• "Herzog Zwei was a lot of fun, but I have to say the other inspiration for Dune II was the Mac software interface. The whole design/interface dynamics of mouse clicking and selecting desktop items got me thinking, ‘Why not allow the same inside the game environment? Why not a context-sensitive playfield? To hell with all these hot keys, to hell with keyboard as the primary means of manipulating the game!" Brett Sperry, of Westwood, on the making of Dune II. Via Offworld.
  • "Changing the Game (order via Amazon or B&N) is a fast-paced tour of the many ways in which games, already an influential part of millions of people’s lives, have become a profoundly important part of the business world. From connecting with customers, to attracting and training employees, to developing new products and spurring innovation, games have introduced a new level of fun and engagement to the workplace.

    Changing the Game introduces you to the ways in which games are being used to enhance productivity at Microsoft, increase profits at Burger King, and raise employee loyalty at Sun Microsystems, among other remarkable examples. It is proof that work not only can be fun–it should be." I shall have to check this out.

  • "As a result, vendors here are more likely to decline to sell you something than to cough up any of their increasingly precious coins in change. I've tried to buy a 2-peso candy bar with a 5-peso note only to be refused, suggesting that the 2-peso sale is worth less to the vendor than the 1-peso coin he would be forced to give me in change." They're running out of coins in Argentina, and it makes for a seriously odd situation – and a reminder of the differences between value and worth.
  • "The artist Keith Tyson is offering 5,000 Guardian readers the opportunity to own a free downloadable artwork by him. The costs you'll have to bear are those of printing out the work on A3 photographic paper – and framing, if you so choose… You will be asked to enter your geographical location – which forms part of the unique title of each print."
  • "The media would have us believe that those with the best ability in Parkour require and condition to bodies of hypermasculine levels, and the first notions of this concept seem quite logical. However, it is known to any traceur that the spectacle of the masculinized body is not in necessary relation to one’s ability of movement. Mass media tries to paint another picture with a careful selection of handsome, muscular men as traceurs… At its simplest, the hypermasculine spectacle is an easier sell to masses. However, our problem does not end at the body. It is not only the body that is masculinized, though, as we see the same pattern occurring to the discipline itself." Interesting article on Parkour and gender; specifically, the hyper-masculinisation of the art by the media.
  • "Over three years ago I set a goal for myself. That goal was to have a max level character for every class in the game… Tonight, at long last, I’ve finally achieved my goal." Blimey.

I’ve been thinking about tagging a lot recently. One particular thing came to my attention yesterday, and I think it’s worth noting in public.

Users use tags to hack the UI. Tagging isn’t just metadata; it’s metadata you can use.

To wit: a friend mentioned that one of the problems he had with Flickr was that you couldn’t see al the photos from a particular date. Oh, but you can, I said, and showed him the Archives page which does exactly that – it lets you trawl through photographs by date. It’s a really nice piece of design, in fact, so if you’ve never looked at them, go and check them out.

Of course Flickr lets you see things by date – it’s one of the key pieces of data it associates with every picture. Yes, there’s some confusion between “date uploaded” and “date taken on” but that’s dealt with – Flickr lets you view by both.

My friend hadn’t found this supposed lack in functionality a hinrdance, though. Instead, he’s just tagged his photos with a tag for the year (eg ‘2006’) and, sometimes, a tag for the month (‘September’). He’s not the only one – hunt around Flickr for the preponderance of tags like ‘200506’ or ‘20031224’. Lots of people do it.

Why do they do it? Two reasons. Firstly, they’re adding data that they either don’t think is there or that they can’t find. Even though Flickr stores date information, and they can see that at the bottom right of each picture, if they can’t manipulate that data – if they can’t pivot around it – then they store the data in a way they can use it – they stick it in a tag field. And that leads to the second reason: they’re making something to click on.

Making a tag is like making a shortcut button. One click on “2006” shows me all my pictures from 2006. So does the “archives” function but it’s not quite as fast, to be honest, and not as immediately intuitive.

This is true of all tagging systems – tagging makes links, that’s they way it works. So as well as using tags to store data, tags get used to extend and build upon the user interface. As a developer, this has an unexpected bonus. If you see lots of tags emerging storing data you already track (such as dates), consider that the method for accessing data by date might not be obvious (or simple) enough. And if you see enough data of identical format being tracked – often in the form of machine-readable tags, such as geotags, then perhaps it’s time to consider adding a new feature. Tags are a great way to track how uses actually make use of your service.