Posts Tagged 'web'

On Electronic Chain-Letters

I’ve been sick, and I’ve felt like writing, but I didn’t know what to write. Funny thing about inspiration though, it can hit you at any time, and in any text box. I just happened to get the urge to write while responding to an email, and the result was something I wanted to share with everyone.

Blah

I'm not fat - I'm puffing my cheeks.

Hey there. I’m sick today, and I lack the will to do anything except sleep, sit at the computer or at the couch, and do almost nothing. I’ve been thinking for quite some time that I’d like to write an unnecessarily lengthy letter to someone in my immediate or extended family, and since you’re my father-in-law and we haven’t exchanged words in a while, you win the prize.

So, when you forwarded that “touching true story” I thought I’d take a look at it rather than AUA it (Archive Upon Arrival).

The fact of the matter is, that I don’t care for forwards. I’ve got one friend (that’s one person, in the whole of my 200+ email contacts) that has ever forwarded me anything I thought was interesting. Most of the forwards I receive are silly “touching stories” that really don’t mean much to me. I’ve had too much experience with fabricated and embellished stories on the Internet, I suppose.

Anyhow, a really good friend of mine introduced me to snopes.com last year, and ever since then I have used it when faced with something on the Internet that seems outlandish. A quick query on snopes.com revealed a most interesting article written specifically about the email you passed along today. Interestingly, this particular story actually has quite a few true elements in it (most of the stories I have seen circulated in email forwards are so exaggerated and embellished that they are rarely representative of any truth that may have served as their premise). However, several key facts were changed and exaggerated.

The story took place in the early eighties, the boy’s name was Frank, and the Make-a-Wish foundation actually granted this as a wish (along with a ride in a hot-air balloon, and a trip to Disneyland). The most touching part of the real story doesn’t even appear in the email, and to make it worse, the email is copied nearly word for word from one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. The night that the boy died, it was five firemen that climbed into his room, not sixteen.

Here’s the link to the true account (along with the version of the email that the author saw, which is slightly different still from the one you sent me):

http://www.snopes.com/glurge/fireman.asp

So, yes. The story is touching, but I hate reading these stories in email forwards because they are almost all full of embellishment and twisted truths. I find it much more satisfying to scour the news for heartwarming articles that are presented as a collection of facts with the purpose of informing the reader. That way I’m getting completely true stories, which are better than the big, bold, colorful words (usually in the Comic Sans font) that have been changed or invented to elicit an “oh, how darling” response and usually wrap up with a self-righteous plea from the author to get me to say a prayer for some cause (usually, something I don’t care about).

In my view, the Internet is only good for six things, and half of them I don’t want any part of (pornography, gambling and robbery). The only three things I use it for are (presented in order of the value I place on them):

  1. Humor/Entertainment
  2. Communication (keeping in touch with close friends and family)
  3. Access to accounts and services (banking, on-demand-self-publishing services, etc.)

Even getting factual news on the Internet can be a challenge. My father runs the Internet arm of a newspaper corporation in Arizona, and this is a problem they deal with on a regular basis. Sure, there are news sources on the Internet that can be trusted, but they are drowned out by all the chatter and clutter from sources like the mysterious writer of that email you sent me (who, again, did little more than poorly copy another “touching” email, which was nearly a direct copy of a segment of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book).

So, I just use the Internet to look at fun stuff, like this article and clip from Robert Downey Jr.’s acceptance speech. Occasionally there is some interesting news at those trusted sites, like this article about a group of apes that had never had human contact before. Mostly, the Internet loves things that are silly and irreverent, like this historical look at a group of entertainers known throughout history as fartistes, among other names.
The main reason I love the Internet, though, is because of people like David Thorne. I really can’t explain all that well what it is that I love about his work, but I would encourage you to read this email exchange he had with his renters, and this exchange he had with a Blockbuster employee. He is extremely irreverent and at times a tad inappropriate. However, he is a comedic genius. After one of his earliest email exchanges went viral a coworker told David that he would never be able to do it again. David bet him his Christmas bonus that he could, and two weeks later he had another email exchange that went viral.

Essentially, what I love about David Thorne is that he embodies the idea that the Internet is not to be taken seriously. He is quoted as saying, “the Internet is a playground.” I agree, and that is why I don’t like coming across stories that are supposed to be “touching” on the Internet, unless they come directly from trusted news sources. If they don’t come from a trusted news site, then I’m a sucker for believing them until I’ve researched the facts myself.

As you can see, between David Thorne, funny/interesting stuff that comes to me in my feed reader, and finding funny videos like these ones, the Internet provides me with far more entertainment than I even have time for. It barely even leaves me time to read email, especially forwards. However, next time I get a forward from you that claims to tell a “true” story, I’ll check the facts on fark.com and tell you what they say. Sometimes the truth is better than the lies that circulate in chain-emails.

I hope you enjoy the links I’ve provided you with, and we all here love and appreciate the effort you make to maintain a presence in our life. Your daughter and grandchildren send their love, as do I.

Love,

-Brian

Fun YouTube and Others

From Cell Phone Photos

So, this is for my friends. Specifically, I was talking to someone tonight about some fun stuff on YouTube and I decided to make a list of some of my recent favorite songs, videos and artists to share.

I’ve spent the last few minutes reviewing most of these videos because I tend to forget the presence of little offensive words here or there. For the most part, these songs or videos will be marked to warn you if you might want to watch before showing your children. However, my kids have seen most of these, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

All links open in a new window, so click away!

Robots

This song is by Flight of the Conchords, and as such has a curse word in it (wrong word for donkey/butt) so you may not want to show it to your kids. However, if you don’t mind them hearing that one word a few times in the chorus, this is a really funny song/performance. Check it out on YouTube.

Star Wars Rap

This song has a few mature elements that are reference but not explicitly talked about, and they use one word that you may not want your child repeating (a less than kind word for urine). To check it out, click through to Atom.com and watch this hilarious Star Wars themed rap. Even if you’re not a Star Wars fan, you should enjoy this.

Tighty Whities

Next I’ll share a song that may not be your style if you generally only listen to country music or classical, but the theme is too funny not to share the song. Plus, it’s completely clean as far as language and themes are concerned. It’s part of the “Pull ’em Up Campaign” aimed at getting people to pull their pants up and quit showing us their underwear. Even if you generally can’t stand rap, you’ve GOT to listen to this song. I didn’t let my son hear this one, but not because of the content.

OK, the rest should be fine for your children. Well, this first one might not be if you don’t want your children watching animals answer nature’s call. It’s completely natural though! This is Rhett and Link doing an “inappropriate” commercial for a small zoo.

Inappropriate Zoo Commercial

For a direct link, click here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kszzbkfJ-5Q

Jonathan Coulton

Jonathan Coulton is a musical comedic genius in my book, and here are two completely kid friendly songs (unless you strictly don’t expose them to violent themes, then the second one about zombies killing people probably won’t be good). These are both live performances (where you get to see his funny interactions with the audience) but he does studio recordings as well that are better sounding.

Skullcrusher Mountain

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IBewKuV9BQ

Re: Your Brains

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9e3gngvFdxg

For more about Jonathan Coulton, please visit his website.

This one may only appeal to your children (or the child in you), but it’s a cute stop motion animation that I recently got a chuckle out of.

8-Bit Water Slide

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkYVazguJCY

Also for the children, a few near-Pixar quality animations that are funny, entertaining and good for adults also!

Pigeon: Impossible

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEjUAnPc2VA

The Passenger

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGW0aQSgyxQ

The Magic Box

(Ultra sensitive parents be warned: This video contains partial nudity – butt cheeks.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sC7rIZ5dOPY

A Little More Fun and Then We’re Done

OK. I’ve embedded way too many videos, so the final four videos will just be links. They are all funny, so make sure you watch them, but the last two you might want to watch without your kids the first time you watch them. I’ll mark them with an asterisk (*) to remind you that you need to review them before showing them to your children.

