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I'm looking for a label to describe the practice of using human-based computation methods or other means of "faking" an algorithm for the sake of getting a product or demo off the ground quickly without spending the time to develop an technical/scalable/analytical solution? Eg: using Amazon Turk to count the number of empty tables in a restaurant.

I'm also looking to learn more about this subject, but not sure what to search for. Human-based computation is only one method, I'm interested in the general idea of pseudo-implementation. Any ideas, recommended reading?


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Or to take another well known use case, using child laborers in third world countries to break captchas instead of breaking the captchas programmatically? – user16764 Nov 15 '12 at 1:13
I think the term "mocking" pretty well fits what you are describing. – NickC Nov 15 '12 at 17:35
up vote 11 down vote accepted

This is called Wizard of Oz prototyping.

Wizard of Oz prototyping is a popular approach in HCI to evaluate new human-computer interfaces. It is typically used if a system is expensive to build but can be easily faked by a human sitting in the other room. Thus the name.

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Interesting, had honestly never heard that name before. – haylem Nov 15 '12 at 1:50
So this technique may have originated in the field of HCI? I guess the term "Mechanical Turk" from which Amazon Turk gets it's name, refers to the fake 18th Century chess playing machine. I think a Wizard of Oz prototyping icon should be designed to be displayed on websites using this method. Rather than being associated with deception, I think the technique should become more widely promoted as a prototyping tool – MachuPichu Nov 15 '12 at 3:09

A well-known example of this sort of problem is the Mechanical Turk, where a person hid inside and controlled what otherwise appeared to be a chess-playing machine. Mechanical Turk the most widely-used term for it that I've encountered, even though I think I like akuhn's suggestion of Wizard of Oz prototyping as a more evocative and easier-to-explain name.

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The term Spike is used to describe quickly developed proofs-of-concept involving non-production-ready systems. A (design) spike usually includes either mocking up other parts of the system or low-quality implementations of them, in order to explore the design of the feature you are working on. – Chris Bye Nov 15 '12 at 16:53

Seems like this would be related to crowdsourcing; just minus the public aspect. You might want to include that in your keyword search.

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