EyeWire: a videogame to help scientists trace the neurons in a retina

Robert sez, "The gamified EyeWire project, now in open beta, is about using human computation to help trace the neurons in a retina. Tracing the neurons will help nail down the computation that goes on inside the retina leading up to the optic nerve, and lead to better methods of brain mapping. Come and help explore the eye's jungle!"

Game 1: Reconstructing Neurons
The first step of the challenge is to reconstruct the tree-like shapes of retinal neurons by tracing their branches through the images. You will accomplish this by playing a simple game: helping the computer color a neuron as if the images were a three-dimensional coloring book. The collective efforts of you and other players will result in three-dimensional reconstructions of neurons like this. Playing the game does not require any specialized knowledge of neuroscience — just sharp eyes and practice. If you like, you can stop reading this page, and proceed to detailed instructions for the game here or simply start playing. On the other hand, if you’d like to know more about the scientific plan, read on.

Game 2: Identifying Synapses
Reconstructing neurons involves tracing their branches, which are like the “wires” of the retina. This by itself is not enough for finding connectomes; we also need to identify synapses. This kind of image analysis will be accomplished through another game that will be introduced on this website in the near future. The identification of synapses will involve subtleties, due to limitations of the dataset, as will be discussed in detail later on.

Rules of Connection
Playing either of the above games will produce information that will be valuable for understanding how the retina functions. How exactly will the information be used? To answer this question, we should confront the issue of variability. We expect that every retina will be wired somewhat differently. In that case, would mapping the connections in one retina tell us anything that is applicable to other retinas? We expect that retinal connectomes will obey invariant rules of connection, and it is these rules that really interest researchers. Many of the rules are expected to depend on neuronal cell types, i.e., of the form “Cell type A receives synapses from cell type B.” Some such rules are already known, but the vast majority remain undiscovered.

EyeWire – Help Map the Retinal Connectome (Thanks, Robert!)

Later, Spam! Twitter add-on keeps track of how many spammers' accounts you've had deactivated

Andre Torrez was inspired to build a Twitter add-on service that allows you to track what happens to the accounts you report for spamming. Later, Spam! remembers the spam reports you've made and keeps track of whether Twitter has deactivated those accounts, giving you a little running tally of how many spammers' accounts you've helped to nuke.

In my experience there isn’t much of a spam problem on Twitter. Yes, it’s annoying to mention something about your iPad and have a spam bot or two tell you how you can get a free one just by “clicking this URL,” but I feel like that happens once or twice a month at most.

I normally just mark the thing as spam and move on. But the last time it happened I clicked over to see the account’s timeline and saw they had been at it for quite some time. Even tweeting innocuous tweets in between the mention spam which I guessed was to throw off Twitter’s own spam algorithms...

So I built laterspam.org because I thought people might get a little satisfaction out of marking something as spam and knowing Twitter did something about it.

GameSave: hackathon to design emergency-relief games

A group of disaster relief specialists and game designers have created GameSave, a hackathon in Seattle to design games to teach people the fundamentals of emergency relief:
GameSave is a hack-a-thon style event which takes place over the course of 5 weeks, during which multiple teams of game developers and emergency relief professionals will each create a complete game concept and working demo aimed at an aspect of disaster relief. Teams can be assembled in several ways. A team can be composed of independent individuals who organize themselves initially through our registration site and wiki. Teams can also be sponsored as a unit by their respective employers.

There will be an organization and planning period where team members will be expected to communicate with one another via the wiki and by whatever other methods they so choose.

Ideally, teams will meet for a intensive hack-a-thon session in Seattle, Washington where they will meet with disaster relief personnel for vital information, as well has have sequestered time for the bulk of the build. When the hack-a-thon is up, teams will return to their homes and continue to collaborate and polish their concept for submission. Participation is possible even if travel is not, because all location-specific happenings and presentations will be livestreamed.

Additionally, travel scholarships will become increasingly available to qualified participants as sponsorship allows.

Each concept/demo will be judged by a panel of experts in the fields of game design and emergency management.

Platform to Playform: A Game Layer over Digital Activism (Thanks, Jake!)