Laughing Kids (very cute)

Kid Singing Britney Spears Scared to Death by his Mom (watch all the way through to the end)

No. No! NO!!!” – The Greatest Scare Prank *

Gun Scare Prank *

I know there is a lot here, but I don’t see how you couldn’t love most of these. 😀 Of course, if you don’t love them, I won’t be offended, but I do ask that you at least check them all out when you find the time.

Enjoy!

Boom De Yada

I’m writing a post mostly out of guilt today. My site has been untouched for far too long, and lately it’s been pulling in a lot of views. That makes me feel like a horrible person.

So, I’ve been thinking about sharing this little something for a few days anyhow, and today I decided to just do it.

A while ago I happened upon and fell in love with the wonderful world of xkcd. If you’ve found your way to my blog and have yet to check out his webcomic, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Anyhow, xkcd’s creator has done many fabulous comics that I love, but I recently discovered a fun video based on one of his comics that I wanted to share with you.

First, here’s the comic (titled “xkcd Loves the Discovery Channel”):

xkcd Loves the Discovery Channel

xkcd Loves the Discovery Channel

(Click the image to view it full size on the xkcd site.)

Next, here’s a video to explain the cartoon’s connection to the Discovery Channel:

Also, check out this other Discovery Channel video.

Finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for… the new video I found!

(Note: The Vimeo player is great, and it’s one of my favorites, but on many browsers it plays a lot smoother if you let the whole video load before you play. To do this, press play, then pause as soon as you see it begin to load the video. Once the seek bar is full of solid grey, it is safe to play!)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “I Love xkcd on Vimeo“, posted with vodpod

I hope you thought it was as cute as I did.

Thoughts on Chrome So Far

I was about to write all about my problems with Chrome and Google Docs, so I did a quick document in Google Docs from Chrome, sent it to my blog at WordPress and grabbed screen shots of everything, then went to Google Docs in Firefox to grab screen shots of how it performs there and write up a quick document to show how it formats everything, then I was going to post that document to my blog to show how my work flow had been running so smoothly from Firefox.

Unfortunately, Google Docs wouldn’t post to my blog in Firefox for some strange reason (despite that I have always done things this way).  It’s always unsettling when things suddenly stop working the way they had been working consistently.

Overall, after using Chrome for nearly two weeks I have almost no complaints.  Of course, I was spoiled in Firefox with all of the ad blocking add-ons, bookmark synchronizing and other plug-ins that will surely be a part of Chrome in the future.  From an everyday use point of view, Chrome has met all of my needs and shown me a better way to browse the web in most cases.

On the features page for Google Chrome they list ten features that have been talked about since even before the browser launched a couple days shy of two weeks ago.  Taking a shortcut in writing my official initial review of the Google Chrome browser, I am going to list each of the ten features and write about my personal experiences with that feature.

One Box for Everything

AKA, the Omnibox.  Let me just say that I love the omnibox.  I have been trying to exploit all of its functionality since I began using the browser, and I think it may still be hiding cool features from me.  It just seems to be able to do everything.  You can type anything into it and when you hit “Enter” it just goes.  Sure, nothing is perfect, and I was hoping to be able to find a story I read earlier today somewhere by searching the omnibox, but it couldn’t find it (then, neither can I, searching the history, searching the web and retracing my steps, so I may just be dumb).

Of course, not much of what it does from a basic user standpoint is actually unique, it’s the fact that it is all combined into one place that makes it new.  It highlights the main domain URL, but so do some plug-ins and beta browsers.  It does both URL and search box jobs, which Internet Explorer has been doing with Microsoft’s own search when what you type doesn’t lead to a website.  Of course, the ability to search using a site’s search function before you ever load the page is a wonderful new feature.  The omnibox’s connection with your browsing history is extremely useful, and the fact that it has combined so many features into one place just makes me happy.

I’ve always loved Google’s approach to designing user interfaces, and they carried their ideas over to Chrome beautifully.  The omnibox is, of course, the very essence this philosophy.  If I didn’t have my bookmark toolbar turned on all the time the whole user interface would nearly disappear into my browsing experience.  Even with the slender bookmark toolbar I feel like Chrome is a much lighter browser than most of the competition.

New Tab Page

I use iGoogle as my homepage, but the new tab page in Chrome is so comfortable and useful, it’s almost like home.

It’s divided into four areas.  The first, and largest section being the Most Visited sites grid.  The grid contains thumbnails and titles of your nine most visited sites.  I’ve never used the Opera browser, but I guess this “dialer” approach is directly knocked off from Opera (I’ve also seen the feature offered by add-ons for Firefox).  Below the grid there is a link to your complete web history (also a nice looking, easy to use page).

The next section at the top of the right hand column is the Searches box.  Here search boxes grabbed right from sites you’ve visited and searched from are displayed for you to use.  This function is separate from the omnibox’s ability to allow you to search Amazon, for example by typing “amazon.com health and medicine” to search Amazon for “health and medicine.”  My Searches section has a search bar for my browsing history, Amazon.com, Wikipedia.com and YouTube.com, all places I’ve searched from lately.  Rather than loading those sites to search there, I can use the omnibox or the search box right on my new tab page.

The next box below the Searches box is the Recent Bookmarks box.  In my new tab page it lists the last nine bookmarks I saved.  I don’t know if it grabs those based on a time frame or will always list the last nine bookmarks.

Somehow, my current new tab page doesn’t have the final box (it’s usually there, and I’m sure there’s a good reason for it to be gone).  The final box displays recently closed tabs.  I have recently closed tabs, but by “recent” I mean a couple of hours ago.  I suppose this box is populated based on a time frame.  Either way, it’s the closest thing Chrome has to an “Undo Close Tab” function.

I use the new tab page frequently, though I don’t see it ever replacing my iGoogle homepage unless it can learn to display custom updates (new Gmail messages, new Reader feed content, messages and updates from other sites, etc.) from the sites I use most.

Application Shortcuts

Admittedly, I hadn’t used this function until just a few seconds ago, but it’s great!  I went to my site’s dashboard at WordPress and clicked on the “create application shortcuts…” menu item.  A box popped up showing me a preview of the icon and text for the shortcut, and below there were three check boxes for creating the shortcut on my desktop (checked by default), in my start menu and in the quick launch bar.  I left the default checkbox checked and hit OK.  Immediately, the WordPress tab jumped out of my main browser window and the whole Chrome interface disappeared.  At that point, the WordPress interface takes over and it behaves just like an application on my computer.

Just to try it out, I closed the WordPress window and opened the new shortcut.  I loaded quickly (Google Gears may have been playing a part in that) and worked beautifully.  I had originally worried that the shortcut might be an average Internet shortcut that opens in your default browser (still Firefox on my computer), but these shortcuts load in special, featureless windows designed to make the page feel like its own application.

Perfect.  I love this feature and will begin creating application shortcuts for all of my favorite web applications (and some I wasn’t using just because they weren’t accessible enough).

Dynamic Tabs

Dynamic is a good word for it.  Even just watching them move around so fluidly as I rearrange them, open new ones and close old ones, I love the way these tabs work.  Even better is the ability dock and undock tabs from different windows.  If I have three tabs open and I want to make sure one doesn’t get closed by accident while I am closing others, I can drag that tab down out of the tab bar and it separates into its own new window.  When I have the first window back in order, I can drag that separated tab back into the main window and I’m back to having only one browser window.  It’s fluid, it’s dynamic, it’s fast and it’s efficient.  I think it’s great.

Crash Control

Aah, what a relief.  Google Chrome runs each tab in a separate process on your computer so if something crashes one tab the rest of them can continue functioning.  In theory this should bog the system down a bit, but I haven’t noticed a drop in performance at all (and my system is OLD – 512 MB of ram, single core processor, and so forth).

Built in with these separate processes is a process manager.  I can’t figure out how to bring it up manually, but it comes up automatically if a tab is taking too long and gives you the option to shut it down.  I’ve heard the process manager can be viewed by bringing it up manually, but I haven’t cared to poke around enough to find it.

So far, after twelve days of continuous, daily use, I have yet to see any fatal errors, major problems or crashed programs.  The task manager has come up offering to let me wait on or close slow tabs only three or four times, and most the time I just choose to wait and the tab loads eventually (dumb slow ISP…).

