Game idea: Conspiracy Mail

Here is my game idea. The email game. The game would look totally like an email app you use daily. You receive and send in-game emails, interacting with varios characters, trying to unravel a conspiracy.

Like real emails, you will receive ConMails in real time, the icon can also have notification badges and new mail counters just like real mail apps.


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Literature Review of Couchsurfing Research

The Disclaimer

This is not a comprehensive review (although you’re welcome to add more sources in comments or send me an email). This is also not a real scientific literature review. Some results are contradictory and it is up to you to judge who is right and who is wrong.

This is just a list of academic papers/theses/articles published on the topic of Couchsurfing. I used many of these papers when I was writing my thesis and articles on CS. I hope this little review will help you in your research.

This post is also available in pdf.

The List

(Adamic, Lauterbach, Teng, & Ackerman, 2011) combines data analysis of ratings, a large-scale survey, and in-depth interviews trying to understand the ratings on CS. Many users tend to overrate other members being afraid that they may provide reciprocally negative reference or rating. Negative references are underrepresented (only 1 to 2500 positives). Authors propose rating design that would encourage more balanced feedback.

(Ayers-Greenidge, 2012) explores guest’s motivations to use CS. Author finds that motivation to be a traveller (rather than tourist) is the most important, while initial motivation to save money when travelling is also popular. Author ties trust to the concept of intimate tourism. The similarity is an important factor in selecting possible host.

(Bialski & Batorski, 2010) ties concept of trust in CS to familiarity. Using an online survey of 3000 CS members, and 30 personal interviews, authors outline three stages of the CS experience when the trust emerges: pre-selection of users, website and profile navigation and offline contact. Familiarity plays crucial role in the formation of trust.

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Scott Adam’s book

I usually don’t buy such kind of books, but having read (and liked!) other books by Scott Adams, I decided to give it a go.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, short review.


What I dislike about self-help and business advice books is that often the main idea of any of those books is pretty simple and may be expressed on a single page. However to make the book publishable, authors basically write hundreds of pages repeating one and the same thing over and over again. Unlike the academia…

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Podcasts I like

I like listening to podcasts. I listen mostly when driving or at the gym.

Over time I understood that I don’t like the American way of doing podcasts (TED-like, engaging listeners, very emotional). I find them tiring and prefer the British ones.

I am a regular listener of three podcasts that I whole-heartily recommend:

Infinite Monkey Cage (BBC) – incredibly entertaining general science podcast with amazing Brian Cox and Robin Ince as hosts.

Science Weekly (Guardian) – Science news. Helps me to be up to speed with scientific advancements. Leans towards physics/ hard science. Sometimes includes absolutely fascinating interviews.

Friday Night Comedy (BBC) – Recent news discussed by the British comedians. Funny as hell.

Simplify your writing

Randall Munroe, of xkcd comic fame, developed an interesting online tool.

Aptly named “Simple writer”, it is a text editor that highlights all the words in your text that are not in first 1000 most used English words (or rather lemmas, as it permits different forms of a word). This tool can possibly help simplify one’s writing style, should such a necessity emerge. And it is fun to play with.

While the first part of this message was written without trying to be simple, this last block was carefully looked into with the help of the simple writer thing. Not sure if it really makes the writing simpler but it sure takes more time to plan.

Blogging WordPress theme

One of my non-academic hobbies is web-design. Creating my own WordPress theme that would be accepted into the depository was in my bucket list for a while.

And now I have done that. My first complete and publicly available WP theme “Simplified Blog” is available for download.

Feature list and description of the theme is here. In general I tried to create something very simple and accessible to everyone who just wants a blog without any fancy stuff. The Simplified theme has many customisation options, so it can be easily used without messing with the code. If you plan to make yourself a blog – try it and let me know if you like it :).

Web services for free academic proof-reading

Web services for proof-reading can be a powerful tool if you know where to trust them and where better not. They can help you make your own text simpler, more straightforward and concise by offering simple corrections and checking for very basic mistakes (like using the same verb in consecutive sentences or using adverbs where they are superfluous.

Here is a short list of such services working in your browser:

Grammarly: “Grammarly makes you a better writer by finding and correcting up to 10× more mistakes than your word processor.” Very popular and lauded service with huge number of users. Find grammatical mistakes, contextual spelling errors and also highlights poor word usage. Also offers Chrome browser integration.

Hemingway Editor: Much simpler service meant for short texts. “The Hemingway Editor will highlight (in yellow and red) where your writing is too dense. Try removing needless words or splitting the sentence into two. Your readers will thank you.” It also gives your text a “readability” score.

Pro Writing Aid: Another comprehensive service that creates a report about the quality of your writing. It checks for consistency, complexity, vague words and alliterations among other things. The downside is that it is much more cluttered compared to Grammarly and also not very usable in its free version.

Paper Rater: This service offers grammar checks as well as plagiarism detection. Function-wise it falls a bit short compared to Grammarly or ProWritingAid.