About Human Brain Cloud
What is it?

Thanks for playing! Human Brain Cloud is a very simple massively multiplayer word association game.

The idea is, given a random word, a player types the first thing that comes to mind. For instance, given the word "forest", a common word players submit might be the word "tree", and this would result in a very strong directed association between "forest" and "tree".

On the other hand, given the same word "forest", fewer people might associate it with something like "birthday party", resulting in a very weak association or no association at all.

The cloud started with just one word, "volcano". All other words and associations between them were submitted by visitors to this site. Over time and with many players, I'm curious to see how this network continues to evolve.

This isn't academically rigorous or anything, so set your expectations accordingly and have fun seeing what people subconsciously think about stuff!

Didn't this exist a long time ago?

I first launched Human Brain Cloud sometime back in 2007, but it quickly grew too big and unwieldy and destroyed any server that tried to host it. So I pulled it offline to focus on other projects. The original site only existed for a few months, but the idea was simple and fun I'd always had it bubbling in the background as something to try again in the future.

Now in the future, six years later, I finally found some time to re-write the whole thing, and bring it back to life, hopefully permanently this time. Almost all 7 million or so associations from the old version have been imported into this version.

What is the technology in there?

This project was made possible by the alarmingly massive amount of free documentation and help available on the internet. I've discovered the web development community is a very clever (and very fanatical!) bunch, with specific feelings about specific pieces of tech and best practices. I'm sure I've violated many of them as I stumbled through it all, but for anyone curious, here's what I ended up with:

Client: Using HTML5 Canvas for the viewer. Javascript libraries include jQuery, jQuery-tmpl, an md5 lib, timeago, Modernizr, and jquery.limitkeypress.js.

Server: PHP and MySQL, with responses in JSON.

Server Hardware: Not sure. Part of the fun of this project has been trying to build something that runs on a really cheap $8.95/month shared hosting plan, but in a way that still offers a reasonably fast and responsive experience. Wildly variable database response times were the biggest challenge, but found that a combination of 1. caching as much as possible to static files or in the browser, and 2. shoving any expensive updates (like when someone submits a new connection) into a task queue to deal with later, all helped sidestep most database performance issues.

Other Tools: Using a Python script to wrangle Google's Closure Compiler for compressing Javacript, HTML Compressor for compressing HTML, and Yahoo's YUI Compressor for compressing CSS. Notepad++ for writing everything, on a Lenovo w520 running Windows, with Winamp hanging out in the background since like 1998.

What about other languages?

Human Brain Cloud does not currently have any concept of languages, although most (but not all) of the words happen to be English. Adding support for other languages is commonly requested and something I'm interested to add as soon as I make sure the site can remain stable in its current form.

Who's behind this and what do they want?

I'm Kyle Gabler, and I make independent video games and other projects. Human Brain Cloud is a side project I run in my free time, originally created to teach myself web programming, but has become one of my favorite projects to tinker with. It doesn't make any money, and probably won't ever.

More traditional games I've made include World of Goo and Little Inferno. You can find more of my projects and games here.

Contact info?

If you find any bugs or have comments or suggestions or questions or surprising discoveries, you can send them to

Look at the word above and type the first thing that comes to mind.
Leave blank to skip.
This will help build a giant network of associated words you can view.
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