Incognito Mode

True, this has been dubbed “porn mode” by many ever since the feature was made part of the new Internet Explorer and similar functions appeared through the use of plug-ins and third party applications.  Basically, this is a new browser window you can open that prevents any information from being stored on your computer (cookies, history, cache, browsing information of any kind, and more).

I don’t have much use for it as a “porn mode” but I did run some tests on it to see if it could indeed mask my web browsing activity as promised.  No sign of my incognito activity was recorded to the computer, just like they said.

Unless I’m trying to hide something from someone else who uses the computer, I really can’t see much of a use for incognito browsing (for me, personally).  I understand there are people who would want it for one reason or another, but it’s not really that exciting to me.

Perhaps the best part about this mode is the window that loads when you first open the incognito browser window.    

Click for larger view.

I love that last bullet point of things to be wary of – people standing behind you.  Especially with the nickname such a mode has earned, the idea of someone thinking they are safe looking at some dirty videos or images and someone else standing right behind them watching really tickles me.

Safe Browsing

Chrome is connected with Google’s directory of harmful sites and integrates this service into the browsing experience.  While my normal web browsing habits never take me to the darker corners of the net, I can see how such a service could be quite handy.

When you are about to view sensitive data over an insecure connection the browser warns you.  Also, as with any non-Internet Explorer browser, browser specific attacks are rare.  The separate processes for each tab also provide a certain degree of safety.  For a number of reasons, Google is entitled to claim that Chrome offers safe browsing.

Of course, security holes exist and a patch has already been issued in the form of an upgrade (an easy process once you know where to go – the About Google Chrome menu option).  No browser (to date) can claim to be 100% secure, but Chrome makes major strides in the right direction.

Instant Bookmarks

Bookmarking a page really is easy, especially since Google borrowed most of the process from already established models.  The star icon that I first saw in Firefox (though since I avoid Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera and Netscape I suppose it could have started in one of those) has reappeared in Chrome, and it has been improved upon.

While at a page you wish to bookmark, you click the star icon and a tiny menu box opens right there with options for renaming the bookmark and placing it in a folder.  There is an Edit button for more options, a Close button for if you don’t need to edit anything and there is a remove button to remove the bookmark (the same menu pops up every time you hit the star, even if the page is already bookmarked).  That’s it.  Simple, sweet and easy to use.

Importing Settings

When I installed Chrome it identified Firefox as my current default browser and offered to import my settings and data from Firefox.  I did, and it brought all of my bookmarks and cookies over, but I don’t think it brought my browsing history, which would have been nice.

Simpler Downloads

I really do like the download manager in Chrome.  There isn’t much to say about it though, because it’s just too simple and elegant to criticize or discuss.  It downloads things at the bottom of the window, the tab that initiated the download gets a little green down-arrow to signify that a download is being managed from there, the corner display has a percentage and bits downloaded progress circle, and the finished download display has a menu for interacting with the downloaded file.  That’s it.

The browser keeps a history of your downloads, which can be viewed like the browsing history.  A default download location can be set, and an option to “ask every time” can be enabled.

General Review

Again, this browser isn’t ready to replace my beloved Firefox browser as the default browser.  However, after twelve days of using it as my default browser, I have to say I’m only waiting for a few things to come together.

For one, if this post formats correctly after the transfer from Google Docs to WordPress, about 90% of my reason for leaving Firefox as the default browser will have disappeared.

If I have to go back and erase a bunch of DIV tags to get it to format correctly, I’m going to be quite annoyed and Chrome will have to start mowing my lawn before I’ll make it my default browser.

So I suppose we could consider the posting of this article the moment of truth between Chrome and me.  Of course, the formatting issue isn’t the only problem I’ve had with using Google Docs in Chrome.

Here is a summary of the problems I have encountered so far in Google Docs using Chrome:

1. It uses DIV tags to separate paragraphs in the HTML.  This does not happen in Firefox.  (See screenshot below.)  The DIV tag creats an issue in WordPress, and makes the whole thing format incorrectly.

Click for larger view.

2. The main Google Docs interface page is having troubles rendering correctly in Chrome (see screenshot below).  As of right now, the problem seems to be coming from a failed attempt to update the Google Docs application.  Right now I’ve got a red exclamation point where the little green circle should be.  That’s not good.

Click for larger view.

It never got past the 67% and now it says: “An error occurred while updating software. Failed to update software for the applications: Google Documents, Google Spreadsheets.”  If this isn’t Chrome’s fault, I don’t know who to blame.

3. When assigning text as a link, a space is often inserted after my selected text.  If my memory serves correctly, this may have been happening on occasion in Firefox as well.  May not be browser specific, but it can be annoying.

4. I don’t know whether to blame Chrome for this one, but Google Docs mysteriously quit posting to my blog from Firefox after I posted to my blog from Chrome just once.  Coincidence?  Maybe.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is obvious that Chrome is having compatibility issues with certain web applications (eh hem, Google Docs; though others are probably out there) and that is to be expected.  For now, I forgive Google but I expect them to fix it, especially since my problems have to do with Google products.

To be completely fair, web standards play a huge role in this issue, and Microsoft’s near monopoly on the browser marked makes things difficult for smaller browsers (even Firefox).

Except for compatibility and web standard issues, I really don’t have many complaints about Chrome.  Google stripped the traditional browser of many features it felt were redundant, unnecessary or overly complicated and produced Chrome with all the features it needed wrapped up into a neat, efficient package.  I love the way it handles.  It feels like navigating the web in a technology demonstrator prototype vehicle.  Some things are a hundred times more efficient (Chrome does feel a little faster) and in other areas you’re bound to happen upon a bug or two.  I look forward to future releases and upgrades, and may soon make Chrome my default browser (especially if this post works out and I don’t have to redo the formatting).

*Update: The formatting issue remains an issue.  I suppose I’ll have to report this to the folks at Google. 

Game Progress

OK, here I am again with another update on that game I’ve been working on.

Lately, it’s been rough. I’ve been trying to balance my deep desire to work on my coding project and my family life. I think I’ve been doing OK, but I’m sure my wife wishes she could have me just a little bit more than she has had me.

If I must say so myself though, I think everything is turning out fairly nicely. Sure, I’m not really focusing on the graphics, so the pictures I’m sharing below shouldn’t be taken too seriously (they are for example purposes only), and I’m not really working on the story of the game yet (I have friends that are helping with that because they’re excited about it), so a lot of what is written in the instructions is bogus and silly, but the underlying code is working really nicely and I have a lot of ideas written down for making it even more efficient and flexible.

Some of the ideas include a more efficient system for handling the doors and linkages between maps (I think I can reduce the lines of code per door by up to 66%), I have to add support for conversations with different responses (the mechanics are all worked out, I just haven’t coded it yet), I have to add support for doors that lock now that my keys are working properly (I had a wonderful moment of genius yesterday where I figured out a simple, elegant way to handle the locking mechanism in code), and I want to explore the idea of having a border-less map system (where the walls around the edges would be unnecessary). Of course, I need to make tons of new maps (and I keep thinking that some kind of cool editor would be fun, for now I use Notepad), I have to do more with the part of the game where you die (we have some good ideas for a heaven/hell situation based on your choices in the game, the tracking system of which does not yet exist in the code, but I think I’m ready to add it), and I want to do a tutorial mode where you are sent on a brief, simple mission just to learn how to play.

Of course, if the actual game play is going to last more than five minutes it would be nice if the user could save their progress. Right now all of the progress information is stored in variables on the web page and all of the information is lost when you reload the page (close your browser, navigate away from the page and back to it, etc.). I know that cookies could help me save the key information and reload it when the page is loaded again, but I’ve never worked with cookies before so it would be a learning experience. I think I will wait until the game is done and playable before getting into that though, because it would be a pain to make changes to the game code that would require the cookie code to change.

