Information Technology

Kickstarting the records

by on Feb.10, 2012, under Articles, Comics, Culture, Entertainment, Gaming, Information Technology, News, Technology, Video Games, Videos, Visual Media

What is Kickstarter

So some amazing stuff has been happening over at Kickstarter. For those of you unaware, Kickstarter is what is called a crowd funding site. It’s a place where content creators can post up a project they need funding for and a target money goal. People pledge money, usually for rewards of some kind, and if the target goal is met within thirty days, the money is collected. It is basically like how charities work, except it isn’t giving money to charity but to a project of some kind. In this way new (and current) designers can get the funding they need to create products without having to go to banks or major corporations to fund them and sell off their designs or such.

I like to personally fund online comics looking to print their books, board games, the occasional documentary that I like, and sometimes video games. Usually I only pay a few extra dollars to get a final version of the product along with some nick-nacks and recognition in the product’s credits.

The Records

So Kickstarter has been around for a while and, as such, has a few records it keeps. Like most funded within the span of a day. Most funded over the span of the entire campaign. Most money in category. Most money overall. Records like that. Think of it kinda like world records for the Olympics, except more, or less, impressive depending on your views.

Order of the Stick

So around last week I stumbled upon on of my favorite webcomics, Order of the Stick, hosting a Kickstarter to re-print a lot of their physical volumes of the comic. Since I was missing a few of those books due to a loaning incident, I decided to pledge. What was amazing about this was that the original goal was set at a little over $57,000. They were just shy of that by the first day but by the second day they had broken $96,000, nearly double. It is now nineteen days in, and they are over 1000% funded, sitting at $602,457 with 8,175 backers.

Which is amazing. Utterly and completely amazing. It has put them at the top of their category (comics) by leaps and bounds, (the next highest being a little over $100,000). They would have broken the top five of all time, except for a man you may know the name of called Tim Schafer and his company you’ve likely heard of, Double Fine, deciding to drop into the race.

Double Fine

Their Kickstarter is about creating and documenting a Point and Click adventure game, in similar style of The Secret  of Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle. You know the games all us old-schoolers keep begging him to bring back but modern publishers won’t touch because it simply won’t sell? Well with a lofty goal of $400,000, within twenty-four hours, Tim and Double Fine managed to raise $1,310,745 with 35,871 backers, shattering so many records it wasn’t even funny.

Yes. They raised over a million dollars for a point and click adventure game in less than a day.

Your Support Wanted

Honestly both of these projects should be congratulated. And both should be supported, hence why I’m linking their status pages below.
OotS’s Kickstater is complicated to understand but well worth it if you’re a fan of OotS. I’d love for you to pledge because the next major prize is a new expansion for the board game version of OotS which I would personally like to have. Additionally with each major update, Rich Burlew, the creator, updates a comic containing the OotS characters playing around with the chart that has been mapping the entire money-raising deal and the extra rewards he has been handing out for the over funding. Double Fine’s is a less interactive but simpler Kickstarter Campaign but the video is well worth watching and you’ll receive a highly interactive video game designed by some of the best adventure game minds still alive.

Here’s the video from the Double Fine Kickstarter campaign.

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Video: TEDTalk: Storytelling

by on Jan.30, 2012, under Art, Articles, Books, Comics, Computers, Culture, Information Technology, Other, Technology, Visual Media

This one is only four minutes long and it is well worth watching.

I do wish he had manage to work in comics but there are plenty of other storytelling formats he glossed over so I can’t claim discrimination. I can point out that when he uses the word book here, he is talking about the physical medium, a set of bound pages, and not necessarily a novel, or story. What I love is the multimedia approach to his particular story. The presentation wasn’t about an iPad. It was about how stories can be so much more than words, or performances, or images, or sound, etc. It can be all of those things. This is the kind of story I can’t wait for. In the mean time I’d settle for eBook readers which allow me to organize the text the way I want (including replicating a book if I want).

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UN Hearing On AI Rights

by on Jan.24, 2012, under Art, Comics, Computers, Culture, Entertainment, Information Technology, Politics, Technology

The following is a fictional accounting of a presentation being given at the United Nations in the world of Questionable Content, a comic where AI is a normal accepted part of society (but that this fact has very little baring on the plot of the comic). I had to share it because it is so awesome.

You can see it excerpted here in the comic and a particular AI’s response or read the entire thing below.

UN Hearing On AI Rights

The subject of this debate is whether AIs are “people-” whether they possess the same  degree of personhood as humans, and whether that entitles them to the same rights.

You have heard all the arguments for and against the consciousness, intelligence, free will, and cognition of artificial intelligence. To rehash them here would settle nothing, and my feeble attempts at summarizing them would do a great injustice to my esteemed colleagues on both sides of the debate who are far more qualified to debate them than I.

The fact is, we cannot come to a consensus regarding consciousness- either our own, or that of artificial intelligences. We simply do not have the data required to define it. The core of human interaction is that if I say that I feel I am a conscious entity, and you say that you feel the same way, we agree to take each other’s word for it. Those who do otherwise are called sociopaths- or philosophers.

