2.2 Billion Minutes of your time… wasted?

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While listening to This Week in Google 58, the table talked about how many billions of minutes have been “wasted” on things like Farmville and other casual games.

The Panel of guests talking on Episode 58 all wished that people would spend less time managing their virtual farms and contributing to something like Wikipedia. My question is, why haven’t we combined the two?

Maybe not wikipedia, but Decentralized Computing programs have simply missed the boat when it comes to getting extra CPU cycles thrown their way. Why should I go out and install, for example, the Folding@home client, when they could have their code inserted into Facebook games and take every few cycles here and there. Then, while I save a baby dolphin on my Happy Island, I could be doing micro-sized work units for things like Folding, Grid.org, SETI@home, BOINC, or whatever is deemed worthy of my computing cycles.

At first, these could be determined by the game designers – later this could be decided by we, the casual gamers – give us the option to choose which program we’re donating our cycles to!

My biggest fear when it comes to this? That the distributed computing folks try to design their own games and get people interested. Don’t! You simply don’t have the magic. I wouldn’t even propose contracting a company to try and design new games that utilize your code in the back-end. What needs to be done is that these “social game” developers need to think of it as their “social responsibility” to work with these distributed computing firms to allow us to give our computing cycles to worthy projects. Meanwhile, all you are doing is what you’re already doing: playing Mafia Wars, Farmville, Happy Island – all the while virtually compounding drugs to combat Cancer, AIDS, or perhaps searching radio frequencies to find intelligent life in other galaxies. Whatever your desired project, you should be able to voluntarily help it out, while not having to think about it. Then your 2.2 Billion Minutes of Virtual Farming could be 2.2 Billion minutes of being socially responsible, green, not wasting CPU cycles, all of that good stuff.

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