Hi there. I'm Matt. Don't hate the player. Hate the game.1

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Mar 5, 2011 | Comments

A co-founder of Play, an innovation firm in Richmond, once showed me a cool game. Play’s office had a 150 ft. clothes line that stretched the length of a room. When executives visited for a workshop, they had to hang 500 index cards on the clothes line, each written with a new business idea. The game forced executives to come up with 500 different ideas.

It’s similar to a game involving a small group tasked with drawing pictures of apples. The rule is that no one can draw the same apple as anyone else.

The first 10 drawings are boring, the typical red apples that lack any artistic creativity. But eventually, after the 50th or 100th drawing, people will create some brilliant works. Idea 500 will certainly require a stretch of imagination.

Once people acknowledge the obvious and tired shit, their minds can wander to the imaginative, discovering new perspectives never considered before. It’s a sort of precursor to creativity if you’re looking for idea diversity.

I created a little experiment that tries to simulate this sort of thing: Profanity List (lots of profanity, so likely not safe for work: here’s the link to the site).

The site is pretty simple: add a bad word to a profanity database, only it’s got to be different from those already added by others.

Here’s a visual of what happened:

The first 200 words were your run-of-the-mill profanities: ass, shit, etc. Around word #800, things got interesting. Adding a new word required a bit of thinking and people were proud of their accomplishment (e.g., “after 10 tries, I added word #900!). Around word #2000, the experience eroded into garbage. I got a lot of made-up words, permutations (e.g., ass-shit), and misspellings.

I realized that swear words are not an infinite list. After 3,000 words, adding a new, legitimate entry was frustrating and hopeless if the list was exhausted.

In short, the project didn’t quite work out in terms of longevity. In three days, I did get a solid amount of traffic and fairly positive comments on Reddit and Twitter, suggesting it’s a good process to crowdsource interesting ideas. And certainly there’s other list domains and applications to try out.

One other learning experience: jQuery.

Having taught myself PHP first, I’ve always struggled with javascript. Fortunately, I built Profanity List using jQuery, lowering the learning curve considerably. jQuery is pretty well documented and it’s easy to find plug-ins for just about anything that you need (e.g., autosuggest and real-time validation, as used in Profanity List). I highly recommend it for digital strategists just wanting to experiement with stuff on the Internet.

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  1. Do you have a short list about 200 words with wildcards that can be used with the disqus restricted words filter.?

  2. Just checking my twitter link the last one came up with the wrong username seems to work now

  3. condovultures

    Great Read.

  4. I… I love this. This is amazing! :D I mean, I love the idea, the implementation, and what you learned from it (“Hey, I learned about idea creation – and jQuery!”)

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