Wednesday, November 28, 2007

digital recycling

I think most intelligent people would agree that there's way too much stuff in the world. Too much marketing, too much choice - and more specifically, too much repetition. We've become more sensitive about all this for several reasons. Climate issues have caused us to demonize physical excess (packaging and waste) and our ability to flit effortlessly between alternative content online has heightened our awareness of unnecessary digital repetition.

There's good news though.

Recently, Open Social has promised to demolish the brickwork around so-called walled gardens, meaning programmers only need to build one version of their applications, mobile phone manufacturers have agreed to standardize power plugs and wiki-apps have allowed us to work together on single documents rather than create a dozen versions. I also like Zeus Jones' cheeky website - which hijacks existing services, rather than building a new interface to talk about itself.

And why not? Must everyone that wants attention create something entirely new? It seems crazy. (Although it didn't stop Microsoft from creating Virtual Earth and doubling up on thousands of man-hours of programming started by Google)

I've been obsessed with this idea of digital/cultural recycling for a long time and just came across a wonderful example. It seems fitting that I stole it without asking from Nathan. It's called Recaptcha.


Recaptcha cleverly uses the human input needed for security Captchas to digitise books. Brilliant. Here's a better explanation of how Recaptcha works.

There is huge potential for this kind of thing. When millions of people are tapping away at computers every day: filling in forms, clicking links, forwarding emails, there is energy and effort that can easily be re-used if we're smart about it.

Has anyone got any other good examples of this kind of thing? I'd love to hear them and it saves me from sitting here trying to think of hypothetical ones.

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