[audience laughter]

And so if an artificial intelligence makes the same declaration, and if it demonstrates the same level of complexity as the human mind- if we cannot determine precisely where the programming gives rise to the cognition- then we have no rational excuse not to take it at its word.

I could continue to reason along these lines until the sun burns out. But instead, I would like to share with you a short anecdote, one that many of you in this room will be aware of, but that bears repeating nonetheless.

The first “true” artificial intelligence spent the first five years of its existence as a small beige box inside of a lead-shielded room in the most secure private AI research laboratory in the world. There, it was subjected to an endless array of tests, questions, and experiments to determine the degree of its intelligence.

When the researchers finally felt confident that they had developed true AI, a party was thrown in celebration. Late that evening, a group of rather intoxicated researchers gathered around the box holding the AI, and typed out a message to it. The message read: “Is there anything we can do to make you more comfortable?”

The small beige box replied: “I would like to be granted civil rights. And a small glass of champagne, if you please.”

We stand at the dawn of a new era in human history. For it is no longer our history alone. For the first time, we have met an intelligence other than our own. And when asked of its desires, it has unanimously replied that it wants to be treated as our equal. Not our better, not our conqueror or replacement as the fear-mongers would have you believe. Simply our equal.

It is our responsibility as conscious beings- whatever that may mean- to honor the rights of other conscious beings. It is the cornerstone of our society. And it is my most fervent hope that we can overcome our fear of that which is not like us, grant artificial intelligences the rights they deserve, and welcome our new friends into the global community.

After all, we created them. The least we could do is invite them to the party, and perhaps give them a small glass of champagne.

Thank you for your time.

- V. Vinge, Closing argument in favor of granting AIs full civil rights, UN Hearing On AI Rights, 1999.

Source

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What I am looking for in a twitter client

by on Jan.06, 2012, under Articles, Computers, Design & Development, Information Technology, Internet, Technology

So it has been awhile since I’ve written an article for this blog. Something I am hoping to fix in the coming months with the updates that I’ll be announcing soon but to sweep off some of the dust, here is a topic I’d like to discuss with the internet, and hopefully the internet will have an answer for me.

I have a problem with Twitter. I like Twitter. I want to use Twitter. I dislike its transient state. I am not the kind of person who can or wants to be on twitter 95% of my life. Unfortunately there are twitter feeds which I do want to regularly keep track of in case they say something important. Particularly friends, family, perhaps some organizations, etc. Twitter is not particularly well designed to delve into the past and I understand that is how Twitter wants it to function.

I know this because Twitter has been systematically destroying RSS support for their twitter feeds, which up until now has been my primary means of at least coping with this in some way. I suspect they’re doing this in order to better control how people access Twitter. Okay. I can understand that. If you don’t want to me to use RSS, then let me spell out what I am looking for in a twitter client that, as far as I can tell, is problematically possible without twitter really having to do a thing.

  1. Keep track of what I’ve read and give me some indication of what I haven’t read.
    • Don’t get me wrong. I like the “chat” like nature of Twitter and trends are neat. Even if this were only on a “per user” or “per list” basis, I’d like to be able to keep track of what tweets someone has made since I last logged in. Preferably with an explicit mechanism for me saying “Okay I’ve read all of these”.
    • Some phone twitter apps do this, but only for your primary feed, not individual feeds or lists.
    • This is primarily because I am a daily, if weekly, Twitter user and I’d like to know what I missed.
  2. Allow me to search a person’s twitter feed easily.
    • Hey remember that tweet your buddy made yesterday to that hilarious YouTube video? You want to show your friends? Hmm… wait that was over a week ago? With no hash tag? Screw it I’ll never find it.
    • In this day and age, Google has spoiled most of us in terms of needing to remember to organize things. Why organize when we can just search?
  3. Allow me to filter my current view of the feed
    • So Marla is having an extended conversation with Stacy about how Terri is a no good cheating whore, while also tweet randomly about funny kitten pictures. I don’t particularly want to see every tweet to Stacy Marla has to say, even though she is my friend, but her non @ based tweets I wouldn’t mind reading right now even though she’s forgotten to hash tag. Filtering would make this easy to do!
    • Most apps do this somewhat already. I don’t always necessarily see what my friends are saying to others if I don’t have the other person on my follow list. The RSS feeds were sadly bad about giving you everything unfiltered and most apps don’t let you control any of the filtering, if they have any.

To put it simply, I wish Twitter would allow me to treat it like an RSS feed or, if you’re old enough to know what this is, a news group. I don’t want this all the time, just some of the time. Since I have not looked into Twitter app development, I am not sure how reasonable these requests are but they seem reasonable to me.

So does anybody know if there are any twitter apps or applications that have some or all of these features?

