30 July 2005

Level 60 del.icio.us player

I might not be that hot in AIM Fight terms, but I'm no. 175 of the 'Top 500 Taggers' at Collaborative Rank. This is a nice follow up to my inclusion in HubLog's Gatherers of the Month. I must, like Matt suggested last night, be a 'level 60 del.icio.us player'.

Collaborative Rank (via Smart Mobs) is a del.icio.us search engine:

Users on del.icio.us who give meaningful tags to helpful/timely URLs (as evidenced by others subsequently doing the same) will be rewarded with higher CollaborativeRank, which means that their tagging will have greater influence on this search engine's rankings.

Along with 'socialsoftware', 'games', 'puzzles', 'rss' and 'women', one of my key areas of expertise is 'toread'...

See also: A draft paper by the developer, Amir Michail of the University of New South Wales, CollaborativeRank -- Motivating People to Give Helpful and Timely Ranking Suggestions (pdf).

Posted at 12:06 PM in Collecting, Games, Social software | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

18 July 2005

Girlguiding as a serious game

While researching around playful knowledge networks for teens, I discovered that Girlguiding describes itself as a serious game these days:

What is Guiding?

Guiding is a game - with a purpose. It provides opportunities for girls and young women to be challenged by new adventures and experiences and achieve a sense of pride in accomplishment and teaches them to understand and learn about the world, its people and cultures.

Makes sense. There are lots of basic game design patterns evident in Girlguiding: from learning by doing, to levelling up, trading, socialising, and collecting...


Pictures pilfered from here.

Girlguiding UK is also piloting a piece of safer social software: a moderated discussion forum carefully limited to Girl Guides and Girlguiding staff.

It can't be long before they get into alternative reality gaming - it's a perfect fit. (Ditto for the Scouts and Duke of Edinburgh Award.)

Posted at 03:03 PM in Children and teens, Collecting, Games, Social software | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

20 February 2005

Uncanny toys

When I first came to understand RFID, at the Digital ID World conference in 2003, I became excited about how it could be used to create things that tell you stories. I was mostly thinking about books and other items that people collect, and some way of communicating the lifecycle, or social life, of those collectables. What I didn't think about at all, and certainly wouldn't have expected to see so soon, was RFID's use in mass-market toys. WorldChanging reports on two new toys that bring the uncanny world of animate toys closer:

Naoru-kun, a new doll by Bandai... speaks 150 phrases and responds when it's shaken hands, hugged, petted, etc. But when Naoru-kun gets sick, kids have to use one of the items including "syringe," "candy" and "medicine." The doll reads RFID tags embedded in these items and responds accordingly.

Little Tikes has a series of toy kitchens full of interactive technology. The MagiCook Kitchen, for example, comes with pretend food embedded with electronic tags that can be read by sensors on the stovetop which then respond with the appropriate comment.

Freud taught us that "children do not distinguish at all sharply between living and inanimate objects" and that "children have no fear of their dolls coming to life, they may even desire it", so seemingly animate toys make a lot of sense. Do you think they're more likely to be broken by children following that "first metaphysical stirring" described by Charles Baudelaire in The Philosophy of Toys:

The child twists and turns his toy, he scratches it, shakes it, bangs it against the wall, throws it on the ground. From time to time, he forces it to resume its mechanical motions, sometimes backwards. Its marvellous life comes to a stop. The child... finally prises it open... But where is its soul?

See also:

  • near near future: When objects refuse to interact with their users
  • textually.org on StuffBak: uniquely numbered labels for portable items that could get lost
  • Bruce Sterling on 'spime', in Wired magazine
  • Adaptive Path: User Expectations in a World of Smart Devices

    Posted at 03:25 PM in Children and teens, Collecting, Identities for things, Mimicry, Toys | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    27 January 2005

    Flickr Squared Photo Collaborative Poster project

      Originally uploaded by jbum.

    This would have to be the loveliest and most persuasive information visualisation I've ever come across. jbum, a member of the always-delightful squared circle group on Flickr has created a series of mosaics from the images sent to the group's photo pool.