Below I am sharing a few screen shots and the entire written portion of the instructions I’ve drafted up (they are more for fun that serious, and they have not been spell checked so have mercy). The version that is pulled up from the game shows the images associated with each ASCII character, but I didn’t want to upload all of them so you could see. If anyone is interested in playing around in my unfinished version (you can’t win because there is no story yet), just let me know and if I feel like it I’ll upload a .zip file with all of the images and .htm files you need to play. Really all you can do is walk around collecting stuff, talking to people (most of whom have nothing to say) and killing things. Most of the doors don’t work and most of the items don’t do anything. If you want to play around with it though, just let me know and I’ll upload it all. Just don’t go stealing my code! 😀

Click on the image to see the full sized version (I am especially proud of my water monster and the two headed dragon, and no, that woman does not have arms).

Help and Instructions


Story and General Instructions

For now, there isn’t much of a story. Just like any other game, you take control of the worthless and expendable life of some poor little man who needs you to tell him what to do all of the time. The rest of the story will become more clear as you play, or it won’t. Either way, it’s a game, not a movie.

This game is controlled entirely through the keyboard (which is impressive considering that most of the original code was written before I incorporated the keyboard controls). For details on which keys do what, see the table below titled “General Keyboard Commands” and the “Items” table as some items have a keyboard command associated with them.

Most spaces in the game can be walked on, some cannot. The “Terrain” table contains details about that. If there is anything you’re curious about, try to step on it and see what happens. Most item, character and enemy interaction is handled this way.

Look over the tables below to learn more details, then get back to playing the game! This screen can be called up any time throughout the game by pressing the “h” key on your keyboard. To return to normal gameplay, press the space bar. Good luck and have fun!

General Keyboard Commands

Key Action
h Displays this help file. Can be used at any time during the game.
space Function varries based on the situation. If pressed now, it will return you to the game.
t Currently, pressing this key causes the rendering code to switch from using image tiles to using ASCII letters and from ASCII to image tiles.
arrow keys These are the keys you use to move around. You can press an arrow key once to move one space, or hold one of them down to travel a greater distance. While holding down a directional key you cannot change directions without releasing the key you are already holding down. By standing next to an interactive item, such as an enemy, another character or an item, and pressing the arrow key toward that item you will interact with it.
numbers 1-4 These are used in conversation to select your response.
Y/N Sometimes, rather than a complicated response, a character will simply ask a yes or no question, in which case you will hit “y” or “n” to respond.
F5 Pressing the F5 key refreshes the page and starts everything over completely. Your progress is not saved, though a saving system is being considered. Can only be used during game play, not now.

Items

ASCII Key Name Description
a backpack The backpack is used for carrying items. It is required before you can start the game (officially) and carry other items.
o small orb The small orb adds a little attack power to your weapon attack power. The orb is carried in the backpack.
i c candle The candle is used to light up dark rooms. Some rooms have areas of darkness which the candle can also light up, but only momentarily. The candle is carried in the backpack.
# raft Once you have the raft, you can travel over water. The raft is also carried in the backpack.
small stick The small stick is the least effective weapon. Choosing it at the beginning of the game may give you certain advantages however. The backpack is required to carry the small stick.
_ big stick The big stick is a little more powerful than the small stick, though less powerful than the sword. The backpack is required to carry the big stick.
t basic sword The basic sword is the most powerful weapon you can choose at the beginning of the game, though you may find yourself in a disadvantage sometimes throughout the game should you choose it. The backpack is used to carry the basic sword.
/ arrows As of right now, arrows don’t do anything. You carry them in your backpack.
D bow Currently, the bow just sits there and looks pretty. You carry it in your backpack.
~ w gummi-worm The gummi-worm is carried in the backpack until you need it. Pressing the “w” key causes you to eat one from your inventory and restore health.
O big orb The big orb adds even more attack power to your weapon. Requires the backpack.
C lucky horseshoe The lucky horseshoe is useless. You carry it in your backpack.
l k key The key is required for opening locked doors. You need a backpack to carry them in. An inventory is kept for when you have more than one.
B b bomb Bombs blow some things up, but not everything. Use with caution – if you blow one next to another bomb you will get hurt. You carry them in the backpack.
* health star Find one of these to restore some health.
$ money Collect lots of cash. Mostly just because you never know what you’ll need it for.

Terrain

ASCII Name Description
X wall Walls cannot be stepped on or passed, but some are easy to blow up with a bomb.
H/I doors Some doors are locked, others take you random places. Have fun with doors.
= bridge/wooden floor Some of the bridge sections may blow up when you use a bomb. Be careful.
| railing On occasion you will find a rail that can blow up. It never hurts to check, unless there are other bombs nearby.
w water Once you have the raft, you can travel over water.
! tree Some trees can be blown up, but that’s not a very nice thing to do.
A/M mountains Mountains cannot be crossed for now, but some funny people often live among them.
^ hill You can walk on these with no problem.
P flag I’m not sure what these are for.
grass Feel it between your toes…
E darkness You can’t even see yourself in the darkness, you need light.
`/./,/: sand For walking in. Not good for eating.

Characters

ASCII Name Description
@ hero This silly moron doesn’t know how to think for himself and needs you (of all people) to guide him through every little aspect of his meaningless 2-dimensional life.
& old man Usually friendly, these people just want to have a word with you.
K woman Maybe she needs your help, maybe not. You never know which woman will turn out to be the princess in your life.
e basic enemy These are weak, but not the weakest of enemies. The small stick will not kill one alone.
s small snake These are among the weakest of all the enemies. Even a smack from a small stick will beat one to death.
Q “Q” enemy These are a little more fearsome. You’ll need more than just the sword to take these out.
S big snake These are a gamble, even with the sword. Once you’ve got an orb or two though, they’re hardly worth mentioning.
Z “Z” enemy These are some of the strongest enemies made so far.
F water monster These mysterious enemies are strong, so watch out.
N horse monster These are as strong as the “Z” enemies, but harder to find.
Y two-headed dragon These ultra-strong enemies are dangerous, and even a few orbs and a sword cannot kill them. You’re going to have to find something else that may be effective against them.

Where I Went

Occasionally I may disappear from time to time. I should hope that anyone who knows me at all would realize that my disappearing does not mean that I have ceased to be actively engaged in something. In fact, when I neglect something like my “thing” here it’s usually because I have something more exciting going on.

In fact, over the last week I have had several more exciting things happening than this.

In small news, we rented a fun game over the weekend. I loved the movie “Wall-e” so much that I just had to try the Wii game. Overall, my impression of the game was a good one. I think the developers rushed through parts of the game, but the majority was well thought out and fun.

The real time sucker for me the last week or so has been related to my last post about the game project. Shortly after writing that post, I came up with the bright idea to set the actual game portion aside and continue with an aspect of my original idea – the part where simple games could be made even by a novice or child.

I remembered the days when I had a TI-eighty-something graphing calculator that allowed for some simple code writing (scripting) in its native language. I was able to program it to play a number guessing game. It would print out on the screen “guess a number between 0 and 100” or whatever two numbers I chose, then I could guess. It would tell me “too high” or “too low” until I got the answer and it reset to “guess a number…” The experience with programming that simple application was enough to spark my interest in computer and web programming and has led me to better learn linear/sequential-thinking skills (I guess I’m a visual/spatial person, and linear or sequential thinking is difficult for me).

What I’m getting at is this: I thought, “wouldn’t it be great if I could write a program that would ease my son into the world of programming!?!” My son is definitely sequentially challenged and could certainly benefit from a bit of computer interaction at the programming level. How do you teach a five-year-old to write code though? So, I devised a plan (like I always do).

The plan was only complicated because of how elegantly simplistic and straightforward it was. It would be able to teach anyone the basics of a simple web programming language known as JavaScript. I developed an outline for a set of lessons that would walk the user through various levels of difficulty in programming functions. The program itself would adapt its interface to grow with the user as he progressed through the lessons and became more proficient.

I may or may not create the JavaScript teaching program, but I am already nearly done with one of the projects the program would walk the user through creating.

In fact, the project has grown into something far more complicated than anything I would ever ask a new programmer to attempt. It has even stumped me a couple of times in big ways.

When I finish it, I’ll try to upload it to my Google page so you can try it out. Quickly, before I go off to bed, I’m going to explain what it is and ask for your input and suggestions.

