06 February 2013

Luis von Ahn: Massive-scale online collaboration -- Really Neat Genealogy Applications


Have you ever used Captcha as a security measure?  If you have, you are part of one of Luis von Ahn’s online collaborative projects.


And, you have been helping to digitize a book just by filling out a Captcha!  Back in 2008 I wrote an article on how ReCaptcha (a version of the basic Captcha program) explaining how we are digitizing those books.  As genealogists and family historians – we like to see books digitized and the older the better!


Well, Luis von Ahn has another collaborative project that’s now live, Duolingo!

Duolingo is a free service that helps you learn languages with your friends while simultaneously contributing to translate real-world content from the Web.

We frequently have talked about machine translation and how far it’s come, most recently in Bye bye Babel: Breaking language barrier onlines .  And, it’s far from perfect!  Anything that helps translate the contents of the web from it’s native language into other languages and vice versa, again benefits genealogists and family historians.


Do watch this video on Ted.com – where Luis von Ahn talks about both projects and his motivations.  The above image reflects one of many "unfortunate" justapositions of words that have been identified in ReCaptcha and to which humorous images have been attached.

As you might guess, this makes part of the video quite funny though it is incredibly informative. Who says learning cannot be fun?!?!  Though the video talks about the Duolingo project in the future (it is dated 2011), the project is live via the link given previously.

The Duolingo website also has a video (lower left) which talks about how the project is able to provide free language courses.

I can't wait to see what might be his next project!


I also came across this article 7 Global Online Collaboration projects that are changing the world.  This post talks about the two projects already mentioned and a few others.  Check it out!


Now that we have books being digitized (Captcha) and non-English ones being translated (Duolingo) what next frontier of online massive scale collaboration would you like to see that would benefit the research of our ancestors?  Especially ones like these where it's not obvious that you are performing a service as you ensure that your transaction is secure or you learn a new language.

Are you aware of other online massive scale collaboration projects which benefits ancestor hunters?



Editor’s Note: Thanks to NGS board member Barbara Renick for bringing the video and Duolingo to my attention.

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