Monthly Archive for February, 2005

The Tabula Rasa of MMORPG & Plane Crashes

Definitions of Tabula Rasa on the Web (via Google):

Erased tablet (Latin).

(Latin). A clean slate; a blank or erased tablet.

Latin for “blank tablet”; also, John Locke’s metaphor for the condition of the mind prior to the imprint of sensory experience.

a young mind not yet affected by experience (according to John Locke)

fresh start: an opportunity to start over without prejudice

LOST - ABC TV Media Photo Recent events have been leading us to the idea of tabula rasa. Not too long ago, we’ve best seen this in the movie Matrix, where Neo was a low-life common man in reality, but became “The One” in the Matrix. IFTF’s Future Now blogged a piece about the worldwide blockbuster sales of online games such as HALO 2 and World of Warcraft which renders the virtual world mainstream, thus forcing many people to re-evaluate themselves, their identity. Even Prime Time television series such as LOST (absolutely thrilling x-files-like story on survivors from a plane crash) repeatedly remind you that in order to survive, you had to drop/forget whatever you’ve had in your “previous life”. Indeed, for I am trying to explain the phenomenon of how finally the creative people will thrive, for whatever the course this life had planned for you, perhaps you might have done better or worse in another!

But what does all this mean to me? Who cares? Why care?
Perhaps in the near future, the virtual world would be closer to reality than it is today, one where being in the virtual could sustain the real. Right now reality is fueling the virtual, supporting the very hardware and software that drives that space. With the cost of such support falling, perhaps the economics of the virtual could later be a “return of investment” to support the physical person who thrives in the virtual domain. The recent decision of Jason Kottke to end his professional career as a popular web designer marked his transition to be supported by the virtual in order to pursue his love for blogging (also see “$2.50 for your thoughts” by Red Herring and “Quit Your Job to Blog, Blog, Blog” by Wired News). Virtual characters and property have been sold for real-world currency, creating the first virtual to reality exchange currency (See “Open Gaming Market, “Virtual cash exchange goes live” by BBC news, and “Internet Currencies for Virtual Communities” by Bernard Lietaer). If Alvin Toffler was indeed right about us being in the Third Wave (Information Age), then perhaps this is finally bring us in full circle… that information is indeed change which incites change and like everything else, forms a simple but potent means for economic power.

BTW: I just discovered that producers of LOST named the strange hunter survivor in the show after the guy who defined Tabula Rasa (See above), i.e. Locke! How sneaky of them! Makes sense since Locke is the only survivor who seems to have a natural affinity to the mysterious island.

Teaching a man to fish…

Comedy Central
As heard from Comedy Central:
“Give a man a fish, and he’ll know where to come for more…
Teach a man to fish, and you’ve lost your market”

’nuff said.

WordPress 1.5 = Spam Protection!

Hooray! I updated my blog to WordPress 1.5 (codename: longhorn strayhorn), which has a few features I like, such as creating and maintaining static web pages along with the usual blog. In addition, a key feature everyone is bound to love is better built-in spam control. Mass-editing comments is much easier now when you need to screen through comments manually, or you can even set up the ultimate blacklist option so WordPress automatically nukes comments that say contain obscene words (after party poker came xxx-milf spammers). Be careful with blacklisting, as it’s silent and deadly. You won’t even know when the blacklisted comment is killed. Another useful thing to note is how WordPress now checks for insecure proxies, which is how the large majority of spammers leave comments while hiding their identity. Comments posted via insecure proxies are now blocked by default. In a Military-class standard, you can also force users to register with your blog before they can comment… that’s really powerful, but might deter your readers from responding. Finally, if you still get spammed and can’t take it, a lot of anti-spam plug-ins are now compatible with WP1.5. Just shop around.

On the whole, the WordPress 1.5 install is smaller and seems to run much quicker. I’ve gotta say that the new Dashboard does give me a good overview on what’s happening on my blog, and even provides a decent news feed on the on-goings of the WordPress community.

