The new blog is up! I’ll be posting my “bloggish” type articles there from now on.
It’s available at http://patrickbeja.com
Note: I’m dating this article Feb 1st 2010 because I don’t think it should appear on the main page, as there isn’t any new content on the blog just yet. It was actually published on April 11th 2010, a few days after the blog went live.
So Apple announced its long awaited tablet this week, and many have commented, analysed, cried in despair and praised the oversized iPod. One thing that I have seen yet though is a deeper look at what it means for the computer world and computer users going forward. I’ll take a stab at it.
What Aunt Edna Needs
It seems that at least half the tech world is disappointed that they won’t be able to code C# or run photoshop on their iPad. I humbly believe that this is due to a very deep misunderstanding of the concept that Apple introduced this past Wednesday. Indeed, more than just a new device, they have created a new kind of machine, that many of their competitors will try to replicate in the coming months and years:
Yesterday I got an email by a listener of The Phileas Club. I often get emails and answer them privately, but after writing this one I thought that it was summarizing my thoughts on the topic enough that I should make a blog post about it. So here is the original email, and my answer.
Quick note: the topic is sensitive, and in the past we have managed to keep these kinds of debates very civilized on this blog. If you chose to comment, please keep that tradition alive, thanks!
I recently started listening to your show and started from the beginning and have been slowly catching up to the recent shows. I was a little disappointed at the sara palen talk because of the anti religious tone it took but let it go because i figured that was going on in the media at the time as well. Then I got to episode 10 and was completely offended at the comment you made that something should be done to people that preach the young earth theory. Evolution is not fact, it might be the majority view but remember that the majority also thought the world was flat at one point. There are scientists that use the same research as evolutionist and show it to back the theory of a young earth. I don’t expect you to change your view on this subject but I think you should know that our comment upset me.
And my answer (I didn’t address the Sarah Palin comments or the other details, as I thought they weren’t really the core of the issue):
First of all let me thank you for taking the time to write to me; I really appreciate it.
That being said, I’m very sorry but I’m afraid that I cannot subscribe to what you’re saying… The “young earth theory” is not a theory, it’s a belief. The people who support it aren’t scientists, they’re spokespeople for organisations that have other agendas. A theory is supported by verifiable fact, and no fact comes to support the idea that the earth is 6000 years old. No scientist worth their salt, and no one who understands the meaning of the word, will give any credit to it.
This is my whole argument: by treating this “idea” as a theory, we validate it and lead people to believe that there might be some truth to it. There isn’t, and we should stop indulging it altogether. Don’t get me wrong: you are of course free to believe whatever you want, but believing something like that is very simply ignorance and missinformation, not “just another theory”.
It’s been roughly six months since the last expansion came out, so I thought it would be a good time to give my thoughts about how the game has evolved and where it is today.
Short disclaimer: this is, as usual, a very long article that I’m pretty sure a lot of people won’t have the time to read. I’m ok with it; my short little fun blurbs have a much better home on my twitter page, and I aim my blog articles at some slightly more in depth analysis. My aim here isn’t to just state what I like or dislike, but rather to take a longer look at the hows and whys of the choices that were made, and try to understand the philosophy of this type of game design. I would recommend this article to any Wow fan, but also any MMO enthusiast who doesn’t have the time to get to level 80 in Wow and explore the intricacies of Blizzard’s designs.
So anyway, if you have a little bit of time to waste I hope you enjoy it and it brings something to your day!
Ok, here we go: Read more
“Again with Twitter?!”
Yeah I know… Twitter is here, get used to it.
Alright, so what does Twitter need? First one who says “a business model” gets a cookie. Yes, they do need that, but let me take a detour through the user side of things for a moment and I’ll get back to that in a minute.
As I have said before, Twitter’s simplicity is its strength. I don’t think they should give it up for anything. Others have tried to “enhance” the user experience by adding threading and things like that. An interesting idea on paper, but it does take away some of the product’s usability. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hater; let’s just say it’s different and the crowds seem to be gravitating towards more simplicity.
So Twitter has to stay simple, but there is still room to expand. And I think topical conversations is indeed something that could enhance the user experience tremendously. If done right, and in the spirit of the product.
