« mentalconflux.com archive

I no longer wish to run a WordPress installation so I've extracted my content, from 2016-2017, and put it here on this page. Some of it was blog post content, and for a while I used Wikity. Later I installed the bbPress forum plugin, so some of the content was forum posts. It's all my writing. It may or may not match my current opinions.

Lynn and the Spirits of Inao

2016.4.28

A cancelled game project. I backed it on Kickstarter, but the developer Bloomylight Studio ended the campaign on May 18 2016.

After being deeply affected by the various stories from the past few days, and conscious of the mistakes from the past which are now harming the game, we have taken the difficult decision to end the adventure here. In the face of the violent declarations made to us and the threats uttered against members of the team, we now have to end this project that was born in 2011. It is regrettable that a handful of individuals were able to destroy the work of so many people and that they spent so much energy to cause a relentlessness of incredible violence against our team. (source)

This post was the first I heard of the project cancellation. The comments to that reveal some background information: allegations of illegally using unpaid interns to make art for the game.

One game on Kickstarter has caused quite the stir in France today with claims that they have had around 20 unpaid interns working on the game for more than two months (it is illegal in France to have unpaid internships that last more than two months). (source)

Lynn and the Spirits of Inao Canceled After Allegations From Interns (source)

(Reddit discussion)

https://twitter.com/mentalconflux/status/730123874537504768

I should pay closer attention to the KS projects I fund.

 

Quake

2016.4.29

Classic id FPS and spiritual successor to Doom. Groundbreaking and influential for its polygonal graphics and controls (mouse look).

Recently playing this, after hearing discussions around [[Doom (2016)]] from the Giant Bomb podcast mention Quake as a potential candidate to be rebooted.

Appreciating the glorious aesthetic mashup of mediaeval-like fantasy, castles, folklorish monsters, modern military, and Lovecraftian horror. The sequels moved away from that into more generic sci-fi territory (space zombies).

To investigate: the original design that was an RPG with hammer-based melee combat.

Pokémon GO | Pokémon Video Games

2016.6.15

With Pokémon GO, you’ll discover Pokémon in a whole new world—your own! Pokémon GO is built on Niantic’s Real World Gaming Platform and will use real locations to encourage players to search far and wide in the real world to discover Pokémon. source

Augmented reality goes mainstream. Hit new phone app incites gamers to newfound real world exercise and social interaction. Critics have noted the shallowness of the game in its current state, as well as server troubles. But it's hit the mainstream in a phenomenal way.

For better or worse, Pokemon Go has become an enormous international phenomenon in a very short time. source

And there's this side:

Pokémon Go is not an invitation to talk to me on the street [...] What happened to the good old days, when gamers stayed firmly indoors with no need to venture outside and nerds feared social interaction? If only there were such a thing as Pokémon Go away. Source

Harsh. Cruel or warranted? The issues merit further analysis... watch this space. ETA: Here's my response.


The Church of England is throwing open its doors to players of the online game Pokemon Go by making some of its churches Pokestops. source

CofE

Churches spot opportunity for youth outreach. Or pokevangelism.


Potential legal issues. - do real-world property-owners have a legal say in what goes on in augmented reality spaces that overlap with their land? On the face of it, I hope not. Freedom of thought implies the freedom to invent imaginary remixes of real-world objects and places, including ones you don't own. Causing a nuisance by gathering a crowd... this is something that'll need to be dealt with. As with issues of decorum. I predict AR gaming is only going to grow. More

And what about the rights of disabled gamers? As a game that mixes a simulated world with the real one, you need to physically travel around to play it. So it's as accessible as the real environments around you are. Depending on your local environment, having less than the full use of your arms and legs could be severely disadvantageous. Is this unjustly exclusionary? Is there cause to introduce special accommodations here? How would they work, and can they be designed in a way that doesn't screw up the difficulty balance?


Defending players of Pokemon GO from condescending detractors.

Pokémon GO is gradually taking over the world and, for some reason, that is offensive and threatening to a great deal of people who are making every effort to treat players with as much disdain as they can. source

Some people haven't been swept up in the craze. But why look upon it with such contempt, and insult people over it? Because that's a fun thing to do. That's why bullies bully. There's joy in being a dick.

Now, people generally aren't dicks to each other. If they were, it'd be a horrible world. Our impulses toward dickish behaviour is usually kept in check with opposite forces: other friendlier instincts and moral principles. But there are exceptions, within mindsets of individuals, and groups: acceptable targets for what is usually deemed unacceptable behaviour.

Why are Pokemon players, for some, acceptable targets? some possible contributing factors:

  • it's a newish phenomenon
  • it's hard to understand the passionate appeal, for the uninitiated. It might feel exclusionary for some
  • it's a 'nerd' thing
  • anti-escapism, anti-playfulness, the idea that that stuff's not appropriate for adults
  • conformity. they see others doing it
---

Pokemon GO is racist. Black neighbourhoods have a scarcity of Pokestops, the landmarks that match up with useful locations in the game world. This is because they came from the spiritual sequel Ingress. The locations were sourced from that game's player base, which consisted of mostly more affluent people. People used the hashtag #mypokehood to talk about the issue. Aura Bogado wrote some analysis:

https://twitter.com/aurabogado/status/755032366809100288

There's also the issue that it is riskier to play for people especially vulnerable to violence in public.

Very quickly my Pokemon catching dreams were obliterated by the unfortunate reality that exist for a Black Man in America. I realized that if I keep playing this game, it could literally kill me. source

 

Obduction by Cyan, Inc.

2016.10.22

I'm playing Obduction!

http://www.giantbomb.com/videos/quick-look-obduction/2300-11517/

It's an adventure game, from the makers of Myst. A spiritual successor to that series. But presented with a full 3D rendered environment that you can freely walk around like an FPS.

It's reminding me of [[The Witness]] too. That game was influenced by Myst.

Similarities:

  • Abandoned landscape showing traces of habitation
  • Limited world interaction
  • No inventory
  • Information is what you collect and carry from one place to apply elsewhere, to unlock something

But there's some FMV-style stuff. Live actors, just like old Myst.

On that world interaction. No shooting or jumping or climbing. You can push buttons, push open doors, pull levers, and pick up some objects to examine (then you have to put them down again).

In the Witness, there's only one sort of thing in the world to interact with: maze puzzles. Those are connected to mechanisms, which open doors, operate lifts, shoot lasers, etc. That seems a purer system. There's no uncertainty about what you can interact with. Just the line puzzle panels. (And the voice recorders.)

So... you need to be more observant in Obduction, to find the necessary interactables. This can be interesting when it's some weird alien mechanism you're trying to operate!

I'm really enjoying it so far. I never played Myst, but I played Riven back in the day. I found it quite difficult and obscure. I'm making swift progress in Obduction, it feels like. Played 4 hours, and I've done something with the Tree.

Even the Ocean

2016.10.23

Even the Ocean is a narrative action platformer about balancing the Light and Dark energies that hold the world together.

Virginia - Variable State

2016.10.23

Virginia is a first person interactive drama. It is the story of a recently graduated FBI agent and her partner as they seek to uncover the mystery surrounding the disappearance of a young boy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFc9RSmMu1Q

On my list to play soon...


And done. My thoughts, blogged about here:

https://mentalconflux.wordpress.com/2016/11/25/virginia/


And I did start to write up a full review, before I decided it would be redundant and unnecessary.

Some draft paragraphs I don't need any more:

First, in terms of mechanics, it's a very simple videogame. Some might say it's barely a game, and more of a somewhat interactive film. You don't have much freedom of action. You can walk around the environments and click on things to interact with them. The limited number of things you can interact with are helpfully pointed out by the game interface. And there are no real puzzles, no challenges that slow down progress. So you move forward quickly.

The game even uses jump-cuts, unceremoniously wresting you from one scene and placing you elsewhere, for the sake of story progression, and changing up the pace. This is very unconventional for games! (I do need to play Thirty Flights...)

It's all about the story, so I'll describe it without spoilers. The premise is a missing person investigation, and the player is FBI agent Anne Tarver. The challenge is in the obscurity of the story, in trying to figure out what the hell is going on, between its out-of-chronology cuts, dream sequences, and limited information. It's all presented in the first-person perspective. There's no dialogue, and not much text. With these restrictions, with its animations and motifs, with the player's probable state of confusion, and the music, it packs a heavy emotional punch.

As I've said, in terms of game mechanics, there's no challenge. Typically, a game's challenge slows down your progress. Here, the challenge within the story, felt as confusion and bewilderment, does no such thing. The game/story marches on regardless.

 


I found a negative review:

http://www.giantbomb.com/virginia/3030-55251/user-reviews/2200-29663/

Critic's reviews lean positive-average.

http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/virginia

Roguelike

2016.10.23

A subgenre of RPGs. Randomness, and permadeath are its essential characteristics.

Another possible angle on the permadeath idea: permanent, non-lethal consequences. Failure doesn't need to be complete, mortal. You could in the course of play, as in life, accumulate injuries, amputations, diseases. Reputation loss, financial loss. And you don't quit and restart, you take your setbacks and keep playing.

This would require lots of freedom of choice. Freedom to fail. And real opportunities, so the idea of continuing still seems worthwhile after you lose your abilities to play at the highest possible level, for this run.

Parallels between this game design consideration, and the consideration of societies in dealing with their less fortunate: something to think about!

For the game, it's about discouraging the player from quitting. Keeping them in the game. Keep the player immersed in the game fiction world, instead of reaching for meta-game conceits (like loading their save file, or quitting). The game will come to an end, when it's done.

(For societies, it's about compassion. There's a quit option, but no restart, so we prefer our fellow citizens not to resort to self-termination. Or, we're preventing the accumulation of a socially dangerous amount of resentment. All humans need purpose.)


See also: branching plotlines. E.g. Until Dawn.

 

Violence

2016.11.11

My first main article on the topic: https://mentalconflux.wordpress.com/2016/12/11/why-are-videogames-so-violent/

More thoughts: the other sort of non-violent game is ones not revolving around character interaction at all. Games about things, rather than people. Puzzle games, exploration, music, etc.

And one could say violence against people amounts to treating people like things. And peaceful interaction means treating people like people. This is a great simplification but... stay with me.

