January 27, 2006

the medium that is eating the world

Raph Koster gave a talk this afternoon at PARC titled "The Medium That is Eating the World." Raph is a well-known online game designer (Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies) and a warm, funny, engaging speaker. His talk today was pretty loosely structured; he wandered around through a bunch of disjoint thoughts about the origin of games, different kinds of media, the definition of play, a bit of kitchen cog sci, and the impact of games on gamers and on the world. Overall it was quite interesting, but I felt like he was trying a bit too hard to be academic and researchy, since the audience was that kind of crowd. Not to take anything away from Raph; he said a lot of very sensible and insightful things and it was well worth attending. Here's a sampling, non-verbatim but captured as closely as I could on the fly:

Some say games are frivolous, from the Latin: “of little value”... but games are arguably a more important driver of human culture than the work you do here [at PARC]... More important than literature, more important than music or art. You have to learn to read, you have to learn to appreciate music, but we come out of the womb naturally into games...

Games are here to eat our brains! They are a virus that makes our brains better; they shape us.

Games are a medium – but not the kind we are used to. Games are models. For example, there is the board game model; board games quantize the world into discrete spaces, and progress through turn-by-turn movement. There is the sports model, where rules govern, rules like “reality ends at the white line over there, and that other white line over there. If you have a wormhole at each end, and you try to move a particle around and into one of the wormholes, you've got soccer." Then there is freeform play – the tea party. You might think this is unstructured, free play, but as you with little girls know, there are a hell of a lot of rules to a tea party!

Games teach us a lot of complex concepts. Consider the topology of games. Does checkers happen on an 8x8 square matrix? No, it is played on a diagonal grid in 4x4. Chess happens in some weird, messy non-Euclidean space. Video games like Asteroids exist on a torus. Chutes and Ladders? Just plain odd -- we're teaching 4-year olds about wormholes.

Algorithmic thinking – you can iterate on a game and you get somewhere. Good game designs explicitly provide several algorithmic paths for players to follow, because different players have different styles of play and problem solving. It's kind of interesting that a medium that drives you to algorithmic thinking is arising in a world where algorithmic complexity is high and growing.

Why do we play games? Is it for fun? What is fun? Academics in the field of ludology have come up with a classification of the kinds of fun, of course they go back to the greek and latin roots for maximum understandability ;-): ludus, paidia, Ilinx, vertigo, alea, mimicry. I think this is pretty much bunk. It's too complicated an answer.

Fun is learning. Consider: animals play to learn behaviors that later on help in survival of the species. Fun is an endorphin dump, just like chocolate & orgasm, that you get from playing and learning.

We play to build up models of habits, so you can successfully sleepwalk through life, so you don’t have to pay attention to every behavior, keeping your balance when walking, for instance. You need to build these patterns to cope with a life that is too full of complex information.

If you think about it, most of the games we play build certain habits: killing, aiming, projecting force, assessing arcs, timing actions, collecting, exploring, building, forming tribes, seeking understanding. We like to pretend that a lot of these things don’t matter anymore, in civilized society. But they are still applied in many ways beyond basic survival.

A couple generations of kids have now grown up surrounded by games, by these models. To them, seeing the world as a gamer means…goal-oriented behavior – “whats the objective, and how do I get to it?" [Refers to a book, “Got Game" that talks about how to use a gamer's native skills in the corporate world]. Also quantification and preferring simulation to explication. Gamers are heavily driven by collaboration. Today's gamer is one of a group of mixed gender, sitting on a couch, laughing and talking and solving game problems together. It is tens of thousands of gamers on web forums trying to figure out how to get something off the prostitutes in Grand Theft Auto. A very social medium.

"Is this medium in fact eating the world? 100% of kids age 6-10 are gamers. The kid who isn’t a gamer? Get him into therapy, he is out of step with his age group."

57% of 50-year olds in the UK are gamers too.

So where are games going? There are 2 kinds of video games today: incredibly expensive subpar Pixar-wannabe shoot-the-alien kinds of things, and 90% of them won’t break even. Then there are “pure” games, which are basically "whack the penguin" plus some dressing. One path leads to the holodeck – what academic 'narratologists' call a new form of narrative media, making use of the techniques of traditional storytelling. The other path leads to the models model. Sim city…Tetris to the nth degree. One swallows the other. Models eat the holodeck.

Games aren’t stories, all those legislators that don’t like the content of games are missing the point. Games are models. We can imagine some really big models…can there be a metaverse? When Bill Gibson said 'cyberspace', we misappropriated the word and hung it on the web. When Neal Stephenson said metaverse, we said oh, that's a 3D web. Wrong. The metaverse is a really giant hyperextended game of Quake. It’s a model.

Modern games are composite media, one that starts swallowing up other media. It's easier to imagine every other medium inside games, than to imagine games inside any other medium.

The future of play is ubiquity. The whole world is a game, hey that could be kind of fun ;-)

So your homework assignment is, go home, find a game and play it and see how it makes you think.

Dominic and his friend Sean came to the talk with me, they and two others were the only kids in the entire place. I think they were expecting him to talk more about the games he has designed, but they still seemed to enjoy it. Too bad Raph didn't give them a chance to speak gamer truth to the assembled greybeards ;-)

After the talk I asked Raph what was the hardest problem in game design today. He said cost. In 1985, the best, most graphics intensive game for the most cutting edge platform took 3 man months and $50K. Today, the most graphics rich game for a recent platform costs $35M to make and consumes 150-200 people for a year. He called this 'Moore’s Wall', and referred us to his blog at raphkoster.com. Over there I found a great talk he gave at IBM, Moore's Wall: Technology Advances and Online Game Design which addresses this in depth, I recommend it strongly. Many many other good things on his site as well, be sure to pack a lunch when you go ;-)

Posted by Gene at 12:03 AM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2005

jibjab's year-end round-up!


Fig. 1: Bush Offers Support for DeLay

President Bush said Wednesday he believes that indicted Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, is innocent of money-laundering charges and expressed the hope that his fellow Texan would regain his post as the House majority leader.

"I hope that he will [return], 'cause I like him," Bush said during an interview with Fox News Channel.

This has been quite a year, and the fine folks at JibJab sum it up nicely in their Year-end Round-up.

Posted by Gene at 02:29 PM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2005

why don't digital neighborhoods work?

I've been thinking a bit about how to bring local neighborhoods and towns into the digital age. It's not a new idea of course, but despite many attempts to crack the "local problem" it doesn't seem like anyone has really figured it out. Via SmartHoward I see that i-neighbors creator Keith Hampton wrote a short roundup of local web services that mentions commerical services Backfence.com and eBlock in addition to not-for-profit i-neighbors. A commenter points to Neighbornode and UK-based UpMyStreet as well. Of course there are the local-ish versions of the major search/portal sites like google local and yahoo local, as well as the grand whosyerdaddy of local sites, craig's eponymous list. It seems there's no lack of interest and vision aimed at tapping the energy (and the advertising money) of physical communities online, but other than perhaps craigslist, nothing appears to be working very well. We're going to look more at this question in a bit.

UPDATE: via Susan Mernit, here's another one: Buffalo Rising. I did a lot of growing up near Buffalo and my grandpa worked in the Worthington steel mill, so I'm interested to see how this one goes. The reinvigoration of an old industrial city is a nice narrative and focusing theme to seed a community of common interest. Making it a visible initiative also means the local polical and business leaders have some skin in the game, which seems important.

Posted by Gene at 06:10 PM | Comments (4)

sharks and social media

Sometimes blogs help us to locate ourselves in the web of humanity and remind us how closely interconnected we really are. I don't know Megan Halavais, the girl who was attacked by a white shark in Bodega Bay yesterday, but her name rang a little bell. It turns out she is Alex Halavais' little sister; I don't know Alex either, but I know his writing because my colleague and neighblogger Alex Pang has linked to him often. It's a very thin thread, but it was enough to take "just another news item" and make it a tangible, real and human connection.

Megan, I know you don't know us but my family and I wish you a safe and speedy recovery. You'll have quite a story to tell to your grandkids someday ;-)

Posted by Gene at 09:37 AM | Comments (1)

October 19, 2005

bush freefall flashup


A visual metaphor for our times? A strangely hypnotic flashmash by an "unknown flash guru"...

[thanks, RC!]

Posted by Gene at 01:55 PM | Comments (0)

my joi mashup is famous ;-)

Heh, I was bored one day and did this thing when I was linking a post back to Joi's blog. Now it's freakin' everywhere. Shagadelic, baby!

Posted by Gene at 01:10 PM | Comments (0)

October 09, 2005

teen panel at web2

There was an amusing panel discussion on the last day of web 2.0, among 5 local teens and Safa Ratschy of Piper Jaffray. The kids were 17 and 18, most in high school and one Cal freshman. Frankly, I don't think Safa is experienced interviewing teenagers, so the discussion was a bit aimless and the questions were haphazardly constructed. Nonetheless, there were some golden moments.

SR: Where do you search for music?

Sean: I use iTunes to find music I like, then I go to a BitTorrent site to download it. ITunes is a great database to look at albums. When I first got my iPod, I thought it would be good to pay for music, support the artists. But bittorrent is so easy.

Sasha: I use itunes to see what’s available. We have DC++ for Berkeley. I don’t pay for music anymore.

Jake: Torrents to get those new Daily Shows and Chappelle's Show. For music, IRC. You get amazing amounts of media off the internet for free, which is really sweet.

[I sure hope Piper and O'Reilly plan to indemnify these kids in some way]

SR: What about shopping online, where would you go to buy a phone?
D: T-mobile.
Sean: Verizon – I want that vcast to watch tv on the phone, that looks awesome.
Steffi: The Sprint store I guess.

