneth over.

Re:Validate your data, guys! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24613317)

My cup runneth over.

That's because it's got two girls, too.

Re:Validate your data, guys! (1)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 5 years ago | (#24613633)

Tracking peoples' IP addresses all across the internets? They're lucky if that's all they have their database poisoned with.

Re:Validate your data, guys! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24617443)

Both words are from 'real old text'. You won't have any effect on the data output by putting 'penis' because more people will type the correct word.

Re:Validate your data, guys! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24620047)

Hopefully they are verifying with mutiple reCAPTCHAs of the same text.

Cool possible uses (4, Interesting)

Irish_Samurai (224931) | more than 5 years ago | (#24609379)

Man, I would love to see the results if this technique was used for an ontological [google.com] purpose.

Please type in the word from the choices below that most closely relates to this word: OLD

HISTORIC
LIFESPAN

Interesting shit indeed.

Re:Cool possible uses (5, Funny)

burgundysizzle (1192593) | more than 5 years ago | (#24609639)

Or perhaps SLASHDOT-READER:

OVERWEIGHT

GEEK

SPENDS-TO-MUCH-TIME-USING-COMPUTERS

ALL-OF-THE-ABOVE

I fit into the category ALL-OF-THE-ABOVE. The only generalisation that is missing about slashdotters is the one about girlfriends.

You forgot... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24610531)

COWBOY NEAL

Re:Cool possible uses (1)

dword (735428) | more than 5 years ago | (#24611999)

The only generalisation that is missing about slashdotters is the one about girlfriends.
Haha, loser, you don't have a girlfriend like all the other /.ers!
Everybody knows that all /.ers have girlfriends. I can even remember my first couple of imaginary lesbian girlfriends I made up when I first joined /.

your sig (1)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | more than 5 years ago | (#24610157)

is full of hyperbole, dogma, propaganda, and meaningless blatherings.

Re:your sig (1)

Irish_Samurai (224931) | more than 5 years ago | (#24610535)

That's kinda the point moron.

Let me introduce you to the concept of context.

Re:your sig (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24610931)

The obvious context and meaning of the site is, "OMFG the government is controlling your life! thats right you!" The sensationalistic overtones, selection bias, question begging, hand waving, appeals to fear and emotion, and inductive falacies of every flavour render the site a treasure trove of bad logic. I would definately use this in a class about the application of dogma. The message is good, but the delivery is evil.

Re:your sig (1)

Irish_Samurai (224931) | more than 5 years ago | (#24611055)

The linked page is self purporting. That's it's purpose.

If you are smart enough to see through it, you are smart enough to discredit it. In turn that makes it an example, not a message.

The problem with trying to communicate a message of the sort I link to is that the goal is to get you to scream "BULLSHIT!"

Parts apply and others don't, but they do provoke thought. Thought allows you to discard its catalyst for new ideas, but doesn't require it.

If you take the link as truth, you miss the point.

Re:your sig (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#24613743)

What context could possibly rescue those writings from being full of hyperbole, dogma, propaganda, and meaningless blatherings?

Re:Cool possible uses (1)

DrInequality (521068) | more than 5 years ago | (#24610241)

Surely that'd be relatively easy to hack by use of a thesaurus?
Or even google:
old+historic: 66,500,000
old+lifespan: 3,480,000


pwned!

Re:Cool possible uses (2, Informative)

Irish_Samurai (224931) | more than 5 years ago | (#24610525)

The point is to see what the populace thinks the relation is.

If you think google is the end all be all of absolute information then you already fail.

Re:Cool possible uses (1)

x2A (858210) | more than 5 years ago | (#24611477)

I bet it's not far from the truth! What's google but the indexing of the [online] expressions of the populace of which you speak?

Re:Cool possible uses (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 5 years ago | (#24612797)

But if you think google isn't good enough for a spammer, then YOU fail. Hah!

Re:Cool possible uses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24615743)

Use it to block spam. "Is this a real letter or not?" Make it a requirement to send an email and the spammers can cancel themselves out.