It’s OK, Nobody is Perfect.

Yes, from hacking computers to home applicances, it is now officially mainstream for people to modify themselves in more drastic ways… While body enhancement isn’t new (think of body piercings like earrings, to tattoos), what’s enlightening to me is how there are magazines now devoted to cosmetic surgery, liposuction, cutting lasers, botox injections and enlargement/reductions in “you-know-what”. I first spotted New Beauty at a Wegmans Supermarket and was kicked-in-the-butt awakened at how this well-produced magazine marked a real trend was in America. Then came the news over BoingBoing that magazines like that were appearing in Denmark (love the name Plastique!) and even in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia! Apparently there’s stuff for men too…

Better Gaming through Academia

Why are we interested in research on gaming? Especially, why now?

In my previous postings, I had hinted on how playing games might have an effect on a gamer’s behavior. In HALO 2, you play as the Master Chief, as well as the enemy Covernant Elite, thus letting gamers realize that nothing is simply black and white… there are always reasons as to what motivates each side to fight for their cause and understanding these reasons might bring us one step closer to resolving disputes. Besides first person shooters (FPS) such as HALO, other games such as Rise of Nations teaches one about the intricacies of maintaining one’s own country, thus perhaps getting a better understanding the components of diplomacy and war. Nowadays, there is a trend for games to have some form of open-endedness to them, something which can be seen in the Grand Theft Auto series. Yet, we understand that games have structure and while they can be non-linear, they herd gamers to perform virtual tasks for certain personal rewards (e.g. to boost ego amongst friends that you finished the game in record time, to escape reality, etc). Understanding how to manage a game’s structure might be useful in educating gamers on the long run. Ultimately, think of this as self-improvement through gaming.

To answer my question, I believe that there has been no better time to go head-on with gaming research. A recent Gamespot article explored the relationship between academic game studies and commercial game development. The question was whether game designers were benefiting from critical studies. Quoting part of the in-depth feature article…

Each group, though driven by different motives, has something to offer the others. The game developer can teach the consumer what to expect in the coming months. The consumer can teach the academic about buying patterns and attention spans. The classics enthusiast can teach developers what makes a good game, regardless of era or trends. And academia can teach everyone a thing or two about what motivates a person to play games, why they are important, how we can make them better, and what we learn from them overall. Academia is also interested in collections, which benefits the developer, consumer, and classics enthusiasts fairly equally. Classic game fans archive too, but they usually do so for personal reasons and not for permanent public availability and accessibility. Furthermore, the academic archives less selectively, collecting all ideas, verbal history, written history, and digital history, which comprises a complete history quite unlike the conceptual history of electronic games currently available.

It seems that the academia has a part to play. Naysayers who say academia is “boring” say so because they haven’t realized the fruits of our labor… and I think this will change soon as initiatives such as DIGRA (Digital Games Research Association) and Serious Games are bent on producing results fit for game developers. Here at the University at Buffalo, we aim to do just that with our study of the “real self vs. the gamer self”. Using Mead’s theory on multiple selves, we apply concept of symbolic interactionism in order to study this phenomenon.

Ten academic articles on Internet Trends

Having googled the web for future trends in the Internet & Telecommunication domain, I found many reports with trend analysis and predictions, but most of them specific to business and consumer markets. Here are ten academic articles which I feel reflect what I think should be up and coming with regards to the Internet. The first few are related the blogosphere, a few on eGovernment, one on information warfare and a piece which I like to think of as “Tivo-ing your life”. Sorry, some of these articles require journal subscription. This list is of course not exhaustive, and you’re more than welcomed to add to the list with your finds…

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“Ten Years, Ten Trends”
Center for the Digital Future Identifies the 10 Major Trends Emerging in the Internet’s First Decade of Public Use. The report highlights the major findings in year four of the Digital Future Project’s study of the impact of the Internet on Americans.