SR: (clearly not getting the answer he wants) Maybe I asked the wrong question. How about if you want to buy a CD player?
Sean: Uh…CD player?
(audience ROFL)

Posted by Gene at 10:04 PM | Comments (0)

October 07, 2005

sergey brin at web2

Sergey's hanging around the web 2.0 speaker lounge. Battelle says he's going to be the unscheduled special guest right after lunch. Wonder what's up?

UPDATE: He's heeerrre!

UPDATE 2: Dan Farber of CNet was sitting next to me and posted his take on it: "Sergey Brin: No office suite…for now"

JB: You're not Jon Miller, I won't bite.

JB: How are you handling this, going from a grad student to where you are now, how's your head?

SB: It's luck. We were very fortunate in many ways. We were at Stanford, search was interesting & promising; it's not clear we saw a big business opportunity, me and Larry, we followed our hearts.

JB: Terry Semel said Google is #4 as a portal.
SB: Based on my reading of that, it would make us the underdog. You've been to our cafe. Our food is pretty good, we try to improve it. But we're probably not in the top hundred or thousand.

JB: At dinner with Yusuf Mehdi of Microsoft, he said we're the underdog now. Do you see Microsoft as the underdog?
SB: I'd be delighted to be seen as the leader in technology, and I do think we are a leader from a technical point of view.

JB: Search provides an extraordinary monetization, and an extraordinary valuation as a company.
SB: I'm not a valuation expert. In terms of search market share, well I'm obviously delighted. People come to Google because of the search experience, and that's why they stay.

JB: Will the Google interface continue to be clean and lots of white space?
SB: It depends on the service, for example consider gmail. For folks using other webmail, how many have had your quota grow by 10x lately?

JB: What about Google as the web platform? What do you think about all those companies that build around that platform. You just launched a feedreader, what about other people that make those?
SB: I think those feedreader companies will be getting a lot of calls from Yahoo, Amazon and so on. When we made AdSense, we could have done banner ads but we wanted to do something different. Now lots of search companies and small sites use AdSense; one of the motivations for us was to find a way to help small sites from disappearing off the web, and AdSense helps them to stay up.

JB: What about content? AOL, Yahoo, IAC all talked about content being core to their business.
SB: We believe in sending people to content, but not necessarily making content ourselves. We're not about trying to keep people on Google, we send them off.

Q: What about Google Office?
SB: Yes, there are lots of stories. I don't think taking previous generation technologies and trying to make them relevant to the web is the right thing. I don't think we should take a bunch of AJAX and make a minicomputer on the web. I'm not saying that's what Office is (laffs). I'd like to see us do new things.

Q: Is clickfraud a problem?
SB: I'll echo Omid's comments. It's certainly something we need to work on, but there are a long list of things we do to prevent fraud. Most of our advertisers don't worry about clicks , they actually care about conversions and making sales, and they monitor those closely. On the whole, with the large team of people we have dedicated to fighting it, clickfraud is not really a big problem.

Q: What areas are you focusing on, vs what's safe to invest in?
SB: In general, we have core projects that we want to be strategic about, and bottoms up projects. Sometimes those surprise us. News, for example. Probably most of our successes are not things that any execs thought would be a good idea. I guess that doesn't help much in figuring out what do do; it doesn't help me much either.

Q: Terry Semel said 5% of pageviews are search, 40% are communication & user generated content.
SB: The numbers are probably fair, but after you do a search you want to look at the results. We have focused on things where people spend a lot of time; we tried to make email more efficient. The reason we try so many things out on labs, is it's really hard to predict what will work. If we had tried to predict Wikipedia a few years ago, I think you wouldn't have believed it would work.

Q: What do you think about video search?
SB: I think people underestimate the quality of information available in video. Extraordinarily high quality content is availbale in video, look at the credits -- hundreds of people work on them. Some of the best quality information we have is in video form. Making it searchable will really unlock that quality.

Posted by Gene at 01:24 PM | Comments (0)

google reader at web2

Jason Shellen just announced a new GLabs thing, Google Reader. Cool?

Posted by Gene at 10:36 AM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2005

660 million

The number of free CDs that AOL spammed the world with, according to Jonathan Miller.

Posted by Gene at 11:48 PM | Comments (0)

October 05, 2005

web2.0: launchpad

Batelle: "We're launching 13 companies in 90 minutes"

[the room is packed, the notes are rough-hewn and stream-of-consciousness]

1. Socialtext, Ross Mayfield
Enterprise social software – wikis for enterprises. 200 customers, built on kwiki. They enable collaboration at scale across organizations.
Announcement: becoming a commercial open source company
- wikiwyg.net, see also web2con.socialtext.net
- synchroedit.net – synchronous real time editing
- leveraging atom API; offline editing using Ecto
Business model
- shared and incremental risk
- building a community

2. Rollyo, Dave Pell
"The shortest nonsexual performance of my life." (laffs) "That laugh marks the shortest sexual experience." [heh]
“Roll Your Own Search Engine”
Easily make a list of sites to search
Searchrolls – sort of like blogrolls
[does this mean you only ever have to know about things you choose to know about?]
You can explore & use other people’s searchrolls

3. Joyent
Network suite of apps for small groups (2-20 people)
Mail, calendar, contacts, files, binders.
Tagging, smart filters drive RSS feeds
Open format supports keep data portable
Xml-rpc extensibility
Buzzwords everywhere – ajax, mashups, tagging...
It may be good, but demos of mail and calendars are fundamentally boring.
Ooh, and Konfabulator widgets and GMaps too.

4. Bunchball, Rajat Paharia
“Do things with people you know”
Was at IDEO before he lost/left his job.
Online YASNS focus on sharing and communicationg, and make you recreate your social reality for every new app
Every new social app requires a big pile of plumbing
How do you get in front of users?
Big trends: web as platform and socialness
For developers, they are “social architecture”
Initially targeting flash developers
Providing the social application plumbing
For users, lots of social apps at one place, with one social network to set up
Ad revenue sharing with developers
Apps – not a whole lot yet, been focused on the plumbing
Developer: Metaliq – building a multiplayer texas holdem table with persistence

5. RealTravel, Ken Leeder
A better way to find real information from real people like you
Leverages blogging and social networks to do good travel related things for users and travel industry marketers.
- Internet is most important channel for travel
- focus on price is commoditizing travel
- people like to share their experiences
Community of travelers
Personal pages + mapping tools e.g., GMaps
[depends on people’s willingness to contribute their expertise]
[depends on ability to separate signal from noise]
Tagging, of course
[what’s the benefit to users?]

6. Zimbra
Enterprise collaboration server
Open source
Ajax, open APIs for mash ups, RSS, widgets, woo foo.
Mail, contacts, calendars etc
[another tough demo coming now…]
Roll over links in email, get popups – web service API calls
- web links – view of page
- address – Gmap
- appointment – calendar
- phone # - Skype
- fedex tracking # - FedEx info
Good mail search capabilities e.g., find messges from Joe between dates, with specific attachments, from specific companies etc.
[okay wow, so it was a good demo after all ;-)]

7. zvents, Ethan Stuck
Local event search and web service
Finding local events from the thousands of possibilities and fragmented media
3x more events than nearest competitor
Covers the Bay Area
What-when-where search with list, maps, calendars
APIs – REST, RSS, tags, ical, xml-rpc, blog widgets, GMaps…
Blogging support – embed a dynamic search result in your blog [cool!]

8. KnowNow, Ron Rasmussen
Funded by Kleiner
Turning http into a 2-way protocol
Notification of changes in any syndication feeds – “eLerts”
- direct to consumers
- hosted branded service for business
Continuous live notifications of changes in your RSS subscriptions
Browser toolbar
No RSS reader
Free for personal use
Unaffiliated, no portal handcuffs
Drive you back to the original content source

9. Orb Networks, Ian McCarthy
“Access to and control of your stuff”
Music, live tv, webcam, my file system, x10 (turned on the light remotely in the webcam view at the CTO's living room)
Launched at CES Jan 2005
2 new types of access
On the fly transcoding
[could have explained it better. hmm, this seems really familiar...]

10. Wink, Michael Tanne
Combining search with interactivity – “People Powered Search”
Tag sites you like
Block spam results
Aggregate tags across the web, analyze them for relevance and freshness based on user feedback
- TagRank
- Personal search sets

11. AllPeers, Matthew Gertner
Transforming Firefox into a web2 development platform
Lots of challenges making web2 code work
- extensible profiles
- data storage (SQL based)
- resource replication
- p2p communication
For users:
- MediaCenter – import all media files, tag, organize, share point-to-point, within browser (coming soon)
- web page sharing, local annotation and async sharing
- some third party apps coming too

12. Flock, Bart Decrem
Social browser
Web is a stream of events and interactions among people
Tools to smooth the rough edges of living online
Open source, building on Mozilla stuff
Seed level
Alpha release coming in a few weeks, beta later
Right now, focusing on favorites, history, blogging integration into browsing
Favorites – integrated into browser – bookmarking sends to delicious and other services automatically, and pulls in all feeds from the site
Social – highlight text in an article, drag it over to a “stuff” box [huh?]
Blogging topbar element shows recent posts, launches editor
Flickr topbar
[so what was this exactly?]

13. PubSub, Bob Wyman
Ease of publishing in structured formats, machine readable/processable
Working with Marc Canter to build extensions to WordPress, MT, Drupal for structured entries
Events, reviews etc.
Semantic web content
Blogging is now about arbitrarily complex data consumable by any search engine
[and why oh why do i want this?]

