Here’s an easy game to play

“Here’s an easy thing to say…” * (from one of my hands-down favorite books)

So – there’s Twitter – 140 character messages that bounce around the twitterverse. Within Twitter, there’s the notion of re-tweeting – echoing something someone else tweeted because it’s useful, amusing, etc. Originally, retweets  were a user convention – you’d copy everything, prepend ‘RT’, add pithy comments of your own if you wanted, and send the message. It was so popular that a while ago Twitter formalized retweeting (a bit – you can still force the old style). The twitterverse also has bots – bits of software (running on hardware here, there and everywhere) that watch the global tweetstream for particular strings and retweet any message containing the target phrase. For example, Monsieur Poutine (@Poutine_Bot) will retweet any message he sees that contains a reference to the Quebecois delicacy.

An hour or so ago David Malki emitted “Poutine in Guam is great #experiment” * followed by “ RT @guamtweetbot: RT @Poutine_Bot: RT @malki Poutine in Guam is great #experiment” *. By using two keywords, he got two bots to retweet each other. That’s my kind of fun (sad, isn’t it) and I jumped in. It didn’t take me very long to catch on to something that would have been obvious if I’d thought about for a nanosecond – there’s good potential for the bots to start playing ping-pong with each other.

It appears that whoever coded the BurroughsBot considered the echo problem – he doesn’t resend like Monsieur Poutine will. I do draw the line at spending my evening looking for a romantic match for cheese-curd and gravy covered software, so I jumped in and retweeted to fill up this screen shot:

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Through three cheese trees three free fleas flew.
While these fleas flew, freezy breeze blew.
Freezy breeze made these three trees freeze.
Freezy trees made these trees’ cheese freeze.
That’s what made these three free fleas sneeze. *

Waze, Foursquare and location based social media

I may have a chance to consult/volunteer/help out with a project that combines elements of social media, augmented reality, bar coding, street art, locational stuff and probably a couple other things. So… I figured I’d better take the plunge and get a Foursquare account set up. Foursquare is an app that let’s you check in from various venues (including bomb scare sites >grin<) – the idea is that if you’re out for a night on the town, friends can track you down easily. Once they’ve done that, the mini-mob shows up as being together and additional friends might be motivated to jump in. At least as important as the ‘find me’ aspect (based on what I’ve seen of real world use)  is, first, the game aspect of foursquare and, second, tweeting “I’m here” as part of your general tweetstream. Foursquare hands out badges (not real ones – for real Foursquare badges, Nerd Merit Badges has your back) – there’s a certain amount of competitive jockeying for Mayorships and the badges deliver some positive feedback for Foursquare use.

Foursquare is at its best when combined with a location-aware phone – you can check in with any phone that has either a data plan or text capabilities, but it’s a bit cumbersome. My phone (Nokia E71x) has a GPS, but there’s no native Foursquare app for the Symbian operating system. A quick google turned up Waze, which describes itself as “a social mobile application providing free turn-by-turn navigation based on the live conditions of the road.” Waze is a crowdsourced route and driving conditions system – fire up Waze on your phone, drive around and the Waze client uploads info about where you are, how fast you’re moving etc. It can then ‘see’ slowdowns, traffic jams etc. It also allows you to explicitly report accidents, speedcams, etc. and -important for my original purpose- you can use it to check in on Foursquare. Original purpose aside, it is a really cool idea – instead of some central authority issuing traffic advisories, the traffic itself does the monitoring.

A few thoughts/links:

  • “One relatively recent and very simple intervention, made possible by the lamination together of three or four different kinds of technology, has completely changed what a map is, what it means, what we can do with it.
    It’s this: that for the very first time in human history, our maps tell us where we are on them.
    The fact that such depictions can now also render layers of dynamic, real-time situational information seems almost incidental to me compared to this. This one development subtly but decisively removes the locative artifacts we use from the order of abstraction. By finding ourselves situated on the plane of a given map, we’re being presented with the implication that this document is less a diagram and more a direct representation of reality — and, what’s more, one with a certain degree of fidelity, one that can be verified empirically by the simple act of walking around. How is that not epochal?” *
  • More AG on video game rewards meet social media: “Schell’s argument (or one of them, anyway) is that the everyday environment is now sufficiently instrumented and internetworked that the psychological triggers and incentives developed by game designers to motivate in-game behavior can be deployed in real life. [...] And this is more than passing scary, because these motivators work. Just as food designers have figured out how to short-circuit our wetware with precisely calibrated doses of fat, salt and sugar, game developers trip the dopamine trigger with internally-consistent, but generally otherwise worthless, symbolic reward systems. That they’ve (knowingly or otherwise) learned how to play this primordial pathway like a piano is attested to by the untold gigahours gamers worldwide spend voluntarily looping out the most arbitrary actions, when most of them presumably have a choice of other pretty swell things they could be doing.” *
  • And, of course, the whole privacy-control thing (I’m linking those 2 concepts because I agree with others that the crux of the biscuit is control – my control over my info stream is the key). I don’t mind that twitter sees that I’m out having brunch (presumably the dogs, the array of automated claymores (“Front Toward Enemy”!) and the genetically engineered sentient whip-hawthorns will cause burglars to leave the house be), but I’d mind very much if state troopers had real-time location and speed data on me as I drove around.

An aside on privacy: Facebook has been -justifiably, in my opinion- getting pummeled for its approach to privacy. Partially in reaction, the Diaspora project has been getting a lot of attention – like receiving $174,339 towards a goal of $10,000 on kickstarter (you read that right). Enthusiasm for a Facebook replacement is high, but here’s a post arguing that Diaspora may be cursed by early success.

The Changed Media Landscape

A I write this there’s a bit of weirdness going on over in the metropole (Portsmouth) – it’s unclear exactly what is happening, but it involves a bus, a 911 call reporting a suspicious package/device, local and state police, AFT agents and robots. I found out about it via Twitter  about 15 minutes after police showed up and it became obvious to local folk that something was up (around noon today). Some of the things I’ve noticed since then:

  • It didn’t take long for a hashtag – #03801bomb – to be declared. Click on the tag to go to the Twitter search page for the latest tweets.
  • There was a steady stream of information, photography, video and comedy all afternoon. I knew when folks started leaving the bus within minutes thanks to @WireNH (I picked the tweet that combined news and the funny).
  • A video taken by @Bill_Lord of one of the bombbots unloading got picked up by a Boston newscast.
  • Sometime during the afternoon, a foursquare (location sharing social media app) venue got set up.

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  • Dan did a bit of livestreaming from his mother-in-law’s living room – which happened to be across the street from the bus.
  • I saw at least one tweet that referenced UStream – another livestreaming app. Keep in mind, all you need in order to go live from virtually anywhere is a decent cell phone and tiny tech chops.

I caught some of the teevee coverage as well. The informal coverage was better – much better. Nobody (I suspect, including many of the cops on scene) knew what was going on – last I looked, we still don’t. That didn’t stop NECN – or the crowd watching – from covering it, nor should it have. Instead of the 2 or three stills and speculation/repetition of a very few facts that the teevee was offering, the crowd supplied more pictures, bad jokes and updates when something actually happened. I got much more of a sense of the situation from the ‘new’ media feed. The landscape may change further, but believe me, the ‘changing media landscape’ has already changed.

Internet serendipity

This [Boing Boing]:

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Rick Prelinger sez, “My spouse Megan Prelinger is about to take to the road with her show of paleofuturistic ads from the early, go-go years of the space race. While the images are fascinating in print, they’re even more provocative when projected, revealing the gap (and sometimes uncanny resemblance) between the fanciful and actual futures of space exploration. I can’t wait to see them on the big screen at DC’s National Air & Space Museum, LA’s Griffith Observatory and a host of other venues in Portland, Seattle and NYC. Her tour kicks off at San Francisco’s Booksmith this coming Tuesday, May 4 with a slide show, reading and release party for her new book Another Science Fiction: Advertising the Space Race 1957-1962.

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Leads to this [Amazon]:

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Leads to this [Amazon again]:

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Which causes me to google “apollo guidance computer simulator”:

I figured I’d get a good hit, but this is beyond good- the Virtual AGC Home Page.

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Big fun! And as a side benny, this [Amazon again again]:

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The old man worked on Convair B-58 Hustlers (radar system for Raytheon) – he tells the story of coming home for lunch one day and returning to work to find that the aircraft he’d been working on had caught fire and killed some of his coworkers. Time and place suggest the B-58 involved was unit 58-1012.

Map Kibera

Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya, widely known as Africa’s largest slum, remains a blank spot on the map. Without basic knowledge of the geography and resources of Kibera it is impossible to have an informed discussion on how to improve the lives of residents. This November [2009], young Kiberans create the first public digital map of their own community.

Map Kibera.

More (less) memory

Last October, I posted a picture of my 8k memory module. Turns out I’m not the only local with magnetic core – the science teacher across the hall from me produced this little gem this morning for my edification.

Front – if you embiggen, you can see the cores.

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Back.

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It looks to me like a (10 x 4) x (10 x 4) = 1600 bit array – I googled for ’10 bit byte’, ’395643 memory’ and some others w/o any luck. I don’t think it’s wise to assume 8-bit bytes, but just for purposes of comparison, that would make this a 200 byte memory card!

Finding Ada 2010 – Angela Sheehan

I first met Angela at a New Hampshire Media Makers meetup back in August 2009. During her three minute ‘here’s what I’m up to’ presentation she spoke of her interest in wearable tech: fabric/electronic mashups. I’m interested in any kind of computing/networking/digital tech that doesn’t involve a screen, keyboard and beige box; we said hello and struck up a conversation. Later in the week, she sent me links to work – REACTIVEfashion – she’d done (with Rebecca Grabman) as a senior at Bennington:

Interactive Formalwear.

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Tween Voodoo.

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Skate Power.

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Wow, said I.

Before we get to what Angela has been up to recently, a few words on the path she took into Making. She went to Bennington intending to paint and do illustration, but ended up in a 3D animation class. When the person teaching 3D animation left, that program was essentially done (perils of small colleges). Not to worry – Angela jumped into Robert Ransick’s Viral Media class, from there, on to Physical Computing. Her timing was perfect – Leah Beuchley was off and running on her pioneering work, the Arduino folks had produced their platform (since adapted/adopted into the wearable-friendly Lilypad) – there was a lot of fun and ferment around wearables. Her interest in physical computing led to the work above, which was presented in a couple different venues – including a runway show, and to a class that I have to mention because the title is so great: Experiments in Mixed Reality (incidentally, structured around rapid prototyping cycles).

Since I met her last fall, Angela has been producing great work at an amazing clip:

I’m probably missing a couple, too. Going forward, I’ve heard rumblings that she’s coordinating flash-mob fun (including interactive tech) with Tara Sullivan (organizer of the Portsmouth Thriller Dance last Halloween) and know for sure that she’s looking into makerspace possibilities here on the seacoast. Especially with the flash-mob planning, it seems that she’s exploring some of the group dynamics/interaction themes that were central to at least one of the rapid-prototype projects she’s described to me.

Why Angela Sheehan on Ada Lovelace Day? She epitomizes, for me, many of the best aspects of Maker kulturny. She mashes up things she’s skilled at with things she’s figuring out and isn’t daunted by ‘I’ve never done that before’. If it’s something she wants to know, she learns it; if it’s less intriguing, she’ll get help. She pulls stuff apart and repurposes components in service to her projects. Alongside the uber-maker thing is her creativity – Angela just has a ton of cool ideas, many of which involve technology (important for the whole Lovelace thing!). Three cheers for Ada Lovelace and three cheers for Angela Sheehan.

[Side note - you can find Angela's chinchilla related work at The Fuzz Depot.]

Life imitates the virtual

NPR’s On the Media did a bunch of football related stories this past weekend (wonder why?); one really caught my attention as I drove back from the marsh. Bob Garfield interviewed Chris Sullentrop about Sullentrop’s recent Wired article, Game Changers. Game Changers is an survey of how sports-based videogames may be feeding back into the sports they’re based on – especially the Madden NFL/football loop. Football is especially fertile ground – a mix of complexity and speed for individual plays combined with  relatively infrequent games.

Just before he reached the end zone, with 17 seconds remaining, Stokley cut right at 90 degrees and ran across the field. Six seconds drained off the clock before, at last, he meandered across the goal line to score the winning touchdown. For certain football fans, the excitement of a last-minute comeback now commingled with the shock of the familiar: It’s hard to think of a better example of a professional athlete doing something so obviously inspired by the tactics of videogame football. When I caught up with Stokley by telephone a few weeks later, I asked him point-blank: “Is that something out of a videogame?” “It definitely is,” Stokley said. “I think everybody who’s played those games has done that” — run around the field for a while at the end of the game to shave a few precious seconds off the clock. Stokley said he had performed that maneuver in a videogame “probably hundreds of times” before doing it in a real NFL game. “I don’t know if subconsciously it made me do it or not,” he said. *

No wonder younger quarterbacks are finding more and more success at the college and professional levels. This season, a 19-year-old freshman started for USC, a perennial Pac-10 power. In the NFL, rookie quarterbacks are entering the league and excelling immediately at an unprecedented rate (think of the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger, the Falcons’ Matt Ryan, and the Ravens’ Joe Flacco). In decades past, young passers sat on the bench for a year or two while they mastered reading NFL defenses. Now, having learned to differentiate between zone and man-to-man coverage over the course of years on their Xboxes and PlayStations, the rookies are less in need of such apprenticeship.

It’s one thing to suggest that videogames may be making us smarter. It’s another thing altogether to say they might be making us better athletes. But when you add it up, the evidence starts to look pretty overwhelming. At the Pop Warner Super Bowl in 2006, the winning team had 30 offensive plays, which it had learned through Madden. (”I programmed our offense into Madden to help me memorize our plays,” one 11-year-old told Sports Illustrated. “It was easier than homework.”) Dezmon Briscoe, an all-conference wide receiver for the University of Kansas, credited Madden 2009 with teaching him how to read when defenses “roll their coverages” — move their defensive backs to disguise their strategy. Chuck Kyle, a high school coach who has won 10 state championships in football-mad Ohio, has programmed his team USA playbook into Madden and uses it to teach players their assignments. So have coaches at Colorado State, Penn State, and the University of Missouri, among other schools. An offensive lineman for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers used the videogame as a preparation tool for an entire season, scouting his opponents digitally. While even-more-sophisticated software is available for virtual sports training, coaches and players at all levels of football say that Madden’s off-the-shelf simulation is good enough. *

Wow.

I’ve been hearing some good things about Frontline’s Digital Nation – I may need to carve some time out for it – especially the section on learning.

Bruce Sterling: The Hypersurface of this Decade

Simultaneously hilarious and mind-expanding (one of my favorite combinations).

Freedom is just another word for nothing! There is no dead weight in my urban spatiality. No clotted semiotics, cajoling me to behave in the stereotyped haute-bourgeois manner that Deirdre once used to stifle me.

Dematerialisation is defined by its interfaces. That which was product will become a service. That which was a service will accelerate at warp speed toward de-monetisation on the Path-to-Free. So this is not so much a post-divorce flat as a vibrant zone of interactive transaction.

Bruce Sterling: The Hypersurface of this Decade | ICON MAGAZINE ONLINE.