“Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face, but alacrity in his heart. And while the late steamer Big Missouri worked and sweated in the sun, the retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the slaughter of more innocents. There was no lack of material; boys happened along every little while; they came to jeer, but remained to whitewash.” — Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, Chapter 2.
21st century Tom Sawyerist, Google Inc, has released a neat new game for you to play. The game lets you “tag” content on Google Images, which by the way will help them organize and keyword their content. You can play all you want and don’t even have to give Google marbles, orange peel, or a dog collar without a dog! Unfortunately while the game is fun to play it suffers from a couple of major flaws.
Here’s how the game works: you can either play as a guest or log in to your Google account. Once you click the begin button, Google will find you a partner (I never had any trouble getting a partner when I played) and start showing you images. You’re supposed to start submitting tags for the image as quickly as you can. As soon as you and your partner enter the same keyword, you score 100 points and move on to another image. The object of the game is to amass as many points as possible in 90 seconds. If you and your partner can’t agree on a label you can choose to “pass” and move on to the next image (passing takes way too long — even when my partner and I both agreed to pass, it seemed like it took ten seconds or so to move on to the next images, which is way too long in a 90 second game.)
Sounds simple, right? And kind of fun in a completely nerdlike way. However the flaws. Major flaw #1: the images are too small. Some of these images are presented so small you can’t see anything. How can you take what you can’t see? One image I got was a completely black square. Yay.
Major flaw #2: you’re being rewarded for matching your partner’s tags as rapidly as possible, so it behooves you to tag obvious features of the image first, like trees, or even image colors. So if I get a picture of a landscape, nice trees, sky, etc, I’m not going to try to think, “landscape,” or “sunset”, or “horizon” — or anything that might describe the whole of the picture. Instead I’m going to start spitting out grass trees sky green blue — descriptive words but not words that describe the overall.
Now different people are going to approach the game differently, of course, but after playing several games I found I got better scores when going for the brief descriptive words. On the other hand, maybe if the pictures were larger and overall easier to see, maybe players would be more oriented towards words that describe the entire picture. It would also be nice if Google allowed you to end your keywords with ? if you aren’t sure what you’re looking at. I saw one picture of a small building with a reddish sky and horizon, and I wasn’t sure if I were looking at a sunrise or sunset. It would have been nice if I could have tagged that image with sunrise? and sunset?, the question marks letting Google know that the image should be submitted for more review, review by high-scoring players, etc.