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I’m not a robot

April 11th, 2016 admin

Have you ever been on a website and hit one of these:


What is it and why do I have to tick the box?   Well, it’s called a “Captcha” and it’s a way for a website to protect itself from getting spammed.

As an example, a lot of people I know have been voting recently for the Kraft Hockeyville competition (Go Tata!) via a website voting page.   Now if there wasnt a Captcha on the page, it’d be possible to write a program to just repeatedly click the page and submit thousands of votes.   By placing a puzzle on the page that only humans can understand, you can stop this from happening.

But did you know you’re actually teaching a computer in the process?

Captchas initially looked like this (you might have seen these before):


This all stems from an attempt to scan 1000s of old books that are out of copyright and make them searchable online.

To do this, the books are scanned and then “read” by computers using a technique called “OCR” (Optical Character Recognition).   But computers aren’t as good as humans at this job.   In the example above, a computer would be able to make out the “$9000” but would probably struggle on the “starker”.

So to help out, each time you complete one of these captchas the service is using you to help read the text.   It puts two words up, one of which it knows, the other it doesn’t.    It uses the word it knows as a test to verify that you’re not cheating and writing random words.

Recently the system has been extended to include images – including those taken for street view maps.   You have to wonder what benefit this is to Google – is it to help their self driving cars read roadsigns?

So next time you hit one of these tests, remember that you’re helping a computer learn to read text or maybe a car learn how to read road signs!


Google Grants–Free Advertising for Non-Profits

November 14th, 2011 admin

Are you working for/with a non-profit organisation?   If you are, you should take a look into “Google Grants”.

The scheme is designed to provide free advertising to charities through the Google AdWords system and also includes non-commission based Google Checkout.

If you’re accepted into the program, your organisation is entitled to up to $330 “per day” of free advertising!    There are strict rules over the content and target of the adverts, but with a little work, you could be driving a lot of relevant traffic to your organisation.

I’ve worked with in Halifax to implement this and will be helping them to use the service to increase awareness of the great work they do.

Google Search and Circles

July 26th, 2011 admin

Having played with Google Plus and Circles, one of the features missing is good search function.    You can search for people to follow by name, but that’s about it.

The missing feature is even more surprising given that this is “Google” we’re talking about.   If anyone can do search properly, it’s them!

Did you know however, you can use the standard search engine to search through user profiles?

You can use the “” operator to return search results from user profiles.

For example – to find profiles of people who’ve lived/are living in Halifax Nova Scotia:



You could even set up a Google alert based on the search to email you when someone nearby signs up for Google+

It’s not just location you can search for – it could be people with similar interest too.


Get searching!