reCAPTCHA: stop spam. read books.

This is really cool. reCAPTCHA is a free CAPTCHA service that asks the user to type two words. They know the first word, but the second comes from a failed OCR scan. If you get the first word right, reCAPTCHA assumes you’re human, and they store your answer to the second word…they even run it by a few other humans to raise the confidence. Not only are you authenticated, you’re transcribing. According to reCAPTCHA, “in aggregate these little puzzles consume more than 150,000 hours of work each day”.

[For the record, I don’t know anyone at reCAPTCHA. I found them while reading up on CAPTCHAs for work.]

Talking about Software and the Nac Mac Feegle

I was talking with a co-worker about how people imagine obstacles that aren’t really there. You ask them to do something perfectly reasonable, and they tell you it’s impossible, because of these imaginary obstacles. You have to first show them the obstacle isn’t there, and then things can proceed. “Oh,” I said, “it’s just like First Sight. Have you ever read the Wee Free Men?” This is a first for me — talking about software, communication, going from idea to implementation…and referencing a children’s book about small blue fighting Scotsmen known as the Nac Mac Feegle, or Wee Free Men. It’s one of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels.

The idea of First Sight is that you see what’s actually there, instead of seeing only what you want to see. It goes along with Third Thoughts — First Thoughts are regular thoughts, Second Thoughts are thoughts about the first thoughts, and Third Thoughts are thoughts about your thinking. Kind of meta-thoughts.

If you haven’t read the Wee Free Men, it’s a short read, and a lot of fun. It has so far one sequel, A Hat Full of Sky.

“Nac Mac Feegle! The Wee Free Men! Nae King! Nae quin! Nae Laird! Nae master! We willna’ be fooled agin!”