Wednesday, August 11, 2004

About RouteWord

I accidentally invented RouteWord while developing software to turn complex relationships between data into an easy-to-understand picture. As a quick way to assess the system, I used words, and the relationships between the letters in the word, as test data. This worked particularly well because I could always easily verify whether the system had accurately represented the relationships between the letters by tracing the correct spelling of the word through the diagram.

As my colleagues in technical fields can attest, friends and family often wonder what, exactly, you do all day at the office. In response, I often wound up showing these word diagrams to people to help make the abstractness of it all more concrete. Inevitably, I'd be in the middle of explaining my grandiose vision of creating software that would help provide a sophisticated analytic framework for understanding large quantities of relational data, and the person would interrupt: "Hey, the word 'utilitarian' looks like a rocket ship! Can we put in my name and see what comes out?" It was always the same story -- Rocket Ship 10, Analytical Framework, 0.

A proto-RouteWord
("utilitarian")

Finally, after a chemist friend enthusiastically noted "Wow, 'Austria' looks sort of like benzene," I decided that maybe there was more to the word diagrams than just their value as test data. Since people -- including non-chemists -- enjoyed trying to work out the word from the network of letters in the diagram, I thought it would make a good game. I added a clue, and voila, RouteWord was born.

The game went public with an article on the "O’Reilly Network" on Thanksgiving Day 2003 and has been growing ever since. Today, people from across the globe receive a daily e-mail puzzle and submit their own words and clues for possible publication. The community of RouteWorders, and the game itself, has grown more quickly than I ever thought possible, and I’m looking forward to where it goes next.

Acknowledgments

I've had lots of help with RouteWord, especially from:

  • the many people who have provided suggestions, comments, and encouragement that have made RouteWord a better game, especially: Anu Garg, Brian Hammond, Chris Denesha, Phillip Geer, Philippe Davadie, Jed Hartman, and "Sierra Madre" James
  • chromatic, Sarah Breen, Tara McGoldrick, Debby Russell and everyone else at O'Reilly for help in publishing the article on RouteWord that got the ball rolling
  • Christophe DeGregory at CGCraft for helping design the look and feel of this si

1 Comments:

At 7:43 PM, Anonymous said...

What happened to RouteWord?

 

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