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Why we blog
Bonnie A. Nardi, Diane J. Schiano, Michelle Gumbrecht, Luke Swartz
December 2004, Communications of the ACM,  Volume 47 Issue 12
Abstract: Bloggers are driven to document their lives, provide commentary and opinions, express deeply felt emotions, articulate ideas through writing, and form and maintain community forums.

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Semantic blogging and decentralized knowledge management
Steve Cayzer
Volume 47 ,  Issue 12  (December 2004)
Abstract: Tapping into the structured metadata in snippets of information gives communities of interest effective access to their collective knowledge.

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Democracy and filtering
Cass R. Sunstein
Volume 47 ,  Issue 12  (December 2004) table of contents
Abstract: The Web gives us the ability to filter out unwanted noise and to create our own personal echo chambers—but democracy itself means each of us should be exposed to new topics and contrary opinions.

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Political Blogs – Craze or Convention?
Ross Ferguson and Milica Howell
July 2004
Abstract: Political Blogs – Craze or Convention? examines whether blogging can offer an alternative to traditional channels of political communication in the UK . The research study focuses on eight political blogs as representative examples of how individuals and organisations are harnessing blogging as a tool to promote political engagement. The research monitored activity on these blogs and, in addition, a blogging “jury” of members of the public with little or no experience of blogging scrutinised the blogs to assess their relevance as channels of political thought and debate.

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Information Warfare
Yael Shahar, 26 Feb 1997
Computer Warfare?  Terrorists take control of the New York Stock Exchange?  Terrorism over the Internet?  Computer viruses in the arsenal of Hizballah? 
Sound implausible? Maybe. But such possibilities are currently being discussed by strategic analysts under the catch-all title, “Information Warfare.” To date the defense establishment has yet to agree on the exact definition of the term “information warfare.” But on one thing everyone agrees, in the digital age, information, and its dissemination, has achieved the status of a vital strategic asset. 
-Infowar – Potential Weapons
-Trends – Information warfare & Glass Houses
-Infowar as the Perfect Terrorist Weapon
-Psychological Warfare
-New Weapons for Terrorism 
-What Can be Done About it?
-Summary

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Governance and the Internet
Richard Rose, Oxford Internet Institute (2004)
Abstract: This article is reproduced with the permission of the World Bank, from Chapter 8 (“Governance and the Internet”) in (2004) Global Change and East Asian Policy Initiatives, edited by Shahid Yusuf, M. Anjum Altaf, and Kaoru Nabeshima, published by the World Bank Group. OII appreciates the World Bank’s cooperation in allowing us to release this report.

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The State of VoIP
Andy Oram, 22 Oct 2004
Abstract: Fresh back from the Fall 2004 Conference and Expo of the Voice on the Net (VON) Coalition, Andy Oram reports on the state of VoIP: what are its implications, where is it headed, and a detailed look at the many regulations that may help shape its future.

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The Year in Technology
Cynthia L. Webb
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 22, 2004

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Demonstrations: Augmenting and sharing memory with eyeBlog
Connor Dickie, Roel Vertegaal, David Fono, Changuk Sohn, Daniel Chen, Daniel Cheng, Jeffrey S Shell, Omar Aoudeh
October 2004
Proceedings of the the 1st ACM workshop on Continuous archival and retrieval of personal experiences
Abstract: eyeBlog is an automatic personal video recording and publishing system. It consists of ECSGlasses [1], which are a pair of glasses augmented with a wireless eye contact and glyph sensing camera, and a web application that visualizes the video from the ECSGlasses camera as chronologically delineated blog entries. The blog format allows for easy annotation, grading, cataloging and searching of video segments by the wearer or anyone else with internet access. eyeBlog reduces the editing effort…

A better way than “Remaindered Links” ?

There’s no justice using “Remaindered Links“. I’m simply saying that there’s got to be a better way to capture the essence of web sites we’ve travelled and loved than to simply archive it as a textual description of links. How is this different than looking at our history menu in our web browsers? Perhaps it’s the ability to categorize and search our links… but I like to window shop, and since browsing is an essential part of the web experience, why not come up with a way to automatically capture the web pages in question with a thumbnail and text summary of the sites? After all, the “richer” the information, the easier it is to find.

