John Roderick and Merlin Mann jump into the deep end of the existential pool on the most recent episode (#67, “All of the Small Beers“) of Roderick on the Line. Pricked by holocaust documentaries, John is perplexed by our ability to be simultaneously civil and monstrous. We dismiss genocide as an aberration, yet it was conceived and executed in the very insipid bureaucracy we celebrate as essential for law and order. John asks with real pathos, aside from the fear of God and hell, why ought we to be good?
It’s a question that has long confounded philosophers and armchair-philosophers alike. Without fully developing the Christian framework, it must suffice for now to quote Chesterton: “The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite.”
Nearly reasonable, but not quite. Without the anchor of God, there is no good, and without good, there is no evil, only a shabby, shifting, quasi-rational utilitarianism that measures, sometimes clinically, sometimes primally, each human life merely in proportion to all human lives and finds it wanting, rather than as a thing—an inviolable, sacrosanct, glorious thing—until itself.
After playing with Leap Motion, I firmly believe it is the dawn of another era of gestures styled devices.
New inputs make new things possible. That’s a lame statement, but it’s foundational. I was really excited back when the Wii was known only as Nintendo Revolution, and the iPhone immediately struck me as the perfect marriage of the hand and device. I don’t know what a motion-controlled UI looks like. I do know that I want to find out.
Letterpress is fun—I’m a sucker for word games—but it doesn’t take long to exhaust its strategic depths; namely, surround useful-but-scarce letters to protect them and don’t leave yourself open to a game-ending play. There’s precious little reward for aggressive, bold moves. The tendency is toward defense and, sadly, stalemate. As soon as you (and your opponent) grasp this, every game, regardless of the letters, becomes a variation on the same theme.
A good game can be simple. What it can’t be is shallow. A shallow game loses its appeal after only a few plays. Unlocking simple-but-not-shallow is a tremendous feat of creative genius (particularly in our modern, hypo-attentive culture). Boggle is simple. Upwords is simple. Scrabble is simple. Dominion is simple. The answer is never more mechanics, more options, more pseudo-chievements, more anything. It’s something different. It’s a matter of body not breadth.
I think the missing ingredient here is obvious: pressure. I suspect Loren is well aware of this (and may even prefer not to address it in order to preserve the casualness of the game), but I’m going to propose a fix anyway. This change should be (relatively) easy to implement and is well within the game’s character and spirit. Ready? Add a timer. Each player has 60 seconds to complete his or her turn. Whatever jumble of letters has been selected and arranged when the timer runs out (or earlier) is the player’s submission. Now that’s a game I could really get into.
The other one-and-a-half changes? Statistics. Every game should show the total time each player required (regardless of whether the 60 second deadline is imposed), and statistics should be aggregated across games. Biggest play, total wins and losses, average score, average time, total time—anything and everything that can be tracked would be interesting to review. (And, hey, while we’re dreaming: how about a TrueSkill-like system? Now that would be intense.)
Anyway, go get Letterpress. It’s fun and cheap and you might just learn a new word. And if you’re into that kind of thing, send me a request. I’m “nathanperetic” on the Apple’s atrocious GameCenter.
Drew Wilson has another new project. He’s teaming up with Josh Long to write a book about being inspired and building something in the moment. To prove the concept, they’re writing it in seven days. It’s a clever gambit, and I hope nobody is buying it.
Let’s do a brief copyedit on Josh’s blog post from today.
This morning I woke at my normal time of 5am. I got to work quickly on executing on my duties for the Treehouse Blog and wrote and edited what I needed to.
“Got to work quickly on executing on my duties” is just a train-wreck of an expression. He follows that up with a run-on sentence ending in a needless preposition. Great start!
Then I cracked open my favorite app in the world, iAwriter [sic]. It’s now 7:18am and the ideas are flowing. It’s amazing the amount of energy you have for a project when you’re “in the moment” of your inspiration.
Surely a copyeditor would helpfully point out that the name of his favorite app in the world is “iA Writer” not “iAwriter” and that the voice switch from first- to second-person makes the whole thought more difficult to follow.
I have a feeling that if we said “let’s take the next year and write this book”, the product would have been much more boring and we probably would have talked ourselves out of doing it. Drew and I are busy fellows and I imagine we would have thought of other products to build.
Compound sentences require commas before the conjunctions. Not familiar with the concept of a compound sentence? Perhaps it’s a bit premature to write and sell a book in a week.
Setting the constraint of just a few days and then taking actual pre-orders, makes certain that this book sees the light of day.
Oh, now you want to use commas? It’s not customary to, split sentences in half for no good reason.
The interesting thing, for those that want to know, is that the outline or table of contents is terribly important under these time constraints. While building the last book I wrote I was able to write non-linearly and go back and forth between chapters and content. There simply won’t be enough time here.
It will have to flow and go in order and I for one think this is actually a better way to write.
I, for one, think your stream-of-consciousness approach is a recipe for clichéd, childish writing.
