We’ve all seen the cartoons of people sitting next to each other in silence and texting each other. I just picked up my daughter from a concert where she did exactly that.
At work, we meet for a few hours in-world at least twice a week. Usually at least one of us is in some other part of the world and a few at home, but sometimes we’re all in the same room with headphones on. It isn’t always better than being in the same room with someone, it isn’t always worse. It’s just different, although occasionally it isn’t even that.
For folks growing up with texting and ubiquitous computing, it seems working with others in a virtual world should not be an issue. But circumstances matter (context is king) in ways that I still don’t understand. I’m disappointed that even we are passing up some working relationships that are long distance even as we do others that are global.
Sometimes you text the person next to you and sometimes you have to get on a plane.
Other news stations might just run a “aw… look… cute video” segment. Nope, not Fox News of Dallas… they have to turn it into a controversy!
This cute video of someone playing “whack a kitty” (really, just gently pressing a kitty’s head down in a box they are playing in, with sound effects) raised the ire of the MSPCA… err… no, not them. Uhhh… PETA? Nope, not them either. It really seemed to mildly upset noted animal rights advocates such as “supersmithy on I-Love-Cats.com’s forum” and “Stud u like” on Digital Spy.
Well, there you go! If some guy(?) named “Stud u like” on some forum somewhere doesn’t like it, it must be controversial!
How do we improve the breed of collaborative programming tools? Should we have spectator programming competitions on the Internet? (The people who like those things only watch for the crashes!)
I don’t think there’s a good commercial driver for improving programmer productivity(*), but spectator sports and particularly racing has been a good driver in other fields.
I think there’s a lot of relevance for the game-theory outcomes of nice-sized sprint programming problems such as whether, say, Tit-for-tat or Pavlov is a better algorithm for Free-Rider scenarios, or whether that changes for a mix of Free-Rider and Volunteer’s-Dilemma.
I think most programmers and programming managers still have never really seen very dynamic languages and live debugging environments, and such competition would be a great way to show them off.
I think it would put nice stress on the collaborative environment. How many people can watch? Can they see everything such as keystrokes and mouse movement? Is that important? Can they easily see who is doing what? Can they see multiple players’ activity at once? Multiple teams? Can they record and have instant replay?
In my capacity of consulting with the Benton Foundation, I have been doing work with Kate Williams, a professor of informatix at University of Illinois. Williams has been doing some (IMO) critical work around broadband sustainability. In particular, Kate has been studying the old Technologies Opportunity Program to determine which projects had lasting impact and which didn’t — a rather important consideration for the new and improved BTOP program.
But what caught my attention recently is this very interesting map that Williams compiled based on the comments submitted to BTOP. It places the comments filed on a geographic map, with links to the actual comments themselves. The map includes the 58% of comments filed by the April 13, 2009 deadline which contained reliable information on the location of the commentor. The remaining 42% either gave no location or included location in an attachment which Williams considered insufficiently reliable to determine location.
Why do I find this interesting? Because it potentially provides a very interesting cross check on the state of broadband geographically, as well as who follows these proceedings. I have long lamented that the FCC (and other federal agencies) make so little use of the data they actually collect. At best, an agency may note submission by a class of commentors (e.g., broadcasters, MVPDs, ISPs) in the specific proceeding at issue. But no one tries to take the multiple data sets collected as comments in each proceeding, or in multiple proceedings, and tries to determine patterns and what they might suggest. williams grouping by geography is intriguing, and I cannot help but wonder what would happen if we applied a similar analysis to multiple FCC proceedings — including for comments generated by mass “comment engines” that have become common in some high profile proceedings. It would be very interesting to know, for example, if the people feeling passionate enough about media consolidation or network neutrality cluster geographically and, if so, do we see patterns of geographic interest which might tell us about the actual situation on the ground.
Of course the sampling from comments is not a pure scientific data set in that to comment, a commentor must (a) know about the proceeding, and (b) feel strongly enough to file comments. But the fact that the information has a particular set of biases does not render it meaningless, especially if one controls for this.
I hope researchers use Williams’ map, both to analyze the BTOP comments and as a model going forward for analysis of other proceedings.
One of the really great things about the WWW, as opposed to the Internet in general, is that the Web separates the concept of naming from everything else. A URL is bit of text that names a resource. You can type it. Except for some long URLs used by banks and in ecommerce, you can often even remember it. But most importantly, you can include the text in some other technology such as an email, an instant message, a calendar invite, a Web page, or even in a book or piece of paper. It can be sent and stored. The URL can be transmitted through this separate non-WWW media, and it still works on the other end.
When you name something, you have power over it. Like the dreidel mnemonic of the title, names help you to remember stuff. You can speak clearly about places and objects instead of just using misunderstood pronouns and long descriptions. And best of all, if you know something’s name, you can use it in casting a spell. (We call them programs.)
So a big part being able to work with virtual worlds, talk about them with other people, and use them in programs is to have a name – a URL that corresponds to each interesting thing about a virtual world.
Ack, this was sitting in my drafts folder for nearly a year. At the time I started it, someone had asked about how one might use Croquet virtual worlds to subsume other technical functions in the same way that the World Wide Web has incorporated other resources and functions. I did five minutes on the taxonomy of the problem-space.
I should have just answered with this video of Intel’s John David Miller demoing the use of Twitter from within a Qwaq Forum. He fills in the stuff on the Twitter Web page (crappy hand-held video, below) and then I love how the audience guy asks, “And then you can bring the result in to the world?” JDM answers that it already is, and dollies back to show that the whole interaction has been in world the whole time.
A lot of us like to run Forums all day, like an IM client. In the new version, you can log in to your organization without actually entering any of its forums(1). We think of it as hanging out in the lobby of that organization. You can watch people going in and out, text chat with them, and join them in whatever forum they are working in(2).
The idea is that if virtual world technology is a meta-medium that subsumes, for example, instant messaging, then it ought to do IM as well as dedicated IM clients while retaining the benefits of the virtual world technology. In the case of Forums, that means secure communication.
In Forums, each user is a member of one or more organizations.
Last week this fellow R.W. Ridley started following me on twitter after I tweeted about kindlizing The Pains. He’s a writer with a horror series called The Takers aimed at young adults. Turns out that like me, he’s a self-publisher. Like me, he’s won the Self-Published Book Award from Writer’s Digest magazine. Like me, he’s got a blog & is experimenting with kindle and various other ways of getting the word out. Unlike me, he seems to have good portions of his act together. For example his blog is streamed to his author page on Amazon. (How do he do that?) And he has a couple of other neat things, like a youtube video for his books. I have never met the fellow and haven’t read his books & so have no idea of how well he’s doing sales-wise and whether the books are any good. But I was impressed by this little audio book sample. It’s well read and well written and creepy, with nice sound effects. Check it out. And check out his website, there’s some other cool stuff there.
I also note with interest his blog posting about how this year print-on-demand titles outnumbered traditionally published titles. Wow. And then consider, there are lots of self-published books, like mine, that are not POD. (Mine are traditional offset books.) Things sure are changing in the publishing world. And so it goes and so it goes and so it goes, as the man said, but where it’s going, no one knows. . .
One of the general internal themes of Croquet is that everything ought to just work, and work well. Most practicing software developers aren’t fortunate enough to be able to create artifacts like this because the software is aimed at addressing a very specific problem. That tends to lead to tools of limited scope and interaction.
Consider sound. If you only want to make voice chat work, you can use a low fidelity encoding on a lossy transport. It will do what it does well, but only that. Now suppose you and someone else are watching a movie and discussing it, using separate programs for the movie and VoIP. Either program might work well, but use them together and everything is likely to go to hell.