Huh? 1908 New York Times? (2, Funny)

mschuyler (197441) | more than 5 years ago | (#24609415)

The New York Times is already online from 1851 onwards. the concept is cool, truly, but why not CAPTCHA something not already accomplished? Oh, I know. That was, like, a metaphor, right?

Re:Huh? 1908 New York Times? (2, Insightful)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 5 years ago | (#24609531)

I am almost certain that it is not all there in its entirety. There are bits that are not online specifically because of OCR errors. That is going to be true with any large volume of OCRed text.

Re:Huh? 1908 New York Times? (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#24610093)

Yeah I was kinda wondering about that too, but from a different perspective... I mean: "So every time you solve that string of crooked letters, you may actually be helping historians digitally reconstruct a page from the 1908 New York Times."

What the hell is the problem with people? All text is apparently on a single page from the NY Times in 1908... I mean fuck, stop the press, cause its obviously all redundant shit anyways, just keep redistributing that one page across the world!

Re:Huh? 1908 New York Times? (1)

x2A (858210) | more than 5 years ago | (#24611535)

"Oh, I know. That was, like, a metaphor, right?"

If it was like a metaphor, does that make it a simile? No wait, this means you're using using metaphors as a simile? Hmm this could get confusing... perhaps we could make a reCAPTCHA like technology but with old metaphors instead of letters and create a big database of abstraction...

(ps: I am my own brother who wrote that above, so I am definitely confused, can someone help please?)

DMCA Violation (5, Funny)

Nymz (905908) | more than 5 years ago | (#24609449)

The feature known as FADING was designed to protect copyright works from being pirated by becoming illegible before the work could fall into the public domain.

Prior art (4, Funny)

armanox (826486) | more than 5 years ago | (#24609491)

I think that erosion on stone tablets predates fading by quite a bit....

Re:Prior art (1)

kvezach (1199717) | more than 5 years ago | (#24619155)

True freedom-lovers abhor that kind of DRM and carve on tungsten tablets before using CVD to coat them with diamond...

... you insensitive clod!

gmail captchas (2)

v1 (525388) | more than 5 years ago | (#24609561)

a little OT I know but is anyone else having a bad time with gmail's captchas? I've tried signing up several of our customers for gmail recently and it's becoming really hard to get them right. The "audio" playback used to be the saving grace, but the last two I did it sounded like ten people were talking to me all at once with no discernible key voice. (and last I succeeded, the string to be entered was spoken in three groups, by three different voices)

Re:gmail captchas (1)

TheModelEskimo (968202) | more than 5 years ago | (#24610455)

Yep, I do the same thing, signing clients up for Google services, and I get their captchas right about once every three or four tries. :-(

Re:gmail captchas (1)

x2A (858210) | more than 5 years ago | (#24611609)

Wow people are really goin to town with the offtopic mods *sigh* conversation nazis "you will follow STRICTLY the rules of conversation or your karma will be no more!!!". Such a waste, there are posts out there that need modding up than these slightly-offtopic posts need modding down!

And yes I have started coming across more captchas that do seem just impossible to read, they certainly know how to make you feel stupid 'n illiterate. Apparently it's a new system in place, like the one in the article, but for prescription notes from doctors... "if anyone can find someone who can read this, google can".

Wonder what else is difficult to read we could use this for... which way my gf's moodswings are gonna go? (haha guess which way it is at the moment... I'm here on slashdot, that should be a big clue :-p)

Image Captchas (3, Informative)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 5 years ago | (#24609613)

I've found implementing a simple "please choose the name of the item seen bellow" eliminates a large amount of spam (all?) but has the problem of not being viable for blind people.

Re:Image Captchas (1)

x2A (858210) | more than 5 years ago | (#24611661)

I find a bit of simple javascript works well, and is out of sight of genuine users. If you wanna account for people who block javascript (rather than a note saying "please turn on javascript for a sec, think of the children") you can have a captcha in a span or div etc, then use javascript to remove it and replace it with a hidden field with a name<-->value pair that can be compared server side when they post the form and have the values checked. Yes, someone could look at the page source and see what's going on and write a script that gets round it, but (unless you're really big like google) most of what tries to hit you will just be automated scripts that don't have javascript interpreters and so aren't going to post the completed form.

