Entries related to technology.

Organizing Information

I’ve been looking at app development recently and speaking with different people about the tools they use. One of them mentioned MongoDB. MongoDB is a document oriented NoSQL database. I loaded it on one of my servers and played with it a little. I was impressed with the simplicity of getting started with it.

Yet as we move away from tabular storage of data, it poses the question, how should we think about organizing information?

There is the great line from The Cluetrain Manifesto, Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. There is a lot in that statement. To what extent are hyperlinks subverting authoritarian structures based on hierarchy? How is this playing out in media, education, and politics? And, how is it playing out in organizing information?

As I dig a little deeper into NoSQL databases, I’m finding myself more interested in triple store or graph oriented databases. Instead of having a limited, predefined set of relationships like, parent child in a traditional relational database, what can we do when we start storing many different types of relationships in databases? What can we do when we start graphing out this information?

So, on my radar for future explorations are Neo4j and Sparql. From there, I may wander back into topics like RDF, the Semantic Web, and of course once information becomes more machine readable, back to the singularity.

Are you playing with MongoDB? Neo4J? Sparql? RDF? The Semantic Web? What things do you think I should be looking into? Are there good starting points and tutorials?

Smarter Happier Selfies

This evening, I sat down to my evening positive attitude adjustment, and found Howard Rheingold had shared on Facebook a link to Jason Feifer’s comments in Fast Company, GOOGLE MAKES YOU SMARTER, FACEBOOK MAKES YOU HAPPIER, SELFIES MAKE YOU A BETTER PERSON

It was, in my opinion, a very well written response to Sherry Turkle’s recent Op-Ed in the New York Times, The Documented Life where she complains about Selfies.

My Initial reaction to Turkle’s piece was to write Sisyphus’ Selfie. I’ve been intending to write more on this, and I started to write a comment to Howard’s status. Yet as it grew, I thought I should really make it part of my blog post.

I started off:

I must say, as an active participant in LambdaMOO back in the mid 90s and a friend of many of the researchers and cyberanthropoligists that became involved there. I've always found Turkle to be a bit full of herself (and other stuff).

I read her Op-Ed and found that my opinion of her hasn't improved over the past 18 years. I've been meaning to write a blog post about her article, very similar to Feifer's, but perhaps from a slightly different angle.

This is where I decided to merge the comment into this blog post. One person suggested, why not just call Turkle a Luddite, and then went on to repeat various assertions of Turkle that are tangential to the article, claiming them to be facts.

I think Luddite is an overused word amongst technophiles and so I want to present a slightly different idea.

Marc Prensky, in his famous article, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants presents the idea of people who have grown up in a digital culture as digital natives. Those who have moved into a digital culture, having grown up in a different culture are digital immigrants.

In my mind, this fits nicely with some of what Turkle talks about. Yes, growing up in a digital culture does change the way we think and act. Yet this also points to the biggest problem with what Turkle has to say.

She is looking at digital culture from the viewpoint of a digital immigrant. For example, her comment

We don’t experience interruptions as disruptions anymore. But they make it hard to settle into serious conversations with ourselves and with other people because emotionally, we keep ourselves available to be taken away from everything.

This sure sounds a lot to me like that old grandmother living in the immigrant community complaining about how people these days just don’t do things the way they used to in the old world, and how much better the old world was.

I pause to think a little more and glance at my daughter creating something in Mindcraft. She is a digital native. Me? Having been on the Internet for over thirty years, and on bulletin boards and programming computers long before this, I tend to think of myself as a digital pioneer, or perhaps a digital aborigine.

Yes, working with computers for all these years has changed my way of thinking. A critic might compare it to the way mercury changed the thinking of hatmakers, and my children might have other comments about having a Dad that has been online longer than they have.

Yet I relish my experiences with technology and I’m glad that my children are having even greater experiences with it. I love the camaraderie of other digital pioneers or digital aborigines.

Through my discussions with friends on Facebook, I’ve also found myself talking about Jacques Ellul, whether or not people need to learn to program, representations of transhumanism, The Power of Patience and Civil Religion and how it relates to prophetic religion, the social contract, the way we interact through digital media, and if there are implications for a Great Awakening.

And, for that matter, I let a young college student from Iran borrow my Google Glass this afternoon, so he could take a selfie of him wearing Google Glass, standing next to a robot.

Technology does change the way we think and act. There is much that needs to be discussed about it. I’m happy that Facebook has given me topics to Google and become smarter about. I’m just not sure that Turkle is really adding much of value to the conversation.

Dystopian Rabbits

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit. We'll here we are, another October. Like other months, when I get time, I start off with a childhood invocation for good luck.

But it's October, thirty-seven years ago, a classmate of mine from high school disappeared. They found her body later in the month, but never found the murderer. Last year, during Hurricane Sandy, towards the end of October, my mother died in a car accident.

Looking back over my career, many of my job changes took place in October. My youngest daughter was born in October, as were some of my closest long time friends.

It's October, and the Government is shut down. This weekend, I sat on the porch, after making a batch of green apple jelly. Yes, I'm connected online. With my Google Glass, I get notifications as they happen. But there is something about sitting on the porch, having just made jelly.

I thought about when my mother was a kid. Yes, she heard, via the radio fairly quickly about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but most news was much slower then, and even more slow before the radio and telegraph. How much is this always on, instant notification contributing to disfunction in Washington, where people seem more interested in the political theatre of the sound bite than in sound governing?

How much is the medium the message?

I've been reading The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The setting is a utopian community in the mid nineteenth century. The hero is sick and reads books that other members of the community bring to him. Yet I'm reading it as an ebook on my smartphone. What is the mixed message of a nineteenth century novel on a twenty-first century device?

