GloPoWriMo2017: Day IV: Google (Revisited)

(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt…Well, it’s a bit of a sad one. Writing an elegy – a poem that mourns or honors someone dead or something gone by – could rarely be a purely happy experience. Perhaps bittersweet at best. But in following this prompt I hope I’ll find something sweet or funny or just down right dumb to say about a friend who was all those things and more, and who I lost some time ago now.)

You were the most adorable thing
I had ever seen when we met
You insisted on sleeping next to me
Or on me sometimes, in bed

You grew up like any human
With your angry angsty phase
But then mellowed out severely
In your grown old man days

We grew close and then apart
And in the end it seems all love was lost
That was my fault, I left
And then you lost the plot

You were a bully, an attention whore
A friend who always stole my seat
And god I hated your guts
When you pissed on my bag or sheets

Waking me in the middle of the night
Staring at me with those wide eyes
Trying, hilariously, to fit
In a box that was half your size

Garfeldian, Nirmalian
You were so many things in your time
I’ll always be your friend Googie
And you’ll always be mine

(Old readers may remember and note some throwbacks here to a poem I wrote for NaPoWriMo 2014 – “Google“)

Google – Day XIV – NaPoWriMo 2014

A friend known
For most his life
There in times
Of happiness and strife
With many natures
Bundled in one
Sitting pretty
In a ray of sun

You sleep all day
And spread all round
Waking me each morning
To your nagging sounds
A creature of sloth
And whim it’s true
Doing whatever
You want to

And though I may ponder
What lies in your mind
If ever the answer
I did find
I’m sure I’d see
That you care not
Of the why, the where
The how, when and what

How simple it must be
To be such a creature
No worries or cares
No pupils or teachers
Independent yet bound
By will or by fate
Not truly ever showing love
Nor ever hate

Just lie there my friend
And be content
For that is the purpose
For which you are meant
You are my companion
When you choose to be
And in those moments I do see

You are who you are
You will never alter
You will never doubt
Or hurdle or falter
And though you be limited
By life’s design
I am your friend
As you are mine

reCAPTCHA-D

Most if not all internet users are familiar with CAPTCHAs. They are possibly one of the most infuriating things ever. Everytime you go to share something from Stumble on your Facebook wall, everytime you think you’re almost done signing up for something, they spring up, throwing one more task for the ever in a hurry short attention span user (which is an ever growing demographic). However, though they can be quite annoying (and at times down right illegible) they do serve a purpose. They help fend off the only thing about the internet that is more annoying than CAPTCHAs themselves – SPAM. Lets face it, if you’re running  an online service or subscribing to one, SPAM can be a real hurdle. And the simple step of identification by verification of text can keep a lot of SPAM at bay. This blog itself receives dozens of SPAM comments per week (that number is low because for now I have a fairly limited web presence). This makes it tough to balance between convenience and security. On the one hand I would prefer not to have to go through these annoying SPAM comments, but once in a while there is actually a valid comment from an unkown poster that gets dragged into the net. On the other hand, I personally understand that many people read/comment on the fly and are deterred from doing so if it entails a further layer of verification.

There is another side to these CAPTCHAs though, one which some of you out there may already familiar with, but which I only recently stumbled upon. reCAPTCHA, a free online service, uses CAPTCHAs to digitize old books, newspapers and other media. The book pages are scanned, and then transformed into text using “Optical Character Recognition” (OCR). Only problem is, its not a perfect. So they ask the help of the individual users to help them out. Sounds great right? I mean why not contribute to the endeavour to preserve humanity’s literary culture and history while you keep away unwanted online messages? But is it really as simple as all that? Google provides this service free of charge for any online service. Think of the number of different sites that are using it. According to the reCAPTCHA site about 200 million CAPTCHAs are solved by humans worldwide everyday! This means a lot of free labour for Google’s book reader project. I mean would you stand for this in the real world – if someone asked you to come by and digitize books for them, free of charge, even if it was just say a few dozen words per day? Okay so maybe its not actually feasible to reward the individual for their efforts, but it still feels a bit unfair for you to help digitize a book for Google, and then maybe pay to read it later.

