Friday Reads

 

The BBC highlights the scary SATS marking – Teachers raise concerns over Sats marking – BBC News – I suspect I’d fail at inserting type font size semicolons if I’m honest with myself.

Over at the Guardian, the hyprocisy of Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg’s got some cheek, advocating a universal basic income) makes a good point- unless businesses accept responsibility (one hundred percent) no amount of humanitarian ventures they back or noises made about helping the world will make up for their bad behaviour. Whilst we’re looking at the behaviour of these companies, perhaps we should also look at the 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions too.

On the tech side, medialoot put together a nice, short and easy to read CSS Grid layout article (A Beginners Guide to CSS Grid Layout — Medialoot) which is surprisingly largely because you’d think such a thing would be plentiful, but most are unnecessarily detailed or difficult to parse.

In the gaming world, Rock Paper Shotgun’s article on why we play games we don’t like (https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2017/01/10/why-do-we-spend-time-playing-games-we-dont-like/) is a great piece if only because it speaks to my own idiocy with games (Zelda has reminded me that I do really love games, but only good ones. Oddly, I’m surprised this is a surprise to me. In equal levels of witty idiocy inspection, Cards Against Humanities “For Girls” Edition (https://www.polygon.com/2017/7/11/15955988/cards-against-humanity-for-her) is a worthy product to remind us that our gender biases have (in this case actual) costs.

Finally, on the gaming front of a sort, “So what the hell is Magic Leap doing?” looks at some of the (still nebulous, vague but) intriguing thoughts behind designing apps for Magic Leap – even if it turns out to be a massive failure from a tech perspective, I’m hoping we all can learn from some of the concepts around Magic Leap.

In short: the BBC highlights Google’s UK data center play – and nicely summarises the market state today (even shorter read in my humble opinion: it’s still anyone’s game).

 

Monday Read

Money, money, money- it seems like a topic I’m obsessed about and, to a degree, I am, but mainly in it’s implications for society. So the BBC’s short history of tally sticks and cheques is interesting- it would be interesting to see what a modern day intrepration of this would look like (arguably, we’re still using the mechanisms noted just swapping wooden marks or signatures for digital keys).

 

Weekend Reads

With the G20 meeting and Trump presumably kicking the Paris climate agreement further to the curb with moves to strengthen ties to Russia, it’s good to read that “nation states” are rebelling and rebelling well. I’m a fan of (and the UK has a good set of cases for) devolving power to local authorities so that they can reflect the local needs better- and this case demonstrates that in this current political climate that they may well serve the global interest better too.

The challenge for global warming thinking is not an easy one – when many still believe science does agree that global warming is real. I would love to see the UK’s opinion on the same subject and, if different, understand how we got there.

 

On the techy side, Why Serverless  is a good piece on a different way to approaching software problems (I’ve been playing with OpenWhisk recently and enjoying the model). Perhaps after Serverless, we might go computerless, and just have chips in our head, as noted in the Wired article- Why You will One Day have a Chip in Your Brain. The sci-fi geek inside of me gets very excited by the premise, but there’s a lot of challenges – not least our lack of understanding of the brain despite our strong interest in the subject. We are still mastering “low bandwidth interfaces” such as audio and visual (attention, suggestion, etc are still all fertile fields for research) so it seems risky to go straight “to the tin”. The article touches on a lot of great points (haves versus have nots, what it is to manipulate the brain, etc) but does sound pretty “hippy-ish” in my opinion in it’s short answers. Even skipping past the technical challenges, the moral minefield such technologies open up is beyond our understanding at this point (perhaps we’ll need these machine-mind interfaces to understand the consequences…).

On the gaming front, I like the idea suggested over at RPS of a Complex Inventory affected by how much stuff you try and squeeze into your robes and might explore this in a jam game soon…

Your Target Audience doesn’t exist sounds like a depressing topic that explores the long tail on Steam and is genuinely interesting- especially the key take away:

Various studies suggest that there are 700–800 million of PC gamers. It’s probably true, but it doesn’t mean much for your game. Because if you’re developing a downloadable game for Steam you’re not even fighting for 135M of its active users, you’re fighting for the attention of 1.3 million gamers that are actually buying lots of games. The 1% group.

Some very unhappy indie devs are probably all too aware of this already, but I’d love to see similar numbers for Google Play or the iTunes store…

 

For the weekend – A quick listen in the form: Is Honesty a Thing of the Past– is a great short piece on something (honesty boxes for small trade) I kinda miss being in a big town (odd that such things only exist in small, rural communities). The description touches on Radiohead but doesn’t mention it on the radio segment, which is a shame as it would be interesting to explore what makes “pay what you think it’s worth” models work in some cases and not others (as per my comments earlier in the week on different payment schemes online) and how we can build this model up.

And, don’t forget BBC Radio 4’s Dangerous Visions season is back – with Fahrenheit 451, Metamorphosis and more – well worth a listen.

 

Friday Reads

Has a stranger ever sang a song to you, with your name in it? How about a song about your local town? I previously assumed songs about small towns and custom birthday tracks where rarities, but it turns out Spotify has helped the thriving industry of personalised song alongside song spam. The Vulture offers it’s opinion on the matter in Streaming music cheat codes and point out that maybe it’s not the music we’re looking for, but it’s the music we deserve having driven the cost of music down with streaming and piracy over the last few years.

As with games, TV, and writing, the race to the bottom is both a boon and a major challenge for the industry, and people are now manipulating the mechanisms responsible with amazing results. As a blogger, I know there’s little value in a post I produce (similarly anything I’m technically capable of and inclined to make (videos, games, software) is probably close to worthless) unless I happen to get lucky. Still, I do it out of love, and this article just touches on the challenges of people working in this world along with the big players and tricksters who make it hard to work out who’s really benefiting from capitalist models in e-commerce.

I regularly pose the challenge to myself, “if not this, then what” when it comes to online pricing- and it’s hard to see what hasn’t been tried before and failed:

  1. Paywalls – Easily hacked, frustrate users (particularly when poorly implemented).
  2. Pay-per-item and subscriptions- Suffer from high friction (for small items where paying a penny or two is too hard) or reluctance to get trapped into an unused subscription (Gym membership!).
  3. Tasters and Teasers – Similar to the above, but using demos or samples to convert people are great, but it’s challenging to convert users.
  4. Advertising – let’s be honest, Google owns this now, and adverts are increasingly being blocked so making a buck out of advertising.
  5. Curation – Paying a subscription fee for “various” things, rather than just one works, but only in specialist markets.

So what’s left? Is there another way to get money from content, either directly or indirectly? It’s a challenge the digital economy will have to face head on sooner or later and I’m not sure we’ve found the solution yet…

And yet… QVC still seems to have a successful business model – buying HSN – honestly, I don’t know how these companies exist (I don’t go to the TV for much information any more, but even those I know who do, don’t visit the TV for a shopping experience). It would be fascinating to see some demographic information regarding these two- bear in mind the combined might could be able to catch up with Amazon (kinda!)- maybe they need to introduce QVC Prime!

 

Thursday reads

I have fond memories of “book buses” from when I was a child (mobile libraries) so the idea of a mobile shop seems like a pretty good concept to me – NPR explores (with a fair amount of sceptism in my opinion) the idea in Mobile SuperMarket comes to you… and I honestly can’t see why this wouldn’t be appealing. In the UK the highstreet is struggling to compete with online so bringing a range of goods to your door step doesn’t seem like a crazy change but rather a sensible method of seeing goods before you buy. Say what you want about it being a bit backwards, but there are benefits to this idea (not least of which is that it would make owing a “shop” potentially more economically feasible for small businesses) which are worth exploring.

Speaking of technology changing the world, the GQ interview on Drone Warfare is a nicely human piece that reminds us about the men behind technologically advanced warfare. Whether you agree with drone usage, it’s an interesting piece exploring the psyche of a combatant who doesn’t get physically close to a foe, but spends a lot of time observing them.

And, totally unrelated but any excuse to bring up one of my favourite animated movies, a 10 year look back to Ratatouille reminds us why Pixar really nailed this one (no comment on Cars 3)…

Wednesday Reads

Sometimes I think work is pointless… then I read about Genuinely Pointless work and realize… it really is pointless, but hey, let’s enjoy the ride.

Google’s world dominance to me is almost a fact of life – but the challenges that brings about are interesting as highlighted with the recent court outcomes and various other pending cases covered at the Guardian . We have enough scifi telling us the risks of a mega-coproation gone wrong, but when we see it poking it’s head through the door with a great offer on free email and search it’s mighty tempting to let them in without thinking too much about the consequences.

 

Tuesday Reads

Late to the party, but I’ve just got round to another piece on the iPhone at 10 which simply reminds me how it seems like progress has slowed over the last few years although perhaps we all needed a breather from the rapid pace of progress of the early years to find our feet – we’re not yet at the 10 year anniversary of the App Store after all…

Whilst I was reading that, the history of Nokia at Bloomberg is a great piece looking at a company with a fascinating history alongside a look into 5G and the challenges and opportunities around the next generation of telecoms. The potential for the expansion of 5G kickstarting further innovation (since, as previously noted the recent generations of iPhones have struggled) is a exciting proposition indeed.

On the gaming side, RPS’s piece on Gwent shows how much effort it took to convert the mini game into a full product, but it’s best paragraph explores how by having a game played by characters in the story brings extra layers of humanity and detail to the oddballs who inherit the fictional world (I’ve only played a little bit of the Witcher 3 and most of it has been Gwent, so my experience may be biased!).

A further piece off the back of yesterday’s Indie dev discussions is the concept of manifestos which takes you from early concepts to modern manifestos from indie developers which makes me want to eke out a manifesto for my own works 🙂 And whilst you’re there, do not miss the piece of Level Design that ranges from ancient Greece chair design to architecture whilst remaining insightful to the last moment on factors effecting level design. It also links to the awesome Portal proposal that always makes me smile.

And finally, on a completely random topic (my Next Draft newsletter fortunately takes me on some wild journeys!), here’s the reason why your teeth are probably bad- you’ve (not) got a big mouth