I’m making a simple game that will be played in the web browser. It is programmed entirely in JavaScript and is (as of right now) designed to be played in one sitting, though each time you play it your choices will create a different experience. If I go back and review techniques for writing and reading cookies to your local machine, I may be able to allow you to save your progress, but for now the entire game resets when you close the browser, refresh the page or load the page.

Right now, the entire look of the game is achieved with text. Here are a couple of screen-shots to illustrate:

Eventually I may take screen-shots like these into Photoshop and modify each individual character to better represent its item (saving the modifications as small images and having the program assemble the images in the same manner as it assembles the text).

For now, I would simply have to explain what each character represents for a person to be able to play the game. The @ symbol represents the main character. The & represents other people, the s and S are snakes, the $ is money, * is health and the C is a lucky horseshoe. Of course, the e is an enemy, as are the Q’s and the snakes. The H’s at the tops and bottoms of the screens are doors, and the I’s are also doors on the sides. The ^ represents a hill that can be walked on, but an A is a mountain and cannot be initially transversed (perhapse special shoes could be obtained allowing one to scale a mountain). The w is water, and a raft (#) is required before one can cross rivers that do not have a bridge (=). Sand and grass are represented by periods, semicolons and commas, and trees are exclamation points.

Of course, there are many other characters that I have used, but it would be a simple job to have the Javascript replace each letter or character with an image and thus create a much less jarring visual experience for the user.

Essentially, I have too many ideas (just for the game engine, the inner-workings of the code that drives the game) to outline everything here. The room on the right in my example was dark (represented by a screen full of E’s) until I used my candle to light it up (many ideas are drawn from games like the Zelda and Link series). I have set my code up to be flexible enough to do almost anything. All I need now are more ideas.

What kinds of stories would you tell if you had an open ended game like this? What kind of adventure would you go on? You can’t bring any friends with you, and your items may be limited (with no features for animating, enemies don’t move and it would be nearly impossible to actually use the bow and arrow – for now I don’t plan on animating anything), but many quests and adventures are still possible. Send me your best ideas and I’ll see if anything sounds fun to me.

My wife has already contributed (Burt and the gummi worm are her handiwork). What ideas will you contribute?

Once I’ve finished the basic game engine I’ll try to post it online somewhere so you can see what it’s capable of. I won’t have a story fully developed by then, of course, but everything should function properly (as of right now, it is possible to lose a battle and end up with negative health points, but you don’t die). I’ll work out the bugs and you can come up with ideas for me. If your idea requires a reworking of the basic engine, but it’s good, I’ll see what I can do. Remember, I’m keeping things fairly simple, but complicated enough to be fun.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering… The portion I expected an intermediate beginner to be able to code was finised within the first day. It consisted of a few lines of code to draw the map and some buttons that moved the little man around in the map. From there I just kind of went crazy… And what if you could collect items? Oh, and what if you could have a raft? Wow, and how about doors? Let’s put some enemies in! We need weapons, and battles, and candles for darkness, and keys for doors, and guys to talk to, and boss battles, and stores, and dynamic items and terrain, and conversations, and why won’t he die?, and, and, and… … …

Web-Enabled Community Spell-Checker Dictionary

I want to share with you a web-enabled community spell-checker dictionary idea I had this morning.

The technical details may bore you, but the simple description should help generate interest. How many times have you written a word that you knew was spelled correctly, like “blog”, and had your spell-checker tell you it’s wrong? What do you do? You can either ignore the “error” and leave it there, with the squiggly red line under it, or you can add the word to your user dictionary (and in a lot of cases, like new Internet words, that means hoping you didn’t spell it wrong).

The user dictionary, I’m sure you know, is simply a database of words stored on the local machine (your computer) that is compared against each word you type in that program. A separate user dictionary is generated by each individual spell-checking program you use (the word processor, the web browser, etc.), and there are no safeguards in place to prevent you from adding a wrong word to one of your user dictionaries. Have you ever tried to go in and remove an incorrect word from a user dictionary? I have. It’s not any fun. Plus, adding a word to one user dictionary doesn’t add it to another one so if you frequently use a new word, you’ll end up being told it’s spelled wrong by all of your spell-checkers until you add it to all of their dictionaries.

What if you could download one program that would check all of you spelling in every program and website? What if that program was linked to other computers running the same spell-checker so it could collect data on misspelled and unknown words from a large number of people and figure out which words belong in the dictionary and which ones really are just spelled wrong?

Such a program could easily exist with current technologies, but as far as I know it remains only an idea in my head. Just imagine a dictionary that maintains itself updated with all of the newest, correctly-spelled vocabulary! A service could be offered to export the master dictionary to other spell-checkers’ native formats as a download on-line for people who don’t want to use the actual spell-checker program but want updated and accurate dictionaries to check their spelling. Periodically, fun statistics could be generated and shared via RSS, including the most frequently misspelled words, most popular words of the day, and a yearly list of new vocabulary generated by progress and technology.

Here is a more technical description of how the program could work:

First, the main functions, in order, would be:

  1. Track and monitor all spelling in all programs on a user’s computer.

  2. Use that data to calculate a score for the user, giving more weight to situations where more people use correct spelling and less weight to situations where less is expected (like chats).

  3. On-line, the program allows users to endorse words that are not in the dictionary but frequently marked as correct. The higher the user’s score is, the more weight his/her endorsement will have.

  4. Words endorsed by enough trusted users are incorporated into the dictionary.

Locally, the dictionary integrates with all programs and tracks user spelling habits, counting each time he/she misspells a word found in the dictionary (the user writes the word, the dictionary says it’s wrong, and the user corrects the spelling) and each time he/she writes a word not found in the dictionary (the user writes the word, the dictionary generates suggestions, and the user selects the option to ignore the misspelling). The particular words misspelled, spelled correctly and unknown to the dictionary are stored in a database on-line.

The program calculates, then, certain statistics for the user based on these numbers. For example, a user may have an overall spelling accuracy of 70% but frequently misspells the same 15 words, though the misspellings only represent 3% of everything the user writes.

The program also tracks where and in what situations the user is using correct spelling, punctuation and structure (capitalization, etc.), giving less weight to the chat sessions with poor structural performance, greater weight to e-mail writing, and the greatest weight to blog entries, Wikipedia articles, local word processing, Google Docs, etc. If a high percentage of people use correct punctuation and spelling in a specific program or at a specific website, the program knows to give a higher weight to the performance of other users in the same situation. If the spell-checking program is unsure of a situation (there is little data about a program’s weight, for example) the weight of the situation is calculated based on the length of the written material. This data would be stored on-line and be incorporated into a central algorithm for calculating a user’s spelling proficiency.

Words frequently not found in the dictionary but deemed by users to be correct (i. e. modern terms) can be reviewed by users with a low frequency of misspellings of known vocabulary, high number of words written per day, and high total proficiency score. Words endorsed by enough trusted users are then automatically added to the central user dictionary database. Admittedly, this is a difficult calculation. How much endorsement would be needed and what percentage of the endorsements would need to be from users with a high score? What constitutes a high score? An algorithm would need to be developed that would permit words to be added to the dictionary without too much delay, but not without first receiving enough endorsement to ensure the word is proper.

I believe that a dictionary maintained by such an algorithm would be invaluable to society. Even current institutions such as dictionary publishers could benefit from such data being collected. The idea could be applied to dictionaries in other languages. This idea represents the movement of dictionary maintenance techniques from the 20th century into the new 21st century era of community efforts and social data.

I think it’s the next logical step. What do you think?

As a final note, I was doing some searching and digging around to see if anyone else has done this or written about it, and I stumbled upon a great way to handle the dictionary database. I also found that programs to check spelling in any application also exist, but I found no mention of a community enabled program collecting data via the Internet to append the dictionary rather than trusting the user when he/she decides to “add to dictionary.”

New Page!