Posted by Gene at 04:38 PM | Comments (0)

at web2con

Well whatever "web 2.0" means, I guess I'm going to find out in the next 3 days here at this web 2.0 conference. Should be interesting. I'm speaking on Friday morning, on a "from the labs" panel along with Alan Eustace (Google) and Prabhakar Raghavan and Usama Fayyed (Yahoos). (cue sesame street music) One of these things is not like the others...

Anyway off we go into the fray. Will write if there's news.

Posted by Gene at 02:02 PM | Comments (0)

July 08, 2005

guess the google


Grant Robinson has made this breathtakingly addictive game that will eat your soul. Do. Not. Click.

Posted by Gene at 10:01 AM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2005

help wade write his continuous computing article

It was a fun physical/digital dislocation to find myself sitting next to Wade Roush last night in Palo Alto, after having read and commented on his emerging Continuous Computing story just that morning. It was one of those nametag doubletakes for both of us, and it turned out we had a lot of shared context in place despite never having met before (even going back to mediaMOO in 1993 where Wade designed the STS Center and I got my first real taste of virtual community). If you haven't checked out Wade's bold experiment in collaborative journalism yet, he has now posted parts 1-3 and is actively seeking comments. Go over there and grab your place in blogging history while you can (I think he's getting tired of hearing from me anyway ;-)

Posted by Gene at 04:41 PM | Comments (1)

May 19, 2005

SPOT stories

Despite my earlier lukewarm reception of my SPOT-enabled watch, I've been wearing it pretty consistently for the past couple of months, so go figure. Anyway I noticed an interesting thing today -- the news alert function creates dramatic little microstories that interpose strangely on the day.

10:42a Israel declares emergency landing for plane with 294 passengers.

10:59a Jet's emergency landing ends safely in Israel.

Phew! Back to work.

Posted by Gene at 11:36 AM | Comments (0)

May 04, 2005

the ito-fisher effect

A couple of intertwingled items involving people and places I admire and you should know about. Drink deeply, it's good.

The USC School of Cinema & Television's Interactive Media Division is graduating it's first crop of MFAs, and the students will present their thesis projects next week at Pass Through. These look like very cool works, I really wish I could be there for this event instead of the 3-day meeting I'm obligated to be stuck in. Congratulations Scott and the entire graduating class!

Update: Putting 2i and 2i together, I just realized that one of these folks is the guy who spent last summer at the Labs, working on custom television. Also worth noting, all of these students have blogs. Izzat a department requirement or what?

Congratulations are also very much in order for Mimi Ito of the USC Annenberg Center and Peter Lyman of UC Berkeley SIMS (of "How Much Information" fame), who will be co-PIs on an enormous $3.3M grant from the MacArthur Foundation to study young people's use of digital media. Research themes to include: 1) How are communications networks - the mobile phone and the Internet - changing the scale, scope and dynamics of kids' social worlds? 2) Technologies of the Imagination: Production and Consumption of Knowledge. 3) Play and Gaming. Watch closely folks, this is going to be a good one.

[via we make money not art and the Interactive Media Division weblog]

Posted by Gene at 12:12 PM | Comments (0)

April 21, 2005

a further update on the michelle delio affair

This just in from AP: Review Raises Doubts About Tech Reporter

Fact-Checking Investigation Raises Doubts About Tech Reporter's Sources, Accuracy

BOSTON (AP) -- A fact-checking investigation commissioned by MIT's Technology Review magazine has raised further doubts about sourcing and accuracy in stories written by a freelance journalist.

Just three of 10 stories Michelle Delio wrote for Technology Review's Web site could be verified by a journalism professor hired by the magazine to examine the stories published between December and March.

We've been following this with interest. One good thing to come of it: I'm pleased to note that "[Technology Review] has since tightened its fact-checking practices for the online edition." Well, yeah.

Update: TR's Independent Investigation Findings.

Posted by Gene at 04:51 PM | Comments (2)

April 20, 2005

you are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike

There is a computer terminal here.

> look computer

You see a nondescript beige box with an old 14" CRT sitting on top. You brush a thick layer of dust off the screen, revealing a Firefox browser window open to StationExchange.

> find superpowers on computer

You type your request on the computer. After a brief pause you see a list of available items. One highlighted entry reads "+10 Pepsi(TM) Potion of Personal Fluidity, US$10".

> buy potion

I see no potion here.

> buy potion on computer

You pull out your trusty MUDsterCard, key in the numbers, and wait for the transaction to clear. You hear the sound of a cash register ringing, and a soft popping sound nearby.

> inv

You are carrying:
rusty knife
tattered copy of Bartle's MUD Advanced Project Report
+10 Pepsi(TM) Potion of Personal Fluidity

> drink potion

You tip the glittering crystal flask to your lips and drink deeply. It's very refreshing!

> drink potion

There's nothing left in the flask. You get the idea that you might need to pee.

> use powers

I see no powers here. You definitely need to pee.

> w

You can't go that way. But you really do need to *go*.

> s

You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. You dance around nervously.

> pee

I don't know how to do that. You really, really need to go. Maybe you should look for a +15 Pampers(TM) Shield of Absorbency (US$10).


I don't understand that. Type 'h' for a list of commands.

[via Wired News & Terra Nova]

Posted by Gene at 09:20 AM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2005

who's on windows?

This is a good laugh...


If Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were alive today, their famous sketch, "Who's on first?" might have turned out something like this:


ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?
COSTELLO: Thanks. I'm setting up an office in my den and I'm thinking about buying a computer.
COSTELLO: No, the name's Lou.
ABBOTT: Your computer?
COSTELLO: I don't own a computer. I want to buy one.
COSTELLO: I told you, my name's Lou.
ABBOTT: What about Windows?
COSTELLO: Why? Will it get stuffy in here?

ABBOTT: Do you want a computer with Windows?
COSTELLO: I don't know. What will I see when I look at the windows?
ABBOTT: Wallpaper.
COSTELLO: Never mind the windows. I need a computer and software.
ABBOTT: Software for Windows?
COSTELLO: No. On the computer! I need something I can use to write proposals, track expenses and run my business. What do you have?
ABBOTT: Office.
COSTELLO: Yeah, for my office. Can you re! commend anything?
ABBOTT: I just did.
COSTELLO: You just did what?
ABBOTT: Recommend something.
COSTELLO: You recommended something?
COSTELLO: For my office?
COSTELLO: OK, what did you recommend for my office?
ABBOTT: Office.
COSTELLO: Yes, for my office!
ABBOTT: I recommend Office with Windows.
COSTELLO: I already have an office with windows! OK, let's just say I'm sitting at my computer and I want to type a proposal. What do I need?
COSTELLO: What word?
ABBOTT: Word in Office.
COSTELLO: The only word in office is office.
ABBOTT: The Word in Office for Windows.
COSTELLO: Which word in office for windows?
ABBOTT: The Word you get when you click the blue "W".
COSTELLO: I'm going to click your blue "w" if you don't start with some straight answers, OK, forget that. Can I watch movies on the Internet?
ABBOTT: Yes, you want Real One.
COSTELLO: Maybe a real one, ! maybe a cartoon. What I watch is none of your business. Just tell me what I need!
ABBOTT: Real One.
COSTELLO: If it's a long movie, I also want to watch reels 2, 3 and 4. Can I watch them?
ABBOTT: Of course.
COSTELLO: Great! With what?
ABBOTT: Real One.
COSTELLO: OK, I'm at my computer and I want to watch a movie. What do I do?
ABBOTT: You click the blue "1".
COSTELLO: I click the blue one what?
ABBOTT: The blue "1".
COSTELLO: Is that different from the blue "w"?
ABBOTT: The blue "1" is Real One and the blue "W" is Word.
COSTELLO: What word?
ABBOTT: The Word in Office for Windows.
COSTELLO: But there are three words in "office for windows"!
ABBOTT: No, just one. But it's the most popular Word in the world.
ABBOTT: Yes, but to be fair, there aren't many other Words left. It pretty much wiped out all the other Words out there.
COSTELLO: And that word is real one?
ABBOTT: Real One has nothing to do with Word. Real One isn't even part of Office.
COSTELLO: STOP! Don't start that again. What about financial bookkeeping? You have anything I can track my money with?
ABBOTT: Money.
COSTELLO: That's right. What do you have?
ABBOTT: Money.
COSTELLO: I need money to track my money?
ABBOTT: It comes bundled with your computer.
COSTELLO: What's bundled with my computer?
ABBOTT: Money.
COSTELLO: Money comes with my computer?
ABBOTT: Yes. No extra charge.
COSTELLO: I get a bundle of money with my computer? How much?
ABBOTT: One copy.
COSTELLO: Isn't it illegal to copy money?
ABBOTT: Microsoft gave us a license to copy Money.
COSTELLO: They can give you a license to copy money?
(A few days later)
ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. May I help you?
COSTELLO: How do I turn my computer off?
ABBOTT: Click on "START"....

Posted by Gene at 08:52 AM | Comments (0)

April 10, 2005

please stand by...

Fredshouse is going to go offline for a little spring cleaning. See you in a bit...

Posted by Gene at 11:40 AM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2005

which would you rather own, flickr or snapfish?

Yahoo bought Flickr. HP bought Snapfish. Who made the better strategic play?

Flickr has around 300,000 registered users, many of whom are passionately loyal to the service. Flickr's blend of social networking, folksonomy tagging, open APIs, and freewheeling geek culture style make it a poster child for Web 2.0. And of course its buzz factor is to die for. Yahoo will give Flickr the resources it needs to scale up, and Flickr brings Yahoo a blast of cool that has been, um, somewhat lacking in recent years. The Ludicorp team is hyper-creative, and could do some widespread damage if partnered up with some of Yahoo's august community building talent. Oh hey, maybe GNE will even finally get finished ;-) If you believe in the potential of social media, this feels like a good play for Yahoo.