Here’s my first attempt to do just that. Using the thumbnails of web sites in Omniweb (the most serious web browser I’ve ever used) and Mac OS X’s SummaryService engine, I parsed my human readable text into a word count literally comparable to the thumbnails of sites I visited (text summary set as low as 5% of full text):

Secure wireless email on Mac OS X
If you’re concerned about strangers having open access to your usernames and passwords, and all the email you send and receive while connected to a public wireless network — whether you use a Mac or not — you’ll want to read this.
…Just as easily as someone could sit near you in a quiet cafe or library and overhear your entire verbal conversation with another person, so could they “listen in” on all the usernames, passwords, and messages passing to and from your computer.
…The last thing you may want to change is to have the tunnel you just configured automatically connect each time you open SSHTM.
…Note: If you didn’t select “Auto connect” in the tunnel’s options, you’ll need to click this start button to create the tunnel each time you open SSHTM.
…This one small extra step of launching SSHTM (allowing the tunnel to be created) is the only extra thing you need to do each time you want to connect and use Mail.

Machined Aluminum Hard Case For My Shuffle – PHOTOS INSIDE!
…I love it and use it more than my 4th Gen 40GB. I couldn’t find any Shuffle hard cases available yet, but I wanted to protect it so I just made my own.
…That is very impressive and one of the nicer things that I have seen made for any iPod.
…The front and back half of the case are joined together by 4 very small screws…. The headphones come in from the top, USB from the bottom, and there is also a window on the back for the on/off/shuffle slider and battery button. It is lined on the front, back, top, bottom, and sides with black velvet.
…Now it won’t get damaged by the other random things I seem to collect in my pocket throughout the day!
…I want to see how you made for control toggle of the back.
…if you have a powerbook, how you can hook it up without usb cable?… but if I were you, I don’t want to carry usb extension cable all the time.

DIY Blackout Cloth Screen > 54″?
I like how it came out and and how the picture looks, but the screen is too small!
… I can comfortably place the projector about 18″ from the screen, and the celings are 10″.
…Or would I be better off going with the painter “owens corning house insulation” foam sheets (4×8, tongue and groove) as seen in one of the other threads?
…The screen needs to be light so I can either take it down (it will be hanging from the ceiling) after each use, or i can fold it up and hook it to the ceiling (like a drop-ceiling tile)..
…I recently found a link on this forum to 110-inch wide blackout cloth at http://www.eztheater.com/products.htm.

Meet the John Motsons of online gaming
Graham is one of a growing number of people who provide play-by-play commentary and analysis of online games and he uses his catchphrase for the most outrageous moments of skill.
…The games are played at a frenetic pace, making real sports such as football and rugby look like petanque, and often it can be difficult to follow the intense action.
…A Counter Strike game can take place in an Italian village or in a train station, and each map is often composed of many different levels and multiple strategic points.
…”A player is constantly having to think on his/her feet, there are no time-outs, there are no penalties, it’s a player’s skill both mentally and physically that will determine who the victor is.”

Mitsubishi Launches Mini DLP PocketProjector
If you’ve always wanted a front projector that you could take with you anywhere, the upcoming PocketProjector from Mitsubishi might just be what you’ve dreamed of.
…The PocketProjector can drive 800×600 SVGA resolution through its Lumileds tri-LED DLP system, rated at over 20,000 hours of lamp life…. Heck, with a digital camera that has AV output, you can set up a virtual slide show no matter where you are – well, so long as you have a clean, flat, white surface to project onto.
…The PocketProjector will be available in July at an SRP of $699 US – not cheap certainly, but a fair price for an SVGA projector with multiple inputs, multiple portable power solutions, and that is pocketable.

The point of this is to let the computer do most of the work, because “in the machine, we trust”. Do you think that this is a viable process to build as an app? Or is this a waste of time?