I know a lot of you have visited the page I wrote about me called About the Man. Now, due to my belief that a lot of my friends and family could use a little schooling on what I’ve got going on here, I’ve written a page that I’m sure plenty of people could benefit from. This new page is called About the Site. If you are already subscribed to my web log, you don’t need to read it. The new page is for people who I would like to see subscribed so they can keep in touch with me, but they don’t understand what all of this is about.

So, if you’re subscribed already, I thank you. If you’re not, go visit the new page!

Oh, and by the way, I spent two hours on that page then quit without rereading or revising it. I’ll probably go in tomorrow morning and do some editing, but for now I need to get on with my day. If you find errors or find any of it confusing, just let me know and I’ll fix it.

Oh, one more thing. I know a lot of people visit this site to find my Google Web album (not that it’s that special, but we post family pictures there), so I included it in my list of links (Blogroll) on the right so there is a more permanent place to find it rather than coming here and looking for the original posting I had the link in. It’s listed as the Family Web Album.

My Big Breakup

Please briefly explain in the form below why you’re cancelling.” Which is another way of saying, “Well, can you at least tell me why we’re breaking up?” in website speak.

The whole thing started several weeks ago, though it was seeded from the very beginning of my life. I provided the fertile soil, and life rained down on it, so it grew.

The fertile soil is my social awkwardness. If you read my about page, I mention that I am aware of a possible diagnosis I could one day claim (were it necessary) through proper examination by a psychiatric professional. One symptom of the “syndrome” I possibly live with is an acutely awkward social life (which is caused by a variety of factors). Through observation, logical analysis and years of practice, I feel that my social life no longer exhibits all of the symptoms I once struggled with as a child and teenager, though I maintain certain traits that speak out against me, even if only in private.

One such trait is my aversion to social encounters. That’s right, I’m not comfortable around people. If you hadn’t noticed it’s because I’m that good at hiding it, but the truth is I get unusually uncomfortable in the presence of people, especially in face-to-face interactions.

Many of those who share my symptoms and have been labeled with the diagnosis take refuge from the real, face-to-face world by spending more time on the Internet. They are especially susceptible to becoming addicted to online multi-player games and social networking activities because such things appear to offer the same benefits of a real social encounter without the “hassles” of having to be there. I’m sure you can see where this is headed, so I’ll break for a moment to tell a short story.

Today, on the way home from work, our little three-month-old daughter screamed and cried most of the way. We’ve been working on our five-year-old son’s behavior a lot lately, and he finally seemed to be getting it, though the frustration I was experiencing from the persistent crying seemed to drown out my attempts at praising my son. We walked into the house through our kitchen door (the one closest to the car port) and I found brown paper bags, some still full of groceries, scattered all over the place. The counters were stacked with rinsed dishes, food items and trash that hadn’t been taken care of (some of it for over a week). My job keeps me away from home during the day, and I understand that staying home all day with the two children has my wife pretty well busy all day just trying to keep up with things. I don’t expect, and have never demanded her to create order or even maintain perfect cleanliness in the home. As the children age this job will get easier, and I try to help her as much as I can.

I must say though, that today it seemed especially discouraging. I was already frustrated in my mind from the constant screaming, then I walked into chaos. Never fear, I do this often and handle things fairly well most of the time. Some of the time, however, I go through emotional peaks and valleys that have an effect on my ability to handle things. I try to muscle my way through the troughs and ride the waves when things are up, but in the end those little chemical imbalances can get the best of me from time to time. I resolved right there, in the kitchen, that as soon as our daughter was safely suckling away on her mother, I would attack the kitchen and restore order.

I rushed through the chaos in the kitchen, through the hall toward the bedrooms and finally into our bedroom at the end of the hall. There, I was greeted with the usual mess. I wholeheartedly admit that somewhere around half of that mess is mine, and I am guilty of doing little or nothing to fix it in the last several months. I had already resolved to fix one mess, and there was no room inside me to fix another the same evening. Mother came and rescued the baby and I began my mission.

I attacked the kitchen. Trash, recycling, dishes, counter tops, floor (my wife had to hand the baby off to me, but I made sure she helped finish the job) and soon everything was nearly sparkling, in that one room, of course. Then, I sent my wife out on some errands, dutifully taking the little princess (who was tired and hungry, but would have to deal with her mom being gone for twenty minutes nonetheless). We had a good time (kind of) until she fell asleep (always makes for a lame date).

Then, dinner time hit. Sometimes dinner goes pretty well. Tonight, it was already an hour past our son’s bedtime, and he wanted to take seven bites out of every French fry, and watch his chicken nuggets to see if they would grow mold. I usually have to tell him to slow down, but tonight I wanted to get on with the bedtime routine, and he was waiting for Christmas. My wife didn’t share my sense of urgency (I don’t expect her to think the same way I do, I think very differently from just about everyone else, but I’m still fairly reasonable) and was disagreeing with me, which made me look frustrated and stubborn (which I was slowly becoming). Finally, I got up from the table, leaving them to work things out, and figured I could whisk myself away to a magical place called the Internet to escape from my real-world woes.

I began loading the pages, one by one, like I usually do from my bookmarks tool bar in Firefox. My homepage (iGoogle, of course!), Gmail, Mail.com, some work related sites, WordPress.com, Shelfari.com, Facebook, MySpace, VIRB, deviantART, and Google Reader. While they were loading I looked at all of the tabs. I check all of these every day? I thought. I began to assess, in my mind, approximations of how much time I spent doing each one. I looked back and recalled many a late night spent on my beloved Facebook site, with all 100+ friends, the fun games and applications, the many social exchanges every day…

Then I thought, Do I need all of that? I thought of my many real social exchanges at work, at home, at church, etc. Then I remembered that sometimes I get overwhelmed in real life with social activity. Sometimes, I get so overwhelmed that I end up having to say no to something (or several things). Sometimes, when you have too much on your plate and you can’t handle it all, you have to say no to something(s) and stick with what you love the most.

Obviously, my family will always come first for me. That goes without saying. Beyond that, in the social realm, things get a little fuzzy for me. Tonight, with all of the frustrations around me, I realized that my real-world plate was getting full and messy, and part of that was because my virtual plate was overflowing.

I don’t need that much social interaction to be healthy. I have my best friend, my wife, by my side all the time, except when I’m at work (which I wish I didn’t have to do because then I could be with her all of the time, and that would make me happy). Then I have two of the best parents who ever lived to support and love me, I have some great brothers and a top-notch sister who e-mail, text message and call me from time to time. I have many other friends who are available for the occasional chat, phone call or visit when I am in need as well. If that’s not enough social interaction to keep me healthy, I always have my creative outlets.

I love to write. I always have, but I haven’t always given it the priority I would have liked to have. Now, in recent times I have decided to write more and practice to get better. Since I resolved to do this, I have accomplished much less than what I know I am capable of. Why? Because most of my time on the computer has been lost reading updates, news, Facebook profiles, etc.

So, with the tension building between me and my wife because my virtual plate was starting to fill my real-world plate, I deleted my Facebook account.

That’s right. It’s gone. They mention that if I ever want to come back all I have to do is use my old log in information, but I don’t currently foresee myself doing that in the near future. Perhaps some day, but not now. Then, I remembered how much cooler Facebook is than MySpace (sorry MySpace lovers, I just never really liked it that much), so I though, hey, if I’m deleting my Facebook account, I can’t leave the MySpace one up, even if I never use it. So, I went and deleted that one too (though they want 48 hours to actually remove my account).

This might seem rash to many of you, but if you consider me and who I am, you should realize that it was a necessary step to ensure that I don’t get sucked in to something less important than the people I love. Plus, now I hope that finding time to write might become slightly easier. Any time I was previously putting into Facebook can now be invested in writing.

So, that brings me back to the beginning. It was actually MySpace that was asking why I was leaving them (Facebook wanted a reason too, but it was just a radio-button selection – “I’m spending too much time on Facebook” or something like that). Now you know the whole story, but do you want to know what I told them? “Downsizing Internet activities.” Pretty cold, huh?

