TWEET: Massive-scale online collaboration

After re-purposing CAPTCHA so each human-typed response helps digitize books, Luis von Ahn wondered how else to use small contributions by many on the Internet for greater good. In this talk, he shares how his ambitious new project, Duolingo, will help millions learn a new language while translating the Web quickly and accurately — all for free.

Massive-scale online collaboration

via Twitter

January 25, 2017 at 08:57AM

On one level I admire the idea of harnessing the combined efforts of millions of individuals to solve a problem.  I’m aware that similar ‘crowd sourcing’ has been used to identify potentially habitable planets and in the identification of abnormal cells.  In a similar vein I tried (unsuccessfully) to get the company I work for involved in using the processing power of our PCs for cancer research, while the computers were not being used a night.

My only issue with this type of distributed / networked effort is when it’s done in a covert way.  I’ve mentioned the ulterior motive of RECAPTCHA to a few friends and work colleagues and none of them knew that it was being used to digitise books.  As a result their first reaction was a feeling of having been ‘used’, regardless of whether digitising the books in question would be to the greater good.

In my view this type of ‘covert’ activity, however well intended, risks adding to public fears about the misuse of data.

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