Sunday, April 29, 2007

Some Book Reviews

I've got to keep up on these things...

Here are a few recent ones:

99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style

Inspired by Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style, in which the author presents the same short story, writen in 99 different styles, Matt Madden gives us the same eight-panel comic, drawn 99 different ways. A very quick read but an interesting an perspective-broadening one. Some of the takes on it are a stretch and feel like he was struggling to come up with a just a few more to make the 99. Others though make up a really wide variety and show us what a different presentation can do to a story.

Geek Mafia

Draw a Venn diagram with 3 intersecting circles. Label one "Hackers", another "Ocean's Eleven", and the last one "Electric Kool-aid Acid Test". Look at the spot where the three intersect and you should find Geek Mafia.

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Gripping sci-fi a la Snowcrash, only substitute the motorcycle-n-swordplay for amusement park rides. What Stephenson does to envision the metaverse, Doctorow does to envision life in the age of abundance and immortality.

I have to confess that I feel a bit fraudulent in posting the last of these as an Amazon associates link though, as I didn't buy the book! Cory Doctorow has licensed the book under creative commons and thus it's available in forms other than print, most of them free. I read it via DailyLit, which will mail you many books in bite-size chunks, daily.

Technology is to politics as chocolate is to peanut butter

And if you don't think so, I think you'd change your mind after attending this conference:

Personal Democracy Forum – Technology Is Changing Politics.

Check out a partial speaker list:

Tom Friedman, Arianna Huffington, Jay Rosen, Kim Malone, Robert Scoble, Jeff Jarvis, Cheryl Contee, Eli Pariser, Sara Horowitz, Josh Marshall, Ruby Sinreich, Craig Newmark, Joe Trippi, Becki Donatelli, Andrew Keen, Ellen Miller, Chris Rabb, David All, Todd Ziegler, Allison Fine, Clay Shirky, Liza Sabater, Brian Dear, Ben Rattray, Seth Godin, Steve Urquhart, Mindy Finn, Mike Turk, Zack Exley, Walter Fields and Robert Greenwald.

Thanks to Seth for the link.


As you may have guessed, I've been fairly busy past few weeks, thus the lack of activity on the blog. Well, ok, slight stretching of the truth there, as I've been fairly busy but have also logged a lot of guitar hero action :-). Priorities and all that.

Last weekend I got down to Portland to see some friends and former co-workers from Intel. A couple of them are involved in the "larabee" project that just got announced (vaguely) at IDF. Got to have some interesting conversations about how life in The Empire differs from life with The Borg. (One of those former co-workers was having his side-project shown in a local fashion show the evening we were leaving. Not exactly what you expect for an Intel engineer, no?)

This past week I got down to San Francisco for one night. Mostly work and little social, but did manage to hook up with Robin for crepes and some interesting discussion comparing life at two different big games industry companies.

Hoping life gets back to normal a bit so I can post a little more frequently. Well, that and I'm almost done the all-songs-on-medium-at-five-stars achievment.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

On 300 and convergence...

Clint has a great post about the movie 300, and what it exemplifies (and doesn't) in terms of the 'convergence' between film and game media. Great read.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Wow. TED revamped it's site and along with it, posted 30 new videos (from past conferences, but new to the site).

I've blogged about the TED talks before. They are almost all well-polished, moving, inspiring and/or educational. Great site to bookmark, and great talks to download watch when you have time (I always have 5-10 of them on my Zune for watching on flights). Hans Rosling gapminder talk, Malcolm Gladwell's talk on spaghetti sauce, and Majora Carter's talks are ones I could watch multiple times.

Bookmark it here.

Good take on the Guitar Hero Song Pricing Kerfuffle

In case you missed it last week, the internets were abuzz with the griping of many a gamer.

This is of course true of every week, but the target of last week's ire seemed to largely be directed at the pricing/packaging of downloadable song content. (3 songs priced at ~$6.50). The griping being directed (a) at the price of >$2 a song, more expensive that iTunes and they are covers at that, and (b) at the packaging, necesitating the purchase of 3 songs at once.

While I have *no idea* on what the real story is (not involved in that part of Microsoft at all), and while I'm not saying whether the pricing strategy is a good or bad one, I did think that this post by DonkeyXote was a good take on the subject. He's a lawyer who works with our games group (but did not work on GH2 in any way), and his post goes over some of the complexities involved in digital distribution of music, performers rights societies, etc.

I'd label this 'what you have when the round peg of new technology, new mediums, and new business models is smashed into the square hole of antiquated organizations and business models; and what happens when people try to get it to work.

Casual gamers are PEOPLE!

[OK, the image isn't contextually relevant to the post, but Kim's #7 Rule of Blogging is that 'When presented with an opportunity to include references to a Charleton Heston movie, one should do so, regardless of how far a stretch it may be to make relevant'. We now return you to regularly scheduled programming]

Lots of people have been quoting this report that states that women constitute a majority of the US internet population. (saving you the click, it's about 52% women, 48% men).

My point is this:

The casual games industry has spent a lot of time talking about how there are more women playing casual games than men. Stats go anywhere from 55% to 70% depending how you slice it and which site stats you look at. These numbers get dampened somewhat when normalized to take into account the general internet usage gender split.

Having said that, perhaps we're better off looking at casual gamers as just "people".

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Gotta have!

Dear Blogosphere,

It was my birthday earlier this week.

Someone please please please buy me one of these impossibly cute funky gizmos.

(via Collegehumor via ShinyShiny)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Akihabara Cosplayer Flashmob!!

