Form spam (from spammers who trawl the net looking for and auto filling in contact and comment forms) is an inevitable part of running a website nowadays. If you have received blank contact forms or forms filled with junk & links, you know what I am talking about! However, there are some great tools for helping to get rid of this nuisance. None are perfect, but they will definitely reduce the problem. One of the most widely used is the CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart). These are the (sometimes annoying) systems which ask you to decipher distorted words & enter them into a text box. The logic is that this task is relatively easy for humans, but difficult for automated systems. One very useful implementation of this system is the Google reCAPTCHA tool, which is a free captcha generator/processor that can easily be incorporated into any form. But, as I learned this week, this system has an interesting secondary purpose. It is assisting in the digitisation of works of literature. To digitise books, a system called OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is used to recognise the scanned shapes of letters and convert them into text. OCR is not perfect, and some words are not identified correctly. To address this issue, Google feed these words into their Captcha system, and ask users to decifer them. You can find out more about the process here. So remember, they may be slightly annoying, but at least you are helping to make more and more literature available on line, and it seems to work! If you would like some help using implementing the system on your site, get in touch.