YouTube + Copyright

April 7, 2007

I assume that when people sue Google it’s for idealistic reasons and not because they stand to make a bit of money, but still, what’s with all the attacks on YouTube for copyright infringement? Don’t people understand the difference between a service that provides a means of communication and the content generated by users of that service? Suing Google for YouTube videos that breach copyright laws is like suing paper manufacturers because someone plagiarised a novel.

Sometimes it’s like watching apes dance in front of a monolith.


Quality Reduced

April 6, 2007

In my local park, there’s a fast food van called “Quality Cafeteria”.

What do these words mean anymore? Products and services are always trying to tell us that they are better, or even the best. Quality, premium, luxury, high-end, advanced, ultra-, hyper-, super-, and on and on. When every product or service does this, the playing field is level and these words lose meaning, but they continue to do it. Why?

If a product said it was average, or even poor, what would happen? Coca Cola – rots your teeth, but hey, it tastes good! Would that affect sales? Surely everyone believes that anyway?

People have a strange habit of taking what they are told at face value. People are naturally credulous. If they hold things in the balance, they are skeptics. If they assume what they are told is a lie, they are cynics. Skeptics and cynics are often grouped together, and equally criticised. But people are lying all the time. Look at Quality Cafeteria. It neither has quality, nor is a cafeteria. Being a skeptic or a cynic would prevent you from a higher risk of food poisoning. Yet no one seems to care.

If a product was sold in a balanced way, I think that maybe people wouldn’t buy it. They’d compare it to the other products and see all the “quality” statements at face value. For a mass market anyway. For a more discerning target market, more subtle qualities might be appreciated.

You Know You’re Old When…

April 5, 2007

I didn’t understand MySpace. OK, I did a little, but I don’t have a MySpace page and I don’t see me rushing to sign up any day soon.

Now I don’t understand Twitter. In fact I think it’s pretty god awful.

I watched Twitter grow back from when it used that standard irritating Web 2.0 schtick that involves removing a vowel to create a “unique” sounding brand name and was called Twittr, and like MySpace before it, I never felt the urge to participate.

I have a theory about it’s popularity. It works like blogs used to work (or maybe still do, I don’t keep close tabs on internet trends) it keeps the focus on the individual. It’s all about you and what you are doing. Most things worth doing and keeping around act like a conversation. You get to say your piece and people will listen, but you also have to listen too. Blogs do that with comments and trackbacks and blogrolls. Twitter just seems to be about making a noise for some ostensible purpose. Much like MySpace.

All the talk of using Twitter productively reminds me of the way people justify purchases to themselves based on the utility of the product. When you look closely, you see that the real reasons often have to do with more self-serving motives, or sometimes even that the product was loud and bright. I hate loud and bright. Sometimes.

Does Twitter have any kind of shelf life? Am I just jaded?

Best Laid Plans

April 5, 2007

I’ve been working hard at a new job and it’s meant that I’ve not posted as much as I would have liked, which is unfortunate because I’ve just started this blog. Oh well.

Here’s a link to a classic Ze Frank video which I always think about whenever I have a new idea.

GTA: IV Trailer

March 30, 2007

The first real glimpse of the new Grand Theft Auto game is available.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

My first impression is that it looks pretty awesome. I mean, really impressive. It’s definitely a direct take of New York, although everyone’s still calling it Liberty City. And while I had secretly hoped for a more European destination, I’m not totally surprised. How it plays and what new tricks are available is still much of a secret. And it could still be pretty bad if all Rockstar has focused on is the look.

Anticipate Failure

March 28, 2007

One thing that I think makes good design is when a system or product anticipates failure. I’ve worked for some people in the past who weren’t even prepared to discuss what would happen if a project didn’t work like it was supposed to. The cliché that “failure is not an option”. It may not be an option but it will happen all the same. In fact failure is the principle method by which we can learn and grow.

A few months ago, I was suffering from a slow and intermittent broadband connection and found that my connection would drop out a lot when I was trying to open Gmail. When it did, I would get this screen:

Click to see full-size.

What’s great about this screen is that it doesn’t just give a meaningless error code or say things aren’t working. It tells you exactly what’s happening and tells you what you can do. It’s simple and yet it succeeds where a lot of other websites and web apps fail. It realises that technophobes might use Gmail. And it doesn’t leave you looking at a blank screen.

8-Bit Flashback

March 27, 2007

I’m excited about the look and feel of Super Paper Mario for the Wii. It seems to have everything I love about traditional Mario games but done with a good sense of humour and innovative graphical and interactive elements.

Watching clips of the game reminds me of playing The Legend of Zelda on the SNES for the first time, because I remember how amazing it looked when it was raining in the game and how smooth and colourful was compared to the NES versions. It was a massive step forward. Sometimes new games forget to give people that wow factor.

It’s becoming a cliché, but Nintendo produce that innovation more regularly than their competitors.

Slow Hiring

March 26, 2007

Some companies lurch like zombies through the recruiting process. Doesn’t this mean that companies with a pulse get to the good brains first?

What are Human Resources doing for all this time?

To give you an example I submitted my CV to a local and sizable financial company in December. They write to thank me, and say that if I haven’t heard anything in six weeks I should consider myself rejected. In February I get a letter inviting me to phone a number to arrange a phone interview, which I do. The first available slot is in two weeks’ time. After this, I’m invited to sit aptitude tests a fortnight later. Three weeks pass and I’m still waiting for the results.

Compare company number two, a large energy supplier, who, a solitary week after I first expressed interest, phone me on Friday morning, perform a phone interview there and then, invite me for testing on the Monday and on Monday afternoon, offer me a job.

Will Wright on Games

March 14, 2007

Wonderland report on Will Wright’s keynote speech at SXSW. He said a lot of things that rang true with me about the whole approach to games as stories.

“Story causes a chain and conveys it to a viewer… a story’s all about the chain of events, very linear, unchanging, you’ve all seen the same version of Star Wars.

But games are very open ended. Also, movies are primarily visual. Games are primarily interactive. So when we take away the control from a player, we’re taking away the most important thing from them. It’s like going to the movies and showing a blank screen…”

That’s precisely the reason I hated games like Metal Gear Solid so much; 50% of the time it was a passive experience.

“Stories are about empathy, and games are about agency.”

That should be a mantra.

“Players invariably come up with stories about what they did in games. They’re never describing a cut scene.”

“But when we look at games specifically and entertainment in general, games often have this perception of mindless toys, but they can be much more than that. They can help us develop systematic thinking. They can help us build accurate models of the world around us; and hopefully these things will help us change the world just a little bit for the better.”