Thanks to Christoph Wagner's translation, there is a new German version of fastr. Having translated the tags into three languages now, I can say with some experience that flickr desperately needs to improve language support. The entire system assumes everyone is using the same language, but they obviously are not. So when you search tags for strand, you don't get pictures of strands; you get pictures of beaches, because "strand" is German for beach. And "boot" is a mixture of boots and boats, because "boot" is German (and Dutch?) for boat.

This isn't really that much of a problem for English speakers because the English tags tend to dominate any overlap with another language, but all those people using flickr with non-English tags are getting a semi-broken service. And at two years old, flickr doesn't have much excuse for not dealing with this problem. Anyway, there's a German version of fastr now, but it's missing a bunch of tags because of substantial language overlap with English tags.

 

If you're interested in seeing new tags on fastr, I've added a suggest-a-tag page for the English version (the only version getting much play), which will check if the tag is already in use, and point you to the related flickr page to verify the tag is guess-able form the photos. The suggested tags will be reviewed by Jessica or I periodically and added if deemed appropriate.

 

Completely Idiotic is a Firefox Greasemonkey script to automate Stavros the Wonderchicken's "Completely Idiotic" game. Example screen capture from foxnews.com:

 

We're using electronic media to spread this benchmarking message far and wide. Because there's always a company offering a better or cheaper or faster product, or a person who's more clever than Oprah or cuter than Tyra, it's easy to shop around, to demand more, to be constantly dissatisfied.

Seth Godin

Dissatisfaction is the natural result when everything you don't have is very important. I'm not convinced "relationships" is the solution, though. Seems a bit trite.

 

Stop The Funny#8482; writes My personal view is that branding and marketing are, strategically, value free. What counts are the questions and answers you feed into the machine. I think this wrongly assumes the machine will accept any questions and answers. In reality, you can only market for something's increasing importance. There's no way to market the unimportance of something.

So we have marketing for the importance of Coke and marketing for the importance of Pepsi, but there's no marketing for the (true) idea that neither are important. There's no one advertising against anything. In many cases, it's even illegal to do so. I couldn't possibly run marketing saying "Coke is crap. It's just a bunch of chemicals that are rotting your body and some drugs that make you want to keep drinking it. And Pepsi is the same thing in a different package. Neither are important to your happiness or well-being, so stop buying them."

 

After what seems like approximately three hundred requests that I stop the cheating on fastr, I've finally relented and done something about it. The answer is now sent encrypted, and then your guess is encrypted before comparing with the answer. At the end of the set, if you didn't guess it, the browser sends a "give up" signal back to the server, which gives you the answer in plain text, and sets your score to zero, so you can't "give up" and then submit an answer.

You can still cheat, of course. You can open a second window that's slightly ahead in time, and see pictures before guessing in your first window. Or you can refresh your browser after you know it and get ten points. Or you can "give up" under one name and then submit an answer under a different name. But those are all manual cheats, and I expect you'd get tired of doing that eventually. What you can't do any more (as far as I know, at least) is set up a script to automatically cheat for you.

You also can't make long names with no spaces so that they go outside the designated name box. No one asked for that, but it was annoying me, so I fixed it. And the rounds are now six minutes now, which allows for exactly ten sets of photos, plus a ten second break to look at who won. The last set of your first round might get cut off in the middle, but that shouldn't happen after it gets synched up at the end of a round.

I also pulled all the text into localization files, which will make it much easier to create versions in new languages. But I haven't seen many people playing the other languages, so I'm not sure that's even worth the trouble. I'll let the translation volunteers decide that.

In any case, between these last few fixes and the API, I've managed to delegate (that's the verb form of lazy) most of the future work onto other people. So I don't expect to be spending a lot of time working on fastr now. I think it's about time to call it done and move on to another project.

 

Last week, Shelley Powers wrote about web browsers in terms of "Cane and Able," which was strikingly similar to the old tale of Cain and Abel. Today Danny Ayers wrote about the upper- and lower-case semantic webs in terms of the Garden of Eden, and added a disclaimer at the end ...if anyone feels uncomfortable with my use of Judaic mythology here...

In both cases, I think discussing technology in terms of a shared mythology makes for much more interesting — and thus easier — reading. It's too bad we don't have more shared mythology from which to draw. Certainly we have more mythology than we ever have before, but it's less and less shared. I can discuss complex issues in terms of Battlestar Galactica, but how many people will understand the references? How many people even understand the Biblical references today?

