Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category
This is a bit different than the usual stuff I post about, but I just have to spread this little gem around.
This morning a few people I follow on Twitter were practically raving about this new blog based on a the story of 2 characters from a play-through of the Sims 3, and after checking it out, I have to say that it’s entertaining, hilarious, and more than the slightly tragic.
It’s called “Alice and Kev, The story of being homeless in The Sims 3“, and it’s being put together by Robin Burkinshaw, who is a student of Games Design (and likely has a glorious future in it if this blog is any indication).
Here’s what Robin has to say about this “experiment”…
This is an experiment in playing a homeless family in The Sims 3. I created two Sims, moved them in to a place made to look like an abandoned park, removed all of their remaining money, and then attempted to help them survive without taking any job promotions or easy cash routes. Itâ€™s based on the old â€˜poverty challengeâ€™ idea from The Sims 2, but it turned out to be a lot more interesting with The Sims 3â€™s living neighborhood features.
I have attempted to tell my experiences with the minimum of embellishment. Everything I describe in here is something that happened in the game. Whatâ€™s more, a surprising amount of the interesting things in this story were generated by just letting go and watching the Simsâ€™ free will and personality traits take over.
The resulting blog entries, complete with many MANY screen shots, tell the story of the two main characters and their interactions with the world around them. You really get a sense of their personalities and emotions, which is amazing given that they are semi-autonomous game characters.
I highly suggest checking it out if you want a laugh (and occasionally feel sad for Alice). Whether or not you’re a fan of The Sims, the story of these two characters is surprisingly compelling. I for one can’t wait to see what’s next in store for them on their adventure to survive on stolen apples and live on the digital streets of their virtual town.
In a recent guest post on problogger.net, Maryan Pelland of ontext.com, talks about how easy it can be to fall into the trap of trusting information online.
Here’s a sample from the intro…
Bad and inaccurate information from websites isnâ€™t new. The Internet can be a fabulous tool, but it should not be the sole source of information for any factual writing from blogs, to research for fiction, to magazine or newspaper articles. Anyone can create a website and fill it with text. Thereâ€™s never a guarantee that information online is accurate or current. Thatâ€™s why writers and journalists should not rely on the Internet.
I couldn’t agree more that the internet can be a source of misleading information, made all the more dangerous due to how fast information spreads through things like blogs, twitter, etc.
There is a tendency to want to trust sources of information online, and there is good reason for that: There is a lot of great information out there. The problem is simply that literally ANYONE can dump whatever they want onto a website, blog, wiki, etc, and there is often little or no fact checking happening by anyone other than the writer.
It’s all too common to see someone post something to twitter or their blog and then within minutes (or seconds) dozens or more people are tweeting/blogging away about their opinion of the original statement/event/whatever, only to find out hours later that the original poster was wrong, or just seeing who would believe them.
If the internet is truly to become a great source of fast and accurate information (and for the most part is CAN be already), we all have to work a little harder at sifting through the river of information to find the nuggets of truth. Hopefully before the misleading info has spread too far.
WPTavern has posted an interesting discussion in the form of a chat transcript pertaining to the issues surrounding GPL(and Non-GPL) licensing of WordPress themes. If you are a theme creator, or just have an interest in the legal aspects of GPL licensing of WordPress themes, I’d recommend checking it out.
It’s a fairly informal discussion between Ryan Hellyer (of PixelPoint.com) and an unnamed “specialist in copyright law”. And while Ryan freely admits to not knowing whether what this “specialist” says is true or not, the discussion is pretty interesting.
They get into some details that often seem to be overlooked when discussing GPL licensing, such as having a copyright to the design of a theme separate from the backend code, and beach of contract issues. Law geeks will probably get the most of out it, but it’s not too full of legalese, so most people should be able to follow it if they are interested to learn more about the subject.
Take it all with a grain of salt though, since the “specialist” is unnamed, and his opinion is just that, HIS opinion.
