An experiment

The Current WriteCloud Writing:

0 guesses so far. 10 guesses left until this round ends!

Thanks, Dreamhost, for being down all day again! Way to build confidence!!


What is WriteCloud?

WriteCloud is an experiment with useful gameplay. What is useful gameplay? It's gameplay designed to, through the act of playing, leave some useful or interesting artifact. In WriteCloud, players play a social game about writing and letters, and the end result is an actual piece of text which will (hopefully) make some sense and be completely determined by the gameplay itself. Get it? Sort of?

How do I play?

WriteCloud is very simple, but may take a second of thought to understand.

First, though, you need to sign up for an account using the link on the upper-left. It's very quick, I won't publicly reveal your e-mail address, or do anything inappropriate with your info. My name is Josh Knowles and my e-mail address is There. Let's trade.

Got it? Okay. Here's how it works:

  • You will see some text. (It's pretty short, right now — just a few characters long.) It's in big letters under the "The Current WriteCloud Writing" header.

  • This text might resemble words. Or it might end with an incomplete word.

  • What comes next in this series of characters? That's the game.

  • Type the character (letter, number, space, or punctuation mark) that you think will come next in the little box. So if the last characters are "burrit", you might guess that "o" has a high chance of being the letter the group of players think comes next. The the last characters are "appl", you'll have to decide whether "e" or "y" might be the most popular next choice. Or maybe "i" as a part of forming "application"... ?

  • Click the "Guess" button.

  • When enough people have guessed, WriteCloud chooses the most popular guess and adds that character to the end of the text. Anyone who guess that character gets a point.

  • Your goal: Get points by guessing what letters will come next.

  • If this revs up properly, I'll offer some unique prizes, as well, for those with the highest scores.

That's it!

Make sure to check in often to see how the text in progressing and to contribute more letters!


Well, as noted above, I'm intrigued right now by gaming systems that produce useful or interesting results or artifacts. I'm coining the term useful gameplay, although I'm sure someone already has either used that term or coined something better. Some easy examples of this are Google Image Labeller and GalaxyZoo. These are games (or game-like), but the end result is a valuable piece of analysis.

So, yes. This "useful game" is about collectively writing text. Almost like an exquisite corpse or a predicitve text system like Dasher — but a bit more collaborative. Or like an extreme Wikipedia entry with no particular topic. Will something coherent come out of this, or will it always just be a kind of semi-random mess of boringness? I really don't know. I hope that I get enough people rolling on it to at least get a few hundred characters — if that happens, I think some pretty cool trends will begin to emerge. If that happens, I also hope to be able to develop this idea in a few new directions...

Please, leave me feedback, tell me what you think.