Play Borderlands 3 and help map the foreign microbes found in human poop

The Microsetta Initiative at UC San Diego School of Medicine, McGill University, Massively Multiplayer Online Science, Gearbox, and 2K have teamed up to create a clever way for players of Borderlands 3 to help map the human gut microbiome.

Players do this creative gut-mapping by accessing the special Borderlands Science game-within-the-game. The mini-game works as follows:

Borderlands Science encodes the DNA of each gut microbe as a string of bricks of four different shapes and colors. Players connect those colored shapes to help scientists estimate the similarity between each microbe. The more puzzles players solve, the more they help decode the human gut microbiome, all while earning rewards that can be used within Borderlands 3.

Basically what players are actually doing is helping to find errors in the computer analysis of gut biome DNA that's been extracted from human poop. Doing this by playing a simple puzzle game can save scientists hundreds of thousands of hours trying to get computers to do this work.

Here's Dr. Mayim Bialik breaking it down:

Learn more at the Borderlands Science site.

[H/t Tino Dai]

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Karl Schroeder's "Stealing Worlds": visionary science fiction of a way through the climate and inequality crises

Karl Schroeder (previously) is literally the most visionary person I know (and I've known him since 1986!): he was the first person to every mention "fractals" to me, then "the internet" and then "the web" -- there is no one, no one in my circle more ahead of more curves, and it shows in his novels and none moreso than Stealing Worlds, his latest, which is a futuristic roadmap to how our present-day politics, economics, technology and society might evolve. Read the rest

Disneyland's laundry used "gamification" as an "electronic whip," leading to worker stress and injuries

A non-negotiable feature of Disneyland's 2008 contract with Unite Local 11 -- which represents the laundry workers who clean linens from the resort's hotels and restaurants -- was a new "work-tracking" system that used "gamification" to display realtime signals about each worker's productivity on public leaderboards, colorcoded with the slowest workers' names in red, as well as color-coding indicators on individual machines to indicate whether they were underperforming. Read the rest

Samantha Bee, horrified that majority of her viewers aren't registered voters, tries something

After a poll revealed at 54% of her eligible viewers were not registered voters, with weeks to go before the crucial 2018 midterm elections, Samantha Bee set out to do something to get out the vote. Read the rest

Claw machine fish tank

While an actual Claw Machine Fish Tank would be cruel and unethical (and some say just keeping fish in captivity isn't cool), the concept itself is fun to think about. Kudos to Dave's Geeky Ideas for dreaming up this one up. Read the rest

Gamified compliance: China's reputation network Huxleys to the full Orwell

The Extra Credits video series has a great segment on Sesame Credit, the Chinese government's public-private "reputation economy" that uses your social media postings, purchases and known associates to assign you a public score rating your citizenship and reliability. Read the rest

This gamification 'documentary' is a work of art

Gamification is easy for people to get excited about. Enjoy this dark, witty video instead.

Nerdy status-badges for kids

Isiah Saxon made a set of amazing badges for DIY, a program to teach kids skills. Read the rest

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.

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

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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! Read the rest