That said, what are YOUR thoughts on the matter of GPL and Non-GPL licensed themes?
Since the inception of WordPress there have been fights over licensing plugins and themes. Some people believe that WordPress themes and plugins automatically inherit the GPL license, and others contest this, but does the licensing really matter?
I believe two things matter: what is in it for the developer, and is the community served?
I don’t believe that the GPL is providing for the developers nor truly living up to what the community needs.
You’ve just created an amazing plugin, it took you over a dozen hours, and you’ve given it out to the community for free.
Now they come to you for support, and you try your best to provide them with the answers they need, adding another two hours per week to your “work”. WordPress then changes in some major way, and you have to recode your plugin to work under the new “rules” of WordPress, adding another two hours of development time to your plugin.
All of this time spent is from the goodness of your heart, but it becomes tiring. One day, you decide to start charging for support. Each request is only two dollars, and you go from needing to spend two hours a week to only spending two hours a month on support related inquiries.
The problems didn’t disappear though, instead the WordPress community forums are littered with people asking for help with your plugin, and they are getting answers, thus bypassing your new business enterprise completely.
You feel frustrated that the hours you originally and continue to put have been rewarded in such a way, and in the end you never make back in community currency, links or actual money the investment that you had put into the project.
Where is the benefit to continue? You either end up discontinuing your work or finding ways to try to drive business to yourself, only to have your plugin removed from the WordPress Plugins repository for not being “GPL enough”. Someone else forks your work and continues on, paying no homage to the original idea creator, you.
Sound like fiction? I have no doubt that this has been the case for at least a few WordPress theme and plugin developers as the GPL creates a number of limitations with no business model set up to reward those that spend the time adding to the community.
Flip that around and remove the GPL, and the plugin author could have built a business around the plugin, while still remaining in the forefront of the community. The monetary benefit would have hopefully changed the market in two ways.
The first way would be that the plugin developer would have been more likely to spend time developing their plugin continually. The second change would be that popular plugins would have to compete in the market in both price and features.
I don’t believe that GPL is the great equalizer and protector, and I also believe that within five years, WordPress will see much of their current plugin and theme development rock stars move onto other platforms that don’t have such restrictive licensing.
iThemes now has a Movable Type store. How long will it be until more theme developers follow suit? Habari’s license allows the creators to manage and sell their work under any license they like, allowing for true business to be built around their platform.
Wired.com writer Paul Boutin recently wrote an article in the entertainment/web section about how blog writing is so 2004. He says that:
Writing a weblog today isn’t the bright idea it was four years ago. The blogosphere, once a freshwater oasis of folksy self-expression and clever thought, has been flooded by a tsunami of paid bilge. Cut-rate journalists and underground marketing campaigns now drown out the authentic voices of amateur wordsmiths. It’s almost impossible to get noticed, except by hecklers. And why bother? The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter.
I found myself nodding a little because I too have seen too many blogs that are more inclined to echo the hype about something great, something awesome or something to buy. Â There’s a place for that, I know. Â But sometimes I sense it isn’t just right. Â Like if I use something and I blog about it, i believe that’s pure. Â But if I write something and say it’s great but haven’t tried it, well there’s the rub. Â But in the same breath I’d say too that I’ve read blogs that are deep, well thought of, sharing true-blue useful stuff.
If you want to start blog writing, go ahead. Â Easier to setup now than way back 2004. Â Write for others or write for yourself or for your community, your choice. Â Just be aware that readers sense what your stuff is really about. And are wise to dismiss you with a click. Â We are all just a click away.
I like Twitter, Facebook and Flickr too by the way. Â
Is blogging sooo 2004 for you? Â Tell me, tell me, tell me…Â
CNet’s Loaded (Sept 10 episode) with Natalie del Conte is spot on when she says that AT&T’s and Verizon’s try on adding a social networking feature as add-on services for their mobile users are “unthinkables”. Â She’s right, it is for suckers, why would you pay to access a social network on your phone when there are several ways you can do it for FREE. Â AT&T’s “social life” and Verizon’s “my community” is charging its users monthly fees of $2.99 and $1.49 respectively.