    The image above was made by "compositing 2600 photographs and arranging them in a fibonacci spiral, a form commonly seen in plants, such as sunflowers and pinecones" and then overlaying the current licensing status of each image: "The red band indicates unlicensed photos. The purple band indicates photos which are licensed, but have a 'No Derivatives' clause. The photos in the center are useable."

    jbum wants to produce a poster of his mosaic but first needs the contributors of the original images to re-license their work. Here's his call to action.




    And wow.

    (Via Paul Key on Pixelbox, who introduced it thus: "Insanity squared on a flickr tip. Prepare eyes for infinity.")

    Update: Apparently they've gone from 1437 to 1894 licensed photos in less than a week.


    July 2005 Update: The Flickr Collaborative Posters are now available to order. Choose from Flickrverse, Day In the Life Of..., Squared Circle Peach and Squared Circle Phyllotaxy.

    Posted at 02:47 PM in Collecting, Creativity, Social software | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    05 September 2004

    Materialism in The Sims

    One thing that has been kind of ironic about The Sims is that a lot of people play it for a while, like 4 to 6 hours, and they walk away thinking it's very materialistic. But the ones that have played it for 20 hours realise that it's the opposite. If you buy stuff in The Sims - every object has some sort of traits - it can go bad, or break, or need maintenance, need to be watered. If you sit there and build a big mansion that's all full of stuff, without cheating, you realise that all these objects end up sucking up all your time, when all these objects had been promising to save you time. So they are kind of time-bombs in a literal sense. And it's actually kind of a parody of consumerism, in which at some point your stuff takes over your life. But because it's fairly subtle, and you have to play the game for that long - half the players don't even see it's a parody. They think, "oh, it's so consumerist."

    From SimSmarts: An Interview with Will Wright, in Brenda Laurel's Design Research: Methods and Perspectives

    Posted at 02:42 PM in Collecting, Games | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    13 July 2004

    Bookplates and blog banners

    ^Golfwidow's Ministry of Silly Walks

    Blogs by their covers:

    As the title of this site suggests, I'm judging these blogs by their covers. Am I really that shallow? For the purposes of this project, the answer is yes. This showcase is specifically for blogs and specifically about pure visual greatness. If you are concerned with CSS only sites, check out the CSS Vault or CSS Beauty. If you want complete web standards compliance, check out the Web Standards Awards. It's not that I don't support these things, because I do: this site is standards compliant and coded with CSS. But I'm choosing a different focus: beauty and blogs. No commercial sites, just blogs.

    I started this one as a holding place for designs I liked. Bloggers are fickle people, and many change their designs at the drop of a hat, so I needed to create a museum of sorts to hold the designs I deemed beautiful, lest they change overnight.


    When books were scarce and precious, an owner used a book-plate (ex libris) to identify his/her ownership. Conceived as a functional object, the bookplate has become a self-sufficient work of art, an attractive collector's item and an object of research.

    Posted at 10:15 PM in Collecting | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    09 July 2004

    del.icio.us phrenology

    You just have to love the strangely productive play of the blogosphere.

    While I was out cycling, Matt spent a sizeable chunk of a sunny Helsinki Sunday visualising his del.icio.us tags in Illustrator, "by multiplying font size by number of entries per tag, then placing them without much care." (I don't believe that last part is strictly true). This was enough to inspire Kevan to "knock together a bit of script to generate messier equivalents in CSS, for any username". Enter extisp.icio.us:

    extispicious, a. [L. extispicium an inspection of the innards for divination; extra the entrails + specer to look at.] Relating to the inspection of entrails for prognostication.

    My extisp.icio.us looks like this:


    I was not at all surprised to see collecting and children writ large but some of the other word sizes surprised me. extisp.icio.us is to geeky blogs what quizilla is to LiveJournal. Or, to put it in Mattspeak, extisp.icio.us is phrenological, an opportunity to read the bumps in bloggers' outboard-brains.

    I think Clay's going a bit far when he asks for the visualisation to become social software. I can't see how much sense could be distilled from either 'concatenated users' or 'inverse mapping', and inverse mapping potentially triggers a nonsensical link-collecting competition. In some ways it also misses the point. extisp.icio.us is a glimpse of individual obsessions. You combine Clay and Seb and 'social software' might get bigger. You key in 'social software' and Clay and Seb might have the biggest names...

