February 25, 2006

Everything I need to know I learned in WoW

Raph Koster posts a list of life lessons learned from MMORPGs. Here are a couple:

You can be the best in the world at your job.

But so can everyone else.

And you will all do it exactly the same way.

Intelligent beings who have civilizations and languages of their own are generally evil and should be slain.

Many, if not all, wild creatures are highly aggressive and will attack on sight.

You not only can’t go home again, you probably don’t have one.

If you do, it’s mostly to store stuff, not to live in.

You never have people over.

Death doesn’t really sting. Nerf, however, is incredibly painful.

Strawberries are never in season.

[via Raph's Website]

Posted by johndanseven at 11:15 PM

February 20, 2006

DIY Cloning

I had mail in my In box today from a Finnish firm with the alluring subject line, "Get Your Own Replica." I thought happily about spawning lifelike JohndanBots that could take care of all those annoying things I have to do on a daily basis (like going to meetings or, generally, just talking to people). How would they propagate? Pods? Parthenogenesis? Maybe in aquaria, like Sea Monkeys? Would they faithfully do my bidding, or would a rogue strain develop to challenge me for leadership? If Johndan-Prime and Evil Johndan (some would say they are the same) were perfectly matched in every way, who would win? Would my inherent core of humanity give me an edge, or would that sliver of humanity at the center of my being become my achilles' heel?

I opened the message only to find out that the sender wanted to sell me a fake Rolex.

Just for one day, I'd like all my spam to be true. I'd be un-freaking-stoppable.

Posted by johndanseven at 06:04 PM

February 18, 2006

Briefly Visiting the Land of Vertical People

No posts lately, as you might have noticed. I didn't, since I've spent the last week largely unconscious, with only brief visits to the land of vertical people to stumble around among them and cough hideously without bothering to cover my mouth. (At some point about Tuesday, a voice in the back of my head began shrieking, If we go, we're taking the rest of you down with us!) The nice people at the clinic tell me I have strep throat, bronchitis, and laryngitis. The upshot of this is that I don't get any of the good medication, just antibiotics.

Aside from that, I've been winnowing the contents of my iTunes library down to albums that I can listen to without either feeling nauseous or having blood jet from my ears (the former was Chet Baker's Lonely Star, for no apparent reason, and the latter was Guided By Voices' Mag Earwig!, ironically). I started with 60 gigs worth of albums, but this evening all I'm left with is Nick Drake's Pink Moon and K's Choice's Cocoon Crash. This is some sort of personal low point.

Posted by johndanseven at 11:43 PM

February 12, 2006


Studio 360 this week covers violence; Chuck Palahniuk is featured as the guest commentator for most of the show. Toward the end of a show, Palahniuk and host Kurt Anderson discuss Shaun of the Dead the function of zombies in entertainment/catharsis, and Derrida:

Kurt Anderson: "It always gets back to Jacques Derrida, doesn't it?"

Chuck Palahniuk: "Or Michel Foucault."

Also includes discussions with Jack Handey (on violence against martians) and Foley artist Jocelyn Gonzalez on how to create fight sounds.

Posted by johndanseven at 11:41 AM

Hip-Hop Tours

This is somewhat disconcerting: Hush Tours leads hip-hop history sightseeing trips through Harlem and the Bronx. NYT has an article on one experience [reg req'd], lead by Grandmaster Caz (the company also employs Kurtis Blow and Doug E. Fresh, and provides booking for the Furious Five). I'm all for raising awareness about the history of hip-hop, but the tours thing strikes me as a little weird. Maybe it was this paragraph from the NYT article:

At the Graffiti Hall of Fame, there is a Disneyish touch: Caz distributes Kangol hats and fake gold chains with dangling dollar-sign pendants to the tourists, who cross their arms and strike B-boy stances for snapshots in front of the spray-painted walls. Harlem residents have seen a lot over the years, but a gaggle of white tourists dressed like LL Cool J circa 1985 is something new.

I suspect my uneasiness with this is related to a misplaced sense of the need for authenticity on my part, that liberal/yuppie disdain for anyone who needs a tour guide. Of course, I came into all of this way late (hip-hop wasn't something us whitebread farmboys in Michigan listened to in the 1970s), using Doug Pray's Scratch documentary as my own guide.

