KAT positioning

I don’t get to spend as much time as I’d like on the Collaborative for Croquet, but I’m still pleased with progress on our software. A lot of people are trying it out from all around the world (ain’t the Internet grand?), and it’s standing up pretty well. Time to clarify expectations. (The punchline at the end is that you have use the latest version.)

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Spontaneous Usage


One success metric that I’ve been shooting for is that I want a user to do something in Croquet that was not specifically intended by the authors of the space or software. It’s very cool to create something that is ideally suited for a particular usage, but it’s really something to create a meta-tool whose usage exceeds the sum of its designed parts.

This fellow Laurence apparently created his blog entry from within the Collaborative.

I had expected and hoped the first such spontaneous use to be something based on collaboration, or on usability or scalability. This was not. It was done because it was fun to do. That’s pretty cool, actually. Shows what I know…

Child's Play

Croquet leader Alan Kay has noticed that making technology work well for children is often a good way to make technology work for everyone. This concept has informed his recent work with VPRI, SqueakLand and the One Laptop Per Child project.

We’re starting a project in Croquet called KidsFirst, in which we push the limits of ease-of-use and collaboration to the extreme by focusing on the three legs of an early-education community of practice: very young children, busy teachers, and non-specialist parents.

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I Can't Quit You Brie, So I'm Gonna Put You Down For a While

(Sorry, Willie Dixon.)

I haven’t been working on our Brie user-interface framework for a while now. We took it to a certain early level in Jasmine Croquet, in which we pretty solidly worked out user interface conventions, internal infrastructure, and the basic direct-manipulation philosophy.

Although not terribly novel (we stole liberally from David Smith, David Unger/Randall Smith, David Place/Pat O’Keefe, and, running out of Davids, Stallman/Sussman), Brie was still fairly advanced and abstract research, and we had more immediate work to do: Dormouse and the Croquet SDK release, and several projects using them. Brie had been sustained with financial support from NICT which has come to a pause. A great friend and entire world’s best salesman and demo-jock for Croquet went to Duke. So nothing got done on Brie following C5 ’06.

Brie has not yet been integrated with the current Croquet SDK. It still needs a lot of work in both the graphics and the API between private and replicated Croquet. It might be most efficient to let some dust settle here: Josh is working on new Croquet graphics, Andreas is working on 2D interfaces, and David Smith is working on the task/interactor model.

But the main thing is that I’m starting another project that I’m very excited about (more about this later), so I know that I won’t have time to work on Brie for a while. Fortunately, I do think that, say, phase III or so of the new project will be a driver for pulling Brie out of the closet again.

News from the Metaverse

Key invitation-only conference on the future of collaborative virtual worlds.

Metaverse Roadmap site

CNET story

A Microsoft blogger, with pictures

Good blog

A key thread in all this seems to be a desire for an open-source framework that works. It looks like the only concerns voiced about Croquet for this was a mistaken impression about the licensing. (See the comments in the “Good blog”, above.)

BTW, We’re still trying to set up cool demos over the now-released Croquet Software Developers Kit. The demo at Metaverse was actually the demo we produced at the University of Wisconsin for C5 ’05 in Kyoto, which was built over the Jasmine proof-of-concept. The current release is so much better, but lacking in some of the visible bells and whisles. We’re working on it…

Cultural Awareness

A little while ago we had a workshop discussing the use of Croquet by a group here at the University of Wisconsin. One participant raised the issue of cultural awareness. For example, the icons, avatars, metaphors and symbols used in Croquet might have different meanings for different people. After all, this is a world-wide communications tool.

I gave two answers. On a technical level, Brie would allow the users themselves to define different views of objects for different users, as suited to their needs and desires. But on a social level, I had no idea how such different views would be developed.

My four-year-old son just emphasized the importance of this. He was riding in the back seat as I took him home from pre-school. “Can I open this envelope we got in class?” he said. “It’s about poison stuff. Is that OK?”

“Yes,” I said, knowing that it was about poison, not that it was poison.

He opened it and I couldn’t see what he was doing in the back seat.

“Stickers!” he exclaimed. “Oh, and these are for putting on pirate medicine!”