Snapfish claims 13 million registered users, and has a well-established but more traditional photo-oriented business model. Straightforward photo sharing, film processing, photo printing, and merchandising are the main events here. Snapfish is an online digital photography service for a mass market audience that's still living in a Web 1.0 world. Assuming the Snapfish culture doesn't get suffocated by HP's conservative Fortune 50 style, this looks like a good way for HP to build a true service-oriented consumer business to complement its dominant consumer hardware and supplies machine.

Bottom line, I think both deals are interesting and promising for different reasons. Flickr is a lovely shiny new thing pointing the way to the future, and it has the considerable energy of the online creative class behind it. The Snapfish acquisition is way more boring, and I suspect it has more execution risk, but I think it also has greater potential to be a game-changing play for HP than Flickr does for Yahoo. It will be interesting to see where these two companies are in a year.

[Disclaimer: Just my own personal opinions here, folks, not my employer's.]

Posted by Gene at 04:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 04, 2005

generation gap

When you get 6 gmail invites and your teenage kid gets 50, what is that a sign of?

Posted by Gene at 02:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 02, 2005

naked gnome protest and other oddities


It's worth noting that while you were living your so called life last week, there was a mass protest on Worlds of Warcraft concerning problems with the Warrior player class, that ultimately crashed the Argent Dawn server. Inexplicably (to me anyway), the protesters were gnomes and not he-man/amazon warriors.


While we're at it, we note with mild interest the beta of Sociolotron, an adult-themed, no-holds-barred MMORPG. From the gamesfirst review:

The thing that will get most folks to play Sociolotron is the fact that the game is explicitly designed to be absolutely debaucherous. A review of the newbie guides and gameplay descriptions quickly reveals that this is a standard MMORPG (although not the gorgeous 3D variety) in the tradition of Ultima Online or any good MUD or MOO. The graphics are primitive by today’s standards, but they provide a good amount of visualization. The sprites on-screen change according to what weapons or armor are equipped, and there are many postures to assume when chatting, or, ahem, whatever. The skills range from the normal (blacksmith, sword, etc.) to the strange (prostitution, succubus). Sociolotron focuses on skill development, property acquisition, and social roleplaying to motivate the gameplay, and what it lacks in the graphics and polish department is made up for in the “What the fuck?!?” department.


In other news, a somewhat famous Ultima Online gold farmer who claims to have generated something like 9 billion gold pieces and sold them for over $100,000 of real actual money, quit the biz and sold his gear on eBay. Apparently the exploit he used has now been closed off, so don't go rushing off to jump his claim.

Of course, you would already know all these things if you were reading the quite excellent Terra Nova, which chronicles the startling parallel universes of online virtual worlds.

Posted by Gene at 11:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 24, 2005

gmail invites

Gotta few spare gmail invites, in case the one remaining person without happens to be reading here. Leave a comment on this post, with a valid email address. Slight preference to folks that I know, but mostly it'll just be first come first served until they're gone.

Posted by Gene at 06:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 12, 2005

random is the new order

So apple announces the iPod shuffle. And thanks to Alex, fredshouse is currently something like the #3 result on google for "ipod shuffle". Heh, well, that'll be changing.

Update 1/13/05: down to result #120 and falling fast

Posted by Gene at 03:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 08, 2005

love angel marketing baby



I think it's wild that Gwen Stefani designed a camera for hp. She's a babe, a bright flare of talent, and a totally shameless marketing animal -- a brilliant avatar of turn-of-the-century A-pop culture. Check this: the camera is called "Harajuku Lovers", which points us to her new song "Harajuku Girls" on the new love.angel.music.baby album, which in turn refers to Gwen's L.A.M.B. fashion line. Gwen is clearly a student of cross-media, physical/digital saturation genres like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh. Wonder when we'll see the new Gwen line of l.a.m.b. Sims skins, and the new mobile street shopping game, l.a.m.b.world?

HARAJUKU GIRLS you got the wicked style. I like the way that you are. I am your biggest fan.

Work it, express it, live it, command your style.
Create it, design it. Now let me see you work it.
Create it, design it. Now let me see you work it.

You bring style and color all around the world. You HARAJUKU GIRLS.
You bring style and color all around the world. You HARAJUKU GIRLS.

Your look is so distinctive like DNA,
like nothing I've ever seen in the USA.
Your underground culture, visual grammar,
the language of your clothing is something to encounter.
A Ping-Pong match between Eastern and Western,
did you see your inspiration in my latest collection?
Just wait till you get your little hands on L.A.M.B.
cause it's (super kawaii), that means (super cute in Japanese)

The streets of Harajuku are your catwalk (bishoujo you’re so vogue)
that's what you drop.

[via hp, engadget, gwenstefani.com]

Posted by Gene at 06:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 15, 2004

what does your blog reveal about you?

Blogs are global and blogs are forever; it's hardwired into their nature as nodes on the Internet. So I find myself wondering lately what people's blogs reveal about their lives, and whether this is information that truly should be public, persistent and searchable by anyone, in any future time.

A quick scan suggests that a shakedown of fredshouse would yield a fair bit of personal data: my name, where I live, where I work, what I work on, what I read, where I've traveled, what conferences I go to, what my dog looks like, many of the gadgets I own, a bit about family members and friends, and quite a lot about my professional interests, hobbies, political views, and taste in music. It's not even close to a complete picture of my life, and there are plenty of things I consciously choose not to write about in public. But still there is a lot of information here. In this regard, bloggers are more like public figures or celebrities than private citizens.

So what does your blog reveal about you? How do you feel about being a public figure? How do you think you will feel about it in ten years, or fifty?

Posted by Gene at 12:32 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 09, 2004


What would you call this...science fiction? Corporate futurism? Speculative documentary? Whatevar, it's pretty cool. Google, TiVo, Amazon, and the death of News As We Know It: EPIC.

Posted by Gene at 04:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 08, 2004

halo 2: disappointment sets in

One month since launch, we're feeling pretty let down by Halo 2.

The release of Halo 2 was hugely anticipated around fredshouse, and like every other gamer on the planet we were chomping at the bit for months. We scanned the web for news and screenshots, did the I love bees thing, downloaded the mocked up levels for Halo PC, the whole deal. We were an enthusiastic part of that $100 million first day.

Now that we've been playing it for a month I have to say that it's a very good game in most respects, but with a couple of stark flaws that really hurt.

One: Lots of folks have said it, but the cliff-hanger ending of Campaign mode is a big rip-off. The Halo 2 storyline is okay, but it's not good enough to support such an abrupt, faux-dramatic ending. We just don't care enough about these characters and their situation. So when we hit that ending, we went through the stages in standard order. Shock: "What??? Where's the rest of the game?" Denial: "Ah, the game must continue in heroic or legendary mode." Anger: "What #&*$@?! product manager at Microsoft thought it would be a good idea to torque us up for the next sequel? What a freaking brilliant crock of shit." Bargaining: "Maybe if we sent them a petition...they might release Halo 2.5 in the spring!" Finally acceptance: "Fine, sequels always suck. Let's watch TV."

Two: The online game isn't as good as Halo PC on the Net. This is my kid's specialty, not mine. He says the levels are boring, and the social interaction
isn't good. But most importantly, it's a closed world. No modding tools, no running your own game server, no hilarious texture maps, no movie capture. The cool thing about Halo PC was that it stretched you, forced you to build skills and understand the underlying game structure, made you want to learn 3D modelling, texture creation, movie editing, team development. Halo 2 on Xbox live does a pretty good job of facilitating gameplay, but as far as we're concerned they are missing a huge part of what made the Halo experience compelling. So maybe Bungie will get around to a moddable PC version next year, but by then it could well be too late. (Or maybe we'll modchip our xbox, wonder if that voids the warranty ;-)

Anyway, we're feeling kind of sad about Halo 2.

Posted by Gene at 10:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

iWant iTunes iEphemera

Over at the (non-official ;-) Apple Blog, Nick wants to know will the iTunes store ever make CD cover art & booklets available with the music? For you call-to-action types, there's an online petition asking Apple to do this. I agree that it's a good idea, so let's take it a tiny step further.

First, let's not limit this to what we are used to in the CD form factor. I mean seriously, are people really downloading and burning intact albums onto CDs and putting them in jewel cases? Hello, amazon? Okay fine, CD-sized booklets as an option, whatever. In that case, CD-shaped disk art as well. But also, liner notes for custom mixes, posters, band interviews, groupie stories, seekrit fan club materials, pop-up origami toys, cut-out paper birthday crowns (hey Apple, ask your buddies at HP to figure the printed stuff out for you). Screen savers, wallpaper, desktop themes, custom iTunes visualizations. Links to fansites, blogs, boards, fakesters, tour/presales calendars, flickr tags. A nice fat RSS feed to keep the whole mess in view every day. Life, the universe, everything!

Yep, I've gone overboard. Bad craziness. But listen, there's a whole lot of ephemeral material that surrounds the core bits of a song, that fuels the fire of music enthusiasts, and iTunes only scratches the surface. iHope we'll see more from iTMS in the near iFuture.

[found via Steve Rubel]

Posted by Gene at 02:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 17, 2004

2.5 gigapixel zoomable image of Delft

This is pretty good. Some enterprising pixel bashers at a Dutch research company called TNO, have made a 2.5 Gpixel image of Delft. Even better, it's presented in a pan/zoom flash interface called Zoomify, which makes for a very satisfying way to explore the photo in detail (I hadn't seen zoomify before, but it's a huge step forward from what we were doing with OpenPix/flashpix a few years ago, neat stuff).