Just when you think the world couldn't get any stranger...

Flashmobs of cosplayers doing choreographed dancing [update: from an anime called Haruhi] in the streets of Akihabara. (I love the hurried-but-polite rapid dispersion by police at the tail end of it)

via Tokyomango

Students suing SW company for copyright infringement

Yes, you read that correctly, not the other way around.

The Patry Copyright Blog (a good, if thick, read - think 'Copyright equivalent of Freakonomics, written by an attorney') has this interesting story, best summed up as follows:

- A number of schools use an anti-plagiarism software service called Turnitin from a company called iParadigms.
- The service works by allowing teachers to enter students works, where they are compared against a database of 22 million student papers and other resources.
- The student papers are then added to the database. (see where this is going?)
- The students papers are copyrighted works, and the students never granted this software company permission to store a copy of their works for their use.
- A couple of high school students are suing the company for this reason.

Cheeky monkeys. :-)

Sure, the use is a well-intentioned one, but that doesn't matter. The company argues fair use, but their software is worthless without the database and thus they are deriving commercial value from it, and that's not fair use. At least it's debatable.

[update: Looking this up in wikipedia, it appears they've been challenged a couple times before, most notably by some McGill students first. Go Montrealers!]

Nice match

IMAGE_024, originally uploaded by Kim Pallister.

The crappy phone cam doesn't show it very well, but the Xbox360 GH2 controller is a nice match for my Steinberger.

Unfortunately, the GH2 controller is seeing WAY more usage that the real guitar. I ought to do something about that.

But mom! All the kids are doing it!

IMAGE_023, originally uploaded by Kim Pallister.

Logged in tonight to play some GH2 and look what everyone's playing...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Stop and smell the roses

What a beautiful experiment. What an ugly result.

[There's a cynical statement to be made here as well. How many people would have stopped and listened if they'd *known* he was "was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made". Same kind of folks that comment on an 'insouciant little pinot'... after hearing the price.]

Thanks to Souris, Hustler of (high and low brow) Culture, for the pointer.

Friday, April 6, 2007


I know almost nothing about this book but I love the website so much I'll definitely check it out.

Joost the facts, ma'am

Sorry, couldn't resist the pun.

I just got on the Joost beta and holy cow. It's WAY slick.

This weekend it's moving ot the living room to try and co-exist with Media Center. We'll see how that goes.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Carnaval, Festival, Carnaval...

The always-juicy Carnival of Gamers is up after a bit of a hiatus, over at Gaming Nexus. Go check it out.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

...but we make it up in volume!

Robin points us to the "Develop 100", an interesting attempt by Evolving Media to build a list of "The World's Most Successful Game Studios" by (according to their site):

Develop 100 ranks the world's games development studios based on the revenues their products made at UK retail in 2006.

While and interesting idea, it falls short of the mark for a couple reasons:

- UK only. Meh.
- Retail only. ('We rated the most powerful transportation vehicles by the amount of hay they consume in a day!'). 'nuff said.

And of course the biggest issue (and granted, hard to put THIS list together) is that I'd much rather see the list ranked by contribution margin rather than just revenue. To borrow Raph's metaphor, (which is also his business plan, I guess) I think you'd see a lot of small mammals ranked higher among the dinosaurs.

And as Robin points out, it'd be interesting to see this ranked by a number of factors. QoL, GameRankings average, etc, etc.

What hath the Game Gods wrought? GH2, that's wot!!

Guitar Hero 2 *finally* shipped for Xbox360. Ah, but how I'd waited for this day. This is a good thing.

I went by Circuit City yesterday morning to pick one up, and they were bundling a $20 points card with it. This is also a good thing.

Extra content and downloadable songs on Xbox Live. This is an even better thing.

And now this news from Kotaku: The Xplorer controller works fine out of the box in your PC to play the awesome Frets on Fire. Well, that's it then. See you all next year. (jk)


... not one, but TWO crowns done at the dentist today. Had some faulty dental work from years back that got some decay under it and... well, I'll spare the details but suffice it to say that two hours in the chair ain't any fun.

Channelled the negative energy into some Guitar Hero 2 shredding though. Ah. Gaming goodness.

Great example of how games can teach

Perhaps a lesson more in how games can help you visualize:

We have often heard people talk about financial data or housing prices using a 'roller coaster' metaphor. Here's an example where SpeculativeBubble used Roller Coaster Tycoon to build a roller coaster using US housing prices (adjusted for inflation) to construct an actual roller coaster in-game.

I dunno about you, but that next hill is going to scare the heck out of me...

Monday, April 2, 2007


Went to see the Bodies exhibit this past weekend. It was pretty nifty, but I'm not sure it was worth the $27/person they charge for it.

It was educational and let you see all the bits of the body cut up and splayed out in ways that a textbook could never do justice to. Still, probably more educational for those that aren't married to and/or have siblings in the medical profession. (I've been surrounded by some fairly disgusting-yet-detailed dinner conversation on occasion over the past 15 years :-)

One thing Alisa and I both found funny was that people that were unphased by the majority of the exhibit would suddenly cringe and flee from the room with preserved fetuses. I witnessed a couple people rushing through that one room, one saying "ugh! Let's just get past this one!". This must happen a lot because they have a big warning before that one room. Hmm...

Personally, the only one that even mildly gave me the willies was one exhibit with man's entire skin preserved like some kind of tanned leather hide. Here's a similar example from another one of their exhibits (lots of good photos of this up on flickr)