Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Year Catchup

Given that it's Jan 28, this is hardly new year (unless we adopt the chinese calendar)

Still, having got out of the habit of noting my comings and goings, I have a few things to catch up on. Which I will do so now since, as you will see, I have a bit of time.

Here goes:

1. Superstruct.
The game started October 6 and ran until November 17. During that period, I was too busy living in 2019 to write the reality checks as promised.

A potted list of of observations:
  • it was fun: working in a chaotic environment with several thousand other contributors was a stimulating experience
  • it was rewarding: I seemed to make a bit of a mark... got my 100 points, although the allocation seemed a little subjective.
  • it was frustrating: the user interface was ... um... well, 'griefed' is a polite description. While a bit of gameplay was to be had from pretending that apocaphylic crackers were causing major disruptions to the system, the joke wore thin after a while. I think the environment and scenarios was complicated enough without a system that failed to provide adequate communication between people and their ideas and which, until halfway through, was 'closed'. The overall result was that good ideas and stories had an active half life of a day or so before they got buried under the next set of contributions. You were left with a sense of isolation, that you were the only one active. A number of players tried to rectify the issues by setting up companion websites (chief of which being the superstruct wiki, the REDS site, and Reconstruct) I tried to improve the connectivity between ideas and stories with common themes, but was stymied by the lack of linking facilities. The Cloud Garden was the best I could come up with, and it might have been useful *if* we could have got it up earlier. As it was, by the time it was active, the game was nearly over, and most people, if they put in tags at all, were using their own nomenclature. Result: lots of tags with relatively few links.
  • it was ambitious: expecting useful solutions from a scenario with five interdependent threats was always going to be an ask. I tended to concentrate on the 'power struggle', as it appeared a little under-represented. 'Outlaw Planet' allowed me to add a few satirical digs at Internet Explorer's lack of SVG support.
  • it was intriguing: how other people reacted to the premise. Most active participants concentrated on the refugee and pandemic scenarios, painting pictures of a society nearing total collapse. That made for some dramatic storytelling, but missed the point a little: the GEAS forecast suggesting that collapse was due in twenty years, so most blogs read like 2029 rather than 2019. We'd left it just a little too late...

Active participants? The number of people who took the trouble to sign up, and then did absolutely nothing whatsoever, was astonishing. Perhaps it is a feature of the social network scene that you sign up for everything and leave it?
It is still going:

Would I do it again? I think so. Hopefully, the system would have a few improvements (like RSS feeds and linkability) embedded. I still suspect that what I called 'diffusion' will remain a problem for any future versions. Hopefully, I will be able to spend more time playing the game and less time fixing it!

2. My Future
I have had another work-related Torino event. Hardly surprising, given the current world circumstances. This one was very predictable since my contract was due to expire at the end of last year, the product was pretty well complete (or functioning adequately) and there was no other work going at Invetech. So, I finished up work on Christmas Eve. Last time I was lucky, pretty well walking from one job to another, and then back again when that project was cancelled.

This time, the process has been taking a bit longer, partly due to the season, partly due to the circumstances.

So, if you, or someone you know, wants a C++/ PHP/ Web programming jack-of-all-trades (and good at most!) in the Melbourne area, let me know. I will try and get my details up at LinkedIn.

3. The New Guard
With Barack Obama's inauguration, it seems the whole world has heaved a collective sigh of relief. I know the feeling well, having had the oppressive 'we control' attitude of first Kennett, then Howard, and now Bush lifted from the popular outlook.

One question remains: is he the real thing? This is particularly poignant to Australians since the Rudd government, after a few promising steps (Kyoto ratification, apologies to the stolen generation, 2020 summit) has gone weak at the knees (a feeble 5% reduction in greenhouse emissions, when there is a clear mandate to do more? The only saving grace is that it *is* a reduction: we need to demonstrate that more can be achieved)

Anyway, is Obama going to go the same way? David Brin, reading the inauguration speech, was heartened by the inclusion of a single word in this passage:
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
It is a word which didn't need to be there, and whose inclusion suggests that Obama isn't 'just words'; that he does grok the scientific method, and the need for transparency and openness. It is a trait of humanity which has been ruthlessly stomped on by the insular minds of the empire that has been ruling the US (and, by extension, *us*) for far too long.

It is the perfect foil to the old Chinese proverb about interesting times.