Figure 1: 3:05pm in Delft

There's a lot of good infoporn on the site about how this image was made from a composite of 600 images taken over more than an hour, using a Nikon D1x digital camera mounted on a computer controlled motion head. Some interesting facts:

Final image dimensions: 78.797 x 31.565 pixels
Number of pixels in final image: 2,487,227,305 (2.5 gigapixel)
Final image file format: 24-bit colour bitmap
Final image file size: 7.5 GBytes
Number of source images: 600
Number of pixels in source images: 3,537,408,000 (600 images * 3008*1960)
Lens focal length: 400 mm (equivalent to 600 mm on a 35 mm camera)
Aperture: F22, Shutter speed: 1/100, ISO: 125
Horizontal field of view of final image: 93 degrees
Time required to capture component images: 1 hour and 12 minutes
Time required to match overlapping images: 20 hours
Time required to optimise project: 4 hours
Time required to compose the image: 3 full days using 5 high-end pcs
Time required to blend seams / correct misalignments / finalise image: 2 days

Now if only we could get this in a real-time heads-up display...with hotspots of course ;-)

Posted by Gene at 06:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

digital echoes of amsterdam

Reading about how much fun everyone apparently had at Design Engaged got me thinking about my last trip to Amsterdam. I was wandering through the old Stedelijk Museum in a pleasantly vibratory mental state, looking at an exhibit of b&w photographs of industrial buildings, when I came across this image and it recognized me:


I was quite unprepared for this, some kind of weird experiential hyperlink, connecting back into my own memories...I knew H-O OATS, had been on that very road in Buffalo, NY, had seen that monstrous building and gaped at it, but not for what, 30 years? And now, to find a piece of my life hanging in a gallery in Amsterdam? It gave me such a twitchy feeling I wanted to scream, but mindful of museum decorum, I just took the picture instead.

Anyway remembering that strangeness, I did a bit of googling tonight and found some interesting stuff. First, the Library of Congress has this American Memory project, and they've got some H-O OATS in there. Also, I learned the exhibit I saw in 2002 was by the photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher, who seem to be quite well-known for their work. Oh, and I found out they have books, including two rather good looking ones I just bought: Industrial Landscapes and Typologies of Industrial Buildings. Gawd I love the Internets.

So I wonder if that grain elevator is still there. In Buffalo in 2004, I mean.

So I wonder how one might go about encoding an experiential hyperlink.

Posted by Gene at 01:19 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 11, 2004

cool stuff for cg animation fans

Quick, go look!

This looks like fun: QT trailer for Pixar's next flick, Cars.

James Hull's blog Seward Street focuses on character animation from an artist's POV. I found this via Scoble's linkblog, because Jim wrote about "Why every animator should own a tablet PC"

Ken Bautista fanblogs about Pixar at Luxo. Given the recent spate of big-ticket cg films from Pixar and others, there's going to be a lot for him to cover.

Go forth and see this stuff!

Posted by Gene at 01:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 10, 2004

sim san francisco

Relevant Historian Alex Pang points to this amazingly nice NASA earth observatory image of San Francisco (collected by Space Imaging's IKONOS bird on 8/28/2004). It took me a moment to figure out why this picture seemed so familiar...the perspective view, the sharp relief, the level of detail, the conspicuous landmark buildings...where had I seen it before?

Figure 1. San Francisco, CA

Figure 2. Sim City, USA

Looking at the satellite image, I keep waiting for the buildings to animate and Godzilla to come crashing down Market St.

Posted by Gene at 01:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 07, 2004

what's in an i-name?

I registered a couple of i-names today, on the off chance they might become useful someday. I guess it was hard to resist getting in early and being able to have the name I wanted. But now this has raised a bunch of questions that I'm not quite equipped to answer. For instance:

1. What should your i-name be? Since it's not clear how they will be most useful (or abused), it's not obvious which name to pick from several obvious choices. Given name? Family name? Nickname? First.Last? Screen name?

2. How many i-names should you have? One? Ten? And should they all point to the same underlying profile/persona? Should you have a different i-name for each of your different contexts? What about pseudo-i-nyms?

3. One of the attributes of an i-name is it is human-readable. That works pretty well for early adopters, who get the good names. But just like AOL and Yahoo screen names, registrants will soon see "Sorry, but the i-name "Gene" is registered to another user. However, Gene11072004, PlanetGenexyz, and Recessive.Gene.123 are available." Are we going to see a repeat of the domain name wars for popular i-names?

4. It's not clear to me how the minting of unique identifiers and their binding to individuals will scale up. How does the system guarantee global uniqueness of IDs, and unique resolution? Since there's no hierarchical structure to an i-name, I guess there will need to be a centralized registry database to look up its corresponding i-number?

5. Can anyone become an i-name mint/registrar/broker? I'm guessing not. This means that every person, place and thing that wants to be i-named, will need to go through a gatekeeper and pay a toll. Ugh. Although it's not specifically aimed at identity services for people, the tag uri scheme has some properties that would have been useful for i-names.

6. How might i-names be compromised? If a bad actor is able to connect my i-name to my underlying identity and connection information directly, bypassing the official resolution mechanisms, what damage can they do, and what is my recourse?

7. What happens if 2idi and the Identity Commons fold?

Well FWIW, it's done and I'm officially =gene. If you're an i-namer too, you should try to contact me that way. Let's see how this works, shall we?

[via Doc Searls]

Posted by Gene at 11:06 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 28, 2004

blog dreams

You know the going is getting weird, when you wake up and realize you were dreaming about bloggers you always read but have never met. This morning at 5:30am, I was standing at a bar with Halley and Dave, and we were laughing. Apropos of what? I dunno, maybe winning the series or winning the election. Either way, it was fun. And weird.

Posted by Gene at 11:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 29, 2004

shark tale is a keeper

Saw a preview of Dreamworks' latest CG movie Shark Tale tonight. It's very good, I recommend it for its visual style, the great voice talent, and the seemingly endless supply of pop-cultural references and puns (the New York premiere on Monday was even called "Sharkspeare in the Park", heh). It's also way more street than any major CG animated film, sort of an underwater hiphop Sopranos if you can imagine that. It was absolutely a fun movie to watch, and anyway where else can you think of getting Robert DeNiro, Peter Falk, Ziggy Marley and Katie Couric (who voices a newscaster named "Katie Current") together in one place? The DW team should be very happy with this show; it certainly won't be as big as Shrek2, but I think word-of-mouth is going to be good.

BTW, there's a neat article by writer/director Rob Letterman in Script (warning: spoilers), where he describes some of the events and thought process that went into the script. I loved this account:

The producers liked my draft, and suddenly I was in a room with DreamWorks Principal Jeffrey Katzenberg. He wanted me to rewrite the whole script. I said “Great.” He said, “By Monday.” I said, “No problem.” Then I left the room and realized it was Friday. I had promised Jeffrey Katzenberg I would do a rewrite in three days! Once you promise something to Jeffrey, you have to deliver. It’s not like he is going to forget. So I pulled three all-nighters and turned in the rewrite. Once again I was in front of Jeffrey. He gave me his notes on the rewrite, and then gave me three more days. That’s been going on for two years now.

Anyway, Shark is good. Go see it on the big screen, let me know how you like it.

Posted by Gene at 11:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 03, 2004

get well soon, mr. president

Write a note to Bill Clinton to wish him a successful surgery and a rapid return to health.

Posted by Gene at 11:19 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

predicting the future is addictive

International man of mystery Joi Ito points out the Ars Electronica project Timeline+25, "a web site inviting participants to make predictions about the next 25 years, year by year, and to vote on predictions already posted." Not only is this a cool project; making those little capsule predictions about events in specific years turned out to be kind of addictive ;-) It reminded me a bit of scenario planning work I've done in the past, for example with the folks at GBN. I think the future is probably more uncertain now than it has been in a long while, due to the rapidly changing mix of social, political, demographic, religious, technological, and environmental factors we are confronting these days. Thus tools to think about the future with, made accessible to the many, seem necessary and appropriate.

I don't know how long the Timeline+25 site will be live, so I've captured my own predictions here. I really don't know why they are so bleak, they just seemed like an almost-plausible string of events, despite my own gut level objections to them. Do I really believe that Ahnuld will become the first independent, centrist American leader of the 21st century? Nah. But on the other hand, reality seems to outpace fiction on a regular basis anymore...

2007 | First verified human clone

After a series of unverifiable and probably false claims, the first cloned human child will be revealed. DNA sequence matching will verify that the child is indeed a genetic replica. The original genetic material will be found to have been taken from an 11-year old boy from a wealthy Chinese family in Canada, who was tragically lost in a drunk driving accident in 2006. Sadly, the cloned infant will be diagnosed with a rare gene defect with symptoms resembling MS.

2008 | Cheney vows to end Mideast War

Campaigning on a hard line platform of economic protectionism, moral reform, and strong homeland law, order and security, presidential candidate Dick Cheney promises the American people that the ongoing war with Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Lebanon is "winnable, and we will win." Outgoing president George Bush will give an effusive endorsement, saying "Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz know what's best for America, and God is on their side."

2010 | american security inc.

In response to the escalating threat of radical non-Arabic terrorist cells in America, President Cheney declares martial law in New York, Boston, Los Angeles and Washington DC, and signs a presidential directive allowing private security firms to operate as de facto homeland security forces within US borders. The largest of these, American Security Inc., reaches $1 billion in annual revenue and is listed on the NYSE.

