Joe Makes Tea

Telescopic Text is the most delightful use of hypertext I’ve seen in eons. Just keep clicking. When you’re done, reload and repeat in a different order. So simple, so pleasing, and so happily reminiscent of a recent conversation which took place on, of all words, teeth. It’ll make you want a nice cuppa, even if it is the middle of August and roasting.

Make sure to telescope the byline, too, and eventually you’ll end up at the lovely line-drawn site of the guy responsible for it, Joe Davis.

Mil gracias to Steve for the link.

Here’s another do-good-while-wasting-time word site: Like it’s a multiple-choice game, which presents you with a word and four possible meanings. Every time you guess the correct meaning, .01ml of vaccine is donated to the GAVI Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to making vaccines available to the world’s poorest countries.

It’s not quite as elegant as freerice, which has a broader assortment of English words. But Givevaccines has a unique option: in addition to “English words” there’s a “medical terms” category. Not being a doctor I’d never heard of most of these, but I enjoyed guessing meanings based on the root and learning some new words in the process.

Thanks to quotato, who was the first to find givevaccines, and to Dr. Sam Rabinowitz, the creator of the site, who wrote to enlist our help. If any Wordies want to either create new questions or proof existing ones, send contributions to

They Tell "Stories"

At least since HyperCard debuted in the late 80s people have been talking about how electronic media enable “new forms of storytelling.” That phrase (along with “non-linear”) has introduced so much plotless tech-wanking, so much storytelling that wasn’t so much new as simply unbearable, that I tend to become hyper critical whenever I hear it.

That was my knives-out attitude when I visited “We Tell Stories,” a Penguin UK-sponsored site that riffs on classic novels with “new forms of story.” So I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be… not entirely awful. Some of it was OK.

The site presents six pieces (or will when it’s done — the sixth comes out next week), each in a different format. The first, 21 Steps, I quite enjoyed. It’s nice and linear, like a story should be. So linear that it’s told via the info bubbles on a Google Map. This worked much better than I expected, though by the middle I felt like I was watching from the Goodyear Blimp.

Slice is told through two fake intertwined blogs. I’m so up to my eyeballs in what I think are real blogs that this just seemed like more of the same; I couldn’t really tell the difference between it and the tripe you come across on LiveJournal et. al. every day.

There wasn’t much new about the rest of them. Your Place and Mine was written live, which struck me as coming from the Automatic Writing/Spontaneous Prose tradition. Though to be fair, writing with an audience is an interesting idea, the full effect of which I couldn’t judge, since I missed the show, as it were. The writing itself is about as good as you might expect live, unedited writing to be.

Fairy Tales is a mad lib, plain and simple. And Hard Times is a Harper’s Index ripoff, but not as smart, or funny.

The lead designer of We Tell Stories said in Boing Boing that the best is yet to come: Mohsin Hamid is the author of the April 22nd installment, which might be worth checking out. As is 21 Steps, at least for a chapter or two. The rest? Read a book. Advice Penguin probably doesn’t mind.

Human Brain Cloud

Human Brain Cloud shows you a random word and asks you to enter the first association that comes to mind. From this it is creating a ginormous web of word and phrase associations: 531,316 unique words and phrases connected through 5,704,465 associations, contributed by 357,762 people, all since mid July.

It’s a fun diversion and as you can see the graphics are lovely–Kyle Gabler, the creator of the site, is a game designer. Shortly after launch Kyle reported a bunch of interesting statistics, but what most got my attention were his comments on the tenor of the contributions: “the number one thing that surprised me right off the bat with this experiment is that people are, in general, overwhelmingly funny, friendly, articulate, and willing to play along.”

Sounds familiar. I think playing with words brings out the best in people.

Mil gracias to Steve for the link.

Seedy Stories

The number of rock simple yet high concept all text web sites set in Palatino just doubled, with the launch of Seedy Stories. The site, built by Richard Mavis, is a sort of mini-mad-lib machine, which asks you the six basic questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how. You can enter as many answers as you’d like, and see random combinations of responses drawn from all answers.

It’s intended as an idea generator, meant to spark thought through permutation, combination, and juxtaposition; a sort of constrained bibliomancy. It just launched, and doesn’t have a lot of content yet; it’ll be interesting to see how it feels when more people have contributed. I’d like to see some ways to interact with other users, which may be forthcoming: Richard says he’ll be adding features regularly.

Naming Party

For Wordies in the New York City area, this could be fun: a naming party for a new company. I met these good folks on the NextNY list, where Jonah helps maintain the blogroll. Go for the free food and drink, stay for the company and to show off your mad, mad word skills. I’m going to try and make it, though I’m stuck out in the hinterlands of New Jersey all afternoon tomorrow, so we’ll see.

Naming companies, and web sites, can be amazingly difficult. Especially if you’re trying to find an available domain at the same time. Mein got, coming up with Squirl took frickin’ forever, and in the end we still made the moronic amateur-hour decision to get a .info domain (because we loved the name, but the squatter who owned .com wanted $35k for it). Wordie came more easily, perhaps because I had no intention of building it. Everything is easier when it’s a joke.