Monday, November 19, 2012

R and Date Formats

There are many ways to represent dates in computer languages. You can have something human-readable, with a year, month, and day, in some order and some combination of text and numbers.

  • 2012-11-19, year month day.
  • 11/19/12, US month day year.
  • 11/12/11, Nov 12 US or Dec 11 EU.
  • Nov-19-2012, a combination of text and numbers, to a human.
  • "2012-11-19", which is probably text to a computer given the quotation marks, but numbers to a human.
  • 1353340800, a big number that means nothing to most people, but is today at 4pm in seconds since Jan 1, 1970. This is a standard time format, I've found.
We will gloss over leap years, leap seconds, and different historical calendar systems, but it's all a fascinating and nuanced topic.

But I ran into a huge (yet small) problem with time formats in R, and trying to convert from seconds since 1-1-1970 to some current dates, where I had 45,000 data points. If I tried to analyze them, they ended up as 45,000 different points and didn't aggregate at all. Hard to visualize. So I wanted to aggregate them all by month, and instead of 45,000 points I would have, say 120 (10 years, 12 months each). I'm taking averages, and this approach makes sense. This turned out to be harder than I thought -- essentially I was just trimming everything but the year and month (days, hours, minutes, seconds). Simple!

Edit: I'm including a screen shot of the code, so Google doesn't destroy it (due to the characters in it and how the R code is interpreted by the Google HTML parser).
"the_df" is the data frame.
"cm" is creation month.
"bday" is the seconds since 1-1-1970.

The "as POSIX" call converts the number of seconds as a number to number of seconds as time.
The "strftime" strips off the day (off the end) and makes it a text string (string-from-time, I think).
The paste is the key part, it won't work without it, you have to add the day back on (the 1st of the month for this analysis). I think this makes it a string value (not a date).
Then the "as date" call converts it to a date from a text string.
(Or something generally like that.)

The point is, if you use "as.Date" in R, you have to hand it a day. I tried just handing it year-month, but that ends up as NA, even though I can't find anything that says that kind of thing shouldn't work.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Election Numbers and Massachusetts

(I could reframe this in the following manner: The most telling vote of the election... was it how women voted? How minorities voted? Latinos and Hispanics? Regions? White people? Evangelicals? No. The most telling vote was instead from one small state in the corner of America: Massachusetts.)

Perhaps the most telling numbers from the election come from Massachusetts--the only state to have direct experience with both President Obama and Mitt Romney as chief executives. Massachusetts voters had four years of Mitt Romney as governor, and also had four years of President Obama as US President. Given this unparalleled experience, how did they vote?

The results are clear.



That's a one-sided endorsement. (Percentages do not add to 100% because I didn't include the "Other" votes which are part of the total.)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Game on Game Homage

Noticed this achievement in Borderlands 2 the other day... it's a World of Warcraft homage! Originally For the Horde! (Said by orcs, and used more widely by Horde players as a saying.) So, yes there's a lot of homage to lots of things in games (like I have a lot  of EQII in-game homage here), but sometimes games reference other games. All culture is fair play (emphasis on play).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

On Being the First

I got a "discovery" the other day in EQII, for the Dancing Fire Opal Band (Bruekelyn, Unrest!). This is kind of cool, as it means I am the first person on the server to find this item. The game designers make it a noted event, so you and all your guildmates are like "Hey wow, that's cool," because of course something that the game devs think is important enough to note must be important--and gamers do tend to culturally value being the first to do something in a game, before anyone else has accomplished it.

But like all good stories, there are some caveats! First, I didn't really discover it. My guildmate, Brenvia, actually "found" it, but his characters are so geared up with equipment from the newest expansion that he didn't need this now-outdated but once super cool piece of equipment. So, he let me loot it, and I got the ding. I was lying dead on the ground at the time for a variety of reasons that take a while to explain if you don't know how MMOs work (basically, he had his six--yes six--characters, and added me, and in EQII groups are max six, so I was essentially on my own and was the only character in group 2 of what was now a raid--with no healer, I died). You don't know that a piece of loot hasn't been found before you actually loot it, otherwise I would have told him to take it since he deserved it (see I am buying in to the whole "first" thing there).

Secondly, you'll note that the discovery for Unrest is about a year after all the other servers. Why, I am not sure. I know Unrest had another server merged into it a while ago, perhaps the discovery data was erased or reset at that point. (The item is off a named I had never noticed before, since it looks like the other critters of its type--a flying little fireball--but it flies around and I don't look up much.) So, perhaps many other people had looted this item, but none since the server merge. Probably it is one of the rarer items that the named drops (rare as in unfrequent).

