Pay for play

I happened to be browsing a site, reading about an ironically expensive fountain pen, where an ad for Major League Soccer in Portland appeared, and was struck by the amusing and unfortunate illusion in the graphic that causes the S in MLS to appear as a dollar sign.



The good news is that it’s only $2011, not, you know, millions and millions.

Update 17oct2009 @ noon:

Ha! They’ve remixed the ad slightly now:


Maybe it turns out to cost more than $2011 after all?

Holstic Design with Dr. Love at Schnitzer on Jan 15th at 7pm

Yeah, that’s not a porno, you perv.

Holistic Design
with Dr. Terence Love
Professor of Architecture, Design and Engineering, Curtin University

“Holistic design depends on the material opportunities but even more on our inner subjective, emotional life.”

7 pm, Thursday
January 15th, 2009

This is part of the Linus- Pauling Memorial Lectures 2008-2009 Science, Techonology and Society series through Portland State University.

Also, maybe even more intersesting, is the talk Dr. Love is giving at Systems Science on Tue, Jan 13 at noon. If you want to go to the Tuesday Noon talk you should RVSP to the coordinator Dawn. The Systems Science building is the Harder House on campus at 1604 SW 10th Avenue, and the talk will be in Room 104.

How to steal control of an organization: new Systems Science tools for CEOs, organizational strategists, technologists, activists and military strategists
Dr Terence Love

Management, government, military, terrorists, activists and unionists depend on their ability to achieve power and control. Typically, they do this by several conventional and well known modes of intervention such as the application of legal or military power.

This presentation describes several new and powerful systems theories and tools that offer another way that is new and can be undertaken without other participants necessarily being aware of the interventions or their implications.

These new theories and tools provide a means of power and control in complex socio-technical organizations ranging from nations to small social groups. They offer a means of doing this from a position of power, from an underdog position or from a position not institutionally involved in the organization.

The theories and tools described in the presentation provide a formal basis for making small hidden changes to systems that automatically play out over time to change the ownership of power and control.

The presentation will describe several new extensions to the work of Ashby on the Law of Requisite Variety that realign its role into social and organizational context involving power and provide a new systemic understanding of the approaches described by Nicolo Machiavelli. These tools were developed by Dr Terence Love and Dr Trudi Cooper as part of a project investigating the role of classic systems tools in the design of highly complex socio-technical systems.

The cheat code of the day is TURK

Via “Chinese Gold Farmers: Work or Fun?“:

“This relationship is an amazing tangle of play and work. The gold farmer works playing a game, so he can earn money which he spends playing the same game. The customer finds part of the game too much like work, so he works at another job to earn money to pay a gold farmer to play for him, so the customer can have more fun when he plays. Got it?”

The crux of the issue is poor design. Game designers are designing games that slow players down in order to get more subscription money, which from a player perspective is just lots of boring grind. So, the players are gaming the game design. For multiplayer games, cheat codes are not available, the players have found they can use throw a turk at the game to enable a kind of cheat for themselves.

This is Globalization’s version of, “Here, let me get you past this level and then I’ll give the controller back.”

But, it’s all about how the game design sucks in every MMORPG. World of Warcraft did change the recipe a bit, but there’s just too much grind still. I know that I quit Everquest because the idea of having to build another character from nothing made me sick and angry. I felt cheated, and when people feel cheated they start to feel entitled. When people feel entitled they take back for themselves.

So, if game companies keep designing boring grind, then they will simply re-create a market for turks. Frankly, when it comes down to it, every MMORPG these days is an economic simulation more than it is a game, so players will end up coming up with economic solutions.

If I’m going to play an RPG, then I want it to be a role simulation, about relationships and factions and not about collecting currency, whether that currency is gold or number of monster kills.

Wake me up when there’s an MMORPG that actually is about roleplaying. There’s just not enough fun in these games to make it worth the time.