I know many people who are worried about the loss of "morals" (which more often than not means "the right to be comfortable among homogeneous people" — but that's another post) in society, but I think more troubling is the loss of shared stories. Even if someone were able to write a modern epic, commonly accessible by a wide variety of cultures throughout the world, I think there's a modern intolerance for believable fiction that would kill the story before it spread.

In the past, we could weave a lie in with the truth, and make a new truth from it. I think that's how most religions have begun. But I'm not sure we can do that today.

 

A couple weeks back, Jessica and I had some people over, and half the people played poker, while the other half played Scrabble. Ian and I were talking about this later and came up with the idea of mixing the two games. Jessica and I just tried out this idea, and found it quite fun, possibly even more fun than both poker and Scrabble. So if you like both games, you may want to try combining them.

A quick web search found that there's already a similar game for mobile phones called WordKing Poker. That games has various rules, but it's all human vs. computer, which I don't think would be very fun. Here's the game we played:

It's basically like Texas Hold'em, replacing playing cards with Scrabble tiles, best word wins. After ante, each player draws two tiles. Then there's a round of betting. Then three tiles are laid on the table, face up. Then betting, then another tile on the table, then betting, then another tile, and a final round of betting.

Words can be from one to seven letters long, and must include at least one letter from the player's hand. Points from each letter are added to bonuses for long words. We ended up with two points for a six-letter word, and eight for a seven-letter word.

We only played for about a half hour, so I suspect the rules could use some more tweaking, but it was a lot of fun. And I suspect it would be even more fun with more players. I might actually make a web version if I ever get done fixing bugs with fastr.

 

I was looking at Gullible.info, trying to figure out if all of the interesting trivia facts there are false, or just some of them, and thinking about how these are the kind of untruths that get propogated because they sound just close enough to what we know to be true that we don't question them, sort of like "markets are conversations."

And that prompted me to look at the Cluetrain.com#8482; website, where I noticed for the first time that there's a fourth author's name on the cover of the book, someone I'd never previously heard anything about. Rick Levine has a page just like the other "ringleaders", but it's not linked from the front page, unlike all the others.

Turns out Rick Levine runs hatfactory.com with his brother, and that's about the extent of his life on the web. Unlike the other three, he doesn't have a Wikipedia entry discussing his authorship of the Manifesto. An astrologer of his namesake has a higher rank in both Google and Technorati.

I wonder if there isn't more story here. At the very least it's high irony that among the authors of the "markets are conversations" Cluetrain Manifesto, the only one who actually makes a living marketing a product on the web (as opposed to telling others how to market on the web, or just marketing the web as a market), is so entirely absent from the conversation.

 

I took a stab at adding hAtom markup to the Microformat Base (and prettied it up a bit). I'm not sure if it's valid hAtom, because there's not yet anything to validate hAtom. But it's valid XHTML and it's structured information, so it can be parsed to syndicate this data.

For example, someone could (and should) subscribe to all Microformat Base events for 2006, and run each new page through lifelint to generate RDF or iCal files, which can then be combined to create a yearly calendar. Different calendars could be generated from different searches, and you could even pull tags out of the pages, lookup the tags on flickr, and use the related photos as monthly calendar images for printable calendars.

All the data is there, structured, waiting to be parsed and used for something interesting.

 

I've built in two function calls for anyone interested in making any changes to fastr. They're filters on the scores and the photos, which take HTML fragments as input and should give back edited HTML fragments as output. Both are called before the HTML is inserted into the page. You could use this, for example, to highlight certain names in the scores (as FastrFriends does) or make the photos larger, such as I've done in the sample bookmarklet here:

For Firefox: biggr — for other browsers: biggr

If you drag that into your bookmarks toolbar and then click it while playing fastr, future sets of photos will be bigger. This is a common request that I haven't implemented because I didn't want to increase the minimum system requirements for players (i.e. bigger screen and faster connection.) But now it's possible for only people who want bigger photos to get them.

The JavaScript function names are scoreFilter and photoFilter. If you have any questions, or make anything you'd like to share with everyone else, please leave a comment here.

