Archive for November, 2003

GridMania

November 28, 2003


I’ve dug out a document from mid-2000 about a massively multiplayer game concept called ‘GridMania’ that I had invented at the time. It never really got implemented, and then my group and I got off in different directions, e.g. BuddySpace, Yanna Vogiazou’s PhD thesis, etc. But it’s just been sitting there for three years on a hidden web site, so I thought I ought at least to bring the wording out of the closet and onto my blog. Here it is verbatim, from my original:

GridMania is the generic name for a family of massively multiplayer cooperative online games, group experiences, and shared reality. The simplest variant of GridMania is derived from the sports-stadium phenomenon known as the ‘Mexican Wave’: every individual controls a remarkably simple behaviour (stand up, wave arms, sit down) influenced by a simple analysis of the person sitting alongside (stand up just after they stand up), without deep competitive motivation (it’s aesthetically pleasing and fun), but requiring large numbers of participants (it works best in big crowds).

But ‘Mexican Wave’ requires being there in order to work, and thus can never be achieved on the Internet, right? Well, this is precisely the challenge! Indeed, the poor sense of ‘being there’ provided by today’s concert webcasts is one of the inspirations for this work. I believe that we can begin to address the issues by turning three key ingredients on their heads:

* Instead of large numbers of simultaneous participants being seen as a liability, let’s look at them as an asset, indeed a prerequisite for the whole activity.

* Instead of looking at an audience as the passive recipient of artistic ‘content’, let’s look at their potential as the active creator of artisitc ‘content’.

* Instead of being defeated by the impossibility of fine-grained (microsecond-accurate) synchronization required for true shared experience, let’s concentrate on a ‘sleight-of-hand’ workaround that delivers the same capability 99% of the time rather than 100%.

Ingredient one is inspired by the work on cellular automata and artificial life, which demonstrates in a profound manner how simply-behaving individuals can lead to complex-behaving groups. Ingredient two is an attempt to put back the live crowd-behaviour aspect of concert-going and stadium-going experiences, all of which benefit immensely from people doing something.

Item three is a unique challenge of working at a distance over an impoverished medium (impoverished in comparison with real life that is, even with modern broadband capability). Fine-grained (millisecond) ‘true synchronization’ is not attainable on the Internet, but ‘cyclical rhythm-based’ synchronization is attainable.Crudely, if you and I are clapping on every second beat out of four per ‘measure’, then for all but the first and last few measures of a song, it will never matter that we are technically listening to different ‘measures’. That is sufficient ‘sleight-of-hand’ to create an illusion of fine-grained synchronization to an absolute precise degree.

The goal is to develop a family of web-centric activities, available across the entire spectrum of devices (incuding next generation phones, networked game consoles, and web browsers), which offer the following characteristics:

– The crowd-participation-essence of Mexican Wave
– The graphical simplicity of Tetris
– The emotional potential of a rock concert
– The ‘hook’ engagement of Tamagotchi
– The mathematical beauty and pecision of cellular automata
– The dyanamic combination of music and art worthy of MTV

[If you have the remotest interest in this, email me, and I’ll give you the hidden URL]

Photo mania, 4 years on; 7000 photos later

November 25, 2003


I just did a ‘properties’ check on my photos folder:

 7,190 files in 217 folders

Roughly 10% of that total is in duplicates and thumbnail-reduction e.g. for websites; allowing for dud photos, there are easily well over 6000 good ones; let’s say 5000 for good measure that I would want to keep; I bought my 2.1Megapixel camera in October 1999; so that’s 4 years of photos… and they’re organised (thankfully) into a pretty sensible hierarchy with folder names having year or year-month-mnemonic e.g.


...photos
.......1999
............1999-10-MotorShow
............1999-11-Birthdays
.......2000
............2000-07-JoesWedding

etc

I’ve got multiple backups to be on the safe side.

Assembling slide shows for family gatherings is quite easy to do in Sony VAIO ‘Picturegear’ which lets you make ‘ad hoc’ folders which are just shortcuts to a particular collection… same philosophy as iPhoto. In fact, simple Windows Explorer folder browsing, with ‘View…Thumbnails’ enabled, is about as good/functional as most custom tools when you’ve got a *LOT* of photos to work with and just need lightning-quick organization.

One chicken-and-egg problem is this: for large-scale assemblage, digital photography is an outright winner here, all other variables (e.g. quality, enjoyability around the coffee table) aside. The recursive problem is that without a digital camera, you’d take far fewer photos, so wouldn’t have as big an organizational problem. On balance, I’m sticking with the large-scale and relative simplicity.

Fine-grained labelling/categorizing of photos is way beyond may patience/enthusiasm levels, so a good compromise for me is just chunking sets into year-month-mnemonic folder-labelling schemes, which is more than good enough for finding things later.