So here’s the plan. I’ve officially committed Facebook “hari-kiri” and there’s no going back (not for the next year or so, at least). I’m going to use my Gmail address to send out a request for all of my friends and family to read this (that’s where I have the most addresses). If you know me, please follow the instructions below:

1. Please “check in” and leave a comment on this posting for me. I want to know who came and read this. When you enter your e-mail address to comment, make sure it is the e-mail address you actually check!

2. If I was listed as your friend on MySpace or Facebook, please write a bulletin, note or anything else asking all of my other friends whose e-mail addresses I didn’t have to visit this same posting (send them the same link I sent you). Post it as something interesting like, “Why Brian disappeared.”

3. Do something out of the ordinary to ensure we can stay in touch! Facebook and MySpace are both fabulous tools for keeping in touch with old, current and new friends, and I am a little worried that I may lose touch with some friends I love who prefer to use these sites as their sole point of contact for friendships. Below you will find a list of options I am retaining so we can keep in touch. Pick one, and keep in touch with me that way!


Here are some ways to keep in touch with me.

  • There’s always the obvious – email. If you need my Gmail address, just ask for it in your comment below.
  • If you don’t have my phone number, but are good at keeping in touch that way, ask for my cell phone number. The same goes for a physical address if you like stamps and mail.
  • I am keeping accounts at a few smaller social networking sites. If you already have an account at any of them, find me there (if you need help with this, just ask!). If you don’t have an account there, look at each of them and set up an account at the one you like best.
    • www.virb.com – Kind of like MySpace, but not. You don’t need an account to check out my profile. Click the link!
    • www.orkut.com – This is the one I check the least often, but if you sign up there I’ll know about it and I will definitely keep up with you that way.
    • www.deviantart.com – This one is not as much for social networking as it is for artwork. If you’re an artist and you’re my friend, add me on here and I’ll add you too.
    • www.shelfari.com – This is for book lovers. You can add all the books you own, you’ve read and you want, and it shares your virtual “shelf” with your friends.
  • Since I’ll be writing a lot (hopefully), perhaps the best way to keep in touch with me (and keep up to date) is through this… *gulp* blog. (I really don’t like calling it a blog.) You can subscribe to my RSS feed through any feed reader (I use Google Reader and love it).
  • Finally, I have a Google page (website) that is currently under construction. Right now, it just links back to my WordPress stuff. Oh, and you can play PacMan there too. 😉

If you can’t use any of the options above to keep in touch with me for long term, I’ll be sad. Despite not really enjoying social encounters, I really do love all of my friends and family. I cannot stress to you enough how much I will miss hearing from you (especially the former Facebook and MySpace friends who are reading this). I just spent too much time doing worthless things on Facebook, and not enough time paying attention to the real world. In fact, if you want to get together sometime, let’s try to make it happen. It might take time (especially if you’re far away), but I would love to spend some real-world time with all of you.

So, I leave you all with my love.

Brian

P.S. On a quick, lighter note, I found this really funny little gem of a video about Facebook thanks to Digg. If you know anything at all about Facebook, you must watch this video!

A Good Idea?

I was recently reading some tech headlines and came across some news that brought me back to some old ideas I once had. There was this article about Google’s and Yahoo’s failed attempts at getting in on the social networking scene and their future plans to make up for lost time, as well as a few others.

Well, these articles got my little gears going and I started thinking about what the next big thing in social networking might be. I thought about how there are three basic kinds of people that use the Internet, and everyone either falls into one of these categories, or they are somewhere close to one or two of them.

The first kind of Internet user is the near-addict (or even just straight-up addict). These are the guys who edit Wikipedia, have accounts at all the major social networks, blog, probably use Twitter, and find themselves spending more time on line than off. I’m close to this category, but I really try to spend more time off line with my family than on line, though some days I’m on line quite a bit. This group is mostly satisfied with current social networks, but they will always welcome new ideas and developments. They follow news on line, and know when something new is happening so they can get in on the action.

The second group of people is, I think, the largest. My wife definitely falls into this category. This is the group that uses the Internet casually; for news, to keep in touch with friends and family, and for limited entertainment purposes. If they have a social networking profile, it’s because someone talked them into it or asked them to, but they don’t really see the point in doing so much on line social activity when they can spend time with people in real life in real, physical ways. These people are largely uninterested in new on line trends unless some kind of curiosity is sparked or the new trend appeals to one of their special interests.

The final group of people is slowly dying off from natural causes. No offense to anyone, but these people are mostly of the older generation that just doesn’t see the point in all of this Internet business, or they simply don’t like computers and technology (some of these people may not be that old, but they are old fashioned nonetheless). These people probably wouldn’t even sign up for a social networking profile even if begged and bribed. If they finally set up a profile, it would never get updated again after they first set it up.

Current social networks appeal mostly to group one, and a little to group two, but they are full of people who fall somewhere in between the two categories. Interestingly, there is the Opentext enterprise network that is designed for people of the third type that don’t want to design, maintain and use a social network. I know someone somewhere is going to read that and say, “no it’s not, you’re wrong.” Look, I know what Opentext is, but its ideas hint at a future social network built on similar principles, that would not require constant attention by its users – you create an account that automatically updates itself based on your activity in the real world via your planner. I know that’s not exactly what Opentext is, but we could see something similar soon for everybody.

So this got me thinking. What if a social network didn’t require attention from the user, but if the user wanted to updated it they could? Basically, it came down to a question of how to appeal to all three groups rather than just one or two of them. The perfect social network would allow users to participate to a degree of their own liking rather than only appealing to those willing to edit and update all the time.

That’s when the idea of wikis came into the mix. Wikis are popular among users of highly diversified levels of involvement in the process. Many users simply read the information and never add to it or modify it. People who want a deeper level of interaction with the site/information can have it, and nobody is left out (except group three, but we’ll get to that).

What if we somehow married the features of a wiki with the features of a social network? I worked out a lot of the details last night while I was trying to sleep, and this morning I did some looking around to see if anyone else has had the idea. It seems it has been and is being tried by some, but they aren’t doing it the way I would. If what I am about to describe already exists, please send me the link so I can sign up.

For me, the biggest benefit of this new idea is the ability to include group three. Keep in mind, group three doesn’t really want to interact with the Internet. When it comes to social networks, that means there are holes in people’s networks where their group three friends and family members would be. How many times have you looked at your friend list and thought, “Man, I wish I could add [so and so], I feel like this list of friends would be complete if I could add them.” I know I’ve got friends who avoid the Internet (or are just bad at keeping up to date with their communications) and I’ve got lots of family who will never sign up for a social network.

Who doesn’t use e-mail though? How many people are there out there who truly don’t use e-mail? Not nearly as many as those who don’t use social networks. Even people who try to avoid the Internet are likely to have an e-mail account of some kind. Even if they only know someone who has an e-mail account, somehow, almost everyone can be contacted through e-mail. Especially if they have a respectable job, there aren’t many large corporations that don’t set their employees up with e-mail.

So lets say you’re a group one Internet junkie who already has a bunch of social networking profiles and you hear about my new service (which isn’t really a reality yet, as far as I know) called WikiSocialNet (wikisocial.com is owned by some strange corporate social networking solution, and WikiSocial is a mostly traditional social network by Wikipedia – obviously I would need to think of a cooler name than WikiSocialNet). My service, which we will continue to refer to as WikiSocialNet, would be based on the OpenSocial infrastructure which is supported by MySpace, Google and Yahoo, but it would have the added features of a wiki.

In the article I mentioned before about an attempt at mixing social networks with wikis, the author mentions that the site has the user profiles locked down from editing. WikiSocialNet would not require such action, but instead be based on the principle of community editing withing a social circle. It’s all about privileges.

Here’s how my idea works. First of all, I’d be willing to bet that just about everyone on Earth, whether they be a group one, two or three Internet personality, has friends from all three groups. So, someone who is from group three and hates the Internet, probably has friends who fall into (or closer to) groups two and one, even if most of their friends are also from group three; and people in groups one and two have friends from group three who are not in their friend lists. This is an important aspect of WikiSocialNet. The goal, then, is to use this idea to build social circles that are 100% complete rather than filled with the holes created by our group three friends.