    But back to the productive play of the blogosphere. Matt stayed in to visualise his del.icio.us tags; I went cycling and got a surprising visualisation of my own del.icio.us tags a couple of days later. The moral of the story? I dunno. Maybe that it pays to know interesting people who sometimes stay indoors more than they should. We're going camping in Hanko Porkkala this weekend, so our bumps will be more about things in the night than phrenology.

    Posted at 12:30 PM in Collecting | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    17 May 2004

    Vice cards

    The practice of placing prostitutes cards in phone boxes is known as ‘carding’ and it is a particularly English phenomenon specific to London and the seaside resorts of Brighton and Hove where they serve a flourishing tourist trade...

    Carding started as a kitchen table industry with a handful of prostitutes and their maids cutting-out images, drawing their own illustrations, rubbing-down lettering and then passing it all over to a trusted printer. It developed in to an extensive, professional, well-organised and highly technical production process that utilised the latest manufacturing systems...

    The first advantage to carding was that telephone boxes provided the means for a client to respond immediately to the advertisement. Even more important was free media space. Telephone boxes make it physically possible for the girls to place an advert without the knowledge or consent of the owner and without paying. This is not feasible with more traditional media such as newspapers, magazines or shop windows.

    From an essay about vice cards as a cultural icon or typographic curio, found on the website of the St Bride Printing Library.

    Posted at 01:10 PM in Collecting | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    16 May 2004

    Giving up

    Comics and Collecting I: Parting with my Collection

    But not only am I going to start buying trades only and cutting back on the number of titles; I'm getting rid of my entire collection altogether. There's simply no reason to keep it. Throughout the past weeks, I've been going through, and reading as many stories as I can, and realising how unattractive the format is. Older books can't be read without fear of damaging them, and newer books go by so quickly, it just doesn't feel like they're worth keeping simply to read.

    I really loathe comics as a speculator's or collecting medium, and I don't see the need to continue spending huge amounts of money I can't afford on things I won't get too much of a return on.

    Comics and Collecting II: Collecting for a Different Reason

    When I was a kid, we collected comics to be able to read all the stories. Today, you collect comics as a means of achieving a status that only comic book fanatics can understand. That’s where my problem starts...

    Comics should exist to be read. It’s what they are. Comic books. A book is supposed to be read.

    Unfortunately, we have some people who desire the image or status or whatever illusory state of mind they get from having these false relics, and if anything, it’s what keeps the industry from moving forward.

    Because you see, when people buy comics to sell them, the industry starts responding. Instead of making comics to be read, they make comics to be sold.

    Posted at 12:50 PM in Collecting | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    12 May 2004

    On bibliophilia

    A collection of bookplates:

    When books were scarce and precious, an owner used a book-plate (ex libris) to identify his/her ownership. Conceived as a functional object, the bookplate has become a self-sufficient work of art, an attractive collectors' item and an object of research.

    The Village Voice on the purpose of book signings:

    Collectors collectively decided that a book with a dust jacket was more desirable, and hence worth more, than an unjacketed one. Indeed, only a jacketed copy was regarded as truly complete... Over the past decade, collectors have come to regard an unsigned book as similarly incomplete. "I have it," you'll hear someone say, "but it's not signed." If the author is still alive, the sentence ends a little differently. "But it's not signed yet," the collector will say.

    The Guardian's review of Dubravka Ugresic's Thank You for Not Reading:

    She began to realise that literary life had become swamped by its epiphenomena, that books' blurbs and author photographs had become more important than their content, that the industry was overrun by middlemen and women whom writers had to pay for, that bookstores resembled supermarkets whose fruit and vegetables had mutated and lost their flavour in favour of external appearance. She contrasts this situation with that of the torcedores, the cigar-rollers, in Cuba's tobacco factories, where they hire readers to read to the workers. "The listeners in my Cuban fantasy are not passive ... Their literary taste is as sharp as a razor, they react to every badly used word, to every false note."

    Posted at 03:39 PM in Collecting | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack