Monday, October 04, 2010

The other gaming platform war - LibraryThing, Wikipedia and The Zotero Commons

I’ve been investigating the spaces between and the spaces that overlap games and libraries as of late and while I have been doing so, I’ve been stumbling upon various forms of ‘library games’ and – of greater interest to myself – “research games”.  One such “research game” that has caught my attention is The Wikipedia Game.

During a lull in class, me and some classmates figured out a way to combine our favorite things: wasting time and Wikipedia. We invented a game where you try to find a certain item (for example, pancakes) the fastest, measured in either time or clicks. Here are the rules:
  • You cannot edit any pages
  • You must start from the home page (
  • You cannot type anything. Everything must be done via mouse clicks.
  • You cannot use the categories, A-Z listings, etc
Here's a sample game, searching for "witchcraft."

Wikipedia > English Wikipedia > United States > Massachusetts > Salem > Salem Witch Trials > Witchcraft

I'm not sure whether the example above is the first incarnation of the game but it is not the last iteration. There is also The Wiki Game in which the word goals are auto-generated and there is a ticking clock that you compete against.  It appears that the same game has been ported into a $2 iPhone app.

Now I have to admit that I have entertained the thought of trying a similar game but using the an online public library catalogue (an OPAC to those in the profession) instead of Wikipedia, but it didn't take much visualization at all to come to the conclusion that such a  game would be difficult and not fun for most people.

The main reason why is that Wikipedia is an idea-space where there are multiple means of making connections between disparate concepts ("Your start page is: Sulfuric acid. You are looking for: Reality in Buddhism. Go!") Library catalogues can only make connections between authors and  Library of Congress Subject Headings which are few and not intuitive. And while making connections between actors is a bona fide fun thing to do, most books are written by a single author and so any connections are few and tenuous at best.

Of note, LibraryThing - which is very rich in its connections between authors, descriptions, and users - already is the platform of at least two games: CoverGuess and Another silly game part 67,

I feel a maxim coming on. Let's try this one:

Until your platform can support a game, it cannot be called social software.

Hmm. I'm not crazy about the maxim myself but rather than refine it, I want to continue this speculation of what an alternative idea-space game-platform could look like. Because I've been thinking about it for a while now. And would you believe that I think one of the best candidates is... footnotes?

Citations are what connect the ideas within various works together.  They make up the web in The Web of Science. They allow Google Scholars to Stand on the shoulders of giants.  And yet inexplicably, online footnotes are vanishing.

The beta version of Zotero 2.1 (available for download here) provides users of the Zotero citation management web service, an easier means of uploading primary documents into the Internet Archive using Zotero Commons. Perhaps future Zotero developments will make stronger and more plentiful connections between ideas and works. There's already one Zotero game out there but I would rather play The Wikipedia Game for now.

1 comment:

Mr. Gunn said...

That's neat. I wonder if someone could use the Mendeley API to make an app for this?