Re:Image Captchas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24613273)

Or for people whose first language isn't English. Oh you Americans, always so arrogant!

Re:Image Captchas (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 5 years ago | (#24613867)

But that is multiple choice, so it is easier to make a program that can guess the result.

One Problem (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24609629)

One FUNDAMENTAL problem with this, isn't the point of a captcha to descramble the letters to get access? If contents of the image shown is unknown, then doesn't that defeat the point entirely?

Re:One Problem (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24609689)

The following security test allows us to validate you are a human and not an automated script.

please type the following two words in the text box below

you moron

____________ _____________

Re:One Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24617611)

Ok, the guy didn't RTFA, lika many don't, but is this kind of reply really necessary? I would moderate it as rude rather than funny. (like this one [slashdot.org] a lot better). Guess I am getting old. :-(

Re:One Problem (1)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 5 years ago | (#24609705)

From TFA:

The software presents one optically unreadable word and one "control" CAPTCHA word. Getting the control word right identifies the user as a human, and the program records his or her response to the unreadable word and adds it to a database.

So, there is the real CAPTCHA, and another reCAPTCHA.

Re:One Problem (2)

brianez21 (945805) | more than 5 years ago | (#24611123)

One FUNDAMENTAL problem with this, isn't the point of a captcha to descramble the letters to get access? If contents of the image shown is unknown, then doesn't that defeat the point entirely?

Actually, you are correct that it won't work if the *entire image* is unknown. But with reCAPTCHA it is not. You see, reCAPTCHA works by showing two words, one of which is known and the other that is unknown. When the user gets the known word correct, it is assumed that the unknown word is atleast partially correct. This both validates the captcha and allows them to build their database of scanned "known" words. Of course, to prevent database poisoning, the "unknown" words are still given many times, in order to "cross reference" and reduce the chance human error.

Finally logged in (2, Funny)

narcberry (1328009) | more than 5 years ago | (#24609707)

Took me a bit to get past the new security measures, But I got a coupon 5 cents off my next shoe purchase.

reCAPTCHA and Open Source (1)

pwizard2 (920421) | more than 5 years ago | (#24609781)

Right about now, I'm wondering what the implications would be for including reCAPTCHA in an open source project. (a PHP-based blog I'm working on) Right now the blog is read-only, since I have yet to build my own working CAPTCHA system and putting up an unprotected reply form is sheer idiocysince it wil lbe a whole five minutes before the spam bots find it. My project is GPLv3, so would including ReCAPTCHA cause me some sort of licensing problem?

Re:reCAPTCHA and Open Source (1)

erbmjw (903229) | more than 5 years ago | (#24610009)

reCAPTCHA should not cause any licensing issues if all you do is link to their site via the "magic four lines of code" or use one of their plugins

from why reCAPTHCHA [recaptcha.net]

It's Easy. reCAPTCHA is a Web service. As such, adopting it is as simple as adding 4 lines of code on your site. For many applications and programming languages such as Wordpress and PHP we also have easy-to-install plugins available. We generate and check the distorted images, so you don't need to run costly image generation programs.

WordPress has a GPL license and a reCAPTCHA plugin; so I'd hazard a guess that the reCAPTCHA license is open source friendly.

Re:reCAPTCHA and Open Source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24612417)

Another licensing issue: who owns the books once they are digitized with reCAPTCHA? I can't find any mention of this on the reCAPTCHA website, or any digitized books.

Problems With ReCaptcha (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24609825)

I've seen a number of issues with reCaptcha that I don't really know how to handle (i.e. what to enter): 1. Multiple word strings 2. Foreign characters 3. Illegible Text 4. A single word for both entries 5. Words that look like one thing initially, but are really another when you look closer

Re:Problems With ReCaptcha (3, Informative)

Robotech_Master (14247) | more than 5 years ago | (#24610477)

I've seen one ReCAPTCHA string that was just a distorted entirely illegible blob of ink.

Just do what I did: click the "refresh" button to the right for a new word pair and enter that one.

Known unknown? (1)

halcyon1234 (834388) | more than 5 years ago | (#24610409)

How are they able to tell if I've accurately solved an unknown. If the word is "Yesterday" and I enter "Fucktard", not only will the society get some very wrong data, but I'll also have passed the CAPTCHA without entering the actual letters.

