"I suspect 'creating something personal, even of moderate quality' and letting people share it is going to be one of the business models of the next century. And one of the social movements. Which will happen if we can squeeze the convenience and scale of the internet into other places."
"People make maps in Team Fortress 2 specifically for grinding achievements. Bleak, joyless rooms of endlessly spawning bots and resupply crates, where people don’t play the game, they game it. But in one of these, achievement_all_v4, the author’s added a surprise. A violent, horrific, hilarious surprise of biblical proportions." A good community polices itself. This is hilarious.
And, with their 119th update, Valve helpfully included the list of all their previous patches, as well. Just look at the amount that's changed – and how swiftly. A proper, living game (unlike the stillborn 360 version). Can't wait to play it on the Mac; it's almost like a different game to the one I played at the beginning.
"Ben Gimpert is a friend of the Open Library. He and I got together over lunch a few months ago to talk about big data, statistical natural language processing, and extracting meaning from Open Library programmatically. His efforts are beginning to bear some really interesting fruit, and while we work out how we might be able to present it online, we thought you might be interested to hear what he’s been up to." Answer: good things. Ben is awesome, and this work sounds great. (I can't quote a suitable passage, so George's intro will have to do).
A few short tips on find; one of the bash tools I use least, and should probably use more.
"Diller, Brill, and Murdoch seem be stating a simple fact—we will have to pay them—but this fact is not in fact a fact. Instead, it is a choice, one its proponents often decline to spell out in full, because, spelled out in full, it would read something like this: “Web users will have to pay for what they watch and use, or else we will have to stop making content in the costly and complex way we have grown accustomed to making it. And we don’t know how to do that.”"
Jolly good, this, with lots of sensible points and a real clarity of thought for what otherwise could just be Powerpoint-by-numbers.
Cordell Barker's 1988 cartoon. I didn't even think this might be on Youtube.
After yesterday's stop-motion, this is perhaps even more remarkable and strange. Seriously, it's jaw-droppingly clever; daren't think how long it took.
"For the next few decades, journalism will be made up of overlapping special cases. Many of these models will rely on amateurs as researchers and writers. Many of these models will rely on sponsorship or grants or endowments instead of revenues. Many of these models will rely on excitable 14 year olds distributing the results. Many of these models will fail. No one experiment is going to replace what we are now losing with the demise of news on paper, but over time, the collection of new experiments that do work might give us the journalism we need." Late to link to this, but as everyone else who has done already would point out: it's great.
"The truth is, I think I’m famously awful at developing games. Before, I’d walk into the office, wave my arms and say ‘I’ve just had a cool thought’ – usually after severe alcohol abuse – and that lead us to spending a lot of money very foolishly on things that weren’t going to get anywhere. Quite a while ago now, we sat down and thought, well, this is ridiculous – we can’t keep this notion that game development is a purely creative process, and that you have to build it to be able to see it. There’s got to be another way." Peter Molyneux becomes a bit more self-aware, possibly a little too late.
How did I miss this when Lee first wrote it? This is all-encompassing, wonderful stuff about visualisation, exercise, comics, futurism, privacy, and the whole shebang. Top notch stuff, worth a read.
"Clatter is a wireless IM Lens instant messaging system built on to a soft contact lens. Clatter differs from other, commercial lens services by being open source and "riding" other services to create free cross-platform access." From Warren Ellis' Doktor Sleepless.
"The question of responsibility and accountability gets sticky here – especially if we consider that technologies are too often viewed as neutral tools or isolated artefacts. If we draw out these flows, these networks, these interconnections, we find ourselves faced with the possibility of being connected to people/objects/places/activites/ideas that we may never see. And with intimacy always comes risk."
"Commissioned by the advertising agency Nordpol+ Hamburg I designed the origami models and consulted the stopmotion as well as the computer animators of this world wide corporate movie that tells the story of the japanese sports brand ASICS. The movie won a Grand Prix at the Eurobest, gold at the New York festival, gold at the London International Awarts, silver at the Clio in Miami and two times bronze at ADC Germany." And it deserves all those awards; a beautiful piece of animation and paper-folding.
"You are a web programmer. You have users. Your users rate stuff on your site. You want to put the highest-rated stuff at the top and lowest-rated at the bottom. You need some sort of "score" to sort by."
When this is on Threadless, I am getting it ASAP. (Although: Ken's super should be a Shoryureppa, not the Shinkuu Hadouken that belongs to Ryu). I think this might be called "splitting hairs", though.
Some great notes from Dan Heaf on Clay Shirky's talk a week or two ago; I particularly like the notions of building not-quite end-to-end functionality, forcing the user to do something for themselves.
"“The User Illusion” is what Alan Kay and the PARC designers called “the simplified myth everyone builds to explain (and make guesses about) the system’s actions and what should be done next.” Nørretranders says the user illusion is “a good metaphor for consciousness. Our consciousness is our user illusion for ourselves and our world.” The world we experience is really an illusion; colors, sounds, smells, tastes, etc. are interpretation made by our brain." This sounds interesting, if a challenging read.
This looks very, very interesting. Yes, it's IF, but it looks like it's pushing that genre quite far.
"There are no cut scenes, no uninteractive passages, no portions where the characters are essentially "switched off" and indifferent to what the player does. Everything counts. Everything is part of the story." Excellent Emily Short piece on Blue Lacuna
01 May 2008
Many of us linked to Clay Shirky’s great talk at Web 2.0 last week, where he described the “cognitive surplus” bound up in millions of man-hours spent watching TV. We read it, and nodded, and grudgingly admitted he was right. I mean, he has a point.