In comes the #hashtag. We all know that you can use these to specify what topic you are talking about. This is incredibly useful and I strongly believe Twitter should make it its next big push. So to put things clearly:
Alright, so everyone has heard about it. Some of you probably use it. But most people have a very hard time explaining what the heck Twitter even is…
So I’ll try my hand at this. The aim is to write a short description of why so many people love Twitter so much, and explain why it is a major new form of communication, just like email and instant messaging were in their time.
If I do things right, next time your friends ask you about Twitter and you go insane trying to explain it, you can just send them to this article and they should have a vague idea of why it’s such a great tool.
Democracy isn’t a perfect system, it’s just the best one we’ve found yet. And as with anything that’s not perfect, you’ve got issues that can become pretty freakin’ annoying after a while. On the Internet, which is probably the most extreme form of democracy we have, everyone can express their opinion equally. And it seems that most of these are: “THIS SUCKS!”
I’m sure you’ve come across this idea yourself: whether it’s on the net or in real life, it sometimes seems like people are never happy. About anything. “People” will bitch and moan all day long, and all you hear about in the news is controversy. And from there it’s easy to go to the conclusion the rest of the world is a bunch of dumb saps that will always be unhappy, no matter what the topic is.
Well, while I agree that most people are probably dumb saps, I still think that this view is a sort of optical illusion. The thing is, there is no idea in the world that will get a unanimous approval. And I mean none, like, ever! Go with me on this: try to think of an idea that would garner universal approval in a modern western society. Even the brightest, shiniest, happiest proposal would get a couple of groups of people who would violently oppose it. As long as it’s something “realistic”, it will make some people unhappy.
A few weeks ago, Bioware and Lucasart “revealed” to the world their next big project: a Star Wars based MMO called Star Wars – The Old Republic. Or SWTOR, for short (good luck on pronouncing that one).
Many companies have claimed to be building Wow killers in the past four years. And most have failed, some miserably. Even if some of them seem to remain healthy, I never thought any of them would actually succeed in rivaling Warcraft. And here is the reason why : they came from companies that made MMOs.
People get into patterns, accept rules and thought processes. The problems that plagued MMOs before Wow came along were numerous: tedious gameplay, penalty for failure, limited solo experience, and of course lack of polish. All these have been well documented and mostly adressed in the games that came out after Wow did. But that’s not enough to change the way people actually do things. You can’t tack a solution on an already plagued process. To really make something new, you have to start with a blank slate, and none of these company could really do that, no matter how much they claimed they would. They came with their own experience, which was ultimately detrimental to the product. Sure; there were a few good ideas along the way, and some great ones even. But none of them really broke away from the “MMO model” they had inherited.
I wanted to wait a bit before commenting on Proposition 8 and the banning of gay marriage in several states in the US. For those who don’t know, a few states now have it written in their constitution that marriage is only possible between one man and one woman. Which is ironic since the California campaign for this was heavily pushed by the Mormon church, in which men often (sometimes?) have multiple wives…
Anyway, that’s besides the point, but it does also state the obvious fact that the organizations supporting this mostly take roots in religious circles (though I imagine not all supporters are religious).
And before I talk about the ban on marriage proper, I just want to say that Florida not only banned gay marriage, but also pre-emptively banned any contract that would try to “emulate” marriage. While the language isn’t crystal clear, this pretty much puts a ban on civil unions too. This is just ridiculous… Marriage is one thing, and I can understand the debate. But this?!… Ok, let’s not derail the post.
This article is cloaked under a semi-funny title, but it is actually a pretty serious topic… Just a warning.
I want to talk about what makes us who we are for a minute. I will try to keep it to the point. Here is the premise: we have a few fundamental values that define us, as western societies. Freedom, equality, fairness… These are the ideas that world defining documents like the French “Human Rights Declaration” and the American Bill of Rights were written to protect. And the moment we start losing them, we start losing our soul. We start turning to “the dark side”.
Here comes the sadly funny part: millions of us have watched the Star Wars movies, and we’ve all heard the wise reflexion of the old green little Jedi master guy.
“Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”
Everyone knows that line. Yet no one seems to understand how it relates to the attacks of September 11th 2001. Are you afraid? Are you sacrificing what they attacked you for? Then you are giving “them” what they wanted in the first place.