Re:Known unknown? (1)

Peyna (14792) | more than 5 years ago | (#24610439)

RTFA.

You get two captchas. One is your standard, let's find out if you're human captcha, where the program knows the answer. The other is the scanned text. It also presents the same scanned text to many people, and then uses the results to figure out which one is the most likely correct result.

It turns out... (2, Informative)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#24610689)

That slashdot's Goatse troll server guy proves useful.

Note: This is not a troll. One of the guys that offers open web services to slashdot trolls is also responsible for considerable development of CAPTCHA breakage and is an eminent Debian developer. This is why I've said that we should respect his efforts despite the unpleasant side effects. The truly brilliant we should grant exceptions from social behavior because they discover things more proper folk would not.

Re:It turns out... (1)

The End Of Days (1243248) | more than 5 years ago | (#24619983)

The truly brilliant we should grant exceptions from social behavior because they discover things more proper folk would not.

No. Just no. Being brilliant is no excuse for being an asshole.

Recaptcha doesn't recapture context (5, Interesting)

Mumei no koshinuke (1110677) | more than 5 years ago | (#24610969)

When solving these I sometimes find that there's more than one possibility for an illegible word, yet I can't tell which it is without knowing the context.
For example, in some fonts "cost" and "cast" might be indistinguishable in the image shown. But given the context of the sentence it's trivial for a human to tell the difference.
Suppose that they found these words on which people disagreed and had another captcha system which showed the full sentence. I'd guess they could improve their accuracy significantly in this case. Since they could prescreen for ambiguous words using the current captcha system, even if fewer people were willing to solve the "large" captcha, they would still get all the solutions they needed.

If most captchas are already cracked... (1)

Neoprofin (871029) | more than 5 years ago | (#24611345)

why don't they just use whatever software is used by the crackers to bombard us with spam email to go through all of these books are whatever speed they're capable of. If compromised PCs can send tens of thousands of fake emails, why not just set a few up to figure out these words/

How much worse is this than trusting users to correctly identify the text? I ask because I honestly don't know the succcess rate of the automated system.

Re:RTFA (2, Informative)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 5 years ago | (#24611503)

The authors also tested software designed to crack CAPTCHAs against images created using reCAPTCHA, and found that they failed completely. The authors ascribe this to the fact that the letters in scanned images contain distortions that are not the result of a clean mathematical transformation. User response times were also measured, but there were no significant differences between the time it took users to handle traditional systems and that required to use reCAPTCHA.

Use to hide your own email addy (5, Informative)

RJFerret (1279530) | more than 5 years ago | (#24611685)

You can also use reCaptcha for your own email address, and be more willing to provide it "publicly" since they'd have to answer the reCaptcha to get to the mailto... reCaptcha mailhide [recaptcha.net]

Interesting field (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24612005)

My company is working on digitizing a large volume of old text (19th century government documents). There are a number of problems unique to old text:
- OCR breaks down due to archaic letter shapes, smudging, letter damage and paper deterioration.
- we evaluated OCR versus having the entire text retyped by Indians, and ended up going with the Indians. The only way to get sufficient accuracy (>99%) was to have everything done twice and do a comparison.
- Even then, the typed text has to be checked using both automated and manual processes. The text is highly structured, which makes automatic checks possible, but we can't catch everything that way. Then again, the checks necessary for our text are more extensive than for an old newspaper.
- For old texts, your average spelling checker is useless. You end up adding loads of words to the dictionary.

ReCAPTCHA solves one of these problem (text entry), but I suspect a fair amount of work remains. E.g. sometimes you need context to decipher a word correctly.

Mechanical Turk (1)

Wormholio (729552) | more than 5 years ago | (#24613451)

The API for adding reCAPTCHA to your web site is fairly easy to use, and there are extensions or plug-ins for applications like MediaWiki, Joomla, Drupal, WordPress, phpBB, etc.

Just to try it out I set up a mechanical turk [spy-hill.net] using reCAPTCHA. So if you like the idea you can keep at it, instead of just solving one of them once. It can be a bit addicting.

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