4 basic sorts of interactions, and how they appear in games:

  • treating people like people - friendly, peaceful interaction. Adventure games where you're a law-abiding helpful citizen, talking to folks. And uh... dating simulations?
  • treating people like things - killing, maiming, hunting. Beat 'em up, FPS, any violent game.
  • treating things like things - exploring, building, using machines. Puzzle, adventure, platformer (the non-combat aspects), farm simulators, survival games.
  • treating things like people - ?

The last one is a bit strange. What would that be? Animism?


The metaphysics of simulated entities

But--really, there are no people in games. Only simulations of people. And simulations of things. Simulations of people don't have souls. They are like things, machines. They exhibit human-like behaviours according to their design and programming. These behaviours, especially when put to the test as entities in an INTERACTIVE simulation, will eventually become readily recognisable as fake... repetitiveness is a key factor here. And glitches. Bugs in the code that cause dumb behaviour that breaks the illusion.

AI

Theoretical possibility that a simulated person could be developed with such a degree of sophistication that it's behaviourally indistinguishable from a real person. It learns, it communicates, it seems to intention, plan-making, desire, fear. Hard AI. And then, intellect surpassing that of natural humans...

But this is nothing to do with games. Gamedevs aren't making digital minds, they're in the business of making convincing, evocative, interactive simulations.

Mistreating AI--now that's an interesting theoretical ethical issue.


What about the influence on kids?

That... barely crossed my mind when I was writing the article. I'm aware that this is a big point in the anti-violence platform. I'm more concerned about games for grown adults. Might return to this topic later.

 

The Witness

2017.4.25
Jon Blow's 3D puzzle game.

I enjoyed it!

http://culture.vg/reviews/in-depth/the-witness-2016-pc.html
2/5 -- comes down hard on the game's lack of narrative payoff. Which didn't bother me.

Review closes by mentioning Obduction. An adventure game with an actual story.

(Posted on January 14, 2017)

Obduction

2017.4.25
I'm playing Obduction!

http://www.giantbomb.com/videos/quick-look-obduction/2300-11517/
It's an adventure game, from the makers of Myst. A spiritual successor to that series. But presented with a full 3D rendered environment that you can freely walk around like an FPS.

It's reminding me of The Witness too. That game was influenced by Myst.

Similarities:


  • Abandoned landscape showing traces of habitation

  • Limited world interaction

  • No inventory

  • Information is what you collect and carry from one place to apply elsewhere, to unlock something



But there's some FMV-style stuff. Live actors, just like old Myst.

On that world interaction. No shooting or jumping or climbing. You can push buttons, push open doors, pull levers, and pick up some objects to examine (then you have to put them down again).

In the Witness, there's only one sort of thing in the world to interact with: maze puzzles. Those are connected to mechanisms, which open doors, operate lifts, shoot lasers, etc. That seems a purer system. There's no uncertainty about what you can interact with. Just the line puzzle panels. (And the voice recorders.)

So... you need to be more observant in Obduction, to find the necessary interactables. This can be interesting when it's some weird alien mechanism you're trying to operate!

I'm really enjoying it so far. I never played Myst, but I played Riven back in the day. I found it quite difficult and obscure. I'm making swift progress in Obduction, it feels like. Played 4 hours, and I've done something with the Tree.

(November 22, 2016)

Time travel

2017.6.2
http://store.steampowered.com/tag/en/Time%20Travel/#p=0&tab=TopSellers
https://www.giantbomb.com/time-travel/3015-73/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_games_containing_time_travel

Currently playing:
Sonic CD

Played:
Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Zelda: Majora's Mask
Zelda: Oracle of Ages
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time trilogy
Braid
Bioshock Infinite

Tried:
Super Time Force Ultra
Life is Strange

See also:
http://insomnia.ac/reviews/xbox360/braid/page_01.php
http://culture.vg/reviews/in-depth/super-time-force-2014-one.html

#

2017.6.2

I haven't actually finished Majora's Mask.

Played: Timesplitters 2 YU-NO

Tried: Chrono Trigger

Want to play: The Journeyman Project series https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Journeyman_Project_(series) https://www.gog.com/game/journeyman_project_1_pegasus_prime_the Final Fantasy XIII-2 Quantum Break

Violence

2017.6.23
From my blog:

Why are videogames so violent?

Going back over this... the writing is pretty bad. But the ideas are sound, so I'm going to rewrite and continue to develop them.

More of my notes are here.

In my blog I quoted Jon McIntosh. He served as a good representative of opponent viewpoints (anti-violence) on the topic, and looks like he'll continue to do so:

"The Unfulfilled Potential of Video Games": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Sq-EjKYp_Q

#

2017.6.23

A few notes on JM's video:

  • He shifts the focus from violence to combat.
  • Pulls some cool stats from E3 2017. Combat is a massive part of modern games. Might be interesting to track this over time. I predict that non-combat interactions will become more prevalent over time, thanks to developments in AI. Combat will remain and continue evolving too.
  • Does he just want more resources spent on developing non-combat games? Nah, he wants less combat. Because he dislikes combat (and violence).

#

2017.6.26

Hey, Games, Stop the Violence—It's So Boring https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/07/hey-games-stop-the-violenceits-so-boring.html

Same argument as McIntosh. Games can do so much more, violence is holding us back from exploring more varied and interesting experiences, etc. Mentioning Spacewar! means I gotta link icy's review:

http://culture.vg/reviews/videogame-art/let-the-games-begin.html


#

2017.6.26

E3 2017 stats from McIntosh's video:

113 out of 133 games shown include combat

Broken down:

82% combat focused 5% sports 3% minimal/incidental combat 3% racing 1% dancing 7% other non-combat

20 out of the 108 combat games got classed as cartoon combat.