(hey, isn’t this part of their wireless stake they’re trying to plant since way back 2007)
Both of them will allow you to aggregate your social networking accounts into one application and manage them from there.
At any rate, this seems to be a clear indication about the growth of social networks… blogging networks in particular too. Â If big companies, specially the telcos, are now looking into making money with content (or easy access to it) you can predict that soon enough, they’d be digging their hands into content too.
Is that good or bad news for us… well, honestly I couldn’t tell now. Â But my opinion would be these telcos will give us all a great service if they focus on improving easy access to content, and much sensible rates too… like FREE! Â Or premium services for much more in return.
Stocks values are falling. Big investment banks are filing for bankruptcy. A colleague on the Blog Herald recently wrote a piece on how blogs are weathering the economic crunch that’s being felt worldwide today. Easton Ellsworth writes:
The key lesson for blog networks and solo blogs alike in this time of possible recession may be this: Develop quick reflexes or perish. As McCord says, â€œIn every good business, there comes a time when pruning is necessary.â€
What do you think? How can blog networks and professional bloggers succeed in a struggling economy?
For most people who don’t blog for profit or income, perhaps they don’t directly feel the effects of the crunch on their blogging activities. But for us who are in the business of blogging, we would inevitably feel some effect sooner or later. Blog networks, being business entities, would most likely face some decline in earnings. But how about individual bloggers?
For bloggers who earn directly from advertising revenue and sponsorships, the worry here is that advertisers would cut back on their online ad spending. So whether it’s for directly-sold sponsorship spots or revenue shares in ad networks, there could be a decline in earnings.
For bloggers who work for blog networks, meanwhile, the big worry is job security. With the fear of blog networks folding up, the future might be bleak. Or at least with some blog networks restructuring their pay schemes, the question is whether this would turn out to be beneficial or not. Bloggers who perform well might find this a better proposition, but those whose blogs aren’t exactly popular might not.
In my view, though, blogs and blog networks are better able to weather economic declines compared to other businesses. For one, the overhead is small. Unlike brick and mortar establishments, we don’t have to pay any lease or rent for office space, office utility bills, and costs for other administrative work. Yes, we do spend for hosting, domains, electricity, design and development, and even equipment. And of course, for the moneyed networks, acquisition of online properties. But that’s as far as overhead goes. I would say that much of our expenditure is on creative staff, and hopefully the good output is there!
But still, the effect remains to be seen. Will we feel the crunch? If not directly, then perhaps indirectly–with rising costs of living and such. So Easton’s advice to develop quick reflexes makes perfect sense.
New media is ever-changing. So bloggers’ and blog networks’ ability to change and shift focus quickly should be quick enough.
I was talking with a young blogger this morning about writing styles. Â He was a little worried that he’ll soon tire out his readers, or himself, if he continued the way he writes. Â In honesty, I told him that I too needed coaching because I am in the same situation as he is. Â We just found comfort to the fact that “pobody’s nerfect”. Â And that asking for help is the first step to knowing where you are and knowing where you’d like to go.
I remember I had this conversation before with a great book writer, Francis. Â I asked how he has reached his status as a much sought after speaker and writer. Â He responded with just a word… “read”. Â He said, “Jim, you cannot possibly give what you do not have. Â You have to read, to write well”. Â
Words of wisdom I know, but to tell you honestly, that wasn’t a light bulb moment for me. Â Â But because I respected him and what he says, I followed. Â Good thing I did.
So going back to my young blogger friend. Â I told him to …
- you guessed it… “read”. Â And you know, this morning wasn’t a light bulb moment for him too, but I know time will come and it will be one. Â “Trust me, read”… I know he will. Â
- I told him to write a post to try to get his readers to comment on his writing style. Â It doesn’t hurt to ask, and readers are very very honest too.