Monday, October 15, 2012

Comics and Copyright

Last Friday I was at the 2012 New York Comic Con with a Paul Belliveau, who is an animator. He knows an actual comic book artist, Chris Batista (who is cool enough to have a Wikipedia page), who has worked for Marvel and DC, from their time in school together. It was a lot like the Phoenix Comic Con from May, when ICA was in Phoenix, except that it was bigger and with fewer personalities (since Phoenix is so close to LA). The cosplay was awesome.

One thing I noted in Phoenix was all the artists who make their own artwork of Marvel and DC heroes, either rather awesomely or with their own differencing style. Although Marvel and DC are not people and did not make any of these characters, the two companies own the rights. How was this allowed? The answer is that it's expected and tolerated to a small extent.

The same was true in NYC: there were tons of artists with their own artwork that had Marvel and DC figures in it. But, for Chris Batista who had actually worked for Marvel and DC, it was a little different. He had actual layout pages (I am not sure of the exact term), that is, the large format black and white layout pages that he had drawn, and was offering them for sale (and they are for sale here at The Artist's Choice website). These are the original artwork before they are colored by the colorists.

There are a couple of things to keep track of here.

Copyright, in the US, is based on written law that specifically says... "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

"Work for hire", which most creative people are hired under these days, destroys a creator's right to copyright completely. Comic artists are hired under work for hire. Work for hire sucks.

The comic book that you get at a comic store is the creative work of many overlapping people. It may include writers, artists who work in black and white, and colorists, among others. Copyright and personal ownership rights here are not straightforward (sadly work for hire wipes all of these considerations away).

Yet, Chris has the right to sell this artwork (it's just the black and white, as you can see on the website). This is art that he made, and he owns it, yet Marvel or DC owns (or "owns") the characters. That makes my head spin a bit.

One interesting thing I got out of Phoenix was when I asked a fez making company about their fezzes, as some had a British police box on them, which happens to be the Tardis from Dr. Who. The person at the booth said they contacted the Dr. Who people, and they essentially said "As long as you call it 'a police box' we are very happy to have you do it all you like, since we don't own that -- if you call it 'the Tardis' then that gets into licensing and all that, and it's easier for all of us if that doesn't happen -- but, since no one owns the rights to the image of a British police box, you can use that all you like and don't need to ask permission of anyone, although we are really glad you asked and that you are fans."

So, I don't have a snazzy conclusion, but, there's all that.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Community Gathering Spots

Let me be somewhat blunt.

Websites with online communities are like campfires. If the community doesn't like the campfire (because some outsider comes in and decides to whore out the community to advertisers), they will disperse to another, better, campfire, and sit around that one instead.

I am amazed at how many people do not understand this basic tenant of online communities. If you own a website, you do not own the people who visit it. Simple. The short version: Websites are like campfires.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Google H Score, Year 4

Ok my score just went to 6! Hooray! Let's see what's doing what. I'm dropping some of the lesser-cited pieces (fewer than three cites). I'm dropping the Journal column for width, since I have to add 2012. And technically I'm publishing this a day early but I don't expect anything to change in a statistically significant manner in 24 hours. Today is Sunday, I have the time.

Article (short title)Year2009201020112012
Mechs of an online public sphere 
To broadband or not to...
Honey, I shrunk the world!
Playing Internet curveball...
Online org...
Tweets and votes...
A cross-national study...
Technology as place
Strat and global elite theory

Values as of Sept 10th, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

And, the previous years: Year 3Year 2Year 1.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Nokia Lumia 920 "Not"

This is amusing. So Nokia recorded a video that starts with a guy on a bike pointing his little Nokia Lumia at perhaps his GF on a bike next to him. Then, the view changes to what is obviously supposed to be the guy on the bike, with his Nokia. But, as people pointed out, it's not.

It's a dude in a van. At the 28 second mark, you can see it. I captured it here for your viewing pleasure.

"OIS ON" means that the Optical Image Stabilization is on. You can see the camera van in the reflection there on the right, clearly. One supposed the OIS is from the OIS in the Lumia they were just telling you about and just showed you pointing at this same woman on her bicycle, but no.

Actually the people who originally caught this have a bigger picture.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Copyright Follies

A lot can be said, and a lot has been, about the horrible issues with how the legal regimes of countries (mostly the US) with major cultural production sectors are trying to maximize copyright and kill fair use, among other things. Here are two stories, one recent and one I was recently pointed to, that shed some light on the larger picture.

