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Monthly Archives: September 2005

In response to an essay on why console gaming does not bode well for raising future generations of hackers, Mike Sugarbaker hits upon an idea of pure molten genius: a pokemon-style collecting game, where what is collected traded and battled with is code:

“Instead of blocks, cards. Instead of Pokemon or collectible monsters and magic items on the cards, commands. Or types of loops, or even objects with multiple slots for properties and other commands. That’s right, I said collectible programming commands. Make the powerful, difficult-to-grasp ones rare, have some server-mediated market for getting them, and provide an anime-like story shell about being the greatest hacker. Then just let the kids loose and let ‘em fight each other with code.”

This is just fantastic.

Instead of Fred Harris and Ian McNaught-Davis in cosy, chunky jumpers, I imagine the next generation would want a hyperkinetic saturday morning show full of begelled young turks and turkesses in directional topshop clothing gunging youngsters who have careless with their memory handling.

Alice, Tom and the other BBC skunkworks-types should be on the phone to Mike today to ask where they should throw the money to make this happen.

Anecdote of the day, courtesy of the Guardian’s interview with Mick Jagger:

There was the time when, according to Watts, Jagger called him in the middle of the night, said “Where’s my drummer then?” and told him he was ready to record. Watts got out of bed, dressed himself – immaculate as ever, suit, tie, ironed shirt – walked downstairs to meet Jagger, pulled back his arm, swung his fist, and laid him out. “Don’t you ever call me your drummer,” he said. “You are my singer.”

Fantastic.

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Rather than a Rokr (and you have money to burn, can’t wait for n91, live in Japan)- how about Chris‘s idea of sticking a Nano on the back of the Talby? Probably still thinner that the Rokr.

Depressing quote of the day for anyone working in mobile experience design from Engadget:

1:27pm – Garriques [President of Motorola’s mobile phone division] on the ROKR: “It’s a great ARPU story.”

Sheesh.

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UPDATE: Peterme asks what “ARPU” is. I apologise – it’s jargon, much used in the cellphone industry, for “Average Revenue Per User” – the grail is finding applications and services that drive it skyward, and mobile music is seen by a lot of the industry as one of those.

Over the last few days The Guardian have flung themselves into Finland.

First, in the Guardian Review, an overview of Finnish popular literary action including Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomins:

“Tove Jansson wrote her last cult Moomin book for children in 1970, but lived till 2001. English-speakers were reminded of her later adult fiction by the reissue two years ago of her 1972 novel The Summer Book. Its publishers, Sort Of Books, are now working on a short story selection, and the novel Fair Play. In Jansson’s Helsinki penthouse studio-turned-museum, her niece, Sophia Jansson (the model for the six-year-old granddaughter in The Summer Book), tells me the elliptical fiction often explores relationships among artists, but leaves much unsaid. Tove grew up in a Bohemian household with a sculptor father and graphic artist mother, while her lifelong partner was the woman artist Tuulikka Pietilä. They spent time on the rocky islet in the Gulf of Finland where The Summer Book is set. And, says her niece, she still answered 2,000 fan letters a year by hand.”

Then, Monday saw Marimekko get the Grauniad once-over, highlighting the brand’s female-led work culture.

Some excerpts:

It is a proudly female company, run by women, for women, employing generations of women. From the moment you enter its low-rise building outside Helsinki, you know you are on female territory. The wide, open-plan interior is blindingly white in the late summer sun, devoid of the phallic statues that traditionally adorn business HQs, and its famous printed textiles – oversized geometric patterns in vibrant colours – hang down the walls…

…From its inception, Marimekko was in the hands of women. Even now, women occupy all the top positions. Founded in 1951 in Helsinki, it was initially intended to be a collaboration between textile designer Armi Ratia and her husband Viljo, who ran a small printing company. Legend has it that Ratia, as a woman, couldn’t get a bank loan, so it had to be done through her husband. But it was she who saw the potential for a designer-led textile house; she took charge and recruited Maija Isola, the first and most important of many young female designers, to create original prints: Marimekko was born…

The clothes were unconventional, informal, accessible to anyone – young or old, fat or thin. The name itself means “a dress for Mary” – ie the woman on the street. “Marimekko’s clothing in particular, with its clean unisex lines and free-flowing style, conveyed a utopian feel of sexual equality,” says Marianne Aav, director of the Design Museum in Finland. When Ratia was accused of peddling “sexless” clothes, she replied: “A woman is sexy, not a dress.”