2011 | suicide moms

Driven to the edge by extreme Cheney era hostility to women's rights, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, rollback of workplace laws against sexual harassment, and the general tone set by the powerful Religious Right in America, a radical underground women's movement emerges, marked by numerous shocking suicide bombings targetted at conservative male politicians and business leaders across the nation. Cheney responds by giving contract police force American Security Inc. a broad mandate to investigate "extremist feminist cells" and detain suspected leaders indefinitely. American Security's CEO Condoleeza Rice downplays the situation, pointing to her own success as a prime example of the strides that women have made in US society.

2012 | Schwarzenegger defeats Cheney

Following 12 years of compassionate conservatism under the Bush and Cheney administrations which have paradoxically left the USA in a social and economic state just left of the 1970's era Soviet Union, beloved California governator Arnold Schwarzenegger becomes the first Independent candidate to win the presidency, defeating Cheney by a landslide. Campaign strategists Wes Boyd and Joan Blades downplayed their role in the victory, mumbling briefly about the grassroots efforts of many citizens and then moving quickly out of range of reporters' cameras.


Posted by Gene at 10:46 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 31, 2004

what's up with the diddypod?


Sorry, but I just gotta know what's up with this. Is this the new hp brand image? It's bold, it's fresh, it's...bling bling? You know, I'm good with the idea that the brand needs to be reenergized for the young digital consumer with cash to burn. But does hp really want to be known as the marque of choice for spoiled over-the-top celebrity gangstas, with all the baggage that comes along for that ride?

Should be a popular topic in many Fortune 500 boardrooms this fall, especially these two.

[via Engadget]

Posted by Gene at 12:18 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 24, 2004

i love bees

So back in July, a movie-style trailer for the upcoming release of Halo 2 runs in (some) theaters, and at the end of the trailer the URL www.xbox.com becomes www.ilovebees.com for just a moment. Around that same time, a guy in the Alternate Reality Gaming (ARG) community gets a package of honey. After that, the fall:

Since we don't have much time left, here's a Letter to Halo fans and QuickStart Info for Newbies

ILB ARG wiki (can be quite slow, bee patient), including ILB game guide and the distilled story so far:

Dana's blog

A parallel plot timeline summary

The coordinates list

August 24, 2004 9:02 PDT 37.429111 -122.141966: that's tomorrow morning folks, at the California Ave. CalTrain station, it would appear...

UPDATE: A small group of us gathered at the location. There were two payphones (the apparent vector for clue transmission today is payphones around the country), one of which rang at 9:02am. A recorded message played, I didn't get to hear it. The guy who answered the phone tried to speak our password at the right time, but it was not accepted. Failure; the axon did not go live, seemingly lots of other locations had similar experiences. Too bad, I was expecting someone to show up in elite covey armor handing out preview discs, but it was just another obscure clue. Kind of fun to hang out with ILBers for a few minutes, though.

Posted by Gene at 12:11 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 17, 2004

gmail grovel

Hey, if any of you fine, wonderful, generous folks out there has an extra gmail invite, could I convince you to part with one? My kid would really like a gmail account for the gamer/modder site he's building, and his dad isn't cool enough to already be on the inside of the club.

If you're willing to make me a hero, mail me at fredshouse8888 (at) yahoo (dot) com. I'll entertain proposals for appropriate grovelling behavior, in return ;-D

UPDATE: I'm good now, thanks! Kid's happy, dad's on the A-list, I'm grateful!

Posted by Gene at 05:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 27, 2004

this land is your land

Absolutely high-larious Bush-Kerry flash movie parody, to the tune of This Land is Your Land. A guaranteed LOL. Thanks to fredshouse friend RC for passing it on!

Bush: "You're a liberal sissy!"

Kerry: "You're a right wing nut job!"

Both: "This land will surely vote for me!"

(Above link is a mirror site. There's also the more official atom films site with embedded advertising.)

UPDATE: Cory points out that the current copyright holder for This Land is Your Land has threatened the creators with an infringement lawsuit.

EFF notes the irony of such a claim, given Woody Guthrie's use of the following as his standard copyright notice:

"This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do."

From the related CNN Money article:

TRO [The Richmond Organization, the rightsholder] believes that the Jibjab [the brothers who created the parody] creation threatens to corrupt Guthrie's classic -- an icon of Americana -- by tying it to a political joke; upon hearing the music people would think about the yucks, not Guthrie's unifying message. The publisher wants Jibjab to stop distribution of the flash movie.

Of course the creators behind Jibjab don't agree.

"We consider it a case of political satire and parody and therefore entitled to the fair use exemption of the copyright act," said Jibjab attorney Ken Hertz.

Not that it matters to the law and the "rights" holders, but I think Woody would have rather liked this little tribute. Consider the penultimate verse of his song (via arlo.net, the official Arlo Guthrie website ;-):

As I was walkin' - I saw a sign there
And that sign said - no tress passin'
But on the other side .... it didn't say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!
Posted by Gene at 03:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 26, 2004

yeah right

From a news.com article on today's mydoom DDoS phenom comes this nugget of PR spin:

"At no point was the Google Web site significantly impaired, and service for all users and networks is expected to be restored shortly," the company said in a statement.

Sorry to be snarky about my favorite googies, but it was pretty much impaired from where I sat this morning:


I can only imagine what it must have been like down in Mountain View this morning, trying to cope with a major service outage. Hey google bloggers, you could do with some fresh posting material; how about putting a human face on what must have been a mildly panicky day for you guys?

UPDATE: Hey look, Urs Hoelzle blogs a response of sorts. Cool, though I'd still love to hear the story of how they discovered the problem and dealt with it.

Posted by Gene at 05:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

don't click that attachment

Here's a little public service announcement for you. I wouldn't normally post about email-borne viruses, but this one seems to be catching a lot of folks off guard. Seems like a new variant of the Beagle worm is making the rounds at work, and we've been getting a storm of putative bounced mails from postmaster, mailer-daemon, mail delivery subsystem, etc., all carrying nasty .zip files that will pwn your 'puter pronto. Well, of course we don't open those attachements, right? Ah, but here's the tricksy new message that you'll want to watch out for:

Dear user of hpl.hp.com, We have detected that your account has been used to send a huge amount of junk email during the last week. Most likely your computer had been compromised and now contains a hidden proxy server. Please follow our instructions in the attached file in order to keep your computer safe. Have a nice day, The hpl.hp.com team.

Very clever. But let's be clear: This message is not really from your system admin. It's a virus. So don't open the attached file, okay?

Heh, I see Sterling got this too, but he's a Mac guy so it's ok. Wipe that smirk off your face Bruce ;-D

Posted by Gene at 09:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 07, 2004

the electronic last minute

When you have kids, there's always something that gets saved until the last possible minute. At fredshouse, our guy demonstrates this behavior whenever it's time to leave the house to go somewhere. As in, "Are you ready to go?" "Wait, I just have to finish this one thing." (Cue sound of impatient parental grumbling and toe-tapping). I suspect this is pretty common for kids everywhere, but I've noticed a pattern that seems, well, new: the electronic last minute, where the thing we are waiting for involves some collection of tech gear.

We've had a lot of electronic last minutes, so there's quite a list of flavors. Any of these sound familiar?

"Wait, I have to get to a place where I can save the game."

"Wait, my [gameboy / phone / camera / laptop] is charging."

"Wait, I have to print these cheat codes."

"Wait, I need to set this up to record [Pokemon / Yu-Gi-Oh / Dragonball [/ Z / GT] / etc.]"

"Wait, I have to answer this message."

"Wait, I have to set my away message."

"Wait, I'm downloading Halo CE."

"Wait, I'm reinstalling XP."

And just this morning: "Wait, I'm burning a CD to take with me."

It's tempting to find these exchanges funny or distressing or annoying in an adult sort of way, but I think they are simply leading indicators of how fundamentally different the world looks to kids that have grown up with pervasive computing & communications. Unfettered access to the global net, media mashing and hacking, constant social connectivity, the intertwining of physical and digital worlds; these are increasingly the normal backdrop of life for our kids, the way TV was for the boomers and the automobile was for our parents. It's going to be really interesting to see where this goes.

Posted by Gene at 12:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 01, 2004

was that only last year?

Last year at this time I was in Tokyo for 1IMC. I had just moblogged my first post to the shiny new textamerica service the week before. The very first blog entries were about to hit the wires here at fredshouse. Funny, those things seem like they happened a really long time ago.

Posted by Gene at 11:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 19, 2004

ce n'est pas une...

more... and even more...

Posted by Gene at 12:32 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 19, 2004

shrek 2 rocks da house

The fredshouse crew went over to PDI/DreamWorks tonight to see Shrek 2, and w00t, it rocked! You can go read the reviews if you like, they are mostly very positive, but take my advice and go see it this weekend. If you're a fan of CG animation, if you like pop culture and insider jokes, if you like to laugh, you'll like the show mucho.

The visual style of the movie is sumptuous, very painterly in its color palette and scenic textures. Rich detail is everywhere, from the large crowd scenes to the shops and mansions of Far Far Away. The CG work pushes the frontier of realism ahead substantially, especially in the use of hair/fur and liquids. Watch for Puss in Boots' orange tabby coat, and the scenes of ocean waves and rain-drenched characters, for example. And when Shrek bellows at Donkey, you can see Donkey's fur blow backward in the breeze; it's subtle, but you can definitely see it happening if you're paying attention. With this level of visual sophistication, it's no surprise that the movie consumed over 12 million hours of CPU time. What a graphics geekfest this movie is!

I'm going to have to go back again this weekend, just to try to catch all the sly references to pop culture and the entertainment business. Tonight I picked up explicit winks and nods to a pile of other movies, including Lord of the Rings, From Here to Eternity, Beverly Hills Cop, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Zorro, Ghostbusters, Mission Impossible, Spiderman, and quite possibly Terminator 2 and Star Wars. Not to mention all the Beverly Hills, Hollywood and Magic Kingdom allusions, puns and assorted foolery.