And hard copy for distributing or coffee-table browsing? Chris Valentine, (of KMi and hockeyphoto.com) convinced me a while ago that using a managed service like Print@net from Jessops and Pixology basically beats the pants off doing it yourself: it’s less hassle, more scaleable in terms of both picture quantities and paper size, higher quality by far, and (guess what) generally cheaper if you factor in the true cost of glossy paper, ink cartridges, and your own time if/when things go wrong [yes, the first dozen are more fun to do yourself, but after that, no way!].

November 24, 2003


Went to Selfridges at the Birmingham Bullring the other day. As a hardened New Yorker and long-time resident of Milton Keynes with its pretty spectacular shopping centre (claimed to be “the world’s longest shopping arcade and over 3 miles of shop fronts”), I consider myself a tough guy to impress. I was impressed! Click on the Selfrdges link above or the artist’s impression at right to see some actual photographs, which show just how accurate was the original vision!

But the reason I’m blogging this little side-visit (incurred during a day whose real purpose was to see Turner’s Britain at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, itself a noteworthy exhibition worth blogging if I had anything sensible to say about it) is this. There’s a relentless escalation in ‘spectacularity’, something which of course mirrors civilization itself: thus, yesterday’s breathtaking achievement becomes an also-ran when the next/bigger/better thing comes along. So far, so predictable. But what struck me while soaking up the Ridley-Scott-Blade-Runner-style Sushi Bar and Selfridges Employees With Just The Right Amount Of Street-Wise Attitude was that (a) the pace of spectacularity is accelerating; (b) with all our awareness of social justice and the increasing rich/poor gap, we nevertheless love this stuff — I love this stuff; I love the brands, even though I know they’re evil. I know that Naomi Klein is already spinning in her grave, and she’s not even dead yet! It’s like a drug. OK, we knew all this already. But the new Selfridges (opened on Sept 4th 2003) really got the old pulse racing; it really made me think. It’s that good. Or did I mean bad?

November 24, 2003


Went to Selfridges at the Birmingham Bullring the other day. As a hardened New Yorker and long-time resident of Milton Keynes with its pretty spectacular shopping centre (claimed to be “the world’s longest shopping arcade and over 3 miles of shop fronts”), I consider myself a tough guy to impress. I was impressed! Click on the Selfrdges link above or the artist’s impression at right to see some actual photographs, which show just how accurate was the original vision!

But the reason I’m blogging this little side-visit (incurred during a day whose real purpose was to see Turner’s Britain at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, itself a noteworthy exhibition worth blogging if I had anything sensible to say about it) is this. There’s a relentless escalation in ‘spectacularity’, something which of course mirrors civilization itself: thus, yesterday’s breathtaking achievement becomes an also-ran when the next/bigger/better thing comes along. So far, so predictable. But what struck me while soaking up the Ridley-Scott-Blade-Runner-style Sushi Bar and Selfridges Employees With Just The Right Amount Of Street-Wise Attitude was that (a) the pace of spectacularity is accelerating; (b) with all our awareness of social justice and the increasing rich/poor gap, we nevertheless love this stuff — I love this stuff; I love the brands, even though I know they’re evil. I know that Naomi Klein is already spinning in her grave, and she’s not even dead yet! It’s like a drug. OK, we knew all this already. But the new Selfridges (opened on Sept 4th 2003) really got the old pulse racing; it really made me think. It’s that good. Or did I mean bad?

November 24, 2003


Went to Selfridges at the Birmingham Bullring the other day. As a hardened New Yorker and long-time resident of Milton Keynes with its pretty spectacular shopping centre (claimed to be “the world’s longest shopping arcade and over 3 miles of shop fronts”), I consider myself a tough guy to impress. I was impressed! Click on the Selfrdges link above or the artist’s impression at right to see some actual photographs, which show just how accurate was the original vision!

But the reason I’m blogging this little side-visit (incurred during a day whose real purpose was to see Turner’s Britain at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, itself a noteworthy exhibition worth blogging if I had anything sensible to say about it) is this. There’s a relentless escalation in ‘spectacularity’, something which of course mirrors civilization itself: thus, yesterday’s breathtaking achievement becomes an also-ran when the next/bigger/better thing comes along. So far, so predictable. But what struck me while soaking up the Ridley-Scott-Blade-Runner-style Sushi Bar and Selfridges Employees With Just The Right Amount Of Street-Wise Attitude was that (a) the pace of spectacularity is accelerating; (b) with all our awareness of social justice and the increasing rich/poor gap, we nevertheless love this stuff — I love this stuff; I love the brands, even though I know they’re evil. I know that Naomi Klein is already spinning in her grave, and she’s not even dead yet! It’s like a drug. OK, we knew all this already. But the new Selfridges (opened on Sept 4th 2003) really got the old pulse racing; it really made me think. It’s that good. Or did I mean bad?

