|h a l f b a k e r y
Not so much a thought experiment as a single neuron misfire.
(Jump ahead to sections on
commenting on inventions,
the croissant logo,
editing and deleting inventions,
usernames and passwords,
the Halfbakery: category,
linking to other pages,
logging in and out,
low-res and RSS versions,
To contact a human, send email to
What is the halfbakery?|
The halfbakery is a communal database
of poorly thought-out ideas for inventions.
Its users can post their inventions and add links
and commentary to other people's posts.|
What the halfbakery isn't:|
This site is not a store, a game, or a business of any
sort; if you think that, you're probably confusing
the site with one of the postings on it. Sorry.
The site is also not a resource to help people
guide their inventions from conception to completion.
This is the place where you post the things you're
not going to be working on - because you
can't be bothered, or you don't know how to, or
because it's not such a stellar idea after all.
The site is also not a marketplace where owners
of patents find interested developers. Such sites
exist (some are listed under links),
but this isn't one of them.
And finally, sending me email isn't a good way of
contacting the Dunkin' Donuts corporation (but
clicking on the preceding link is).
Ideas for inventions for the halfbakery should be original to
the poster and should, as far as the poster knows,
not exist already.
(Use search engines to check whether or not what
you're about to invent already exists.)
Do not post patents, product announcements or advertisements.
Inventions are best if they're possible, or impossible in
interesting ways. Obvious contradictions meant as
a joke - e.g., "dehydrated water" - grow old quickly,
and so do "magic wand" ideas that are blanket solutions
for some well known problem without any functional
link to the problem. ("A panic button that fixes my
computer".) A cleverly disguised description of a "wheel"
is posted about once a year; so's an idea for a recursive
idea, for whose explanation - well, just click here.
If you haven't seen one of those jokes
this year, there's your chance to impress everybody with
your wit and originality.
Generally, the more you know (and can explain!)
about the technology behind your invention, the more
interesting the posting will be. As always, when in
doubt, write about something you know.
(More about which inventions fit here and which
don't can be found in the section on [marked-for-deletion].)
Although one needs to get an account with
the halfbakery to add material to it,
any web user can read all the inventions,
annotations, and links.
When browsing in the halfbakery, you're
probably looking at either an overview
page or a specific invention.
The overview presents inventions sorted according
to some criterion; select the name of an invention,
and you go there. If you have an account,
you can change the way views work; there's
a separate page with help on views.
A page for a specific invention presents the name,
summary, and text of the invention. Below it
are links that people (not necessary the
original author) have added to the page;
to the right are annotations that have
There's always a control panel on
the top left of a page; you probably used it to get here.
It has three sections:
meta, general things like access to help
or version information; idea, options that
operate on invention or the current invention, if there is one;
and account, account configuration
Low-Res and RSS Versions|
A no-frills version of the halfbakery
intended for devices with low bandwidth and
perhaps low display capacity can be found at
(Generally, inserting /lr at the head of a
regular user or idea halfbakery URL gets
you the low-resolution version of that page.)
There are also default RSS feeds at
addition, any stand-alone view can also be turned into an RSS feed.
People who have an account with the halfbakery
can add new inventions, vote, and add links and annotations
to existing inventions.
Accounts are free, and are given out at the discretion
of the (human) site owner. To create an account,
send e-mail to email@example.com and
ask for one; mention which username you'd like.
Don't create more than one account for yourself,
unless you know what you're doing.
Do not create accounts that impersonate other halfbakery
users. Do not create duplicate accounts to vote for
your own inventions. Don't stage elaborate mock debates
with yourself, reenact historical events, act out cute
little puns, or hide
behind the anonymity of a throwaway account to
publicly attack other users without fear of
But do feel free to create or request a second account
to preserve your privacy when talking about subject
areas you don't want your main account to be associated
with, or after abandoning a previous account for whatever
There's only one account per username;
if the username you picked already exists,
you'll be asked to pick another. Otherwise,
you can log in as that user.
(Being "logged in" means that your browser stores
a small amount of data called a "cookie". This
data is sent back to www.halfbakery.com with every
access, and identifies you as a specific user.
If your browser does not support this mechanism,
or if you have disabled cookies in your browser,
you won't be able to log in.)
Every existing account has a password and a
description associated with it.
The description is initially empty.
To edit the description or the password,
select "edit" from the options in
the account section on the top left,
once you're logged in.