UPDATE: Saw it again Saturday. Add Alien, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka, and oh sly, sly, Shark Tale ;-D

And was that actually Tom Waits I heard?

And Larry King?

And catnip?

[Disclosure: I'm biased. But it's still a great show. Go see.]

Posted by Gene at 11:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 18, 2004

more conspiracy theory

Guess I'm not the only one who thinks Idol is pwned. Broadcasting & Cable magazine:

While overzealous fans have accused Fox of tampering with results, one fact is indisputable: Technology is thwarting democracy on American Idol. Power-dialers can skew the vote. Text-messagers have an unfair advantage. And potential hackers have a powerful new incentive to alter the vote tallies: betting on the outcome through Internet gambling sites. Despite fans' repeated accusations of inaccurate results, Fox is sticking with a voting system vulnerable to serious manipulation and tampering.

[via Teapot the Cat]

Posted by Gene at 10:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 22, 2004

american idol 0wnz0red

American Idol is one of those guilty pleasures here at fredshouse. Yep, we're watching it, in Tivo mode of course, but we're watching it. In case you hadn't heard, there's a big flap over last night's voting results. The three performers with the least talent were "safe", and the three with arguably the greatest talent got the fewest votes from those legions of Idolizers out in American TV land. Lots of head scratching going on about how such an unfair, outrageous thing could have happened. Well if you're shocked, baffled and confused, let fredshouse be your guide, because, well, the Truth is Out There.

First, have a look at this: "power dialing" by phone phreaks was seen even in the show's first season. Did it have an impact on the results? No one at Fox will admit it. Now the Idol FAQ says:

What's being done about power dialing? Production will have in place weekly monitoring procedures designed to prevent individuals from unfairly influencing the outcome of the voting by generating significant blocks of votes using technical enhancements. The producers reserve the right to remove any identified 'power dialling' votes.

Phew, I'm sure Fox has top people on the job, and they will be smart enough to outwit any so-called l33t hax0rz that might find it humorous to try to play Idolmaker with that geeky red-haired kid!

Oh, but have a peek at this: the online bookies are making odds on the Idols. I have no idea of how much betting volume there is for the show, but there is clearly some money on the table (for example, in the Survivor insider betting scandal, the biggest acknowledged payoff was $8000).

Okay, it doesn't take Fox Mulder on a grassy knoll to imagine what's going on here, right? Late one night on IRC, someone proposes a dare...not long after, a loose global confederation of phreaks concocts a distributed wardialing hack that looks random to the Fox stat monitors and covers its tracks well. Millions of calls and a few well-placed bets later, and everyone's expenses to the next DefCon are covered, along with serious bragging rights. And John Stevens is the next American Idol.

Well, don't you think so?

Posted by Gene at 02:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 19, 2004

the unexpected delights of iPod shuffle

The very next day after Alex wrote "See? See? I told you so" about the genius of itunes shuffle, I had my own iPod shuffle moment. It was like this: the fredshouse crew was driving back from San Luis Obispo; we had my iPod running in random shuffle mode (and yes, still stuck with the Belkin FM transmitter, no AUX solution in the truck, sigh), so we were having lots of interesting combos and segues like Oakenfold -> Cowboy Junkies -> Coltrane and so on. Then seemingly out of nowhere this female voice says:

"Hey you guys, I wrote this song for you [laughs], so check it out..."

Next thing I know, Halley's singing "Barlow's a brand new blogger" as I'm blowing down the 101, WTF??? I mean, I'm pretty used to hearing music I don't expect in shuffle mode, but this was a total cross-media dislocation, a blog post playing on my iPod in my car. It was a very weird, very funny digital life moment.

Well it's pretty obvious that when I rebuilt my iTunes library it snarfed up all the audio files in the quicktime temp directory, where Halley's little Christmas confection had slept since I listened to it months ago. And when I synched up the iPod, it dutifully sucked in all the new tracks, including the Barlow tribute.

Anyway I had some complicated explaining to do after that, to my non-blogging, non-itunes-enabled family. A comic moment in its own right... ;-)

Now playing: Jorma Kaukonen | Blue Country Heart | Breadline Blues

Posted by Gene at 11:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 09, 2004

the internet is made out of people

Warren's doing that thing again. Go show your bad self, right now.

Posted by Gene at 04:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 05, 2004

"consumer" and "user" both suck

My colleague Rakhi Rajani asked (on a firewalled blog), "What's the difference between a consumer vs a user?" It's not an unreasonable question in the context of interaction design, but her post inspired me to spill out the following rant. One thing leads to another and all ;-)

Rakhi doesn't like the term "user", and I agree: for me it conjures up pictures of a pale, trembling arm with a needle full of smack (YMMV, of course ;-). Of course many of the folks who sell to the "consumer" have almost exactly that metaphor in mind as their success model, but let's not go there.

Frankly, I'm done with "consumer" as well. While it is true that I do consume some things in my life, I think it's a terrible term for what we do with social, digital media. I'm done with the language and mindset of the "consumer market" too. Consumer electronics? Over. Consumer confidence? Wrong. Consumer systems? Huh? What's that mean? Here's a relevant snip of the hypertext webster definition of consume:

To destroy, as by decomposition, dissipation, waste, or fire; to use up; to expend; to waste; to burn up; to eat up; to devour.

This definition works okay for burgers and beer, but not at all for emailing, web browsing, music downloading, blogging, texting, movie-making, photo sharing, geocaching, friendster dating, flashmobbing, cameraphoning, in short, for all of the emerging uses and behaviors of a mobile, digital, connected society. These are not about consumption, they are acts of creation, communication, connection, community, and experience. They occur in a world of multiplicity and abundance rather than scarcity. "Consumer" and "user" are completely inadequate words to describe the roles of people in the modern world (you could argue that they never were adequate, but that's another discussion).

I'll agree that it is useful, even a requirement, to have a set of descriptive words for the human objects of our interest, so if not "consumer" and "user", then what? Some moderately clever wordsmiths are already on the case: consider producer + consumer = "prosumer" (don't you love WordSpy?), an unfortunate-sounding neologism that tried to head in the right direction but was co-opted early on by marketeers seeking to corral their highest-margin customers. Okay, next. "Humans" seems just a bit too broad and passive. "Digital nomads"? "Social mediators"? "Experience communities"? Hrm. Guess we just don't have the right language yet.

So consider this a challenge, ye blogospherians. Let's come up with some terms that don't suck.

Posted by Gene at 12:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 29, 2004

a baseline for the family archive

A reasonable first question in launching this digital archive project is, what do I want to archive? Guess what, there's not a simple answer. Herewith, a candidate list:

No-brainers (objects are already digital, already on computers somewhere, and have personal significance thus are worth saving)
- digital photos we've taken
- digital photos other people have sent us
- digital audio & video recordings we've made
- digital invites, cards and similar image creations I've made
- personal correspondence (e.g., word-processed letters)
- other personal creations (stories, poems, kid's homework etc)
- important documents (e.g., tax returns)
- personal websites
- this blog

Not sure part 1 (objects are already digital, already on computers somewhere, but have less personal significance)
- digital music collection (MP3s, AACs etc)
- email archives (mostly from work, but containing some personal material)
- work documents, especially creative output such as papers, websites, blogs, code
- household records (e.g., financial statements)

Not sure part 2 (objects are not in digital form, but could be scanned/captured, and have personal significance thus are worth saving)
- film-based photos/negatives we've taken
- family photo albums we've inherited
- personal audio & video on tape (audio cassette, Super8, VHS, Hi-8, miniDV etc)
- family trees/histories
- personal journals
- ephemera (letters, ticket stubs, souvenir programs, etc)
- important documents (birth certs, titles and deeds etc)

Probably not
- professional video content (movies on tape/DVD, recordings from TV)
- impersonal ephemera (bills, receipts, magazines, newspaper clippings etc)

Well, it's a pretty long list, and likely incomplete. Interesting that along the way I started to add things that were not about family stories and memories per se, like tax returns; in the long view, maybe these are valid parts of the story of my life. If you go to antique and estate auctions, you can sometimes find boxes of ephemera from the 1800's, old business records, journals and the like, which collectors value highly for the glimpses of daily life they offer.

I think maybe the physical artifacts should stay that way, and be preserved in their original forms. But it would be interesting in some cases to link them to related digital objects in order to tell a more illustrative and rich story. Hrm, so now I'm looking at not just archiving the media objects, but also linking them into some kind of ongoing story fabric? Preservation + presentation? I think the problem is getting harder...but maybe that's part of what is required here, that the objects in the archive exist in context. After all, a lot of my grandparents' pictures are of people, places and events that nobody recognizes -- without context they have lost their meaning.

Posted by Gene at 12:21 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 28, 2004

building a hundred year archive

I want to build a long lasting digital archive for my family's stories and memories. I'm not so ambitious as these guys; I only want the digital ephemera of my life to last 100 years, not 10,000. Still, it seems like a substantial undertaking with more than few unresolved issues, not the least of which is that if I'm really, really lucky, I'll have 50 years to work on the problem and do a little archive gardening. After that, it'll be someone else's gig.

The problems of digital media preservation are well documented in the digital library community, as well as by Long Now, Brewster Kahle's Internet Archive and others. Deteriorating physical media containing files in obsolete shapes, sizes and formats, written and readable only by applications that are long unsupported, runnable only on long dead hardware platforms sold by long ago disbanded companies; that about sums it up I guess.

