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Ingress, Field Trip and Glass

In one of the Google+ communities for Ingress players, a friend linked to the article, Deep inside Ingress, the Google-made game that's paving the way for Glass with the comment, "We're not sure how to make money on this."

I don't know who the 'we' he was referring to was. Google? His own business? I started to write a reply in the Google+ community, but it started growing so I decided to turn it into a blog post.

I'm not sure how much Google is looking at this in terms of being an immediate money maker, and a few different things come to mind. First, many technology pundits thought Google was nuts to pay as much as they did for YouTube when they bought it for $1.65 billion. Reports are that in 2012, YouTube had $3.6 billion in revenue.

Google seems to take a long view. They are well known for their twenty percent time. Google employees are allowed to spend twenty percent of their time working on projects that aren't necessarily in the in the employee's job description.

I don't know if Niantic Labs grew out of twenty percent time. I don't know how much Google has a long term plan for Ingress, Field Trip, Glass, etc., but I find all of them fascinating. Let's start off with Ingress. People have noted that there are many Duane Reade's as portals in Ingress. Did Duane Reade pay to have all these portals? Will other companies pay to have their locations host Ingress portals?

Yet Ingress is much more than portals at locations. There is a complicated multimedia backstory. There are YouTube videos, ebooks, and more. Will it lead to a best selling book? A feature length movie? An art exhibit? Will it change the way we relate to media? I must admit, I haven't followed the storyline that closely, but the implications for the future of media are fascinating.

People have linked Ingres to Glass. I expect to pick up my Google Glass next Friday. I had to pay for the Glass with my Google Wallet. Most of the discussions about Glass are taking place in Google+. It is a good way of getting people to use more Google products. The possibilities of Google Glass seem endless and I'll be exploring these more, both in my personal blog and my work blog.

This leads me to Field Trip. I just downloaded Field Trip and at first glance, it looks really interesting. As I've thought about Google Glass, I've been thinking about something along the lines of Field Trip, with a few specific tweaks. For example, I'd love to see a geocoded wiki which could be accessed through an app like Field Trip. Anyone could leave tips about places, links to other information, a sort of friendly twenty first century version of hobo code. Of course, I'd also like to see specialized databases, such as one that provides census data, FBI data, or health data about communities a person is traveling through.

So, how do individuals, not working for Google make money off of this? Well, there are a few different things that come to mind. It used to be that if you wanted to do business with someone, you would grab a bag of golf clubs and walk with that person around a golf course. One day, I got a call from a friend of my brother who is a financial planner. There was family business to discuss. He, my brother and I are all Ingress players, and that's how my brother and he met. Forget the golf clubs, grab a cellphone, maybe a spare battery pack, and head to the nearest collection of portals.

For me, I always try to stay on top of what is emerging. Somethings don't make it. Others do. Will Ingress, Field Trip and/or Glass make it? I can't tell, but I find them all very compelling. So, I'll keep exploring them. Perhaps enhancing my reputation as an early adopter, perhaps leading to opportunities to work with developing something else new and interesting. That may be a little vague, but may fit with Google's strategy.

Anticipating Glass

There are times when I don't write a blog post because the idea is still formulating in my mind. There are times when I don't write a blog post because I just don't have time or am too tired. Then, there are times when I have a great blog post, or perhaps a few different ones, that I have to wait to write and post them because of other timing issues.

Today, I received a direct message on Twitter that basically wrote a blog post for me for my job. At the same it sets up potential interesting personal blog posts about Ingress, the arts, and traveling to New York. Friends who have been following closely probably know the background to these pending blog posts, but the posts will have to wait until the right time.

Until a couple final details fall into place, hopefully tomorrow, the blog posts will have to wait, no matter how hard it is for me and for others.

Ingress

A month and a half ago, my brother invited me to play the game Ingress. It is an augmented reality game played on Android smartphones. The smartphone becomes a 'scanner' searching for "exotic matter", the energy in the game, and portals. All of this is tied to physical locations and the GPS on the smartphone is an important component.

There are two factions in the game, The Enlightened and The Resistance. Each faction tries to capture portals belonging to the other side, and from there, establish links between portals. These portals can be linked together in fields. Besides attacking and linking portals, you can also "hack" portals, to gain game pieces. As with many games, you gain experience and go up in levels.

In the six weeks that I've been playing, I've made it up to level seven, out of eight levels. I've captured many portals, created fields, destroyed fields, and gotten to meet some interesting people.

Over this time, my style of play has changed as I've become more experienced, gained more items and gotten to know people.

Beyond this, there is a whole complicated backstory, with information in YouTube videos, Google+ pages, and at various gatherings. The game is still in closed beta, but invites are becoming easier to get.

From the geeky side, it is a fun game, merging a virtual world with the physical world. There is plenty of strategy to explore. Yet the creative side is perhaps more interesting. As with other virtual games, the players are participating in an unfolding story. I haven't followed this story that closely yet, and I'm curious about to what extent the game play effects the way the story unfolds are takes shape.

As I have more time, I'll continue to level up, visit new portals, get to know the community better and perhaps start following the storyline more closely. It is a strange new world that I find fascinating.

#pcwm G33k Speak Recap

Like PodCamp WesternMass #4, perhaps the session that I got the most out of was one of the least attended sessions. This year, it was "G33k Speak". Perhaps there were only three of us that self identified as "G33k"s. Perhaps there were too many other good sessions going on at the same time.