- I told him to write a post in three different ways… present each on his blog and get his readers to comment on it. Â
- lastly, I told him to “be original”. Â Don’t try to copy how others write, try to develop a style that you’re comfortable with. Â Know your audience and know how best to communicate with them.
I admire a lot of blog writers. Â Them from CNet, Engadget, DVice and Gizmodo… to name a few. Â They write differently but I enjoy them equally with no favorites. Â Not a day passes that I do not read these blogs to devour a whole gamut of stuff. Â I just read and read these days. Â And I do find it really helpful when I begin to write my own sets of posts.
Monday morning, I’m off to a happy start.Â Got my cup of java to my left and my trusty mouse at the right, firing up my iTunes to download my daily podcasts.Â Currently listening to CNet’s Buzz Out Loud online (episode 779).
Here’s an update from the Olympics post I made regarding China’s allegedly strict rules on internet information access to and fro journalists and “media” tourists covering/enjoying the Olympic festivities.Â From a report by the New York Times, China has apparently heard and is “bowing to criticism from Olympic officials, foreign journalists and Western political leaders, and have lifted some of the restrictions that blocked Web sites at the main press center for the Games, although other politically sensitive sites remained inaccessible Friday.”
The government made no announcement about the partial lifting of its firewall, and it was unclear if the change would be temporary. The International Olympic Committee also sought Friday to counter statements by its top press official, who had suggested that I.O.C. negotiators had quietly acquiesced to the governmentâ€™s restrictions.Â Â (from a report by Andrew Jacobs, The New York Times)
This is a great turning point that will surely have a direct affect on the Olympic spirit.Â I am hoping that bloggers too would find it easy to access their blogs not only in media centers but also in public internet access areas.Â Complementing facts and figures that mainstream media offers, the world will benefit from experiential writing/media that bloggers are known for.Â Â I, for one, would encourage blogging to be a part of theÂ Olympic experience.Â While blogging hasn’t really made a mark in the past 2004 Olympics, I believe NOW would be an opportune time to include it as part of the the Olympic fodder.Â Would you agree?
Read an article from Yahoo’s internet section regarding China’s censorship of websites for the duration of the olympic season.Â China’s internet lawÂ includes even foreign journalists, teams and even tourists… they would all find it a little hard to open what once was just accessible sites.
OpenNetÂ InitiativesÂ published a study on China’s internet censorship lawÂ based on the 2004-2005 period.Â While access was restricted to basically blocking topics that are political by nature, sensitive and controversial, it has evolved to include many other topics a little less trivial.
“China’s Internet filtering regime is the most sophisticated effort of its kind in the world. Compared to similar efforts in other states, China’s filtering regime is pervasive, sophisticated, and effective. It comprises multiple levels of legal regulation and technical control. It involves numerous state agencies and thousands of public and private personnel. It censors content transmitted through multiple methods, including Web pages, Web logs, on-line discussion forums, university bulletin board systems, and e-mail messages. Our testing found efforts to prevent access to a wide range of sensitive materials, from pornography to religious material to political dissent. Chinese citizens seeking access to Web sites containing content related to Taiwanese and Tibetan independence, Falun Gong, the Dalai Lama, the Tiananmen Square incident, opposition political parties, or a variety of anti-Communist movements will frequently find themselves blocked. While it is difficult to describe this widespread filtering with precision, our research documents a system that imposes strong controls on its citizens’ ability to view Internet content. ” – from OpenNet
What I am curious of right now is how this will all work with a worldwide media event.Â Traditional media is one thing, the blogging media is another.Â Tourist flocking the games will surely be a little frustrated that they may be restricted to visit their own blogs to post their time in China.Â That is, IF their blogs have phrases or keywords that the Chinese government deem as “controversial”.
I would be interested to find out the impact to the blogging world.Â I would probably venture a “free the blogs” campaign in the offing?Â Who knows, it is likely to happen.
You can see more info on China’s internet policy here, here and here.