Ratio of combat games over successive E3s (he already did it!):

2015: 78% 2016: 80% 2017: 82%

(But what's the total game count? Are non-combat games really shrinking in number, or just proportionally?

I bet they're growing in real numbers. Mostly outside of the E3-tier area.)

When games focus so heavily on combat mechanics it severely restricts the options for both emotional interaction and creative conflict-resolution.

#

2017.9.31

"Stop using extreme violence to sell your game"

https://www.polygon.com/2017/10/30/16571230/last-of-us-part-2-trailer-violence-women

Polygon author disliked the low-context depiction of violence against women in a recent The Last of Us 2 trailer.

The Talos Principle

2017.6.26
http://www.croteam.com/talosprinciple/

Currently playing this. Finding it very absorbing. The small levels have brilliant design to them. But I wonder if the overworlds have bigger overarching puzzles that mechanically tie it all together? Maybe it's only the story that does that.

That story is, so far, only loosely integrated with the mechanics. It's told mainly through audio logs, and text files found on computers: remnants of an AI research initiative, mixed with philosophical and religious documents. Cool way to learn about ancient Egyptian afterlife beliefs. (Wiki tells me the story was added later in development.)

5 star review on Insomnia:
http://culture.vg/reviews/in-depth/the-talos-principle-2014-pc.html

#

2017.7.12

Just finished it. Got the light door ending, and (one of?) the tower endings.

5 stars for sure.

Best world: area 3, Land of Faith. Specifically the snowy areas.

Adventure games

2017.6.26
The first three games I've posted here, for whatever reason, fit into a specific subgenre of adventure games: first-person 3D puzzle-heavy adventure games.

The Witness
Obduction
The Talos Principle

Others I enjoyed within that area:

Antichamber
Portal and Portal 2

A great non-puzzle adventure:
Virginia (todo: copy over my related writing)


The walking simulator is, it seems, a subgenre of adventure.

Interesting 3D ones I've played:
The Stanley Parable
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture (looks great on PS4)
LSD: Dream Emulator

Adventure games in my queue to play:
Biohazard 0

Wanted:
Thirty Flights of Loving
The Beginner's Guide
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
Quern - Undying Thoughts

#

2017.10.12

Adventure Expo 2017 is on this very weekend. A yearly event. I'll go to the next one.

http://www.adventurexpo.org/

Monetization

2017.10.13
It's an atrocious word. But an interesting subject. Game developers need to make money. How do they? How might they? In what manner would we prefer?

Dude proposes to ban loot boxes and other forms of in game gambling:

https://twitter.com/gravislizard/status/930141498649206787

icy discusses gambling here:

http://culture.vg/features/art-theory/real-virtuality.html

Loot boxes are bad. They represent a form of low-risk gambling, usually quite delineated and segregated off from the core narrative. Imagine gambling deeply integrated into game narratives, the delicious possibility of being able to risk losing reality-linked-values within games...

Anti-gambling activists would, one imagines, oppose this even more stridently than loot boxes. It'd be even harder to sell to the traditional gamer, probably?

#

2017.10.20

http://www.clickerheroes2.com/paytowin.php

Developer of a free-to-play game decides on a more traditional payment model for the sequel, and explains their 'ethical' and 'game design' reasons.

Games are inherently addictive. That alone is not a bad thing, until it gets abused.
We want the experience to be good. The mere existence of real-money purchases puts an ugly cloud over the player's experience, with the persistent nagging feeling of "My game could be so much better if I just spent a few dollars". That alone feels terrible.

Yeah. This draws one out of the game, and back into the realm of one's real-world financial calculations (from which one might, temporarily, plausibly, through playing the game, be attempting to escape!)

HN comments:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15737008

We made a lot of money from these players who spent thousands. They are known to the industry as "Whales".
I haven't seen this addressed yet, but what if the whales we are seeing are not poor addicted victims nor rich people but simple fraudsters?

It really makes sense if you are a person with access to "unlimited" credit that you can't spend in a way that can be traced back to you.

There is so much credit card fraud going on, and it's surely possible to decouple that from the actual in-game transactions by buying cash cards. The credit companies can't trace back the money, and the in-game transactions never get challenged.


#

2017.10.22

http://www.pcgamer.com/belgium-says-loot-boxes-are-gambling-wants-them-banned-in-europe/

Belgium's Gaming Commission investigating 'whether loot boxes are gambling'.

[...] report indicates that game operators can be "aggressive" with in-game sales and often target "young people." It also calls for "closer cooperation between governments, software developers, and rating agencies," and says that "with the right rules and consistent enforcement," it should be possible to "protect players from the harmful effects of gambling without compromising" the games themselves."

Programming language choice

2016.4.24

How do you choose what language to use?

The evolution of languages toward objectively superior paradigms. Has this ended? It it now a mostly a matter of personal taste?