Red Alert, a longtime fixture on the New York airwaves, said: "It's great because we didn't have a platform to pass on our knowledge. The tour has given us a platform to explain the history that we experienced, the history that we set in motion."

On that chilly Saturday a few weeks back, Caz was a jovial, blunt tour guide. "Today you're going to learn what hip-hop is and what it's not," he announced at the tour's outset. "It's not just rap music, and it's definitely not just the 10 records you hear over and over again on the radio.

Posted by johndanseven at 10:58 AM

February 11, 2006

ADD in the Datacloud

From Pete Quiley, an Attention Deficit Disorder coach, on the benefits of ADD for people in high tech work. In addition to some anecdotal discussion and links to other short essays, Quiley has a list of the Top 10 Advantages of ADD in a High Tech Career. The list includes items like "multitasking at will," "the ability to hyperfocus," and "rapid fire mind."

[via Lifehacker]

Posted by johndanseven at 05:09 PM

Fight Club: The Bollywood Remake

Fight Club, as re-envisioned by Bollywood. A synopsis of the script (which appears to be much different than the original—romance appears to be a little more traditional and dance numbers appear to have a significant role—and links to trailers (including several music videos) are at Pulpmovies Trailer Park.

Amidst the on-going fun and fists, Vicky and Karan get entangled in affairs of the heart and mind with Anu and Shonali which thicken/tighten the group’s bonds… and send them off to New Delhi to look after the “Crossroads” nightclub, which is in the eye of a storm created by Delhi’s most dangerous gangs… In that ongoing, ever-increasing mêlée, ex-kingpin Anna’s brother, Mohit, gets killed, filling Anna with vengeance… situations take an ugly turn… time calls for a clash… Dinesh , a merciless rival, masterminds a killing plan, with his brother, Sandy, giving him strong company. At this, Team Fight Club calls in their ace, Sameer, a bouncer, to tilt the balance in their favor. In this puffed up atmosphere of fists and fights, Sameer finds love in the name of Komal.

[via metafilter]

Posted by johndanseven at 11:11 AM

February 09, 2006

Information Architecture Deliverables Defined

From the Davezilla on the SIGIA-L list:

IA deliverables defined. By me.

Stakeholder interviews and requirement analysis:
Finding out who will fire me when the project goes sour

Content Inventory, also known as content survey or audit:
Determines how much perfectly usable content the client has so I know how much to ignore, throw away and recreate from scratch

Heuristic analysis:
A sacred industry term that means your navigation sucks and the type is hard to read

Competitive analysis:
Determines why your competition sucks as much as you do

Cognitive mental models:
Determines how out of touch with reality your users are

Personas and audience definition:
Developing an artificial user to ignore rather than a real one

Card Sorts:
Legalized form of IA gambling

Usability sessions:
Proof that for $100 an hour, under-qualified people will agree to pretty much anything you put in front of them

Process flows and flow charts:
Diagrams that prove on paper what no one can create in reality

Site Maps:
Diagrams of a website that show precisely *where* on a site a user is lost

Unstyled, structural views of websites that are frequently mistaken for final comps

Working models of features that will later prove to be impossible to build

Design Reviews:
Formalized reviews of IA research that will subsequently be forgotten by everyone

Final Report:
A thick compendium of knowledge that proves scientifically why Information Architects are justified in adding another zero to the budget.

[via SIGIA-L]

Posted by johndanseven at 11:57 PM

Unwrapping CDs

Lifehacker passes on a tip for unwrapping CDs—in particular, those really freaking annoying pieces of plastic that you have to remove from the case in order to get it open. What really annoys me about this whole security tape thing is that I feel like I'm being punished for buying legal CDs instead of just downloading them off the net. Basically, the procedure involves unhinging the CD case at the bottom and flipping the cover up to give you better access to the security tape. There are pictures and a longer description at the Lifehacker link above.

I haven't tried it yet since I don't have any unopened CDs, but I just spent about five minutes last week trying to get the tapes peeled off one; I'm going to give this technique a try next time.

[via Lifehacker]

Posted by johndanseven at 11:41 PM

February 07, 2006

Music Perception Study

The University of Newscastle at Tyne is running a music perception study. You listen to 30 pairs of short melodies (10 - 12 notes or so) and, for each pair, indicate whether the two are the same or different. As Metafilter says, "[H]arder than it sounds, no pun intended." (I managed to get 25/30 correct.) I'm thinking you'd do well on this if you had perfect pitch, or even could just play piano well enough to have a better sense of where notes were falling on the keyboard playing the tones.

