Although instances such as Reality TV, the proliferation of people who talk like valley girls, and the Republican party cause me to fear the downfall of civilization, there are a few glimmers of ingenuity that truly impress me.
My morning NPR podcast was one such moment.
The story explores how a programmer who helped develop a common security measure for the web found a way to utilize it for an unexpected and beneficial secondary purpose.
If you’ve purchased concert tickets on the web (something I’ve done way too often) you’ll be familiar with the Word Verification System that requires you to type in a word that is displayed in order to prove that you’re not some inhuman, malicious ticket-hoarding program.
The programmer realized that the words being identified could be from scanned books set to be digitized but were too badly distorted or degraded for OCR programs to decipher. Thus allowing people like me to contribute to the collective knowledge of the internets albeit unknowingly.
I’m basically paraphrasing the article so go read for yourself and be impressed.