What I'm saying is that we've passed the point of diminishing returns. No future language will give us the factor of 10 advantage that assembler gave us over binary. No future language will give us 50%, or 20%, or even 10% reduction in workload over current languages. The short-cycle discipline has reduced the differences to virtual immeasurability. source

Now often the domain makes the choice for you.

Want to write client-side web code? JavaScript. Using GameMaker? GML. Flash? ActionScript. Picked up an Atari 130XE from the thrift shop? BASIC. There's little thought process needed here. Each language is the obvious answer to a question. They're all based around getting real work done, yet there's consistent agreement that these are the wrong languages to be using. source

(In my current job, I work with JavaScript and PHP. Because I'm working in the browser, and in Drupal.)

Weak programming languages

2016.4.25

Here is an interesting intuition: the key to liberating software development is to use programming languages that are not, by themselves, turing-complete. source

In programming, the rule of least power is a design principle that "suggests choosing the least powerful [computer] language suitable for a given purpose". source

source

(Tim Berners-Lee)

matchHeight

2016.4.25

A very useful [[jQuery]] plugin.

matchHeight makes the height of all selected elements exactly equal.

It handles many common edge cases that cause similar plugins to fail. source

Unfairly Linked by LinkedIn

2016.4.27

After all, if LinkedIn’s algorithms had functioned properly, what would have happened? Would the company have emailed an actual white supremacist’s professional contacts to inform them about these exciting happenings in his career? The racist LinkedIn community would have been abuzz. Did you hear about William? I just endorsed him for his skills at “praising Nazis” and “terrorizing immigrants”!

As it turns out, LinkedIn doesn’t even pretend its “Connections in the News” feature is reliable. There’s a disclaimer at the bottom of the emails, in very small print, that reads, “LinkedIn does not guarantee that news articles are accurate or about the correct person.” And the LinkedIn site sheepishly acknowledges that its “Mentioned in the News” emails are generated by an algorithm that is “not perfect.” It even requests that members check the identities of people named in their emails and “please report” any errors. source

Obscure operating systems

2017.2.28

A long-held interest of mine. I've used Windows forever, and the parallel worlds of alternative operating systems fascinate me.

I've played with Linux, and found it very close to Windows. Mac is the same. It takes more extreme deviations from that paradigm to excite me.

Some choice examples:

[[BTRON]] - the first one I read about deeply, that made me see worlds beyond Windows. It was a meme on some 2ch clone, probably mainly because it's Japanese, and because of the somewhat extravagant claims made for it in its marketing.

[[GNU]] - Stallman's politics is interesting. I like Free stuff. But everything's a Unix clone now. It's not technically exciting.

[[Urbit]] - clean-slate network computing, combining functional programming, symbol-laden syntax, and (un)fashionable politics.

[[TempleOS]]. A religious project, a single-handedly developed old-school single ring system.

[[kOS]]. Vapourware, sadly. Hyper-terse symbol-laden array programming, the modern version of APL, promised to emerge out of the banking sector and fix our bloated OS mess. Source

User interface design

2017.4.25
Modeless Zoomable UI
https://jonikorpi.com/modeless-zoomable-ui/

A progress update on my work with zoomable UIs on the web.



#

2017.4.25

On the term 'user':

(Dec 10, 2016)

The person using technology. An industry term, sometimes contentious.

https://twitter.com/aral/status/807542696428654592

https://twitter.com/mentalconflux/status/807571565252644864

https://twitter.com/aral/status/807574817994133504

https://twitter.com/gelo/status/807585555156451328

https://twitter.com/mentalconflux/status/807591877503492098

My job title is, at the moment of writing, UX developer. User experience developer.

World Wide Web

2017.5.6
Hypertext: who needs it?

https://medium.com/@jason.sackey/hypertext-who-needs-it-36e247554b76

#

2017.6.3

https://web.material.is/2017/

A conference exploring the concept of the Web as a material

August 17th, 2017 — Reykjavík, Iceland


#

2017.10.15

https://www.quora.com/Given-the-complexity-of-frameworks-and-languages-is-the-web-overengineered/answer/Garry-Taylor-5

The complexity of the web really comes from the HTML/CSS combination, and JavaScript on top of that.

The point of HTML and CSS is to have HTML provide the structure of the document, and have CSS control the visual layout.

It’s total bullshit, it doesn’t work.


#

2017.10.21

https://arstechnica.co.uk/tech-policy/2017/11/an-alarming-number-of-sites-employ-privacy-invading-session-replay-scripts/

If you have the uncomfortable sense someone is looking over your shoulder as you surf the Web, you're not being paranoid. A new study finds hundreds of sites—including microsoft.com, adobe.com, and godaddy.com—employ scripts that record visitors' keystrokes, mouse movements, and scrolling behavior in real time, even before the input is submitted or is later deleted.

More evidence for the case that the web browser as 'user agent' has failed. It's been subverted. A big rethink is overdue.


#

2017.11.9

More notes for the Web Haters Handbook.

https://medium.com/@Jernfrost/people-do-have-different-tastes-in-technology-5530c42d560c

https://www.gdcvault.com/play/1024465/Insomniac-s-Web-Tools-A

Web tech as applied to AAA game dev (not a success story).

Writing

2017.6.9
https://www.robinsloan.com/notes/writing-with-the-machine/

The goal is not to make writing “easier”; it’s to make it harder.

