This map is really cool. It uses a color from red to blue to show the relative vote share of republicans and democrats. Most interestingly, it rescales the map so that area is equivalent to population, not land mass. Check out the whole page for other neat ones too.
On weekends and evenings, I am helping to launch a start up social networking site called yasnap.com. It’s an interesting idea, I think, but a topic for another day. Today, I want to talk about our experience using 99Designs.com.
99Designs.com is a marketplace for web design. You post a proposal for the job you want, and freelancers from around the globe respond by designing things for you. It could be brochure, a web page, a logo–whatever.
In our case, it was a logo. For a $200 prize (and $70 more in listing fees), we got ~170 designs for our logo! You get to give feedack, so many of these designs were iterations in the direction that we wanted. It was tough picking a winner because many of them were terrific. See the winner above, and a couple of runner ups below:
Of course, there were some disasterously bad ones too. Here’s a favorite lemon:
And more follow up. Here’s a story about a political blogger who posts under the pseudonym, Jon Swift, was banned from facebook and then reinstated after a firestorm among famous bloggers. I guess it possible to create a fake facebook account, but it takes an effort on par with leading a double life.
I have recently become a big fan of StumbleUpon. With a single click, you can transported to wild and wonderful things on the Internet based on recommendations from other web surfers. Using this service, I stumbled on this amazing video on human computation. After watching the video, I realize that StumbleUpon itself is an example of human computation. Here’s professor Luis von Ahn‘s 60 minute or so presentation:
What if we just think about humans as a very specialized kind of processor? Human computation is a novel take on artificial intelligence (AI) problems like classification and ontologies. Traditionally, AI would use edge detection or some other image processing technique to classify a picture. But no one has been successful in using these technique to find common objects like cars, celebrities, etc. Human computation asks: why ask computers to do what people can do automatically and instantly? Is there some way to harness the 9 billion man-hours wasted playing games like tetris to do accomplish something productive?
Professor Ahn’s first game is called ESPgame. You sign up and become teamed up with someone else from across the Internet. Simultaneously, you enter words to describe a random image. If you type in the same word, you get points for a “match.” The most common words to describe an image become “taboo” as the game advances and the players have to search for more subtle words that describe the image.
So far, hundreds of millions of images have been classified by hundreds of thousands of people. He has two other notable games: Peekaboom, a game for locating objects within an image, Verbosity, a game for collecting common-sense facts about the world.
I actually like the idea of human computation because it applied to an even wider class of internet services than the games that Ahn has created. For example, google’s search engine is really human computation: it relies on links from sites like this blog that were chosen by real people to determine the order of the search results. Similarly, both Amazon’s recommendation feature (“people who bought this also bought..”) and even the user reviews can be considered human computation. And the tagging services like del.icio.us, my music service last.fm also fits into the category as well as StumbleUpon, the place I discovered this idea originally.
First, I uploaded my son’s picture. Silly mistake – you want to upload pictures of parents not kids! So, I uploaded pictures of myself, my wife and all 4 grandparents of our kids. Then, it takes about 10-15 minutes per picture to place markers to enable the morphing. Once that it is done, however, you can then morph any picture against any other one or against any one of hundreds of celebrities. You can even morph transformed pictures with each other without any other manual effort.
So, I merged my wife and me together. Do you think it looks like my real daughter?
And here’s what it looks like when you merge my son with Angelina Jolie:
After wasting a few hours on this, I have only one definitive conclusion: this morphing stuff is spooky!
Right now, everyone knows that pictures may not tell the truth because they can be “photoshopped.” But the ease, speed and accuracy of this technique is stunning. Can you imagine all the creative, practical and nefarious uses of this technology? Via techcrunch with useful other links.
UpdateYou can process your own images here. Works well with natural scenes, although it was somewhat less impressive than the video demo when I tried it. Now, I want the people removing technology!