Evil (Information) Scientist

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Internet literacy kills spam dead

Posted by Nathaniel on October 2, 2007

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg have come up with an innovative way to weed out comment spam while helping to preserve old books and manuscripts. Using an application they developed called reCAPTCHA, webmasters (and blog owners) can install a small program on their sites that commenters must fill out in order to leave a comment. Potential commenters are presented with two, almost illegible words that they must decipher in order to post their comment.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

This is much like the spam guard that Blogger offers where commenters must correctly type distorted letters to leave a comment. Spam comments from spambots cannot read the distortions and so comment spam cannot be posted. Humans can decipher these figures, and also the distorted manuscript items, and are permitted to leave their comments.

The interesting part is where the words are from and what they do. Many libraries and archives opt to digitize their older books and manuscripts in order to preserve them. Some scan them as image files, while others attempt go a step further and scan these images using text recognition programs. Unfortunately these programs are unable to recognize words distorted by older printing practices or age. That’s where reCAPTCHA comes in.

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The distorted words are placed in the comment spam guard in order to be deciphered. As users type them in the information is plugged into the documents they came from. Little by little the files are completed and older items are ready for public use. This a very imaginative and practical use of technology in the archive and library setting.

BBC – “Spam weapon helps preserve books”
Carnegie Mellon University
Images from BBC – “Spam weapon helps preserve books”


4 Responses to “Internet literacy kills spam dead”

  1. Judy said

    This is nothing short of brilliant!

  2. Nathaniel said

    Yeah, it’s pretty cool, eh. But don’t tell the archive students unless you want to listen to a big, long lecture on context or something.

  3. Kate said

    Hey hey now. I’m an archives student and I think it’s pretty cool! Practice underpins theory in my mind 😉

  4. klara said

    This is the coolest little trick ever. I’d love to know who was the genius that came up with this!!

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