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bkoep's picture
User offline. Last seen 2 days 9 hours ago. Offline
Joined: 11/15/2012
Groups: Foldit Staff

We've been thinking about revising some of the names and descriptions of Foldit tools to improve clarity, and would like some input from current Foldit players.

Sometimes, in our rush to try out new features and tools, we haven't given enough consideration to the naming of new features. Poor naming leads to confusion when trying to understand or talk about proteins and Foldit. A good example of this is the keyword "ideal", which can mean three or four completely different things in Foldit, depending on the context.

We want to hear from Foldit players (both new and old!) about terms and descriptions in Foldit that you find confusing, non-intuitive, or problematic. This could be anything, including the names of Foldit tools, puzzle titles and descriptions, or other text in the game!

LociOiling's picture
User offline. Last seen 2 hours 50 min ago. Offline
Joined: 12/27/2012
Groups: Beta Folders
Simplicity and consistency...

A few things are easy, such as avoiding "alpha helix" and "beta sheet" or "beta strand" in favor of just "helix" and "sheet".

"Segment" versus "residue" is another one to consider. Design puzzle descriptions have used "residue" for a long time, so changing it now is a bad idea. Maybe just saying "70 residue (70 segment)" in descriptions is enough.

In a few cases, we don't have a good name for something. In a symmetry puzzle, there are "symmetric chains", but what do you call them? Is the first one the "primary chain"? Are the other ones "shadow copies"?

For any changes you're considering, please check the wiki. Most Foldit terms should now have a mention in the "glossary" category. Additions, corrections, and suggestions are welcome.

We don't even have a good term for "Foldit players". Folders? Foldistas? Folditeros?

LociOiling's picture
User offline. Last seen 2 hours 50 min ago. Offline
Joined: 12/27/2012
Groups: Beta Folders

Bands are another area where the terminology can be awkward.

Calling them "rubber bands" is not really helpful, since they can push as well as pull.

The usual case is a "band between segments". There's also a "zero length band" (ZLB) to a point in space. I like "spaceband" better. The goal length of a spaceband starts out at zero, but you can change it.

We need a better term for "band between segments". "Normal band" or "regular band" doesn't really do it.

Joined: 09/24/2012
Groups: Go Science
conservative, scientific, simple, practical, visual, unique

Thanks for taking our understanding of the game into account !

I would say: be conservative for old established terms, innovative, short but more or less scientific and "self-explaining" for new ones.

-Conservative: there is a lot of foldit "literature", we want to still understand the wiki, old puzzles and recipes (so don't change too much the vocabulary, let the language go it's own way). Example: "Fuzing" is ok. Most glossary is explained in the wiki, so it's always better not to propose new terms for existing ones.
Moreover, for recipes, I use the title and description of the puzzles in order for the recipe to behave accordingly (for example is searches for "design" or "filter" in order to adapt options): better not to change too often.
This is particularly important for the parameters of the commands and the command names.

-scientific: as much as possible, use one of the possible scientific terms (the one that is the closed to child understanding). We like to learn something and to be able to speak about it with appropriate terms. For new tools, try to select one short simplified "scientific" term (the one you would use for 18 year old students).

-Simple, short terms: "helix" and not "beta helix", "hydrophobic", "cut", "mutate", "rebuild" ...

-practical as "backbone", "sidechain", helix, "x-ray tunnel" view, "recipe", "cookbook"

-visual as "helix", "red", "orange", "large", "parallel", "aligned" etc.

-unique ! select one short term from now for ever ("helix", "segment" ...)


These have long been confusing for me: if possible, select one unique per unique concept

-"ligand" / "drug" / "molecule" / (latest) segment ...

-residue / segment

-score / energy score

-loop / disordered

-alpha, beta, ... stand ..., residue

-some of the view options: isosurface, constraints

-I couldn't translate some terms to French like "shake", "wiggle", "tweak"

-ideal, idealize, remix, rebuild, abego, "low/medium/auto" "wiggle power"

-track / client


Conclusion: don't change too much "old thinks" but it's a good idea to adapt and change the names of the new thinks (for example there was no problem to change the name of experimental to pilot etc - better to take some time to find a good name "with us" the first year of a new product). It's still ok to change the names of confusing terms like "ideal" etc.

Susume's picture
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Joined: 10/02/2011
Define scientist terms somewhere

There are a few terms where the foldit term (the one we learn in the tutorials) is different from the term scientists use, and it leads to confusion. Examples are segment vs. residue and sheet vs. strand. The scientists are never going to stop using the terms they use every day - even if you guys make a real effort to foldit-ize the vocabulary in puzzle pages and blog posts, the science terms will still pop out sometimes in those places, as well as in sci chats, irc chat, etc. Also when players go to read scientific articles (or wikipedia, or pdb pages) they are handicapped if they don't know what scientists call those things. I wish there were some way to introduce the scientist names for those items somewhere to help bridge the gap. Maybe this is a job for the wiki rather than the game proper - I just know those terms in particular seem to create confusion over and over.


Developed by: UW Center for Game Science, UW Institute for Protein Design, Northeastern University, Vanderbilt University Meiler Lab, UC Davis
Supported by: DARPA, NSF, NIH, HHMI, Amazon, Microsoft, Adobe, Boehringer Ingelheim, RosettaCommons