Google’s reCAPTCHA uses a two word CAPTCHA verification – one of which is usually easily legible while the otehr is distorted. The first of these is a control word, they have already digitized it, so even if you mess it up it won’t affect the verification. The second word, the distorted one, is the one that they need your help with. No software can read a distorted or angled word from the image produced by scanning the page. Once enough people have verified the word and they have a constant answer they assign it to that word (I’m not sure how many it actually takes). Theoretically then, if enough people wrote the wrong word for that particular image, it would be recorded in Google’s data banks as the incorrect word – which is exactly what a blog I recently read suggested, prompting people to type in a particular derogatory word, used to refer to people of African descent, in an effort to have that word then show up in digitized copies of books worldwide. The standard two word CAPTCHA isn’t the only one you encounter ofcourse. There are other options – ones that contain an image of a number and an image of a distorted word; ones that pose a question and have a drop down list of answers; ones that are quotes or pop culture references. These don’t work for Google’s digitizing project (I believe) but serve the purpose of verification to avoid Spamming activities.

To some extent though I suppose this a moot point. This tech has been running for ages. And fot the most part, despite how it may annoy us, we’ve made our peace with it. CAPTCHA exists, and if the site you’re using employs it, there’s really no way around it. The question is whether we’re going to see better methods of online verificationin the future (I’m betting Google hopes not).

For more information on the reCAPTCHA service and how it use it for yourself go here: Google’s reCAPTCHA

Adventures in House Sitting: Part II: Geek’s Night Out

I spent most of yesterday out of the house – in fact I never actually made it home, but we’ll get to that. Thursdays are generally gruelling – I have two back-to-back lectures – that’s 4 straight hours of class. So I usually count on my cappuccino from Costa to get me through it.

Yesterday was actually a lot better than most weeks. My International Comparative Copyright class was being taken by Jonathan Griffiths, who is also my dissertation supervisor, and we were covering Moral Rights, which I personally find really interesting. It’s also a core part of my dissertation so it was good to hash out a few interesting questions in class. My second lecture was for Cyberspace Law, where we were covering Data Protection and Privacy. Now to the lay man that mind sound pretty boring, but man would you be wrong. It’s actually a very interesting topic and something the average person should definitely know more about. Do you know what to do of Facebook sells the information you upload to marketing companies so they can target advertise? Do you know if they’re actually legally permitted to do something like that? What about the fact that the ads on he right side of Facebook or your Gmail account seem to know exactly what your interests are? Do you know how that works, or did you just think it was a coincidence? Well it’s questions like this that we’re dealing with. If you’re interested read up, you might be shocked. And check it out this video, you might never use your Gmail again! Google’s Master Plan

After lectures a bunch of us trekked across to Embankment to attend a Reception and tour of The National Liberals Club (more on that in another post). After, I ended up having a pint with some people around the corner, this is where the night of Geeking officially began! My friend Jose and I basically spent most of our time over drinks talking about video games, movies, comic books, the media and probably half a dozen other things. Quick highlights (so that I don’t lose you like we lost the other people we were with last night!)

  • Tarantino – I said Pulp Fiction is overrated, he said that you should look at it in its time, for which it was groundbreaking, but agreed that its not Tarantino’s best – we both agree that most of the people who say they love it, love it for the wrong reasons
  • Braveheart – He said it was overrated, I said he must be outside his mind. Also Mel Gibson’s movies were better before he went insane.
  • Die Hard – My preference order 1,3,2,4. His 1,3,4,2
  • GL vs Superman – I’ve been having this particular debate with dozens of people over the last week. I still say GL – he seemed a bit on the fence

When we finally got back to his place (around 1) the night was far from winding down, what followed was hours of more Geek talk, a few quick Poker tournis and then some more card based games, but the dueling and fantasy kind. Warhammer Invasion in particular was a lot fun, and I’m told that I actually drew a rather strong class, but a lack of luck in drawing some of the better cards got me thrashed.

After a morning (or rather early afternoon) of more geeking – this time talking Graphic novels, Sandman in particular (one of my favs!) and some fun Lego riddles (which you can find on Gizmodo) I’ve finally made my way back to the couch at Leslie’s – question is what now – study or veg? Hmmm…