The halfbakery is a community-based ideas bank used by people who wish to propose and develop (not always serious) half-baked inventions. Among many similar such sites (e.g. whynot.net, globalideasbank.org), it has distinguished itself by minimalism, irreverence, and a cast of regulars whose takes on suggested inventions are often funnier than the original submission.
Halfbakery can be read by anyone, but only logged-in users can contribute. A user with an account can submit new ideas (the inventions) and add links and annotations to existing ideas. An account is currently gained by e-mailing the "bakesperson," an e-mail address provided on the site. Logged in users can also vote for or against a particular idea. Users are able to edit and delete their ideas, links, annotations, votes, and even their whole account. A few selected users can illustrate ideas, and the illustrations are linked to on the idea's page.
The site is run by the bakesperson, jutta, and a small group of volunteer moderators who can contribute ideas themselves and have rights to delete ideas, annotations and links provided by other users. Moderators, however, must adhere to guidelines and are generally forbidden from deleting the links or annotations of other users. Moderators are unable to see who cast votes or alter votes other than their own.
Halfbakery has a variety of mechanisms for creating and discussing ideas.
An idea is initially created with the following components:
- Title: This is usually short, and often makes use of a pun or alliteration.
- Category: There are many categories, which are created by the bakesperson as needed.
- Summary: Used as a subtitle, this either clarifies the title, gives a summary or a humorous line.
- Description: The details of the idea.
Once created, an idea can be discussed by other users. Users can add annotations, include links to other Halfbaked ideas, and vote on the idea. All user comments, links, and votes can be changed or removed by the users who posted them, and comments and links can also be removed by the idea creator.
The style of writing on the Halfbakery is distinctive. Close attention is paid to grammatical, semantical and spelling mistakes, in contrast to other online forums. Writing is seldom overly formal, but too much slang or contraction is frowned upon. Ideas can be either serious or satirical, but ideas written too formally are not well received. Lack of paragraph breaks usually draws criticism concerning the perceived readability. A common occurrence is a user giving a negative vote, promising to retract it once the offending mistakes have been removed.
As is common on other internet forums, simple faux-HTML tags and action tags, such as <sarcasm> and <backs away slowly>, respectively, are sometimes used for a humorous effect.
There is a lot of Halfbakery jargon, due to its communal nature. Here are a few examples:
- baked - the idea has already been built
- half-baked - the idea already exists in fiction, or in the Halfbakery itself.
- WTCTTISITMWIBNIIWR - "Wasn't that cool, that thing I saw in the movie? Wouldn't it be neat if it were real?" (And several analogous formations.) A complaint about lacking originality.
- WIBNI - Wouldn't it be nice if. Used if something is impossible.
- autoboner - a mythical user who votes against everything ("bone" is short for fishbone, the icon for a negative vote).
- MFD - [marked-for-deletion], a search tag that can lead to idea deletion after moderator review (also used as a verb, meaning 'to mark an idea for deletion).
- bone - same as fishbone, a vote against an idea (also used as a verb)
- bun or pastry - same as croissant, or a vote for an idea (also used as a verb)
- The symbols [+] and [-] used in an annotation to indicate if a user voted for or against an idea
- HB, 1/2B, .5B, B/2, 'Bakery - Acronyms or Abbreviations for Halfbakery
- Halfbaker, 'Baker - A user of the Halfbakery.
The Halfbakery has a number of in-jokes. These mostly take the form of humorous misspellings, prodigious reference to things, or reference to several of the regular users. A few in-jokes are listed here, although the only way to know all of them is to be a regular user of the Halfbakery for some time.
- elf - Used instead of self in many circumstances.
- shirley - Used instead of surely, as in the 1980s movie Airplane!
- custard - will appear in many of the ideas, and is usually a guarantee of at least one croissant (although simply mentioning custard to try to get votes will not make you popular).
- Synonymic naming - Many times when referring to another baker, synonyms are used for parts of their names
- Van de Graaff generators are another oft-appearing device on the Halfbakery.
- TPPCPPC, Third Person Plural Conditional Past Perfect Continuous - a complicated tense, which makes use of a lot of auxiliary verbs, that has become a standing joke since its inclusion in 'Third Person Plural Conditional Past Perfect Continuous Song Lyrics', an idea that is sadly no more.
- cat-and-buttered-toast - often used in reference to any perpetual motion device
- the halfbakery logo changes for the day each Halloween
- pirates - similar in usage to custard or mimes
- Fishties - this is an infamous idea, which had the largest organised conspiracy on the HB. A user made an idea, for ties smelling of fish, and then got people to make an account and vote for it, with a comment mentioning the name of a country.
- The Great Crash of Oct '04 (or Sept '04, or just '04) - a huge crash of the Halfbakery, in which all the data was lost. The Halfbakery was brought back to life using a combination of the Wayback Machine and Google's cache. There are still hundreds of abandoned accounts asking their owners to reclaim them, and links which lead nowhere.
- Pedantry - being pedantic is considered, by some regulars, to be a virtue of sorts
- Half - Due to the name of the site, any aspect of half-ness is given special significance. Even the voting scale is halved (-2.5 to 2.5 instead of -5 to 5).
- Vagina Jam - an infamous idea often referenced in ideas that are only vaguely related.
- Mentioned in Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss, 2003 (ISBN 1-86197-612-7) as an example of online debate about punctuation.
- Patent Authority, depicting the Halfbakery as a well known repository used by inventors and patent attorneys
- Slashdot, article about AntiPatenting; brings Halfbakery as an archetype site.
- NewsForge, article about Halfbakery and its bustling activity (200 new ideas a week) - article in the open source software online news site.
-  Active open-source developer Justin Mason's blog on anti-patenting, bringing Halfbakery as example site.