Olympia Ecovillage gets a nod in the shower

The Seattle Times has an article today about the Phinney ecovillage and Sustainable Ballard that gives an essentially anonymous nod to the Olympia ecovillage, as well as the Port Townsend ecovillage:

About 28 groups from Bremerton to Mercer Island are developing along the lines of Sustainable Ballard, and the EcoVillage concept has spread to Port Townsend and Olympia.

That’s all the article says about Olympia and Port Townsend. They don’t even link to them in the online article. What’s up with that?

Anyhow, I linked to them, for what ever that might be worth.

I was intrigued by the mention of the Phinney pledge. It’s on the Phinney ecovillage site, downloadable in PDF format.

Seems to me that could be the basis for a large-scale community awareness campaign, to form a kind of virtual ecovillage within a city. What if some Olympia group used something like this flyer to get people in the community to pledge some slice of the ecovillage lifestyle and tracked that information, like many non-profits track their donations, and made that available as a community health indicator?

One of the items on this list is to install a low-flow shower head. However, I remember there was a buzz going around a few weeks ago for “navy showers” which save even more. A “navy shower” is simply to shut off the water while soaping up, instead of letting the water run the whole time. The Wikipedia entry on “navy shower” points out, along with step-by-step instructions for the perplexed, that the opposite, lavish kind of shower is called a “Hollywood shower” as a bit of interesting trivia.

So, what if there were first and second steps to each pledge item, like first low flow and second navy showers?

But, wait. Whatever happened to Uncle Bucky’s fog-gun shower device? [also, also, also]

Also, if one were to use something like a pledge to help develop community interest in and tracking of ecovilliage-like values, there should be pledge items about being in community and that encourage social connection and sharing. Then again, maybe there should be a pledge for each indicator of community health, so that there would be a climate change pledge and also a pedge about being in community? One could go through the process of developing one’s own set of indicators, or start with those developed by the Cascadia Scorecard project at Sightline and create a pledge for each indicator.

Funny money

Via Media Bloggers Association‘s aggregator, “More on the Pizza for Pesos Scandal“:

And the Republic is still standing.

Indeed. Up here at this end of the woods, I remember a time when most places actually accepted Canadian coin, and I remember that was quite convenient. Now days, I still get slipped Canadian coin every once in a while, but can’t use them. I just put them in a jar until the next time I’m up north of 49.

Every time I check my pockets these days there’s some new coin or greenback design. I find myself doing a double-take trying to suss out whether I’ve gotten slipped a Canadian coin or plug nickel or who knows what. All of the new designs are frankly a bit ugly, either they look and feel like cheap arcade tokens or the bills just look intentionally ugly … except for those lovely Sacajawea dollar coins. I cried a little, inside, when the Post Office downtown put in the lame ATM stamp machine because I would love going in there and buying a book of stamps with a $20 from the old machine and get a jackpot of Sacajaweas back in change to throw around town.

And, while I’m on the topic of funny money: what’s up with the 10 dollar bill? I swear it looks like someone urinated on it. Is that a ploy to get people to spend it faster? Like the studies that restaurants did on what color schemes would get people anxious so they wouldn’t sit in a seat for longer than it took to eat. Is the new bill designed to look soiled so people won’t want to hold on to it for long?

Update 12jan07 @ 9:39am:

Boing Boing picked this up, and links to an AP wire article about the issue. The article points out, apparently, that there are still places along the border that accept Canadian coin in the US. I am pretty sure I remember using Canadian coin in Seattle back in the day. I remember when I worked retail in Seattle a decade ago there were still tourists that would come in and try to use Canadian currency.

Heck, I’d use Canadian currency here if I could. I have a jar full of coin and bills that just hang around, sometimes for years, until I have the chance to use them. It’s really the coin that sucks, because a while ago banks stopped accepting coin for currency exchange. I found that out when I got back from my first trip to Europe and I had a small bag full of coins that I didn’t bother to spend or convert because I figured I’d just do it when I got home. The excuse was that it’s too heavy to ship and exchange bags of coin.