The goal is not to make the resulting text “better”; it’s to make it different — weirder, with effects maybe not available by other means.

The tools I’m sharing here don’t achieve that goal; their effects are not yet sufficient compensation for the effort required to use them. But! I think they could get there! And if this project has any contribution to make beyond weird fun, I think it might be the simple trick of getting an RNN off the command line and into a text editor, where its output becomes something you can really work with.

#

2017.10.2

https://www.buzzfeed.com/charliewarzel/inside-the-great-poop-emoji-feud

Emoji in unicode was a mistake. There's no need for international standardisation of dumb little icons. What a waste of effort! Just let chat apps send INLINE IMAGES!

Social media

2017.6.9
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOwbfSY2uQQ

Harmful Opinions’s Internet Nightmare

Why is it that I'm always hearing about how thousands of people insulting you is a terrible thing enabled by the Internet, something that would be recognised for the horror it is, if it happened in real life, but thousands of people complimenting you, following your every word and action is fine? You never hear of people leaving Twitter over that, do you? Yet if that actually happened outside of the Internet, your life would be just as ruined as if what's called 'online harassment' or 'cyber violence' happened in the real world. Just imagine if every time you said something slightly witty, while you're out and about, a hundred people give you a little nudge and say 'thumbs up! I liked that' or 'hey! I just told my friends you said that'. Tens of thousands of ears listening to you muttering to yourself would surely bring on madness. If the stuff everyone likes and wants to happen on social media happened in real life it would be harassment. Your life would become hell. But I only hear the 'if it happened in real life' point being used against insults and harsh criticism, things like that, topics people don't like. And while I admit there is something to the idea of nasty comments being a drag for some people, I think that if you’re going to go down that path, you have to recognise that there's something on the other side of it as well.

If allowing torrents of abuse to take over social media users' online experience risks letting people get worn down and depressed and upset, then allowing a flood of vapid positivity risks spoiling people. Surely, is not normal to have then thousand people telling you you suck but it's not normal to have ten thousand sycophants sucking at your internet titty either, is it? If you've vulnerable to one, I'd bet you've gotta be vulnerable to the opposite too. You're probably a sensitive person overall, unsuited to social media not just because it's too rough, but because the way it works in general overall is toxic to you in particular. And in fact, I personally think it's possible easier to brush off a thousand insults that it is to brush off ten compliments. It's harder to say to yourself 'no, I'm not that great' that it is to say 'no, I don't suck'. Or maybe that's just my vanity speaking. Regardless, my fear is, with all these pushes for the Internet to become a sterilised safe space for everyone, that we're going to see previously open platforms where people of all sorts bump into each other turn into segmented, segregated hotbeds of radicalisation of all kinds you can imagine, where YouTube-style recommendation systems and the filtering featured on other social media combine to trap everyone in a bubble of agreement and positive reinforcement of their views. Nasty comments as they often already are will be secretly hidden from view. Serving only to prevent infighting and increase cohesion within these newly formed communities. The web would become more comfortable than ever, but real life tensions would soar as people become even more intolerant of opposing views, having become used to their silky-smooth social media circle-jerk eating up all their time, telling them they're great for thinking the way they do and only ever introducing them to other people who think the way they do. And most people won't even really notice it's happening.

Imagine it. An unseen digital caretaker developed to make sure you never come across that one argument that might change your mind. In order to spare you the mental exertion and possible upset. To save you from a group rejection for reconsidering your position too. Just another way to prevent nastiness on the Web. We already do this to ourselves too often. Self-censoring to avoid having what we say set off some drama, or bring personal consequences that we can't bear.

What happens if we teach a machine to do the job for us? A bit sci-fi, sure, but I think it's worth considering that a safe Web or more free-speechy Web aren’t the only two possible outcomes. We could all end up surfing an unsafe Web where we still don't have the ability to truly speak freely. And all without fully being aware of the restrictions or how the systems in place to limit us work, even.

Wait. We've sort of got that already. Well, what I'm saying is, if people don't spend some serious time thinking about this before it's too late, it could get even worse. Probably.

Software engineering

2017.7.7
http://www.drdobbs.com/architecture-and-design/software-engineering-computer-science/217701907

Software Engineering ≠ Computer Science

Software engineering seems different, in a frustrating way, from other disciplines of computer science

[...] classical computer science is helpful to software engineering, but will never be the whole story. Good software engineering also includes creativity, vision, multi-disciplinary thinking, and humanity. This observation frees software engineering researchers to spend time on what does succeed -- building up a body of collected wisdom for future practitioners. We should not try to make software engineering into an extension of mathematically-based computer science. It won't work, and can distract us from useful advances waiting to be discovered.

#

2017.10.16

Is professional technology evangelism beneficial or harmful for the software development industry?

Might make for a good Quora question.

I've recently been reading a lot of Smalltalk promotion:

https://www.quora.com/I-want-to-learn-programming-from-scratch-Where-should-I-start

https://www.quora.com/profile/Richard-Kenneth-Eng


#

2017.10.21

From my research, I've gathered that Smalltalk implementations traditionally include more than just a language. They come with an entire integrated development environment. That environment is also pretty much a whole operating system, sitting on top of Windows, or Unix, or whatever. It has its own window manager. Its editors are programmable and extensible.