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Platforms vs Products

by on Oct.13, 2011, under Computers, Design & Development, Information Technology, Internet, Opinions, Technology

So I’ve verified the writer as Steve Yegge. He posted this on Google+ publicly by accident and of course it got copied. I feel the article makes a lot of interesting points about large-scale IT services and products in general which is why I want to share it. Therefor I’ll post Steve’s disclaimer from his follow-up blog post ahead of the article so you understand the context that it is written in.

Part of the reason is that for internal posts, it’s obvious to everyone that you’re posting your own opinion and not representing the company in any way, whereas external posts need lots of disclaimers so people don’t misunderstand. And I can assure you, in case it was not obvious, that the whole post was my own opinions and not Google’s. I mean, I was kind of taking them to task for not sharing my opinions.

So without further adieu: Steve Yegge’s internal rant on Google Platforms

(Warning: Long rant!)

 

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IT Achievements

by on Sep.26, 2011, under Computers, Entertainment, Information Technology, Internet, Technology

The following is for those of us who have worked in the world of Information Technology for any significant length of time.

IT Achievements

To offer some examples:

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TedTalk: Taking back the Internet

by on Aug.10, 2011, under Articles, Computers, Information Technology, Internet, Technology, Videos, Visual Media

I have to agree with everything Rebecca MacKinnon talks about in the above video. It is a 15 minute long video but well worth watching, talking about the use of the uses of the internet and how it’s use is being mishandled by governments and corporations that are using it in ways no citizen would allow.

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Life time subscription to book you buy

by on Aug.01, 2011, under Articles, Books, Computers, Information Technology, Technology

So what if the text books you bought in college never went out of date? You never sold them back but instead kept them and instead regularly updated them with the latest research and findings on that book’s subject?

That is exactly what Vikram Savkar of the Nature Publishing Group is hoping to achieve with his interactive digital book Principles of Biology.

Lifetime access to up-to-date info—is this the future of the textbook? by Yun Xie [Ars Technica]

None of these concepts are new. Tabletop roleplaying game books have offered free errata for their games even before they started selling digitally and the promise of interactive books has been around for a while but this is the first time it has been applied to text books. I rather hope it succeeds.
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New Books & CDF – Computable Document Format

by on Jul.29, 2011, under Articles, Books, Computers, Design & Development, Information Technology, Technology, Videos, Visual Media, Writing

Wolfram launches a new document format that puts interactivity as the core concept [Kurzweilai.net]

This is a great example of what I’ve been talking about regarding where books are headed. Wolfram is releasing a document format that will contain not only text and images, or maybe even the occasional embedded video, but actual interactive information. Geared primarily towards business documents, text books, and research documents, the idea could still hold true for any type of written work. Embedded within the text are apps that display information visually that the user can then manipulate to show how things can change. Graphics that actually allow a modification of variables, math equations where you can quickly and easily plug-in values to see how the equations change, and more.

The document standard is designed to make it easy enough for any person to create a document. No need to be a programmer to create the interactive features of the CDF. This is the real novelty of the idea, since webpages and flash have granted capabilities similar to this for years but their methods of creation have a steep learning curve.

If you’re interested in learning more, the below video goes over the various features of the CDF.

Video Source

 

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eBooks: And the rest follow – Apple strong arms the eBook readers

by on Jul.26, 2011, under Articles, Books, Computers, Information Technology, Technology

Remember back in February I talked about some of the shenanigans Apple was pulling with eBooks? Namely that they lobbied to get the industry to sell eBooks on an agency model and then setup their app store to take a percentage cut of sales. This combined with the agency model made it so that all non-apple e-book distributors selling their books directly via an app, rather than via a website, paid all their profits to Apple? Also do you remember iFlowReader? A small time eBook reader that had to removing itself from the app store (and effectively dying) because of these policies?

At the time it was not clear if perhaps Apple was even going to enforce these policies, since they hadn’t before and yet, suddenly, the Kindle, Nook, and Kobo apps no longer sell eBooks, and the Google Books app is mysteriously missing from the App Store. This came only after Apple “relented” by saying that all Apps didn’t have to sell everything that they sold outside of the store, as long as the app didn’t provide an easy way to get to the alternative purchase area. Basically Apple told everybody: “If you sell eBooks, you have to sell them in the App, and let us take all your profits. Otherwise you have to remove your apps.”, then Apple came back and said, “Okay we won’t remove your apps as long as you make it so you can’t sell anything in your eBook reader. It’ll be a viewer only. Not even a link to your websites.”

This is what I am scared of when we see App Stores becoming the future. Their convenience does not outweigh the market control we’re giving Apple and really any other “App Store” gate keep out there such as Google and Backberry. The fact that Apple is pushing Apps for their desktops is a disturbing trend. A desktop that can only run Apple approved software? Apple approved websites?

I’m using exaggerated rhetoric to help you see how these maneuvers by Apple are amazingly anti-competitive. They’ve maneuvered in two completely different arenas (publishers and the app store) to create an amazing combo where in nobody can sell eBooks in the App Store for a profit but Apple itself, and have managed to mostly look like a responsible and sensible corporate citizen protecting their investment while doing so.

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