[via metafilter.com]

Posted by johndanseven at 04:42 PM


Mark Bernstein is "looking for a word" to describe weblogs with small audiences:

Perhaps the audience is a little bit broader, but lots of weblogs are meant for your inner circle, your intimates, your 1-chon.

Some blogs are meant primarily for your staff. They replace memos and meetings. They communicate schedules and intentions and management desires. They aren't meant to get outside.

What shall we call these small weblogs -- weblogs where the writer is personally acquainted with most or all of the readers?

I'm thinking maybe it's just "weblogs." Is it worthwhile to make a distinction based on the size of the audience for a publication? Unless there's some difference in the medium itself, it seems to make sense to use the same term for both types of publications. After all, we don't call Websites with very small audiences "weblets," or books with very small press runs (like my own, I guess), "booklets" (a term that's used to describe a different physical/visual/phenomoneological configuration of media--very small in comparison to a normal "book").

That's not to say that there might be interesting things to look at in the difference between widely read weblogs and more specialized weblogs--the discourse communities, for example, are likely to use different operational procedures, different rhetorical moves, etc.--but maybe I'm just being too conventional.

[via Mark Bernstein]

Posted by johndanseven at 04:21 PM

February 06, 2006

Socrates Among Schoolchildren

Rick Garlikov reports on his (apparently largely successful) experiences teaching a class of third graders binary arithmetic using the Socratic method. I liked his use of a two-fingered alien to get the kids to see the connection between human-oriented, base-10 digits and base-2. The transcript illustrates the complicated nature of this approach to teaching: a lot of expertise on the part of the teacher, both in terms of content and about what students already know (and how they think) is required.

Okay, let's go back to our two-fingered aliens arithmetic. We have

0 zero
1 one.

What would we do to write "two" if we did the same thing we do over here [tens] to write the next number after you run out of numerals?


(A Metafilter post on Garlikov's report also includes some additional links to the Socratic method, including the helpful Who Was Socrates?)

[via metafilter.com]

Posted by johndanseven at 02:32 PM

February 03, 2006


American Book Review publishes their choice of 100 Best First Lines from Novels. Melville's "Call me Ismael" comes in at number one (no big surprise); the rest are canonical classics from the last 150 years or so, ranging from Dickens' "It was the best of times" to Gibson's "The sky above was the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." For the most part, there's more of an emphasis on best lines from critically praised novels (Heller's "It was love at first sight," from Catch-22, number 59 in the list, is not in itself alarmingly innovative except in the context of the full work).

[via daypop]

Posted by johndanseven at 11:31 PM

Streetcorner Wizards

In an article at The Escapist, journalist and fantasy gamer John Walker dons his wizard's robes and takes to the streets of Bath, England to see if strangers will help him (even stranger) in his quest to save the universe from evil. Hilarity ensues.

It was imperative to the survival of the universe that the magic spell I held (a rolled up scroll of paper, engagingly tied with a purple ribbon) be given to the girl in the red cloak and hood, waiting outside what you humans call "the shoe shop," 300 yards down the road.
Posted by johndanseven at 11:01 AM

February 02, 2006

Student Comments


It's good to know that occasionally my students are paying attention.

[via Clarkson Daily Jolt]

Posted by johndanseven at 09:43 PM

Sites for Web Developers

Vitaly Friedman's the web developer's handbook site has a pretty extensive and up-to-date set of links for (you guessed it) web developers. There are a squillion of these sorts of sites on the net, but this looks like one of the more useful ones. Categories covered include creativity, css (multiple categories), accessibility checkers, general web design, color schemes, color patterns, color selection, ajax, stock art, and more.

[via Elizabeth Gershenzon on sigia-l]

Posted by johndanseven at 05:42 PM

February 01, 2006

The Peel Tapes

The Peel Tapes offers a revolving collection of archives from the late, great BBC music show host John Peel. A mixture of mp3 and RealAudio, as well as links to related sites.

[via The Morning News]

Posted by johndanseven at 08:52 PM

Reality: Overrated

From Overheard in New York:

Little boy: Okay, I can see outside, Mom...Game Boy is better than outside.

--F train. Overheard by: soho sleepwalker.

Posted by johndanseven at 04:57 PM