Lisp implementations have been like this too. Some run directly on specialised hardware. Rebol is like this. Red, I gather, is working toward this.

This paradigm is unpopular. Developers want to stick to the dev tools (text editors) and conventions they're comfortable with. But I think radically new approaches are critically needed (because, in particular, the Web stack is a big mess). Ambitious innovators in software development techniques need not to be afraid of pissing developers off. If everyone's comfortable with your new approach, it's probably not new enough.

Intermediary sub-OSes with their own GUI toolkits give you programs that look out-of-place on the base OS. But does that matter these days, when the Web has whatever UI its developer chooses?


#

2017.10.22

http://wiki.c2.com/?LanguageIsAnOs

The LanguageIsAnOs -- for languages that were designed to run without benefit of an independent OperatingSystem.

The development environment of the language is the entire OperatingSystem.

http://wiki.c2.com/?LanguagesAreOperatingSystems

Dan Ingalls: "An operating system is a collection of things that don't fit into a language. There shouldn't be one."


Self-reference

2016.4.22

In the context of language, self-reference is used to denote a statement that refers to itself or its own referent. The most famous example of a self-referential sentence is the liar sentence: “This sentence is not true.” [...] The philosophical interest in self-reference is to a large extent centered around the paradoxes. A paradox is a seemingly sound piece of reasoning based on apparently true assumptions that leads to a contradiction. The liar sentence considered above leads to a contradiction when we try to determine whether it is true or not.

(Source)

Writing With the Machine

2016.4.24

The goal is not to make writing “easier”; it’s to make it harder.

The goal is not to make the resulting text “better”; it’s to make it different — weirder, with effects maybe not available by other means.

The tools I’m sharing here don’t achieve that goal; their effects are not yet sufficient compensation for the effort required to use them. But! I think they could get there! And if this project has any contribution to make beyond weird fun, I think it might be the simple trick of getting an RNN off the command line and into a text editor, where its output becomes something you can really work with. source

Cybertwee

2016.4.29

Cybertwee is a collective that explores the intersections of feminities, technology, and community. (source)

The art collective cybertwee exists to destabilize the "nihilistic and cynical ethos [of] punk, and replace it with earnestness and a pronounced DIY aesthetic. The ASCII art-heavy opening text of the group's Kickstarter campaign asks, “What if virtual reality spaces were made with tenderness?” (source)

Official site: http://cybertwee.net/

Seems aesthetically similar to [[Vaporwave]] and [[Seapunk]].

Music

2017.0.13

Here are some albums I really like, that have endured repeated plays:

  • Topless at the Arco Arena (2009) -- Wonderlick
  • Sea Change (2002) -- Beck
  • R.A.P. Music (2012) -- Killer Mike
  • All albums by Gorillaz (1998–present)
  • Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003) -- Outkast
  • The Last Stand (2016) -- Sabaton
  • A Twist in the Myth (2006) -- Blind Guardian
  • Aenima (1996) -- Tool

Other musicians whose work I've greatly enjoyed: Machinae Supremacy, Zebra Katz, Hot Chip, Nine Inch Nails, L'homme Manete, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Grimes, Girls Aloud, Groove Armada, Disasterpeace, EvilWezil, The Retar Crew, No Doubt, Gwen Stefani, The Prodigy, Rob Hubbard, Eminem, Lil Jon, Busta Rhymes,

Some games with fantastic soundtracks (some composed for the game, some made of licensed tracks):

  • MDK (1997)
  • killer7 (2005)
  • Jet Set Radio (2000)
  • Mirror's Edge (2007)
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2003)
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (1994)
  • Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 (2002)
  • Hotline Miami (2012)
  • Braid (2008)

And films:

  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
  • Sucker Punch (2011)
  • Drive (2011)
  • Tron: Legacy (2010)

Nakedly Examined Music

A podcast about making music.

Harmful Opinions' Internet Nightmare

2017.0.15

On the probable consequences from further development of social media filtering systems. Transcribed below:

>Why is it that I’m always hearing about how thousands of people insulting you is a terrible thing enabled by the Internet, something that would be recognised for the horror it is, if it happened in real life, but thousands of people complimenting you, following your every word and action is fine? You never hear of people leaving Twitter over that, do you? Yet if that actually happened outside of the Internet, your life would be just as ruined as if what’s called ‘online harassment’ or ‘cyber violence’ happened in the real world. Just imagine if every time you said something slightly witty, while you’re out and about, a hundred people give you a little nudge and say ‘thumbs up! I liked that’ or ‘hey! I just told my friends you said that’. Tens of thousands of ears listening to you muttering to yourself would surely bring on madness. If the stuff everyone likes and wants to happen on social media happened in real life it would be harassment. Your life would become hell. But I only hear the ‘if it happened in real life’ point being used against insults and harsh criticism, things like that, topics people don’t like. And while I admit there is something to the idea of nasty comments being a drag for some people, I think that if you’re going to go down that path, you have to recognise that there’s something on the other side of it as well.

>If allowing torrents of abuse to take over social media users’ online experience risks letting people get worn down and depressed and upset, then allowing a flood of vapid positivity risks spoiling people. Surely, is not normal to have then thousand people telling you you suck but it’s not normal to have ten thousand sycophants sucking at your internet titty either, is it? If you’ve vulnerable to one, I’d bet you’ve gotta be vulnerable to the opposite too. You’re probably a sensitive person overall, unsuited to social media not just because it’s too rough, but because the way it works in general overall is toxic to you in particular. And in fact, I personally think it’s possible easier to brush off a thousand insults that it is to brush off ten compliments. It’s harder to say to yourself ‘no, I’m not that great’ that it is to say ‘no, I don’t suck’. Or maybe that’s just my vanity speaking. Regardless, my fear is, with all these pushes for the Internet to become a sterilised safe space for everyone, that we’re going to see previously open platforms where people of all sorts bump into each other turn into segmented, segregated hotbeds of radicalisation of all kinds you can imagine, where YouTube-style recommendation systems and the filtering featured on other social media combine to trap everyone in a bubble of agreement and positive reinforcement of their views. Nasty comments as they often already are will be secretly hidden from view. Serving only to prevent infighting and increase cohesion within these newly formed communities. The web would become more comfortable than ever, but real life tensions would soar as people become even more intolerant of opposing views, having become used to their silky-smooth social media circle-jerk eating up all their time, telling them they’re great for thinking the way they do and only ever introducing them to other people who think the way they do. And most people won’t even really notice it’s happening.

>Imagine it. An unseen digital caretaker developed to make sure you never come across that one argument that might change your mind. In order to spare you the mental exertion and possible upset. To save you from a group rejection for reconsidering your position too. Just another way to prevent nastiness on the Web. We already do this to ourselves too often. Self-censoring to avoid having what we say set off some drama, or bring personal consequences that we can’t bear.

>What happens if we teach a machine to do the job for us? A bit sci-fi, sure, but I think it’s worth considering that a safe Web or more free-speechy Web aren’t the only two possible outcomes. We could all end up surfing an unsafe Web where we still don’t have the ability to truly speak freely. And all without fully being aware of the restrictions or how the systems in place to limit us work, even.

>Wait. We’ve sort of got that already. Well, what I’m saying is, if people don’t spend some serious time thinking about this before it’s too late, it could get even worse. Probably.

About the site

2017.4.21
The platform it's running on: WordPress.

Currently using the multi-site feature, and the Wikity theme.

https://hapgood.us/2015/12/09/introducing-wikity/

I wanted, and still want, a 'notepad' for quickly adding small fragments. That's why I installed Wikity. I'm moving to a simpler setup:

- using the bbPress forum
- removing multi-site
- using the front page and blog articles for 'complete' content (supplementing my wordpress.com and medium blogs)

To do:

- copy posts from subsites to new forum threads
- delete subsites
- copy posts from wordpress.com and medium to new posts/threads here
- don't delete the wordpress.com or medium sites. no reason not to keep them live, they're free. Link them back here
- re-theme the site. either pick a good/premium theme, or hire a designer to design visuals for me to code up
- integrate with content farm APIs? investigate: medium, wordpress, twitter, instagram

I like the way wikity facilitates re-blogging. So:

- investigate reimplementing re-blogging tools into this

onwards!

Art futurisms

2017.6.9
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futurism

Futurism (Italian: Futurismo) was an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy in the early 20th century. It emphasized speed, technology, youth, and violence, and objects such as the car, the aeroplane, and the industrial city.


---

http://cybertwee.net/

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cybertwee/cybertwee-hq-a-virtual-space-for-cute-tech

Cybertwee is a collective that explores the intersections of feminities, technology, and community.


http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/blog/cybertwee-collective-internet-feminist-cyberpunk

The art collective cybertwee exists to destabilize the "nihilistic and cynical ethos [of] punk, and replace it with earnestness and a pronounced DIY aesthetic. The ASCII art-heavy opening text of the group's Kickstarter campaign asks, “What if virtual reality spaces were made with tenderness?”


See also:
Vaporwave
Seapunk
Afrofuturism
Solarpunk

Music

2017.6.9
Here are some albums I really like, that have endured repeated plays:


  • Topless at the Arco Arena (2009) -- Wonderlick

  • Sea Change (2002) -- Beck

  • R.A.P. Music (2012) -- Killer Mike

  • All albums by Gorillaz (1998–present)

  • Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003) -- Outkast

  • The Last Stand (2016) -- Sabaton

  • A Twist in the Myth (2006) -- Blind Guardian

  • Aenima (1996) -- Tool



Other musicians whose work I've greatly enjoyed: Machinae Supremacy, Zebra Katz, Hot Chip, Nine Inch Nails, L'homme Manete, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Grimes, Girls Aloud, Groove Armada, Disasterpeace, EvilWezil, The Retar Crew, No Doubt, Gwen Stefani, The Prodigy, Rob Hubbard, Eminem, Lil Jon, Busta Rhymes.

Some games with fantastic soundtracks (some composed for the game, some made of licensed tracks):

MDK (1997)
killer7 (2005)
Jet Set Radio (2000)
Mirror's Edge (2007)
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2003)
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (1994)
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 (2002)
Hotline Miami (2012)
Braid (2008)

And films:
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
Sucker Punch (2011)
Drive (2011)
Tron: Legacy (2010)

---

Nakedly Examined Music

https://www.partiallyexaminedlife.com/nakedly-examined-music/

A podcast about making music.
License: CC-BY-SA