In an account's description, text that looks like
a URL will be automatically turned into a link
to the URL it spells out. (Elsewhere in the halfbakery,
the feature is turned off; to add web links to an invention,
use the explicit "link" command.)
In an account description, an annotation, and the
main text of an invention, the sequence <br> will
produce a single line break (as in HTML), and an
empty line will produce a paragraph break.
The owner of an account can destroy it. To do that,
go to the profile editor page (while logged in,
click on the word "edit" in the "account:" menu
in the lower left). In the same "account:" submenu,
you'll now see a new option "destroy".
If an account gets destroyed, the inventions,
annotations, and links from that user are
The halfbakery can kick users out
without warning, explanation, or appeal,
at the sole discretion of the website's
Good ways of getting kicked out are to post
blatantly sexist or racist material; to abuse the
site for commercial purposes; to persistently delete
other users' criticism of one's inventions; to
fraudulently vote using multiple accounts; and
to forward chain letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Logging in and out|
Although we talk about a user being logged in,
what really gets authenticated as a user is the
If you're sharing a browser with others, don't
leave it logged in as you after you're gone.
To remove the halfbakery authentication from the browser,
select "logout" in the account menu in
the controls on the top left of each page.
If you're using a new browser for the first time,
or if the cookie set during account creation has been
lost for some other reason, you can log in if you remember
your username and password. To log in, type
name and password in the fields labelled "user"
and "pass" in the upper left control panel, and
select the [x] in front of "login".
(Those fields only appear in the control panel
if a user isn't logged in already.)
Forgotten passwords and usernames|
You've forgotten your username, or the system doesn't
seem to remember who you are? No big deal - send e-mail to
email@example.com and ask. Please mention
what you think your account name is or was.|
Adding new inventions|
To add a new invention,
select the link "add" next to the bold
"idea:" heading near the upper left corner.
Enter a name, summary,
and description in the resulting form,
and select "OK".
In the invention's text, the sequence <br> will
produce a single line break (as in HTML), and an
empty line will produce a paragraph break. Everything
else will be treated as text.
Editing and deleting inventions|
When you go to an invention that you added to the
system (and hence "own"), you will see text
entry fields with that invention's name, summary, and description.
If you want to change something about the invention,
just edit those fields and re-submit them
using the "OK" button to the lower left of the form.
If you want to delete an invention you added,
select "delete" from the idea menu
to the upper left. This will delete the
invention and the annotations and links associated
Voting for or against inventions|
Each registered user has one vote per invention.
By default, the vote is neutral. By selecting
the "for" or "against" link next to an invention's title,
the vote can be changed to +1 or -1, respectively.
(It can then also be changed back to neutral
by selecting "neutral".)
Positive and negative votes are summed up,
compared with the votes for all other inventions, and
normalized into a numeric range of -2.5 to +2.5.
The most favored invention will be shown with
2.5 croissants next to it.
The least favored invention will be shown with 2.5 fish bones
next to it.
On an invention's page, the numbers
of individual votes are displayed both as
normalized ratings and as positive
and negative counts, e.g. (-3, +5) for three
votes against, five in favor. If the viewing
user is among those who voted,
the rating in that direction is displayed
Commenting on existing inventions|
Anyone who has an account can comment
on existing inventions. Such annotations
appear to the right of the invention,
tagged with the username of the person
commenting and the date the comment was
created and last modified.
The person who created a comment can modify
it or delete it. The person who created
an invention can also delete (but not edit!) anyone
else's comment on their invention, for example
because the suggestions from the comment
have been integrated into the main text,
or because they think the comment is
Inventions names are special in that they appear
with lots of other authors' invention names on a page.
To make it easier to find inventions, and to avoid
by individual users, invention names are more strongly
edited than the rest of an invention. Typos in invention
names are usually corrected, and typographical
mannerisms (all caps, spurious punctuation, double
spacing, etc.) will be stripped.
If this happens by accident (e.g., the alleged typo
was really a very subtle pun or was in fact correct),
it's a good idea to (in addition to renaming the
invention back to its correct spelling) send a brief
email to <firstname.lastname@example.org> to make sure
it doesn't happen again.
Comments that include the token
"[marked-for-deletion]" or sometimes
"[marked-for-expiry]" call for the removal
of an invention from the halfbakery. An idea's
author and a halfbakery moderator can delete an
idea, but anyone can ask for it to be deleted.
Unlike spam (which is removed immediately),
the tagged inventions were posted in good faith, but,
well, they're either not quite what the site is for,
or out of place for some other reason the poster
couldn't really know.
