me and abe

recaptcha: crowdsourcing in action

You know those little CAPTCHA images you get on forms - it's usually a word or a string of letters that are all "crumpled" looking. It's supposed to be easy for humans to see but difficult (or impossible) for computers to understand, to keep those nasty spambots out.

Recaptcha is one of the services that offers it - for free. They have plugins for lots of platforms to make implementation easy. And how do they pay for it all? Not with advertising. A: They sell digitizing services.

  1. books/text is messy - can't be read accurately by OCR software
  2. thousands of people identifying what a messy word says
  3. recaptcha
  4. profit!!!

It's the perfect combination.

I think that if we can build games based on the same principle, we'll increase our collective computational power exponentially. What if all those millions of hours people spent playing WoW were actually spent doing useful work?

I think if we were really cool about it, we could train an AI with it.

See also : Google Image Labeler
me and abe

nanowrimo reflections

As Elbert Hubbard said, "There is no failure except in no longer trying."

So I officially failed NaNoWriMo this year. I knew this about halfway through.
I got sick on the 3rd or 4th day in and instead of trying to double-duty writing and working with getting well, I just took a break and rested for a few days. That killed my momentum. I also realized about a week in that I should have done much more planning. The idea that my muse would just turn on and the characters would "write themselves" was, in retrospect, idealistic. I started with a bunch of ideas. Situations and elements that I wanted to include in my story. Unfortunately, elements do not have wills of their own - they need characters to animate them. Had I started with fully-formed characters, they may have been more willing to write their own story. I did have a couple of good sketches at the beginning, but it wasn't enough.

I did some fantastically productive procrastinating, though: working on dormant projects, trying my hand at the guitar again. Towards the end of the month, I realized that even if I wasn't going to work on a *novel*, I should still try and write *something* every day. At this point, I wished that had been my goal all along. I have plenty of half-formed blog posts and partially-birthed essays lying around on my computer, and if I had made it a goal to publish one of those every day I could have had a very productive month. Unfortunately, I was too stuck on the "No" part of NaNoWriMo when I should have been thinking of it as NaWriMo.

Ah well, water under the bridge. I've learned the lessons this year for how to make next year successful. Here's to more creative output in 2010!
me and abe

wedding date announcement: Mar. 28

Effie and I will be getting married March 28th! Save the date! Invitations forthcoming...
of course, we have to design the darn things first, then get them printed, and then mail them out... and it would probably be good to have a complete guest list first... oh jesus the organization required is daunting... and doing it on a budget? ugh... can we just crash someone else's wedding? ;)
me and abe


I'm at a festival that's like Flipside, except that people are charging tips for things like drinks, not officially vending, but obviously breaking the spirit of the thing. I wander around with my cousin or with Effie for a while, they wander off to do other things and I'm wandering around alone. I see some dudes all dressed in black dress clothes setting up what looks like a kick-ass dance scene for when it gets dark - they've blacked out all the walls and ceiling/floor in a hallway and are putting up black lights. I remind them to mark the stairs so people don't trip when they're leaving. I hear about some camp giving away free goodies (but it's hush-hush so don't tell anyone) and wonder if there's any left. I realize I need to pee, so I duck into a weird unisex bathroom that has stalls for both men & women, as I'm peeing, this asian dude walks up to me and starts talking at me. It's clear I have violated their turf or gotten myself into some kind of trouble with his gang. He starts talking about how they apply pressure to people, sometimes they just take money, sometimes they dig through the person's past to find useful information. I don't like where this is going.
"What's the easiest way for me to get out of this?" I ask.
"B-boys. You've gotta take a class and join our B-boys team."
"No shit!?? I would totally do that! I've always wanted to learn to break dance!"
"But you can't move. We had one guy who was taking class 3 days a month and he moved and...."

and then the doorbell rings.
Feral Gnome Ranger

demurrage currency

Interesting concept for the week: demurrage currency, or money which accumulates negative interest.

The conceptual key to understanding this shift involves changing the "arrow of time" in the investment process. Under the present system, the discounted present value of any investment has to be higher than the interest rate of a risk-free government bond. This implies that anything that produces value more than twenty years in the future is basically worthless today, thus providing a systemic incentive not to care about the long-term consequences of our actions. With demurrage, the incentive works in the opposite way: income in the future would become more valuable than income today, thereby automatically prioritizing the long-term implications of today's actions.

Once the basic necessities of life are covered, the logical uses of money in this new context would include investing in ways that will reduce expenses in the future (pay back mortgages, improve home insulation, improve energy efficiencies, start one's own food gardens) and investing in anything that will keep, or increase in, value (land improvements, trees and forests, and anything else that grows over time).

See also: Kondratiev wave. New culprit for the recession: Science!