I love constraints.
If Josh handed me this piece to edit, it would be soaked in red ink. Writing is hard, and, based on what I’ve seen so far, this book is going to be stuffed with every grammar and punctuation violation in the English language.
But, I hear you say, it’s not about the writing, it’s about the content. You’re absolutely right. And a good editor would help with both. It’s not just copyediting that will be cast aside in the present sprint, it’s the molding and shaping of an idea into its final, written, persuasive form.
Executing is—and here I’m not so sure our heroic authors would agree—hard. Drew and Josh will probably finish this project and ship a book (of sorts) to a lot of happy people. It’s inspirational to watch others do big things. That doesn’t make it prudent to fund them. Let me save you $26 and a few days of curiosity: the writing will be mediocre-to-bad, and the conclusion will be repetitive, dull, and telegraphed: Work hard! Do it now!
There’s no mystery here. Execute is a gimmick. Don’t be a sucker.
Space Box is a new service from Drew Wilson designed to help people collect money easily using Stripe. (Read his introduction.) Like everything Drew does, it’s fast, clean, and clever.
It is also in what is soon to be a crowded field. Last week Wufoo announced Stripe integration.
Accepting payments used to be hard. Now it’s easy. Stripe, Square, and others are empowering anyone to start a business—or at least sell a trinket. In many ways, electronic payment processing is just catching up to the days when everyone carried cash and all transactions were local.
Best of luck to Drew, of course. Just consider me skeptical of his ability to keep all of these balls in the air. Even under ideal circumstances it would be a challenge to get this business off the ground.
Thomas Fuchs (and his talented partner Amy Hoy) clearly know a thing or two about building and selling things on the Internet, and his recent post using his ebook Retinafy Your Web Sites and Apps to illustrate is dead-on.
And here’s the money quote:
Of course, you’ll have to learn how to market your book—you can’t just sit there and wait for people to come. You might say, “But Thomas, you have a billion followers on the interwebs, your stuff sells by itself!”—I’m hearing this all the time, but being “internet famous” (in a very small circle) isn’t going to sell your book. I have to work on getting the marketing right just as hard as anyone else does.
As someone who sells a thing or two (or three) on the Internet, I can safely say that’s the hardest part to get right. A lot of people err on the side of too little self-promotion, and this isn’t the first time the Internet has rebuked them for that. Here’s Jeffrey Zeldman:
Self-promotion may appear revolting, but it’s the only promotion that’s guaranteed in this business. Do it right, and only haters will hate you for it.
But it’s possible to promote yourself too much as well. Since the launch of the book, it feels like every other tweet from Thomas is pimping the book. Clearly all the effort has been rewarded in sales, yet I can’t help but think that a little less self-promotion isn’t a bad thing. Twitter is a never-ending conversation with people coming and going at all times. It’s tempting to repeat yourself so everyone gets the message. In real life, returning to a conversation dozens of times only to find someone saying the same thing over and over would be bizarre. On the Internet, it’s apparently acceptable. Eventually, however, people are going to tune you out, and that’s something for all of us to remember.
It’s a fact. The iPhone 5 is thinner (0.4mm) than the original iPod touch and lighter (8g). It’s virtually certain that the iPhone that exists five years from now will be at least as thin and light as today’s iPod touch (6.1mm, 88g) if not dramatically more so. And that’s a very, very good thing. The current iPod touch could lose over half its weight and thickness (and even gain a little width and height) without sacrificing usability. I expect this will happen as well.
Today App.net and Tent.is and the rest of the services competing for the attention of early adopters became a little less relevant and a whole lot less likely to succeed. For better or for worse, Facebook and Twitter have matured. The spaces we once enjoyed as our personal playgrounds have become institutions—institutions that affect the lives of unprecedented masses of people. We’re living through a frighteningly intimate period of human history.
Twitter has a seemingly impossible number of stakeholders to satisfy. We can’t and won’t all be happy all the time, but I trust Mike. If anyone can marry revenue and user-friendliness, it’s him.
Design is inherently a visual exercise. The less friction there is between the designer and the design, the faster a designer can try and abandon concepts until the right one is found. Of course Adobe Reflow won’t replace Photoshop, but an HTML-and-CSS–based design tool is pre-requisite. At least we’re finally headed in the right direction.
(If you’re not convinced, think of this application existing on the continuum between idea and implementation somewhere around the prototype phase. It won’t be production ready code, but it’s going to be a lot closer than a PSD while simultaneously making smart, responsive designs the default and letting designers design instead of fiddling with minutiae the computer is better equipped to handle anyway.)
Wait. Wait a minute. Were you trying to answer those questions by doing arithmetic in your head? The computer somehow drew that picture, so the computer must have calculated all those scaleFactors itself. Are you seriously recalculating them in your head?
The second in what is destined to be a long-running series I’m understatedly calling, “Our IDEs Are Killing Us”. Bret Victor again schools us on what’s wrong with how we code. (Here’s the first.)