…Paakkanen thrusts a sales chart into my hands. The graph shows a steady increase in sales from the 1950s to 1985, then the graph dips under the axis until 1991 when it skyrockets. Her two-inch painted talons jab at the dip: “During these years, men were in charge of Marimekko,” she laughs. “When I arrived in September 1991, it was like the end of the world; there was low morale, dirty windows, a broken building. The first thing we did was clean the windows…

…No one was surprised a woman was running Marimekko again. “I got flowers and faxes when I took over. People hoped I would take the company back to how it was when Armi Ratia was in charge,” Paakkanen says. She believes women have better business heads. “Men in business start at the top, they create positions for themselves then work down. Women work from the bottom up, and value their workers.”

…Isola’s daughter, Kristina Isola, who works at Marimekko, agrees. “If ‘feminist’ in business means women can take care of affairs themselves, then yes, Marimekko is a feminist company,” she says. “We don’t have to lean on men. Marimekko’s success has much to do with the fact it is a woman’s company: we’re practical, we don’t waste, we can do many things at the same time, we’re less nervous about our positions, we express our feelings better.”

Go Finland!

Sony's magic wand patent

Via Jim Rossignol’s Esoteric Beat (Reg. Reqd) comes this news of a patent registered by Sony for what sounds like an extension to Eyetoy.

“Sony’s new idea is to plug a webcam into the console, and give the gamer a handheld wand similar to a pocket flashlight. The wand has a battery, a few mouse-like buttons and several different coloured LEDs that can be switched on and off in various combinations.

By pressing the buttons and waving the wand towards the webcam, the gamer can click to shoot aliens, drag-and-drop images on screen and navigate menus.”

Moreover – the affordances of a wand give a whole pallette of gestural interface for games developers to work with – adding ‘compositional’ control to rhythm – and possibly a whole other level of emotion to interface.

Sounds perfect for god games or RTS games, and even action games with elements of ‘compositional commands like Okami or even Darwinia if it ever made it to Playstation.

Patrick, in comments to my early post about the effects of blackberries and other push e-mail devices, recounts his experience of a meeting where nine out of ten of the people present – well – weren’t:

“They would look up upon hearing a word they find interesting, then went right back into their text-messaging. Then during Q&A, one guy asked three questions in rapid succession (all of which pertained to topics we had already discussed in our presentation), then promptly went back to typing in his SK. After answering his questions in rather lengthy detail, the presenter (our Exec Creative Director) asked him whether or not we’ve addressed his concerns, he replied: “uh, more or less.” never once loosened his grip on his opium pipe.”

Was talking with Foe about this again tonight, and realised that of course, I have done the equivalent of this in meeting rooms that have wifi – checking my email, or attending to some other work, while being copresent, but not really concentrating on the content of the meeting. Is is again the effect of the tools? Having ‘prescence’ in buddy lists means you are available for chat or queries to others. Do we now think that it is enough to be ‘present’ in reality – available, but not concentrating – awaiting a call to participate rather than participating by default? Would we be more productive or creative and less stressed if we opted out of one ‘buddy list’ of prescence – perhaps even sometimes the physical prescence. Just be honest and say – “You know what? I shouldn’t be here if I’m not concentrating on this.”

I know that Joi Ito has written a lot about his thoughts on “m-time and p-time” before now – I really should go back and read it more thoroughly.

All of this thinking about berrybites and the technologies that create constant partial attention put me to mind of the first time I heard the phrase, on Neal Stephenson’s well page – and how much of the communication technology we think essential to productivity is nothing of the sort:

“Linda Stone, formerly of Apple and Microsoft, has coined the term “continuous partial attention” to describe life in the era of e-mail, instant messaging, cellphones, and other distractions. This curious feature of modern life poses a problem for a someone like me. Every productive thing that I do requires ALL my attention.

I cannot put it any better than Donald Knuth, who writes on his website, “Email is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things. But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of things. What I do takes long hours of studying and uninterruptible concentration. ”

Knuth also provides the following quote from Umberto Eco: “I don’t even have an e-mail address. I have reached an age where my main purpose is not to receive messages.”

One other thought – form factor.

Different form factors set up different spaces of interaction and particpation around them. Handhelds and laptops, while seeming quite different in form-factor – both create ‘private’ spaces for different reasons (size for handhelds, lids for laptops) which have similar impacts on the feeling of the social space around them.

I wonder what meetings feel like if the particpants are still connected but using devices with form-factors that create ‘semi-private/semi-public’ interaction spaces around them, e.g. tablet PCs. Does anyone have first-hand experience?