Playing Word Games in Blog Comments

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I just noticed a whole series of word-association and other games going on in the comments of Fail Blog posts. I have no idea if this is a new phenomenon, but I haven’t seen it before. Nor is it clear if any of these people know each other from elsewhere, but there is a whole little community gameplay scene that appears to spontaneously twist and turn.

I always find it fascinating how people will bend almost any activity towards play and communication. Blog comments are of course already set up for communication, but it’s the ability to have them nested on Fail Blog that seems to create a the boundaries for the playfulness.

Is this something new or have I just been in a cave or something? Anyone know of other examples of this happening?

Google SearchWiki

Google have just launched an additional service called SearchWiki for those with a Google account. Basically you get to add notes to search results or move around search rankings. Google will remember them when you search again and you are logged into your account. That is, you won’t see them if you’re not logged in and your changes make no difference to what others see, unless they ask to see what notes other people have made.

It’s an interesting development for search because it will not only mean you can use notes to remember things for later, but also improve Google’s ranking and searching ability. I feel sure that the notes or amount of notes or something similar will eventually feed into Google’s own algorithms. So, not only will people be complaining that Google is making us dumber, but also that we’re making Google smarter.

You can also have a look at how SearchWiki works.

The Designer’s Review of Books Launches

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If you haven’t already heard from me about it, I launched The Designer’s Review of Books at the end of last week. I’ve been so busy reviewing and promoting it, I forgot to promote it on my own blog. Duh.

It seems like it has struck somewhat of a chord, which I’m really pleased about. There seems to have been no single place for reviews of design books up until now, only design sites (albeit great ones like Design Observer) that also had some book reviews.

I hope to do at least weekly reviews, if not a little more frequently. There are also a few well-known designers who will be writing reviews of some of their favourites. I hope, also, to review a few disappointments too – it’s easy to just talk about the great stuff, but people need to know what doesn’t come up to scratch too.

Do go and take a look, subscribe, tweet it and tell your friends. And if you’re thinking of buying any design books from Amazon, you can help me keep the site going through the Designer’s Review of Books Amazon Stores.

G-Speak – Back to VR Gloves Again?


g-speak overview from john underkoffler on Vimeo.

It’s the gloves again.

Part of me wants to believe G-Speak is really is a fantastic “spatial operating environment”. The mouse and keyboard are awkward, clunky and out-dated with plenty of problems and it’s time for a change. G-Speak is about freeing ourselves from those shackles, about working in space across multiple screens.

I wanted to scream when I saw the tired reference to Minority Report, but it turns out that one of the team, John Underkoffler, was the science advisor on Minority Report, so they can get away with it given they he ripped off his own ideas for the film.

The video and some of the interaction looks great.

Except for the gloves.

It’s the gloves (and the headset) that made VR so lame. That and being tethered to a machine, so at least that part is no more.

Yet regardless of how much of a paradigm-shifting breakthrough g-speak is, I can’t see people donning the dorky gloves every time they want to work. I can’t see many people devoting that much space to one person’s screens either and I can’t see many people having the stamina to stand with their arms out-streched and wave them about all day. A two-hour yoga class is hard enough.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have a go and experience it for myself. I’m sure there is a whole of interesting interaction going on there.

I really want to be wrong about this. I really want to know that it’s not just a technical triumph from a group of talented tech guys whose blog has the most heinous URLs. I really do.

I just don’t want to have to smell the gloves.

(Via Bren).

Sprint’s Now Machine Data Overload

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In keeping with the seemingly American obsession that more data one has the better (especially on TV), Sprint have launched a viral campaign called the Now Machine Widget.

Kottke says, “I don’t know what this is or how it works or why Sprint is involved, but man is it fun to just let the data just wash over you.” It’s kind of fascinating, but also a totally overblown data overload and the kind of thing that would be unusable in any practical sense. (I often wonder how traders manage to spread their attention across so many screens. My guess is it is an illusion and that they can’t – it just stops them having to bring different windows to the front.)

The design of the Now Machine was by Mike Kellogg for Goodby, Sliverstein & Partners.

(Via Kottke via Airbag).

Code Beneath the Surface

This developer from Infusion is showing off some of his modifications to Microsoft’s Surface at I Live To Code. The table has several cameras underneath instead of just one, so that he can affect the ripples and other interactions on the surface without touching it.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the demo is the “new gesture” for tilting where he places the palm of his hand on one side of the screen and uses his forefinger and thumb to change the tilt angle. I’ve been trying to think what this is the equivalent too and it feels a bit like adjusting anything on a pedestal or tripod where you have to hold one part still to move the other. I’m not convinced it’s a gesture that is going to catch on because the palm-down hand blocks half the screen.

(Regarding the “Sponsored by Microsoft” link – this is experiment for Playpen too. It’s a sponsored clip by Unruly Media who have a pretty good ethics code. They encourage honest opinions and don’t try to be stealth marketers. I’m not entirely sure I want to have a great deal of sponsorship on Playpen, but the clip interested me anyway, so we’ll see. If you absolutely don’t want to give me an 18 cent kickback, you can watch it on YouTube)

Troika – Digital by Design & Interview

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Troika have a new book out called Digital by Design: Crafting Technology for Products and Environments. It is a wide-ranging survey of works that use new and emerging digital technologies, often crossed with physical interactions and products that blur the boundaries between art and design. They have managed to collect together work from a fantastic range of contributors, including my mates over at Hulger.

I visited Troika a while back and interviewed for a Podcast on Core77 and really like their approach to what they do and they’re lovely people too.

I plan to review Digital by Design for the soon-to-be-launched Designers Review of Books, but in the meantime you can buy it from Amazon.co.uk here (or Amazon.com here).

I also wrote a profile on them in my Foreign Policy column for Desktop. It seemed a fitting time for another “From the Archives” interview post. You can read the full Desktop article after the jump… Continue reading “Troika – Digital by Design & Interview”

The Rules of Currency

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Image: J0nB0n

Stephen Sniderman’s excellent 1999 essay, Unwritten Rules, in The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology talks about the tacit agreement of unwritten (and impossible) rules required for any kind of play or game. He uses currency as an analogy – we all know the piece of paper is inherently worthless but don’t argue over it when we buy a carton of milk. We mutually agree that a dollar is worth a dollar.

Then, this sentence jumped out at me:

“The system works even though no one can explain it fully and even though we all know it could collapse at any moment if people stopped trusting each other or the system itself.”

Indeed it could has.

Random is Good – Biscuit Tin

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The good folks over over at magneticNorth have just made another typically mN piece called Biscuit Tin (that’s ‘Cookie Tin’ to you American folk).

It’s a Flickr viewer, except the interface randomly selects from your Filckr photostream. It’s like getting out the biscuit tin full of old photos, emptying them over the floor and being surprised by them all over again. As they say, “random is good”.

(And if you like that, you’ll like Photojojo’s Time Capsule, which e-mails you photos once a month from the same time last year.)

(Thanks Bren).