To illustrate how the site would work, I’ll use myself as an example. We’ll look at it from my perspective, my wife’s perspective (she’s from group two) and one of my childhood friends’ perspective (he’s a group three). I won’t share my friend’s real name, but we’ll call him Bill.

In this incredibly simplified social circle, I’ve got only two friends. One is my wife, the other is my best friend from grade school, and we’ll say I work with him now so he’s a coworker (which he is not in real life). Since I follow Internet news pretty regularly, I heard of this new site called WikiSocialNet (anyone have any better ideas for a name?) and I sign up. Signing up is free and requires an e-mail address that works, my full name (though I can choose a different name for the public profile or just go by my first name), and my full date of birth (again, I don’t have to display the whole thing on my public profile, and it would not be encouraged). There will be an additional set of optional information that I can fill in at the time I sign up, later or even never.

I can upload a photo (or more than one) and chose one for my profile photo, or I can skip that. Since the site is a wiki, anything I don’t do now I can do later, or one of my authorized friends can do it for me.

The site can access my e-mail address book to look for additional friends on the network, but before I can add them to my friend list they have to approve it. From my address book, we’ll say there were two e-mails that had already registered with the site. One was my brother, and the other a good friend from college. So, next to their e-mail addresses, I choose the relationship based on groups they have already set up (family, friends, classmates, coworkers, etc.) or I can create a new group and apply to be in that one (best friends, for example). I can chose more than one group for each person, then submit the application.

They then receive an e-mail and a message in the site that I am applying for the relationship(s) and they can approve or deny individual aspects of the application. In addition, they can decide how much editing power I will have for their profile by allowing me the basic rights they’ve already assigned to the group I will be in, or adding me as an administrator of their profile so I can edit, and approve other aspects such as their friend requests and who else should be allowed to edit their profile.

Both my brother and this friend from college are close to me, and they have their close friends and family approved for editing their profiles. So, I notice that my brother doesn’t have a photo of himself on the site, and my college friend didn’t put any additional information about herself when she signed up. I can do that for them. I am from group one, and I spend more time on line than they do, so this type of behavior is normal and fun for me, even if they find it annoying to be on line doing that sort of thing. So, over the course of the next couple of hours, I decide to update my friend’s profile and add some photos of my brother to his profile. Then I remember some photos I have of my friend from college, and upload those as well. My brother’s changes show up immediately, but my friend requires that she approve all changes to her profile information, so those won’t show up until she approves them.

If any of my college friend’s other friends end up making similar changes to the ones I made before she approves them, the changes will be displayed to her side by side, and she can choose the one she likes best or integrate them to her liking. The point is, most of the work has already been done for her. She likes that, because she just wants to use the social network to keep in touch with people, not to sit around typing about herself and uploading photos.

Once I’m satisfied with what I’ve done to those two profiles, I check my watch and see that it’s only ten at night. Still early. So, I decide to invite my good friend from grade school and my wife to the site. To do this, I need, as a minimum, their full name and an e-mail address they actually use. I search for them using the name and e-mail address. If they don’t already have profiles on the site, then an invitation will be sent to their e-mail address. I have e-mail for both my wife and Will, and I know their full names. I also know my friend, Will doesn’t check his e-mail very often. The good thing is that when I invite him to the site, a privately viewable profile page (only for me) will be created in Will’s name, which I can edit to my liking until he approves it for public viewing, or just for viewing by friends or friends of friends, and makes his own changes if he desires.

I can also create a profile for my wife when I invite her. If I choose not to spend too much time doing this, the profile will only contain the information required for inviting them (full name and e-mail address). So, from my wife’s perspective, here’s how it will work from here.

The next day she will check her e-mail and see the invitation. The mailed invitation will not simply contain a link back to the site, but will display some simple options for how to react to the invitation. Too many options and most group two and three people will shy away. The e-mail might read something like this:

Dear [Wife] (real name goes here),

Your [husband] (relationship of the person who submitted the invitation), [Brian] (name of submitter) has created a profile (link takes them to their newly created profile) for you on the WikiSocialNet social networking site. This is a site where everyone can be part of their friend’s, peer’s and family member’s circles without having to do all the work involved in other popular networking sites.

You can do as much customization as you want, or do none at all – you choose. If you want to fill in information about yourself, you can. If you don’t feel like it, you can let your friends and family do it for you. If you’re interested, you can even edit the profiles of those friends and family members who want your help maintaining their profiles as well. Our goal is to bring everyone together without forcing anyone to do the work of maintaining a profile.

You are in control of who sees and edits what. Please select one of the basic options below in response to this e-mail, or log in to the site if you want even more control over your account.

Sincerely,
The WikiSocialNet Team

Below the text a few links with some basic options will be displayed:

  • Approve my account and take me there so I can get started!
  • Approve the creation of my profile, and allow [Brian] (name of inviter) administrative privileges to handle my profile for me.
  • Approve the creation of my account but keep it private for only the friends and family I approve.
  • Deny the creation of my account – I don’t want to be part of anyone’s social network on the web.

I believe the above four links would provide enough control over what happens with respect to the profile for each of the three groups to be satisfied, and discourage the flat-out refusal of a profile’s creation. My wife, then would probably click on the first or second link (depending on how fun the graphics are in the e-mail and how interesting it looks) and her profile would be approved based on those settings (in the link she clicks). Either way, she’ll probably add me as an administrator to her account and I will have control over who is approved or denied as her friends, relatives, etc. in addition to being able to edit her profile, set security settings for which groups can edit and what kinds of changes need approval, as well as deny or approve those edits to her profile.

As for my friend, he probably won’t get back to me for a month or two. In the mean time, I will be the sole owner and administrator of his account, and other people who search for him will be notified that he does have an account that has not been approved yet. They can ask to be his friend, but the notification will be sent to his e-mail address. When he logs in to check his e-mail he will see the e-mail alerting him of his profile’s creation, as well as a bunch of additional e-mails from other friend requests showing him how popular he is. Hopefully, this will encourage him to get involved or at least approve his account.

By the end of that first evening, I will probably have found at least one other classmate to add to my friends, as well as a couple random people who wanted to be my friends. I will have created, then the following groups with the following people in them (most of which will be pending approval):

Administrators (can approve/deny friend requests and edits for me and edit the profile) –
[my Wife, my best friend Will]
Family (can edit my profile) –
[my Wife, my brother]
Best Friends (can edit my profile) –
[my Wife, Will, friend from college]
Other Friends (cannot edit my profile, can see full profile) –
[other classmate]
Coworkers (can edit the parts of my profile that I allow them to see/edit) –
[Will]
Random People (cannot edit my profile, can only see what I want them to see) –
[the two people I don’t really know but wanted to be my friends]

You’ll notice that some people are in more than one group, and that each group has different privileges. The person will have the privileges of the most privileged group they are in. For example, my wife is in three groups, but she will have the privileges of the Administrators group because the other two groups have slightly fewer privileges. Will is in two groups, but will have the privileges of the Best Friends group which has the higher privileges. This aspect of the social network has a lot in common with a previous post of mine about the future of social networking and how it will integrate with cell phones and the rest of society. Then, however, I couldn’t figure out a good way to include everyone from all three groups. I believe I’ve got the answer here though. What do you think?

Well, looking back I see that this post has gotten quite long. I hope it was justified (I feel it was). This is something I tend to do when explaining technical details – I include ALL of the details. If I have forgotten any aspects of this idea, I will update this post and include a new post with the details of the update.

If you actually read all of this (and understood it) I want to know what you think. If you are a web developer and are interested in bringing this idea to life, go for it. I really should try to make money on my ideas, but I’m more interested in seeing my ideas become reality than dealing with copyrights and programmers. However, if you decide to do this and you become rich, I ask that you remember me!


Subscribe to Me

What I’m Reading

When I Post

July 2020
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

RSS My Favorite Quotes

  • Quote #60
    "The greatest minds are capable of the greatest vices as well as the greatest virtues." - Rene Descartes
  • Quote #59
    "There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self." - Ernest Hemingway
  • Quote #58
    "The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool." - William Shakespeare

I have had:

  • 51,992 page views (so far)