So, three of us sat around and talked about technology we were really excited about. I spoke a little bit about Google Glass and Raspberry Pi. Tom Galanis talked about software. He currently teaches high school technology and wanted to get people's views on different languages. Which do you like more, Java, Javascript, C++, C#, Python, Ruby, Perl, or something else? How do you get people excited about programming.

I talked about how I've always told my children they were free to play any computer game that they could write. They started off with Logo and Scratch. In many ways, I think of Scratch as drag and drop logo. Of course I mentioned Scratch on Raspbery Pi.

Tom mentioned a site that is on my list to explore, Snap! Build Your Own Blocks 4.0. Essentially, it hosted scratch. I've played with this a little bit and may be recommending it to more people as a good way to get started with Scratch.

Another site that Tom mentioned as Construct 2.

Construct 2 is a powerful ground breaking HTML5 game creator designed specifically for 2D games. It allows anyone to build games — no coding required!

I started programming computers over forty years ago, and I like coding. I try to get others to like programming. I like working at the command line and writing my programs with a text editor. I'm not a big fan of integrated development environments or IDEs. At a later point in the discussion, we talked about the lack of good IDEs for HTML5, but as best as I can tell from first glance, that is exactly what Construct 2 is.

One review talked about Construct 2 nicely connecting with kongregate. I prefer to write games than to play games, but kongregate appears to be a good place for sharing games. I'll continue to keep an eye on how HTML5 and development environments for it evolve.

We talked briefly about databases. Generally, I use MySQL. Tom, or the other person in the session (I forget who it was), mentioned MariaDB. I've started reading about MariaDB and I will try to find some time to experiment with it. Some day. When I'm not as swamped with everything else in my life. As an aside, I started looking at installing MariaDB on Raspberry Pi, but I'll save that for another day.

There was also a brief discussion about Mir as a replacement for XWindows. Again, interesting to think about in terms of Raspberry Pi, but I'll save that for another day.

#pcwm Notes on Bitcoin

At PodCamp WesternMass, one of the sessions I attended was led by Joe Cascio about Bitcoin. "Bitcoin is a digital currency, a protocol, and a software…"

I've kicked around Bitcoin in the past, but never really jumped in. This time, I figured it was a good time to explore it in more detail. At least as I understand it from Joe, Bitcoins are an alternative digital currency. It is shared over an encrypted peer to peer network, and the coins are stored in a wallet, as opposed to an account somewhere.

There are pros and cons to this. If you lose your wallet, you lose whatever was in it. On the other hand, if it were an account somewhere online, and the server that had the account goes away, you'd lose your money that way. Joe talked about the Cyprus banks as an example of the second type of risk. You can store your Bitcoin wallet somewhere so that it acts more like an account if that's what you're interested in.

I installed Bitcoin on my Android phone. If anyone wants to put some money in that wallet, an address is bitcoin:1PNepVfV6wmnpUDAz3oLMQmCuJ7cP44fiQ. I also installed Bitcoin on my Mac. An address for that wallet is bitcoin:1ACM16Gntx4ekgwB2LvL3NokT2wKvaT5fB.

Joe did go into a little bit of detail about Bitcoin mining, or how new Bitcoins get added into the economy. However, that didn't have a lot of practical value, at least to me. I doubt I'll ever have the computation power to mine Bitcoins.

So, the other way of getting Bitcoins is to buy or earn them. Joe recommended a site, Coinbase. I set up an account there. They are particularly focused on buying and selling Bitcoins, particularly based on bank transfers. Joe noted that in setting things up, they can transfer and and from whatever account you've linked, so he recommends being cautious, such as linking it to a small account that you don't use for much of anything else. I set up an account there, but I haven't linked a bank account to it. So, essentially, right now it is a hosted wallet with a bitcoin address bitcoin:1MKhWL7xPiMZgLTC6zaQzC6MhPq72WK6gu

I was particularly interested in connecting bitcoins to other virtual currencies. Virwox, or Virtual World Exchange, allows you to trade between Second Life, Open Metaverse currency, and Avination, which appears to be another Second Life like virtual world. You can also deposit money from various bank accounts in different currencies.

The downside is that primary currency seems to be the Linden Dollar, and you have to pay exchange rates to get in and out of Linden dollars. So, if you want Bitcoins from US Dollars, you deposit US dollars, use them to buy Linden Dollars, and then use the Linden Dollars to buy Bitcoins; two sets of commission charges.

When you set it up for Bitcoins, it also becomes a hosted wallet. My Virwox hosted wallet has this address, bitcoin:13wtvg7P97voZTcjFn8sKs62E5P3NhZQKQ. They charge a transaction fee of .01BTC to transfer bitcoins out of Virwox to other accounts. My sense is that they are probably good if you are making money in Second Life and want to transfer it to Bitcoins, but even with that, their transaction fees seem a bit much.

Currently, 1 Bitcoin is worth about $92. However, you can do things at small fractions of a Bitcoin. Often transactions are in milliBitcoins or microBitcoins. A milliBitcoin is currently worth about nine cents, and a microBitcoin is currently worth nine thousandths of a cent.

With this microcurrency aspects there are lots of other things that can be done. People are offering milli or microBitcoins for people to visit sites online, and perhaps take some action on the site. skude.se is a site that links to other sites where people can earn small amounts of Bitcoins this way.

For example, there is an affiliate site that if people click on, I'll get a microBitcoin for each link, up to 100 per day. That works out to unto nine tenths of a cent a day. Probably not enough to bother with, but, every little bit can help.

I'm kicking around other ideas that I hope to do with Bitcoins, but right now, I'm waiting for my wallets to synchronize so I can start experimenting moving cash around.

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