Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Google Image Labeler Strategy Guide

So, I've tried playing google image labeler some more, and am getting increasingly frustrated with the idiots I've been paired with. Back when I first tried it a few months ago, I was scoring over a 1,000 points per game quite frequently. Now, it seems like I average 600. The big change since then is that's it's off Beta, which probably means there's an influx of people just finding out about it now.

Rather than just bitch about the noobs, I thought perhaps I could take a stab at making a useful Strategy Guide for the game. Before doing so, I thought it'd be a good idea to check if anyone else had already done so. There's probably some other articles on the topic out there, so I should read them first, so I don't just duplicate their work. Here's what came up on the first page of a search:
So let's talk about that purpose / function for just a moment. Aside from being a light-hearted game, Google Image Labeler is a tool for labeling images to make them easier to find via Google searches. That much is obvious.
Here's what people aren't thinking about: If that function isn't being fulfilled, the tool is unlikely to be supported for long. There's no advertising revenue being generated when people play it, and it no doubt uses up server time and power. If it's not doing them any good, it might not stick around. So if you like the game, cheats like the Sky-Man strategy aren't necessarily a good thing.

I understand that not everyone plays for the same reasons, so for every strategy tip below, I'll give it three ratings: Score, Speed and Function. "Score" refers to the likelihood that the tactic will score you lots of points per entry. "Speed" refers to how quickly this lets you get a match, which sometimes does and sometimes doesn't result in high scores. "Function" refers to how well that tactic serves the games stated function of improving searches on google.

What follows is very much a rough draft:

Type as many things as you can think of. Score: High Speed: High Function: High
This strategy has a lot going for it, yet it seems most players of the game haven't mastered it. I'll often get paired with someone who enters a single label, waits 30 seconds, and then asks to pass without entering a single label. I'm always puzzled by this, since it seems to go against the goal of the game and even the most simple strategic analysis. While an unusual word is worth 2 or 3 times as many points as a more common word, it's still better to get a match than to do nothing at all. If there's a picture of a car, don't just type "car" and leave it at that - type car, hit return, type vehicle, hit return, type the color the car is, hit return, type what style of car it is, hit return, etc.

Type what you read: Score: High Speed: High Function: High
This is the amongst the best advice I can give: If the image has a word in it, type it. A lot of times you'll get logos or captions on the picture. Unless it's a very generic word (like "sky") you'll probably get over 100 points for it. If everyone gets in the habit of typing the words in the picture, it'll make matches happen quickly. And since the words presumably have something to do with the image, it performs the labeler's function quite nicely. I even recommend this tactic when you don't know what the word means - nobody will know.

Type fast. Score: Medium Speed: High Function: Medium
Never delete or edit. Score: Medium Speed: High Function: Low
The goal should be to type like a stream of consciousness. When a word enters your mind, type it immediately. There's no penalty for typing something that doesn't apply to the picture, except time wasted. Don't agonize over whether or not to type a particular word. I'm amazed how sometimes people will type just one label, and sit there paralyzed. Don't worry that you're typing something dumb, just type it. Don't worry that you're spelling is awful - if you know you spelled it wrong, hit return, and type it again. Don't delete, don't edit, don't worry - any of that will just slow you down. You'll get more points over the long term if you concentrate on speed over accuracy.

Retyping long or odd words: Score: Medium Speed: Debatable Function: High
If there's just one obvious answer, and it's not a word you spell daily, type it again. Chances are the reason you haven't matched on the really obvious word is that one of you has misspelled it. Cholesterol becomes cholesteral or hcolesterol. If there's an impass, and you can't imagine why they haven't typed the obvious, assume you made a typo. After the game you can examine your partner's unmatched guesses. I've frequently seen typos in those cases where someone entered a single word and just sat around without making a second guess. Seems like retyping could be a good tactic if it's taking a long time to get to a match. I've given this a "Speed: Debatable" rating because it's hard to categorize. While it's actually quite useful for speeding up a stuck game, you hope to be making matches fast enough that you won't have time to even consider this tactic. And retyping if you didn't actually make a typo could just be a waste of time.

Keep your mind in the gutter: Score: Medium Speed: High Function: Debatable
There's a great truism about the net that goes like this: "Until you've met them in person, assuming everyone you interact with online is a 15-year old boy." Guesses like "hot" and "boobs" get matches an alarming amount of the time. Whether such labels actually help towards the avowed function of the labeler is debatable. "Sexy" on every female under the age of 50 is probably not so helpful, but "Penis" or "Porn" on pictures that contain explicit imagery probably is. Fighting a moral battle against it will just lower your score, and suggests you lack a grounding in the reality of the net.

If all else fails, guess colors: Score: Low Speed: High Function: Low
"Red dress" will score two or three times as many points as just "red" does, but it's a lot more likely to make an instant match. I tend to save simple color words for later, never starting with them, but there's some merit to the idea of going as simple as possible as quickly as possible. Just the same, a game with a dozen 50-point matches doesn't score very highly.

Overall, hitting the right balance between Score and Speed is tricky, and paying more than lip service to Function at the same time is difficult.

If I find time, I may add a write-up of strategies that just don't work, and tactics to avoid.


digital_sextant said...

Do you know that I know Zach Whalen?

Check out this pic from Philly

r_b_bergstrom said...

Nope, I didn't know that.

That rocks. I'd say "small world" except, I don't know Zach Whalen, he's just the first guy that came up when I googled.

digital_sextant said...

Because of this post, and your other one, I've started playing Image Labeler. It's pretty fun, though infuriating when your partner goes 10, 15, 20 seconds without typing anything. AARRG!

What's your nickname when you play? I'm DrWombat. (I played with "RB" last night....)

r_b_bergstrom said...

'fraid that wasn't me. My nickname is sgqwonk. It's an alien race from my weird worlds mods.

I'll keep an eye open for DrWombat, though.

r_b_bergstrom said...

As you hit upon tactics that do and don't work, please share them, and I'll add them to this blog post.

digital_sextant said...

I find myself really annoyed when I recognize the origin of the picture but my partner doesn't. When we both DO recognize it, it's a pure joy.

r_b_bergstrom said...

"When we both DO recognize it, it's a pure joy."

...and usually around 140 points.