Kim and I have started watching "H+". It is a series about human implants, similar to Google Glass and a mass kill off of people with the implants due to a network virus. The medium is the message, as my wife and I watch it on an old TV hooked up to an old Roku which manages to still get YouTube. I watched an episode on Google Glass, which pushes the medium is the message idea even further.

And here I am, writing a blog post about it.

It is a post-apocalyptical world and I've been thinking about this new millennialism, a resurgence of apocalyptical thinking. No, we didn't have a Mayan apocalypse. We haven't had an apocalypse as a result of people of the same gender who love each other now being able to marry one another.

Now, even though the Federal Government is shutdown, you can go online and purchase health insurance. Like same-sex marriage, for some this looks like the end of the world. For others, the Federal Government shutdown looks like the end of the world.

But as I sat on the porch over the weekend, with a kitchen full of jams and jellies that I've made, and as I sit in my chair now, writing my blog post and listening to the large dog snore on the couch next to me, this is nothing like the end of the world in all the dystopian post-apocalyptical stories.

So I say Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit, bringing back all the simple childhood hopes and memories in this complicated hyper-connected world as I think of dogs and jelly and porches, and trying to get back to sleep.

Players That Suit Ingrees, Update

Back in July, I wrote a blog post, Players Who Suit Ingress building off Richard Bartle's 1996 article about types of players in virtual games.

In the article, I suggested that Ingress players may have similar characteristics as players of MUDs back in the 1990s. Key player types include people who build things, people who destroy things, and people who explore.

Ingress just came out with a new update that provides information about a players activity. This information maps nicely to some of these player types.

As an example, the first category Ingress lists is Discovery with the number of Unique Portals Visited. I've currently visited 476 different portals. It is enough to get me a first level badge, which only requires 100 different portals, but not enough for the second level badge of 1000 portals. I suspect some of this depends on where you live. Visiting 1000 different portals may be easier if you live in New York City than if you live in the middle of Kansas.

The second category is building. There are for different statistics provide, Hacks, Resonators Deployed Links Created and Control Fields Created. I am currently at 7,869 hacks, adding over 500 new hacks a week. That is still a first level badge having hit 2,000 hacks, but not yet at the second level badge of 10,000 hacks. However, at my current rate, I should hit the second level in about a month.

I have deployed 10,539 resonators. That gets me the second level badge. The third level is 30,000 resonators, so that will probably be quite a while yet.

I've created 2,721 links, which gets me a second level badge for 1000 links and a little over half way to the third level badge of 5,000 links. I have created 267 control fields, which gets me the first level badge at 100, and half way to the second level badge of 500.

On the Combat side, I've destroyed 4,521 enemy resonators. Again, past level 1, of 2000, but not yet half way to level 2 of 10,000. I've destroyed 500 enemy links and 108 enemy control fields. I don't see badges for those. Perhaps I haven't destroyed enough. On the other hand, it is interesting to see that I've deployed over twice as many resonators as I've destroyed and created over five times as many links as I've destroyed.

I guess I'm more of a builder than destroyer. How about you?

Players Who Suit Ingress

In 1996, Richard Bartle wrote and article, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs in which he explored four basic player types in text based virtual reality games called MUDs or Multi-User Dungeons. He summarizes these types as follows:

So, labelling the four player types abstracted, we get: achievers, explorers, socialisers and killers. An easy way to remember these is to consider suits in a conventional pack of cards: achievers are Diamonds (they're always seeking treasure); explorers are Spades (they dig around for information); socialisers are Hearts (they empathise with other players); killers are Clubs (they hit people with them).

He uses this to explore ideas like game stability and player interactions and recently, I've been wondering how this relates to the Augmented Reality game, Ingress.

In Ingress, players interact with one another, destroying opponents portals, fortifying portals that other faction members have captured, recharging portals, exchanging gear, etc. There is an achievement aspect in terms of what level one is and how much gear one as accumulated.

I suspect that the player styles may change as people level up as well as when an area gets more players of one faction or another, and that each player has a little bit of each style.

For example, I probably started off primarily as an achiever, seeking treasure and trying to level up. Once I reached Level 8 in Ingress, which is currently the highest level possible, my focus on seeking treasure has diminished, but I still seek a basic amount of treasure. Now that I'm Level 8, I tend to move more towards being an explorer or a socializer. I like exploring new areas and I like interacting with players.

I've met some players who fit very nicely in the into the socializer category, always dropping inventory for new players and helping them get started. I've ran into players who remain very focusing on achievement, trying to build up Level 8 farms, and gather as much gear as they can from them. I've run into others that focus mostly on tearing down other people's farms.

Another component of Ingress is establishing links and fields. With this there are several different styles, that I haven't really figured out how they best fit to Bartle's model. Some people rarely link, or create links to support a farm. Others create long wild links, which make it difficult for others to link but don't serve any other apparent purposes. These links are used to establish fields. Some people establish large fields, mostly as an achievement, which the killers take down as soon as possible. Others create lots of small fields, overlapping as much as possible.

Bartle spends a bit of time talking about interactions between different styles of players and it is useful to read through the section, think about what sort of player you are, what sort of players are around you in your faction, and what sort of players are in the opposing faction. It may provide insights that can make the game more fun for players, no matter what style they adopt.

So, do you play Ingress? What style of player are you? What style of players are around you in your faction? What style of players dominate the opposing faction? How do these insights change the way you approach the game? Or, do you think Bartle's ideas don't translate to Ingress? Is there something that better explains player interactions? Let me know your thoughts.

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