(Huh, I still have that bag around here somewhere … only I think I agreed to give some of the coin away as gifts at some point. Do the airport exchange booths at SEA accept coin at some usurious tithe?)

Heck, I might even use Canadian currency, if I could, just to be strange.

People can’t remember URLs

Via an interesting article that reminds us all that “most searched” lists are PR driven, not data driven, “Business 2.0 BETA blog network” is this comment:

“They’re using search engines as navigation, typing website names or even URLs into the search box that automatically pops up in their browser.”

It’s a funny thing to me to watch people do that. They can’t remember an URL, even a short one, so they use search to find a place that they’ve even been to many times. A primary example for this is watching someone I know look for the This American Life page. Instead of remembering that This American Life is at or thinking to head to the Public Radio International website … it’s easier for most users to skip over to yahoo and do a search for “This American Life” and sort through the results.

This kind of searching behaviour is, I suppose, similar to how I now behave with own documents. I use google to search through the papers I’ve posted to my website, and I use spotlight to search through the documents on my machine, and even use spotlight to get to applications instead of going through the finder.

But, it’s interesting to me that I retain information about actual URLs. For example, I still remember that the URL for Ultima Online is even though I haven’t played that game since … when? Nine years ago? Or, that the old URL for O’Reilly was (which gave me a turn because they appear to have given that up, because it’s now some Japanese site.)

I think from a user standpoint, the URL address bar should simply be a search input. I really don’t like the way that new browsers separate the address and search inputs. Why should a user have to pre-parse their input and decide which field to use? I realize that I miss the autosearch feature from IE, which is a bit of a shock to care about IE at all, but using a question mark in the address field turned the input into a search. That was nice. In Firefox, I can set up a keyword “?” which does a google search. Why can’t I do this in Safari’s address field? (Apparently, there’s an add-on that does add keywords, extending Safari, in the way that the old was extended on NeXT, called Saft, but it costs money.)

Where to keep movies? Everywhere, of course.

I don’t know who asked, “If you had everything, where would you put it?” However, my answer has always been, “Everywhere, of course.”

So, almost under the radar, I find that iPhoto version 5 imports movies. I assume version 6 does also. Also, iTunes holds movies. And, there’s a movies folder which is where neither iTunes nor iPhoto stores the movies that it holds. iMovies uses the movies folder. Also, iTunes may import music when downloaded via a browser, but movie downloads are placed in the folder for downloads in preferences, which defaults, I think, to the desktop. (I’ve set mine to my documents folder.)

This is some very confusing design which suggests that the strategy for movies is either not very well thought out or the various teams at Apple are in competition over how to handle movies. It also means that users are given confused messages about organization.

One of the things that I don’t like about iPhoto is that there’s no clear distinction between pictures that one has taken and pictures that one has collected. There’s context menu option to put images from the browser into iPhoto, but that confuses what purpose people should use iPhoto for. Is iPhoto for storing all picture assets? Maybe, but it’s not well defined.

One might hope that spotlight is a snapshot of a future where the filesystem and metadata fully unified, and there’s a universal interface to all the kinds of files. When all these applications are developing different file management systems, in addition to the filesystem management in the Finder, things are bound to be implemented in different ways by different teams.

In the future, using metadata tags, each application might merely show the spotlight results for files that the application can handle. Where ever a file shows up on the filesystem, or when, an application would have files it can manipulate show up. Perhaps there would be an unsorted folder for files that had no application specific metadata added. When a file is moved to some collection, this would be reflected in metadata, which could then be used by other applications to re-create the same collections.

In this vision, creating a collection of movies in iPhoto of, say, my trip to Ireland would add metadata to the movies that could be used by iMovie, iTunes, Quicktime, etc … to show those files in a folder.

Smart folder are then just saved searches, which can be used by any application to show smart collections that include files that application understands. Smart folders / saved searches should also be available across application.

Another thing I’ve noticed which is annoying is that normally burn folders contain aliases to the originals, but if one drags a file from iPhoto or iTunes to a burn folder the entire file is copied. There’s no good reason for that since the files are still located in the filesystem in locations to which an alias could point.