I’m somewhat envious of Chris’ slightly more considered reaction:
“I’m a bit shocked at the general protestant work ethic undercurrents. It’s not a cognitive surplus; it’s a way of coping. The real question is why these people are creating Wikipedia when they could be sleeping instead. We’re processing hundreds, if not thousands of times more information per day than previous humans – how are we meant to make sense of it all if we have no downtime?”
Envious in that some days, I wish I had the balls to say “hang on a sec“.
Chris makes a good point. He also got me thinking a bit about the issue. And I think it’s important to note than when Shirky says “television“, he has a very particular meaning of that word. He’s describing a combination of the medium itself and a particular use of that medium.
Specifically: he’s describing consumption without choice. So to all of you fans of The Wire worrying that he implicated you, don’t worry.
To my mind, Shirky is describing the (depressingly commonplace) reality wherein the television is not something you turn on, but something that is on.
I was talking to Alex about how much TV we watch a week, and whilst we thought it was quite high – six to seven hours, tops – I pointed out that most of that is television we have actively chosen to watch. This week, it’ll be Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, Mad Men, Pulling, Peep Show, and of course, The Apprentice. But that’s about it. We rarely ever turn the TV on “just because”, and if we do, it’s usually me doing it – and the first thing I reach for is the EPG. On top of that, we probably won’t even watch that all in real time, but PVR it to watch when’s more convenient.
We are very much in control of our television watching.
We are not the kind of customers TV companies would like us to be. These days, TV is designed to be sticky; something you consistently choose not to turn off. Trails, stings, picture-in-picture; all are designed to stop us “touching that dial”. For a network or station, there’s no difference between changing the channel or turning the box off. Everything’s designed to keep you there.
This is how it’s been for decades, and why, in houses around the world, the TV is a constant presence; once you’ve turned it on, it entices you to keep it on, and so rather than making a choice of next action… you keep watching.
(Incidentally: whilst TV has always been a medium of choice for me, radio is something I often listen to “just because”. Radio’s incredibly sticky… and yet it’s less obssessive about being sticky, I guess because the likelihood that you’re already doing at least one other task – driving, working – is high. Radio’s always been designed to multi-task).
The thing that I have in common with the Wikipedia editors, when I sit down to watch an episode of Doctor Who is that I’ve chosen to do so. Wikipedia won’t edit itself, and you can’t just do it passively; have to actively decide: “I am going to edit some Wikipedia“. The truth of the web – something we can’t say for TV – is that it’s easier than ever to switch from the passive mode (“I’m just browsing some Wikipedia“) to the active mode (“that’s a mistake; I should change it“) – and even back again (“ooh, that link looks interesting“). There’s no possible passivity in creation, but it’s possible to return to a more active state having created.
And so the world Shirky describes as preferable to the constant passivity of TV is not one of constant production, constant creation, but one where “passive” and “engaged” are two ends of a sliding scale – and that it’s the inner of that scale, not the edges, that is most commonly inhabited.
“…the thing that makes participation valuable is that someone’s there to read it.”
And the more I think about this, the more reductive I think it is to describe the TV/not-TV perspective as being one of choice/not-choice. Indeed, most of us fall into neither the “hardcore” all-choice category – constantly running things and editing pages and creating stuff – nor the “totally passive category”; rather, we hover around the middle, scaling up and down to either end. That’s something that’s often forgotten in all the 70-20-10 discussions, where someone invariably flashes a pyramid up in their slide deck: the thing that makes participation valuable is that someone’s there to read it.
The thing that makes being a ten-percenter worthwhile is the seventy percent.
And we’re not all ten-precenters, all of the time; the ten-percenters are going to stop creating for a moment, and become part of their audience. I think that’s something we lose track of in all the “culture of participation“: when do we stop to take in all the things we’re participating in? Chris put this well:
“how are we meant to make sense of it all if we have no downtime?”
I don’t think we can.
This isn’t all to say that Shirky’s point is invalid, or that he’s incorrect – far from it. More the thinking that there are subtleties contained within his talk – and the ideas it stands for – that need to be considered sooner rather than later, before we all start parroting the same lines in our own presentations. By exploring what we understand our own work ethic to be – and examining the choices of how we spend our time – we can make better judgment and make better consideration of how other people spend theirs.
“Only once you can automate the boring processes and provide free time do people have to worry about what to do with their free time.”
The other interesting thing that came out of my chat with Alex was the importance of remembering what the pre-industrial society looked like. Alex pointed out that the Victorians essentially invented the concept of “personality“. Prior to then, shaping one’s individuality was harder simply because there was less free time; the rural lifestyle shapes the individual around the seasons, the environment, the wider group. Only once you can automate the boring processes and provide free time do people have to worry about what to do with their free time. Gin filled that niche for people who really didn’t know what they wanted to be, let alone do. TV is the same: it was progress, and at the time of creation, there were fewer more compelling alternatives.
It’s only recently that the barrier to creativity/productivity has been lowered to the point that it’s a viable alternative to watching TV. Compare the number of people with blogs to the number of people who published zines thirty years ago – a big part of the barrier to making a zine is the amount of time necessary to assemble it, photocopy it, and distribute it. Now, anyone can throw up a website in an evening and potentially have more readers than many of those zines. Since the 1970s, creating-for-pleasure has become much easier, and it’s worth remembering that when we try to illustrate the diversity of alternatives to passive staring at the TV…