 

I'm offended. Those people, by their actions, have demonstrated the essentially corrupt nature of their society and culture. Their behaviour, which all right-minded people should be offended by, should be universally condemned. If anything shows that we are right and they are wrong, this is it.

Chris Bertram

 

I am motioning at the stereo, making a clicking motion. I am trying to rate the track so that my liking it will be remembered.

Ezra Kilty

I had a similar experience when I first started using my iPod. I would do key commands on my laptop to rate the song, not realizing that it wasn't playing on my computer any more.

 

I have an idea for a service that I think would be neat, but I don't have the resources to make it. So I submit this into the ether for someone else to make. The idea is anonymous ad-hoc email groups, sort of like wikis for email groups.

It would be sort of like mailinator, where email addresses are created on the fly. Only instead of those emails just sitting on the server, they would go out to anyone subscribed to the group, which could be done as simply as sending an email to the group's address or typing the name of the group into a simple text box.

Such a service could be used to facilitate ad-hoc discussion groups around any topic. In this post, for example, I could encourage readers to send an email to anonymous.public.ad-hoc.email.groups@wiki4email.com (available) if they'd like to talk about this idea. If they already had an account under the email address they sent from, they would be automatically added to that group. If not, they'd get a response with a password they could use to login to a website, where they could type any number of email addresses into a list and subscribe to any group they wanted.

I'm currently working on dynamic email addresses at work (e.g. department or location-based email groups that auto-update based on our employee database), so that's what got me thinking about it. I only have a few vague ideas for use cases, but that's part of why I like the idea so much. It's such an open-ended platform that it would encourage others to experiment and find innovative new ways to use ad-hoc email groups.

Like any communications system, the big worry would be spam. But I think a simple registration process and no one really knowing how many people are subscribed nor what the groups even are, would cut that down significantly. The service would require a custom-built email server, though, and one that could process a lot of email very quickly. So I think one of the bigwig web players should do it. Or at least quickly buy up someone else who does it. In any case, I'd like to play with it, so I hope someone will make it.

 

A few people have suggested that I should make a memory-style game based on flickr images. As I have told these people, this game was already made a long time ago. It's called Flick-a-Pair. As chance would have it, the person who made this game, Shelley Powers, was also the first to play fastr (from outside my house).

I don't have any plans to make another version of Flick-a-Pair, nor any other flickr-based game. It's fun to be famous on the internet for a day or two, but it just doesn't pay well enough to be worth all the time involved. I'm willing to waste my time on fastr, because I'd just be otherwise wasting my time playing some other game (most likely at Kurnik). But fastr is just not the business opportunity many have mistaken it for. It's just a fun little game.

 

I just rememberd when i was in fourth grade, deciding that I had to stay skinny because I wanted to grow up to be a feminist and if I were fat everyone would think I was just angry cuz I was fat.

— a friend, via email

 

Some bright fastr players have pointed out (by exploiting) two bugs that allowed impossible scores. One involved sending a non-number as the score (which I fixed by only accepting numbers as scores). The other involved sending a negative score (which I fixed by not allowing negative scores). Both were simple enough to fix, just problems I hadn't considered previously.

I know at least one, and possibly both, were discovered by a player named "cheatrs nevr prospr," which I must say is a clever (clevr?) name. While I would appreciate more if people mentioned these bugs to me directly, it's still nice that someone is going to the trouble to poke around the edges of the game where I never thought to.

 

I've been telling everyone who asked about the timing on fastr that each photo set lasted 35 seconds, and there was no way to get more than 90 points in a round because only 9 (parts of) 35 second sets can fit in one 5 minute round. But I did more testing tonight, and it turned out photo sets weren't 35 seconds at all. In fact, there was no consistent length to a photo set, which meant those who refreshed their browsers more often could get more photo sets, and higher scores.

I've fixed this now, so photo sets are actually 35 seconds, and no matter how often you refresh within that 35 seconds, you'll still get the same photo set. And because you can only submit a score for each photo set once, I believe the maximum score is now 90 points. Of course, I believed that before, and it turned out I was wrong, so let me know if you see a score higher than 90.

The problem was that I was using two different clocks, one of which wasn't keeping consistent time. Now I'm only keeping time on one clock, so the timing is more stable now. In addition to varying scores, this should also solve the issue of photo sets randomly repeating.

I'll try to update the Spanish and French versions tomorrow. If you notice any problems with fastr, please let me know.