Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
h a l f b a k e r y
actual product may differ from illustration

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meta: news, help, about, links, report a problem

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      (Jump ahead to sections on accounts, account termination, adding inventions, browsing, bugs, commenting on inventions, the croissant logo, editing and deleting inventions, forgetting usernames and passwords, the Halfbakery: category, invention names, inventions, illustrations, linking to other pages, logging in and out, low-res and RSS versions, [marked-for-deletion], security, taglines, tongue-in-cheek, voting).

To contact a human, send email to bakesperson@gmail.com.

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 been added.

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 or creation.

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 http://www.halfbakery.com/lr/. (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 http://www.halfbakery.com/index-rss10.xml and http://www.halfbakery.com/index-rss091.xml; in 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 bakesperson@gmail.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 repercussions. 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 personal reasons.

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 also deleted.

Account Termination
The halfbakery can kick users out without warning, explanation, or appeal, at the sole discretion of the website's operator.

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 bakesperson@gmail.com.

Logging in and out
Although we talk about a user being logged in, what really gets authenticated as a user is the browser program. 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 bakesperson@gmail.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 with it.

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 in bold.

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 irrelevant.

Invention names
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 attention grabbing 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 <bakesperson@gmail.com> 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:

  • 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 be done. 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 scientific magazine, 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, etc.

  • 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.

  • 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 noise-cancelling technology); 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 them, 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 are okay.

  • philosophy - the post proposes a way of seeing the world.

  • recipe - the central purpose of the invention is to describe 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, not here.

  • 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 the world 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.
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.

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 [marked-for-deletion] 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:
  • 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 first case, the invention was funny. Good job.

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 entertaining.

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 the link.

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 small-scale commercial hosting. You can access the site via https, if you want to; that should just work, and is a good thing in general to get used to.

But the account passwords are stored in the clear in the current database, and they're transmitted in the clear when you log in, and backed-up in the clear to the halfbakery's password-protected backup account (on another commercial hosting service). The root user of this machine could in theory impersonate any of its users.

Absolutely do not use a password you also use for personal, high-security accounts. (You shouldn't reuse those in general.)

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 "cache-refreshing" utility.

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 you disagree 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 bakesperson@gmail.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 bakesperson@gmail.com; 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 from yours.) 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 bakesperson@gmail.com.

Send bug reports to bakesperson@gmail.com. Thank you!