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Building Inspector
Playing Building Inspector at 1 a.m.? No judgement.

Calling all secret iPhone gamers. You know that quick round of 2048 before bed...that somehow turns into two hours of mindless number sliding? (It’s OK--we’re completely addicted too.)

We’ve found an alternative that’s just as compulsive, just as meditative, but way more productive for society. Introducing Building Inspector.

Dreamed up by the New York Public Library, it’s an online game that helps digitize historical maps in the institution’s archives so that one day we can all access a diagram of 1862 Manhattan like a Google map.

There are four tasks to choose from, but our favorite is “check footprints.” The computer randomly selects a colored block on the map and outlines it. Click “yes” (it’s a building), “no” (it’s a courtyard) or “fix” (the outline).

But the idea here is not labor-intensive cartography. It’s supposed to be fast, fun and done without much thought, so it’s totally fine if you’re buzzing through and get one wrong. The data is crowd-sourced (i.e., sent to several users) and only verified after there’s a group consensus.

For now the concept is Web-only (no app yet), but here’s a pro tip: Save the webpage on your iPhone’s home screen for easy mobile access while lying in bed.

There are worse vices.

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