Don't use marked-for-deletion tags as a trendy,
halfbakery-jargon way to express your displeasure
with an idea or its poster. If you've been told
many times that your tags are unwarranted, stop handing
them out; just use English instead. Say what you mean.
The administrators do filter out tags, but these false calls
are imposing a small, ever-increasing, administrative
burden on the server. Over the years, it adds up.
Likely reasons to call for deletion are:
In all of these cases, unless its owner deletes it,
the post stays around at least until nobody has annotated
it for about a week; removal happens at the discretion
of the site moderators.
- WIBNI - "Wouldn't It Be Nice If".
The invention describes something widely known
as desirable, but unobtainable, without
giving any new clues as to how it could
Ideas that already occur in existing
science fiction usually belong here -
time travel, stopping time, flying cars,
infinite resources, automatic real-time
translation, truth-detection, mind reading, etc.
- WTCTTISITMWIBNIIWR - "Wasn't that cool, that thing
I saw in the movie? Wouldn't it be neat if it
were real?" As in, light sabers, hover boards,
and memory implants.
- WTCTTISITVGWIBNIIWR - Video game. Same thing.
Also opera, musical, television miniseries,
comic strip, lecture series, audiodrama, popular
or whatever other media the idea's poster
encountered the invention in originally.
- advocacy - the post promotes or
protests an existing, often widely discussed,
issue X that is very important to the author,
without inventing new means to bring about
or stop the discussed issue.
This includes ideas to clone, kill, jail, or tax
all people who do X; filters to prevent people from
seeing or hearing X; classes that teach people how
to perform, handle, or avoid X; translators who
turn X into something more palatable; animals or robots
who seek out X and destroy it; as well as suggestions to
give tax credit to people who do X, make X
a precondition for voting, public office, marriage,
driving, or immigration, make prisoners do X,
require a license for people
who do X, or celebrate some deserving subject X on a
stamp, bank note, or with a public holiday.
- bad science - the invention is intended as a serious
suggestion, but is based on scientific "facts"
that are widely known to be wrong. This includes perpetuum
mobiles, cloned fingerprints, and inhaling helium
to make you fly. Or as Homer Simpson puts it,
"In this house, we obey the
laws of thermodynamics!"
- baked - a snarky way of saying
"widely known to exist".
- consumer advice - the author wants
help with finding a piece of software or
consumer good that meets their specification.
These inventions usually have the form "An X that
doesn't do Y", or "An X that also does Y",
where X is some well-known consumer good,
and Y a rather obvious problem with it.
(Halfbakers are usually happy to help if
the invention is removed afterwards, the question
is polite, and the privilege isn't overused.)
- cruelty - the idea is a new way
of torturing or killing a person or an animal for
pleasure or revenge. For example new, more painful
ways of executing prisoners; or ways to booby-trap
one's home to maim burglars.
- echo - inventions that exaggerate
a theme or flaw in another invention in order to
point out its silliness. It's fine for an invention
to be inspired by other inventions, but if you don't
"get" the point of the new post if you haven't
seen the other one first, it shouldn't be permanent.
(It's fine to do that in an annotation to the
idea that inspired the comment.)
- flavor - the poster would like
something that already comes in a number of
flavors to come in another flavor. For example,
tomato ice cream, or chocolate toothpaste.
This includes metaphorical flavors, such as
which band you'd like to see a "Guitar Hero"
version of - unless the combination is unusual
enough to convince readers to not complain
about it. (Good luck with that.)
- gross-out humor - the invention is
funny to the author _only_ because it involves a
taboo subject. There are many legitimate inventions
that touch on taboo subjects; this tag only concerns
inventions that wouldn't be noteworthy if it wasn't for
the addition of feces, sex, torture, death or injury,
- let's all ... - the author wants something
some people are already doing to be more widely practiced,
but doesn't provide a novel idea, invention or mechanism to allow
it to be more widely practiced.
- list - the invention itself is intended as
a parlour game to be played in its annotations. For example,
everybody posts their favorite names, or whom
they'd eat first if they were stuck with humanity
on a desert island, or people write a story by
each appending a single word.
- location - some existing complex
service X, provided in a location Y, without any
particular description as to why that particular
location is a good idea, or explanation as to how
it could be accomplished. For example, Karaoke in
an elevator, or sushi served in a subway train.
- magic - the author is using a
technology they know very little about as magic.
This imparts superpowers, among them the ability
to always know where something is (just
add GPS or RFID); the ability to make humans
or animals do anything (just use Pavlovian
conditioning), to make any organic matter do anything
(just add genetics or, once people complain about the
use of genetics as magic, "selective breeding");
to make inorganic matter do anything (just add
nanobots); to quieten any sound (just add
the ability to read minds
(just make your device an implant); to levitate any
number of objects from any distance (just attach
magnets), and the ability to reliably measure
someone's mood (just add a galvanic skin response).
- me too - the author has seen something in one
place and wants it to be available to everybody,
or at least to him or her, or free, or cheap,
without knowing how to make it free or cheap.
- naming - specific names to give
to people, pets, restaurants, top level domains,
etc. are out of scope for the halfbakery.
Whole naming schemes,
tools to help with naming or exchange names,
and specific names accompanying actual inventions
- philosophy - the post proposes
a way of seeing the world.
- pun - inventions generated by taking some
existing phrase and rhyming with it or
changing letters around.
It's fine for an invention to be titled with a pun;
it's a problem if (1) the title was there first, and (2)
the only function of the invention is to justify the title.
- recipe - the central purpose
of the invention is to describes how
to prepare a dish that could be enjoyed by people
eating it. In other words, recipes fit for
Internet recipe sites should be posted there,
- redundant - a very
similar invention already exists
on the halfbakery. Any invention involving
back windows of cars and LEDs spelling
out messages is likely to earn this tag.
Other frequently posted inventions include:
- gyms that produce electricity
- talking "rumble strips" by the side of the highway
- fart-scenting underwear
- a machine for recording your dreams
- a halfbakery "worst" list
- slogan - post suggests a
specific pitch, advertising line, or slogan.
Inventions for a whole new advertising medium
are welcome, but it has to be generic,
not just one clever line.
- stereotyping - the post is intended as a
joke that highlights just how much members of a stereotype behave
like the stereotype, in the mistaken assumption that that will be news to the
audience. For example, did you know that women like to shop,
and men like to have casual sex?
- study suggests... - the author read
a research result that excites them (usually in a discipline
that is not the author's own), and presents it with a
minimum of added invention, or with an add-on that merely wildly
exaggerates or distorts the research findings. There are lots
of unrealistic ideas on the halfbakery, and lots of ideas that
mention other research; the post only becomes worthy of deletion
if the creative content is minimal, and the focus is on that one
external piece of research.
- theory - the post explains why
is the way it is.
- we should research... - the author
read or heard an opinion or research result, and
would like to see the matter further investigated -
for example, in the form of a properly controlled,
double-blind study with a large number of
paticipants. The author didn't invent the claim
or the research methods, they're just suggesting
the application of normal research methods
to someone else's claim.
- widely known to exist - this is widely known to exist in the
real world. Mere existence alone is not
grounds for deletion; it needs to also be
widely known. What exactly constitutes
"widely known" is subject to interpretation
by the moderators.
As a rule of thumb, if a reasonably well-informed
professional of an applicable field would have to first
search for something on the Internet to find out whether
it exists, you shouldn't mark it as widely known -
although it would be nice of you to post a link if
you found something similar.
- word invention - the post suggests
a new term for something.
These are collected at
pseudodictionary.com and similar sites,
and should be posted there.
The Halfbakery: category|
Postings in the Halfbakery: category and its
subcategories have something to do with the operation
and inhabitants of the halfbakery itself.
Many of them are suggestions and inventions for the
operation of a website, but there are also bits of
poetry, song parodies, mere observations, or even
social notices from users
that are leaving or have dropped by to just say "hi"
to their friends. The
rules are relaxed below Halfbakery:; in exchange,
new entries in this category don't show up on the
default root page.
The halfbakery is not USENET, a mailing list, or a chat room.
Use your own good judgement to see where something belongs
and how long it belongs there.
As the "about" page states, the halfbakery hosts both
serious inventions and inventions intended as satire. (Mostly because
the site maintainers didn't want to have to tell the
two apart.) When
someone, especially someone new, posts an invention intended
not to be taken seriously, there are two groups of reactions
from the audience:
In the first case, the invention was funny. Good job.
- Users make funny remarks, or suggest
modifications to the invention also intended as humor,
or remark on how funny the invention is, or vote for it.
- Users vote against it, point out that it's not
funny, or simply ignore the humor and criticise
the invention or, worse, personally attack its poster.
In the second case, the invention was not funny.
Not because people didn't understand that it was intended
as a joke - they usually pick this up very quickly - but
because the joke didn't work.
If this happens, don't tell people that your invention was
meant tongue-in-cheek, and that they're obviously
intellectually inferior because they didn't "get" that.
Except for very few individual users, that is not the problem.
The problem is that the users are angry because you're
boring them. Not because they don't see
the joke, but because the joke really wasn't that
Get over your frustration, delete the non-starter if you
want, and come back when you've got another invention -
serious or funny - you want to try out. It's okay.
If the other users were always funny, they'd be highly
acclaimed comedy writers and have no time to
hang out on a website.
Linking to other pages|
Links point to other webpages (both on and
off www.halfbakery.com). On an idea page,
create a link by clicking on the "[link]"
below the links (if any) underneath the idea text.
You'll be prompted to enter a short name, a URL, and
a longer description.
Links work much like annotations.
Any user with an account can create a link
on any invention's page. If you created a link,
you can edit or delete it.
The owner of a page can delete
links on that page, even if they're created
by other people.
Any user can "flag" or, if the link has been flagged
already, "unflag" a link, by clicking on the
corresponding word in the list of control links below
Flagging a link causes a little question
mark to appear in front of it. (Flagging it again
after that causes a second question mark, and so on,
up to a maxiumum of three.) This is intended both as a signal
to the link's owner and the site moderators to
see what's wrong with the link and fix it or
delete it, and as a signal to the other users
not to get their hopes up.
Unflagging a link means to indicate that it works
as intended, and that perhaps an old flag was set
in response to local network conditions rather than
anything wrong with the URL itself. Editing a link
implicitly unflags it.
We don't collect data for commercial purposes,
and you aren't supposed to be able to download the list of
accounts and passwords from us,
but we make no guarantees about the security of
this site or the data stored on it.
The Halfbakery server's bandwidth is provided by an experimental
university research network. Traffic on this network is periodically
monitored and recorded for analysis, and the scientists who use the
data might see any information you or your computer sends us (including
your IP address).
We're not using SSL.
The account passwords are stored in the clear,
and they're transmitted in the clear when you log in;
the root user of this machine could in theory
impersonate any of its users.
If you're like me, you've got a "cheap"
password that you use for web accounts of
sites you don't particularly trust; this
is a good time to use such a password.
Absolutely do not use a password you also
use for personal, high-security accounts.
The croissant logo|
There is a proprietary, poorly documented
mechanism usually called "favicon" that allows websites
to draw a little logo in your task bar and bookmarks
list. The halfbakery's favicon was designed
by Henry Bloomfield and looks like this:
If you don't see it, and you know what I'm talking
about and see the icons of other sites (or you're
stuck with the heavy-black outlined croissant
predecessor logo), it might be that you just need
tell your browser to reload it. That may require
anything from explicitly accessing to the favicon.ico
file to clearing the cache in the browser's
"preferences" menu to hitting "reload" twice in
a row to downloading and running a special
Some users - three right now - have been made
halfbakery illustrators. That means they're
allowed to add images to the halfbakery that appear in the
body of an invention.
This isn't just part of their self-expression,
it's an unpaid service they're performing for the
halfbakery and its users.
If illustrators draw something in your invention that
with - you think their illustration is ugly,
or gets people on the wrong track, or you just
don't like that style - that's okay, just send
e-mail to email@example.com, and we'll
sort it out. This is supposed to be fun, and
if you don't like it, you don't have to get
involved with it.
If you don't want illustrations, there are two
checkboxes on your profile page you can mark.
There's one you can mark to avoid having your
inventions illustrated by others, as a creative decision
you make about how your inventions appear.
A second checkbox suppresses display of illustrations embedded
in the invention text; for example, because you're using
a very low bandwidth link.
In the latter case, you'll still see links to
illustrations - they just won't be embedded automatically.
If you're an amateur or professional graphic artist
with too much time on your hands, and you want to
help out and think you'd fit in well with the halfbakery
"style" (more crumpled paper napkin than animated 3-D
rendering), send e-mail
to firstname.lastname@example.org; please include links that show
what you draw like.
Taglines are the random slogans that appear underneath the
croissant logo. They're open to suggestions from users
(although only a small percentage of suggestions actually
gets picked--this is subjective, my sense of humor is different
If you want to suggest something casually, add a comment
with [marked-for-tagline] embedded in it.
If you want to make sure the site maintainer sees it,
mail something to email@example.com.|
Send bug reports to firstname.lastname@example.org.