Compared to the Library of Congress, I suppose my problem isn't too bad. After about four years of "being digital" I have fewer than 5,000 photos totalling ~2.5GB. Of course that's going to get a bit bigger, between all the little cameraphone pics and my new 6Mpixel Canon. Figuring 1000 photos a year at 4MB each for the next 50 years, I'll just be filling up one of those whizzy new 200GB disks by the time I'm through. Not so bad, until we throw in audio/video. I haven't put much of my digital video on disk yet, but I expect the day will come when all of those Hi-8 and mini-DV tapes are going to get sucked in. I have no idea how much data that will be, probably a real boatload. Throw in a bunch of music and other stuff just because I'm a digital packrat, and we're up to what, a terabyte? Right now that seems like a lot, but in less than ten years that will be a single consumer class disk drive. So raw storage capacity isn't going to be a problem, unless we start archiving our lives continuously.

Next up: devils among the details...

Posted by Gene at 12:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 19, 2003

is your house smarter than you are?

So-called "smart homes" are back in the media once again, this time in a series of articles in the Style section of last weekend's New York Times Magazine (reg req'd). James Gleick and Cory Doctorow are among the writers that weigh in on various aspects of the digital, networked, sensor-enhanced domicile and lifestyle. Since the above link will probably be wrong by next weekend, here are the articles with hopefully more durable links.

UPDATE: All the NYT links have slipped into pay-per-view obscurity, at a larcenous $2.95 per article, argh. Guess in future I'll know better than to blog their stupid site.

Gleick's piece, "When the House Starts Talking to Itself", illustrates with humorous examples the problematic complexity that accompanies our many of today's home 'automation' systems. Gleick ruminates, "Once you've entered the future, be prepared for a double-edged question: Is your house smarter than you are?"

In "Youve Got Mail...From the Microwave", Paul Boutin describes the emergence of consumer appliances as connected citizens of the home network. The self-inventorying refrigerator, the living room PC, the oven remotely controllable via mobile phone, and the RFID-reading washing machine, all making their way to a big box retailer near you.

Ted Fishman writes about the proliferation of displays large and small, in "Coming to a Location Very Near You".

Johanna Berkman's "Hit Replay" covers the new venture Roku, from the founder of ReplayTV. Roku's first product is an HDTV companion device which enables media on your PC to display on a TV, similar to many other media receivers in the market except in HD quality.

Cory's piece "Domesticating the (Electronic) Help" is a short and fun bit on the reality of home robotics, with (surprise) an eye toward the robot hacker culture. He includes a mention of a personal favorite of mine, Natalie Jeremijenko's feral robotic dogs project at Yale.

Finally, an article by Clive Thompson called "Remote Possibilities" touches on some of the new uses that mobile phones are being put to, such as a remote controlled pet feeder, SMS/texting, and of course cameraphones. I'm happy to see Thompson did some homework, for instance getting informed quotes from social scientists including Genevieve Bell and Mimi Ito.

Whenever I see this kind of feature, I immediately think of Rich Gold's evocative 1994 rant on smart homes, "How Smart Does Your Bed Have To Be, Before You Are Afraid To Go To Sleep At Night?" At the time, Rich was working with Mark Weiser at PARC on the original ubicomp research program and wrestling with the implications of "invisible, everywhere computing that does not live on a personal device of any sort, but is in the woodwork everywhere." If you have never encountered Rich's work, you owe it to yourself to spend several hours with his legacy of unique writings. If you have been there, go back and do it again.

Posted by Gene at 05:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 04, 2003

surprise! it's your digital life!

Michael Malone thinks he knows Why Those Young Men Aren’t Watching TV Anymore: they're online, playing MMOGs like CounterStrike. (Update: fixed the broken link 11/09/03 23:09)

The months following the introduction of Counter-Strike saw an explosion of teams, or "clans" from around the world forming to compete in the game. These clans, with tags like Ecolithic and SK, typically began as groups of friends, like Andrew's buddies at Homestead High School. But as competition and contact grew, increasingly other players from geographically diverse locations were recruited (these days the most powerful clans are Scandinavian).

Tournaments also began to appear, and with them, a group of players so expert that they went professional (the Cyberathlete Professional League), complete with sponsors. Today, some of these pros can make as much as $100,000 per year. This being tech, it wasn't long before various "mods" of Counter-Strike also appeared, as did specialized software to produce unique weapons, "skins" and skills. So did cheat software — followed, of course, by a small army of volunteer administrators to try to keep the process relatively honest.


[W]e are seeing (or more accurately, failing to notice) the rise of a new sub-culture, formed online but increasingly encompassing everyday life. If you look closely it's everywhere — not just in Counter-Strike and its counterparts, or in the Sims Universe, but also in the vast encyclopedia sites like Everything2.

In Korea, a game called Lineage attracts 150,000 players each night. And new technology is being introduced to allow an unlimited number of players to compete simultaneously without the constraints of individual servers. Something big is emerging here. And it is ready to erupt through the surface of society. Technological changes like this always arrive with a bang — one day you've never heard of it, the next you, and millions of others like you, are immersed in it. It is only in retrospect that you see that there were some warnings, some omens, you never noticed. I think this recent collapse of young male television viewers is one of them.

It's really quite fascinating to me that these other-worlds exist on such a large scale, and yet even as an aware and interested technologist I rarely encounter direct evidence of them. Yes, of course I know about Lineage, Everquest, and the Sims Online, and Julian Dibbell's quest to make a living wage in the Ultima Online economy, and Bruce Sterling Woodcock's ongoing monitor of MMOG subscription data . But as far as I know, I don't personally know anyone who actually lives in these alternate universes. Well, since I quit active MOO-ing a few years ago, that is ;-)

Maybe this will change. The statement "Technological changes like this always arrive with a bang — one day you've never heard of it, the next you, and millions of others like you, are immersed in it" reminds me of how the Internet arrived with a bang, some 20+ years after the first four BBN IMPs went live and ARPANET was born. If you happened to be paying attention, the signs of what was to come were fairly obvious. But if you weren't, then the Net and the Web felt like a tremendously fun surprise party that started in 1993. Similarly, the signposts pointing to the rise of online worlds have been out there for a long time for those paying attention. When I first discovered Chip Morningstar and Randy Farmer's paper "The Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat" in 1991, it was a revelation (other excellent Habitat-related writings archived here). Now these systems are common, and they are starting to spill over into real life. They are starting to be less like games, and more like communities, economies, and societies. Maybe the surprise party really is about to start.

I hope there will be cake.

Posted by Gene at 04:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 28, 2003

odd new dislocations

Over on his personal blog Relevant History, Alex Pang has entered conference land.

I'm at a conference today in San Francisco, so am in that odd social and physical space that I've come to think of as Conference Land: the postmodern knowledge enterprise equivalent of a medieval market, or a circus. On the edge of normal life, occasionally checking in with reality via voice mail during breaks, then diving back into the slightly disorienting world of conference room flooring and Power Point. Like an evening in Las Vegas, only without the excitement of gambling.

His post highlights for me some of the disorienting aspects of our increasingly intertwined physical/digital existence, and the way that our life roles continue to blur across their former boundaries.

Dislocation 1: I'm at the same conference, but as a client of Alex's organization (IFTF). While I'm entirely sympathetic to his description of conference life, it still feels odd to parse his slightly weary gripe around an event that I'm supposed to find stimulating and thought provoking. Since I have a robust sense of humor, I find this juxtaposition pretty amusing. YMMV. And I'm still not sure where my own employer stands on the blurring of personal blogging and professional territory. Note to self: find out.

Dislocation 2: I'd met Alex a couple of times in person, as part of the ongoing interactions between our organizations. But I didn't know much about him until I stumbled on his blog while cruising my GeoURL neighborhood. Since he's an articulate and thoughtful writer who puts a lot of energy into blogging, I now have a very different measure of his background and interests. When we met again today, I had a bunch of new contextual data in my head that I might never have picked up from hallway chats in conference land. So follow the bouncing ball: from detached, work-related physical encounters, to chance discovery on the net/in the physical neighborhood via personal blog infrastructure, back to the professional/physical world, and once again into personal blogspace. That's kind of a new game, eh?

Dislocation 3: Strangely, although Alex chooses to publish many things openly on the net, I can't help but feel that I have trespassed across some unseen boundary. Would he have chosen to reveal similar things about his personal life to me in casual conversation? If my own writings are less open or *gasp* less articulate, is that an unfair asymmetry that manifests in the f2f interactions? What responsibilities do I have in the emerging social contract among bloggers who also have physical connections, both professional and personal?

Dislocation 4: I don't usually like to get all chatty about people I don't know that well, to say nothing of publicly using them as a proxy for a discussion of concepts I am not completely clear on. Yet here I am. It's kind of odd. Alex, hope you don't mind ;-) Or if you do mind, then I hope you'll let me know.

Posted by Gene at 11:43 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 13, 2003

funny GPS coincidence

File this under 'how to recognize the future when it lands on you'... I'm standing outside the Westin Seattle with my GPS getting a fix (47.61315 N, 122.33781 W) when suddenly I find myself surrounded by people with clipboards and GPSes. Weird. Turns out they are a team from a local credit union, doing geocaching as a team building exercise. So much for the mystique of technology, we're soaking in it.

Posted by Gene at 03:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 18, 2003

Kid stuff

So my 11-year-old comes back from the first day of computer camp. "How was it?" I ask. "We're learning C++. We built a calculator." W00t!

So now he wants to know the difference between C++ and C and C#, and why is it so different from HTML, and, and, and so we went down to Fry's to find a good C++ book for him to read, but none of the authors seem to have been able to get it explained in fewer than 500 pages, so we didn't.

Anyway I'm in the market for an appropriate book, something clean and straight like Kernighan & Ritchie, good for a younger reader.

Posted by Gene at 11:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack