"Demeter quit his bank job two months ago and has launched a company, Demiforce, to develop more electronic games. Now he has a salaried staff, five games in development and two coming out by Christmas, including a spinoff to "Trism" called "Trismology."" I hope his success continues; scaling up always seems scary, but Trism was – and is – superb.
"The conundrum is that no path, no vision of progress – technological, social, moral – will be plausible today if it does not include the complexity of costs, yet it will not be desirable if it does. That makes our society blind." Some good, if dense, Kevin Kelly.
"I wrote a script that lets you see what this money could buy if we weren’t throwing it at second-rate comedians or third-rate bankers. What if we spent it on schools, or teachers, or wispas instead? My script lets you see that by altering the text of Guardian articles as you browse." Ben's hack was brilliant in its simplicity, and really does change the way you read the news.
"Turf Bombing is a location-based turf battle game which rewards and encourages traveling and learning about different neighborhoods." Location-based game that forces you to travel out of your normal areas, and potentially explore transport networks. Also: not designed around specific devices, just laptop+wifi.
"Fallout 3 is a tribute to intent. It's not a rallying cry for any cause or even a cautionary tale about the hypothetical horrors of nuclear holocaust. It's a statement on the worthlessness of inaction. It's about not staying in the vault."
"Far Cry 2 doesn’t so much attempt to define a memorable experience and effectively communicate it to the player as it does to define a set of rules and an environment in which memorable experiences are likely to happen, letting the player loose in that world." One of my favourite pieces of writing on FC2, if only because it captures the nature of the game so well.
"Oddly, although Left 4 Dead only comes out today, Gamestop.com has already switched from their previews to reviews. You'd think that wouldn't be enough time for their users to appraise the game. You would even think that they'd want to play the full game before trumpeting their thoughts and throwing around phrases like "game of the year." You would be wrong." Mitch is harsh but fair.
"See what's been discovered by the Wasteland inhabitants!" Collaborative slippymap of what people are finding in the DC Wasteland in Fallout 3.
"Images don't automatically attach to emails. I hope you and your husband can work things out though." Oh dear.
"For all the prioritizing and severitizing (which costs a lot of time during bug input) the best method of bug sorting was human communication." Yes. Too much time has been lost in too many custom installs of JIRA.
"Hi everybody, I'm Brandon, and this is Offworld." Oh! This could be good.
What I got up to on Thursday
16 November 2008
Last Thursday and Friday, I was very lucky to be invited to the Guardian’s first internal hack day. Whilst it was primarily an internal event, they also invited along a few of their friends to see what we could do with some of their information.
It was a really stimulating two days – exciting to see just what the Guardian is doing with their data and their journalism, and the ways they’re trying to make it more open. A particular highlight was seeing Simon Rogers explain the process of researching infographics and data-sourced news articles, and offering his talent for hunting down data to anyone who needed it; he provided a lot of hackers with useful sets of information that were only ever going to be found through a series of tactical phonecalls. For those of us not requesting data to order, the Guardian’s new full-text RSS feeds came in very, very handy, let me tell you.
It was also great to meet some of their technical staff. Obviously, the Guardian developer programme is in safe hands with Matt McAllister, and I’ve known Simon for a while, but it was great to meet lots more of their developers, client-side team and QAs; they were, to a person, lovely and talented, and it’s clear that the Guardian has a deep culture of quality.
I orginally wanted to build something along the lines of CelebDAQ but for journalists. The idea would be that you invested in journalists and made returns based on the column inches they filed; the goal was to highlight a lot of the high-volume content on the Guardian website that goes unnoticed, whilst making the more prolific and “celebrity” writers like Charlie Brooker expensive commodities.
Unfortunately, it soon become clear that the volume of scraping and data-parsing I would have to undertake would take far longer than I planned, and I wasn’t planning on staying up all night.
So I scaled down my thinking, and instead of undertaking “real programming” I started thinking instead about “neat hacks”, and the result was this:
In a nutshell, it parses the Guardian’s publicly available politics RSS feed, counts the number of names of Labour MPs and of Conservative MPs (not to mention the words “Labour”, “Tory”, and “Conservative”), and then works out the “swing” of the page. That data is then sent over serial to an Arduino, which outputs the result on a little bargraph.
It wasn’t the hardest of challenges, but I did get to write some Wiring and learn how to send serial data from Ruby, and I had a lot of fun poking electronic circuits. I was fortunate enough to win a subscription to Make for my troubles, as were the other team of plucky hardware hackers in the room – a lovely surprise to end the two days on.
37 hacks were submitted overall – impressive given the short period of time and how busy everybody was – and they ranged from the entertaining to the remarkably useful, from the thought-provoking to the empowering. Jemima Kiss has written up a few of the stand-out hacks in her Guardian blogpost on the event. It was great to see what such a talented – and multi-skilled – room could produce in under 24 hours, and I hope that the internal team at the Guardian enjoyed it as much as I did.
Many thanks to everyone who organised the event, and I look forward to seeing what the Guardian do with their data – and their great hacking – on a larger scale.