November 24, 2003


NYTimes.com: Love in the Time of No Time
“In the first half of 2003, Americans spent $214.3 million on personals and dating sites — almost triple what they spent in all of 2001. Online dating is the most lucrative form of legal paid online content. According to comScore Networks, which monitors consumer behavior on the Internet, 40 million Americans visited at least one online dating site in August — 27 percent of all Internet users for that month… The societal reasons for this fury of activity are so profound that it’s almost surprising that online dating didn’t take off sooner…”

The above article (free subscription required) by Jennifer Egan is a very thoughtful, entertaining, and well-written piece — reminiscent to some extent of Sex And The City, in that it includes elements of sociology, philosophy, and a no-holds-barred look at some of the ‘chemistry’ elements of online dating, based partly on interviews with many users ‘from the front lines’. It shows how Friendster is used with great effect, and brings key elements of social networking into the mainstream.

November 24, 2003


NYTimes.com: Love in the Time of No Time
“In the first half of 2003, Americans spent $214.3 million on personals and dating sites — almost triple what they spent in all of 2001. Online dating is the most lucrative form of legal paid online content. According to comScore Networks, which monitors consumer behavior on the Internet, 40 million Americans visited at least one online dating site in August — 27 percent of all Internet users for that month… The societal reasons for this fury of activity are so profound that it’s almost surprising that online dating didn’t take off sooner…”

The above article (free subscription required) by Jennifer Egan is a very thoughtful, entertaining, and well-written piece — reminiscent to some extent of Sex And The City, in that it includes elements of sociology, philosophy, and a no-holds-barred look at some of the ‘chemistry’ elements of online dating, based partly on interviews with many users ‘from the front lines’. It shows how Friendster is used with great effect, and brings key elements of social networking into the mainstream.

November 24, 2003


NYTimes.com: Love in the Time of No Time
“In the first half of 2003, Americans spent $214.3 million on personals and dating sites — almost triple what they spent in all of 2001. Online dating is the most lucrative form of legal paid online content. According to comScore Networks, which monitors consumer behavior on the Internet, 40 million Americans visited at least one online dating site in August — 27 percent of all Internet users for that month… The societal reasons for this fury of activity are so profound that it’s almost surprising that online dating didn’t take off sooner…”

The above article (free subscription required) by Jennifer Egan is a very thoughtful, entertaining, and well-written piece — reminiscent to some extent of Sex And The City, in that it includes elements of sociology, philosophy, and a no-holds-barred look at some of the ‘chemistry’ elements of online dating, based partly on interviews with many users ‘from the front lines’. It shows how Friendster is used with great effect, and brings key elements of social networking into the mainstream.

November 20, 2003

Huminity social networking 6-degree chat: “Huminity is a free social networking software that allows you to chat with anyone, navigate animated maps of connections and view the links of friends between you and anyone else … introducing — Huminity 6-degree chat! With Huminity you can chat with anyone, enter chat-rooms, find people and search the links of friends between you and anyone else. Huminity is more than a social software or a chat software — it’s a revolution in human interaction! With Huminity, the possibilities are endless — dating, job seeking, business networking, making new friends or finding long-lost classmates. Isn’t life simpler now?”

Another great tip via Marc Canter. But as I posted on his blog as a comment about this:

Cute. Very cute. But in addition to the problem you [Marc C] correctly mentioned (desktop-bound), there are three others:

a) graph-infatuation: 6-degree graphs are wonderful, but only for the first 3 days of use

b) doesn’t scale: yes, we’re all connected… whoopee… but as much as I love visualization, this is not how to interact with very large numbers of people

c) crumbles at the first hurdle, privacy: yes, you can browse my tribe.net friends of friends, but will I let your buddy-list-crawler crawl MY buddy-list: NO THANK YOU!

On the other hand, they’ve just raised a few million in venture capital… hmm… well, maybe we should look at this kind of capability for the (much better and more scaleable) BuddySpace!

November 20, 2003

Huminity social networking 6-degree chat: “Huminity is a free social networking software that allows you to chat with anyone, navigate animated maps of connections and view the links of friends between you and anyone else … introducing — Huminity 6-degree chat! With Huminity you can chat with anyone, enter chat-rooms, find people and search the links of friends between you and anyone else. Huminity is more than a social software or a chat software — it’s a revolution in human interaction! With Huminity, the possibilities are endless — dating, job seeking, business networking, making new friends or finding long-lost classmates. Isn’t life simpler now?”

Another great tip via Marc Canter. But as I posted on his blog as a comment about this:

Cute. Very cute. But in addition to the problem you [Marc C] correctly mentioned (desktop-bound), there are three others:

a) graph-infatuation: 6-degree graphs are wonderful, but only for the first 3 days of use

b) doesn’t scale: yes, we’re all connected… whoopee… but as much as I love visualization, this is not how to interact with very large numbers of people

c) crumbles at the first hurdle, privacy: yes, you can browse my tribe.net friends of friends, but will I let your buddy-list-crawler crawl MY buddy-list: NO THANK YOU!

On the other hand, they’ve just raised a few million in venture capital… hmm… well, maybe we should look at this kind of capability for the (much better and more scaleable) BuddySpace!