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Splog Attack

Wednesday, September 06 2006

Watching Luis von Ahn talk about building games to help solve problems with humans that computers can’t figure out is incredibly inspiring to me. He does a great job of breaking down what seems to work, and what doesn’t work, when designing a game that takes otherwise totally boring, menial tasks and turns them into compelling challenges.

While making the menial fun is great, I’m even more inspired by how simple some of these problems are to solve. I’ve mapped out several game ideas that, if executed with the same approach as Luis’ games, would be dead easy to build.

With that said, I’d like to present splog attack. This is what Luis would describe as a symetrical verification game. Player 1 sees a blog entry, and makes a single determination – is it spam or not. Player 2 makes the same determination. If both come to the same conclusion they get points, and both move on to another round.

But there’s a twist, interestingly, thrown in to fight against bots fouling the results. In addition to having to determine if the blog entry is spam, the players see three blog entries at a time from different blogs. Both players get the entries in random order, and must agree on all three blog entries, matching a spam label to the same spam label their counterpart matched. It doesn’t totally eliminate bots from making random choices, but it certainly makes it harder.

So what can you do with the results? Wired Magazine just ran an article talking about some of problems search engines face with detecting spam blogs, and how they are having a difficult time weeding out the good from the bad. It’s very easy for a human to see even just a sentence and make the determination that something isn’t right, but far more difficult for a computer.

Push a particular blog through that filter enough times and you end up having a pretty clear picture of what’s spam and what’s not. Reward players for figuring it out quickly, and they may even outpace the production rate of spam blog bots, turning the tide. Provide search engines with the results, and spam blogs may become irrellavent.

While part of me would love to see the game succeed in killing spam, I’d miss the weird sort of anonymous interaction with another human mind. When you’re both right, it feels great, and out ranking others doing the same thing is a lot of fun, especially knowing it’s helping fight spam blogs.