Human cycles not wasted

Luis von Ahn creates simple games that have people solve problems that computers can’t (Google video). Every time you play a game of Taboo, the hinter generates associations between words and the guesser, by guessing the correct word, is verifying the quality of those associations. By isolating players via the web and collecting their responses, on online version of Taboo could generate mountains of data that help computers associate words with other words. Luis took this idea and created several games that use humans to associate words with images, objects within images with words, even words with what they mean… My favorite bit is that, given the same input (eg. a card in Taboo), he gets more good data by recording the actions of all human players and using them against other live players or even other recordings. Eg. Jim and Jane play a game. When Mike comes along, the computer can use Jane’s recorded actions as Mike’s partner. If Steve and Sue also played, the computer could even go back and match Steve’s recording against Jane’s and Jim’s against Sue’s, generating even more data without any human involvement. These “zero player” games wouldn’t give you new associations, but could aid in ranking them.


This game is all about scale. Think “The Sims” from the molecular level to the galactic with everything in between. At least watch long enough to see your animal doin’ it (soft jazz with sax helps set the mood). As a programmer, this thing makes my greatest accomplishments feel like Pong.

Alachua County Library Bookmarklet

Whenever you’re on a page with an ISBN in the URL, like Amazon or some other bookish site, activate ACL to pop-up a search for that book within the Alachua County Library Catalog.

This was generated with the LibraryLookup Project‘s Bookmarklet builder, which can build a similar bookmarklet for any library using one of 16 popular web catalog systems. Very nice. People are also turning these into Greasemonkey/UserJS scripts so you don’t even have to click; when the page loads, your browser queries the library and adds a link to the page like “This book is available now at the library!”. Some even report back how many copies at which branches, etc..

The great thing about bookmarklets and userscripts is that with a tiny bit of code you can force independent systems to work together for your benefit. Um..also because I can save these crazy YouTube videos the kids seem to love.

Desperately Seeking: My Youth

More accurately, Skate Videos!!! G&S’s “Footage” (1990, I might‘ve seen it) and Transworld’s “The Dreams of Children” (1994, don’t remember seeing it) and “Sick Boyz” (1988).

“Sick Boyz” must’ve had some great distribution because our little skate shop in Huntington, WV had it, yes, on Beta. I put good mileage on my tethered remote control and watched slow-mo shots of Natas Kaupas and Julien Stranger doing probably the first ollie boardslides on handrails in Santa Monica, CA.

And this is amazing. Designed by skater Rob Dyrdek, his hometown in Ohio built a skate “plaza”, a more natural concrete/nature park with reproductions of various world famous skate spots. It’s basically a real version of a THPS level with benches, handrails, gaps, planters…