And, all of these applications would have immediate access to files across additional drives, including external or archived sources. One could put collections on a removable device and have items reflected in their applications when those devices where available. This has been an annoyance for me with both iTunes and iPhoto. Why can’t I have multiple locations so that I can have my portable collection on my laptop but store the bulk of my files externally?

What is information design?

Via Communication Nation, “What is information design?“:

“There are as many definitions of information design as there are information designers. Some think it’s the presentation of complex or potentially confusing information. Others see it as a method to visualize quantitative data. In the end it comes down to how you define information and what you mean by design.

Here are my definitions:

Information: Anything that people need to be aware of in order to make better decisions.

Design: The discipline of developing structures which enhance people’s lives.

So if you can agree with those definitions, a good definition for information design might be:

Information design: The discipline of developing structures which allow people to find information that’s relevant to them, and use it to make decisions which enhance their lives.

This sounds simple when you say it that way, but it has broad implications to a field that most people think of as ‘the chart people.’ It’s a broad role that crosses organizational silos and goes straight to the heart of what is essential. It includes things like interface design, meeting design, and standards for organization-wide communication.”

I’m not sure I would tie information to decisions for the same reason that Senge separates decision-making from dialogue. There’s a trap in defining a thing by how it can be used. This confused the verbs “be” and “do” which is a logical typing error. The danger of logical typing is the implicit hierarchy.

Design, I think, isn’t about developing structures. The process of developing a structure is about a specific deliverable, an instantiation of a larger principle. The larger principle is the climax of design, whereas the deliverable is the denouement. Design is a discipline that seeks to understand what should be and to then develop ways to approximate or approach that. Further, design should be iterative, going through and asking what should be again and again, and still again as it attempts to approximate and approach a changing ideal. This changing ideal changes not so much because it is uncertain, but because each design decision changes the conditions from which it comes.

This fluid condition comes in part from the way in which design also should ask questions about the boundaries and constraints in which the design process takes place. Design doesn’t just surface and determine the boundary conditions, but also questions them. These boundary conditions are determined from collaboration between designer and client, which can be an artificial distinction. The simple distinction is that a process of design is for someone and by someone, but these should be in relationship.

So, design is a process that simultaneously asks what should be and what can be for the purpose of co-creating something. In this case, that something is not information. The something is yet to be determined. Information is one of the boundary conditions. Information is the media in which the work is to be done, a material to become something.

the throw-away minimal-use trash heap – new and improved!

Via Communication Nation, “Are you sick of hearing about it?“:

“The very notion that you can slap a brand on nearly anything and that will change it for the better seems ludicrous. How’s this for a notion: Make better products!”

David Gray, over at XPLANE, wrote today that he’s tired of hearing about re-branding and suggests, instead, that companies focus on better product. It occurs to me that branding is the last recourse for companies that have lost the ability to innovate their product any longer, or that the product lasts longer than the company hopes people will re-purchase the product. So, without the ability to offer new features and a product that actually lasts, the only option is to re-brand the product. So, re-branding is a way to shorten the delay between the initial purchase and new purchases of the product.

The other option, which I think is worse, is to make the product just another addition to the throw-away minimal-use trash heap, where the consumer has to constantly re-purchase some component of the product.

I think the focus on re-branding is an indicator that the products are better than they were. Otherwise the company wouldn’t need to work so hard to get people to re-purchase. The trick is not to get caught up in that cycle. Re-branding, therefore, is a symptom. If the company weren’t re-branding, they’d likely de-value the product in some way to make it disposable.

Branding is the post-modern version of innovation in the physical product, I suppose. Since it just isn’t possible to offer the kind of magical product that people have been led to expect from post-industrial space-age technology, the brand is the only place where this can be created.

Instead of making better products, and instead of working on brand, we need to culturally re-frame what a desirable product is, and the economic model that surrounds those cultural assumptions. Trustworthy technology that lasts and works is desirable, not the wizz-bang that fizzles out.