One is How copyright enforcement robots killed the Hugo Awards, which is laughably horrible and all true.

The other is over at Granta, titled Life Among the Pirates, and is by Daniel Alarc√≥n. It looks at book piracy in Peru, which is at a scale beyond what we have here in NYC for a variety of goods (like "Rolexes").

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Word (Mac) and Removing Field Codes

So, if you're using Mendeley and you have all of your citations (references) in a Word document on your Mac, and you are ready to submit your Word document, you need to change all the field codes from field codes into regular old text showing the result of the field codes.

Word help does not help (bastards). The Internets assumes you are not using an awesome Unix-based OS, and tells you to select all the text and then use control-shift-F9. This does not work on a Mac, even though there is a control key. It's close, though:

Command-A (select all the text in the doc).
Command-Shift-F9 (changes all the field codes to text of just the results).

Better on a Mac:
Command-A (select all the text in the doc).
Command-6 (changes all the field codes to text of just the results).
C/o Adept Scientific from three years ago, and it still works today with Word Mac 2011.

Monday, August 20, 2012

R and Outputs and Printing and Loops

First off, R is really similar to python and it is making some things easier and some things more difficult.

But, R apparently won't print in loops. This is sort of weird.

So if you have...

for (i in 1:5) { summary(my_lm) }

...that won't output to the screen, but if you then just select the "summary(my_lm)" part and run that it prints fine like it should albeit once (perhaps that's a hint of sorts).

So you need...

for (i in 1:5) { print(summary(my_lm)) }

...which works like summary(my_lm) works when it's not in a loop.

Update: Apparently the same thing is true for two other conditions! One, I believe, is for outputs in general, so includes if you are trying to output to a file (or at least save to a file). So if you are trying to do something like the following generic example:

plot(x, y)

...generally, that works -- unless it's in a loop! Again, you need to do:

print(plot(x, y))

Note I am assuming you know how to do the whole pdf() or maybe there's jpg() or whatever with at the end there.

Two, is that the output (to screen or file) call doesn't have to be in the loop itself, not exactly. It can be in a function which is called by a loop, and R notices it, so again you need to explicitly call "print()" with whatever you were trying to do that works fine when not in a loop. 

So to be clear, this does not work:

make_Plots <- function(ii) {
    # Makes the plots, saves to PDF (no it doesn't!)
    my_file <- paste("My_filename_sequence_", ii, ".pdf", sep="")
    plot(x, y)
} # End of make_Plots 

# Main, as it were.
for (i in 1:10) {

So you see in the function call, we change the output device to be the PDF device (not the screen or anything else). So, when we call "plot" and then close the PDF device with "" the plot call gets outputted into a PDF file with the specified name. But it doesn't, since this is an output/print call that is in a loop -- even though the loop is in the main and the output call is not!

Again, you need print(), like so:

make_Plots <- function(ii) {
    # Makes the plots, saves to PDF (this one does!)
    my_file <- paste("My_filename_sequence_", ii, ".pdf", sep="")
    print(plot(x, y))
} # End of make_Plots 

# Main, as it were.
for (i in 1:10) {

So, I believe if you were to call the first make_Plots (no print) while control is not in a loop, it would work fine. But if you then call this otherwise fine and working and you tested it function while in a loop, it will stop working. That is insanely annoying, but I assume there is some reason for it. Sort of addressed in this FAQ, but just briefly.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Rocky Horror Homage in EQII

Yes, even more homage in EQII -- honestly given how much content there is in-game, I've barely scratched the surface. But not all homage is fantasy-based, or nerdly, although most is. Here's an example (from one of the questlines for Paineel, which is three expansions ago), and it's not quite geek culture, although it is geeky in terms of musicals or movies, but it is certainly not mainstream -- the movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show (aka just Rocky Horror). I think I've seen it twice, but that was a long time ago.

Anyway, if you know a few of the songs, you might know "The Time Warp": "Let's do! The time warp! Agaaaaaaain!!!", that one. It's just a jump to the left...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Guest Post at Play As Life

I have a guest post about my Digital Elves piece up over at Play As Life. And, just recently on the local NPR station (WNYC), the Brooklyn-based show "Kings County" (Brooklyn is Kings County), they had comedian Wyatt Cenac of the Daily Show, who talked about how there are no brown hobbits (i.e., fantasy people like elves and hobbits are always white). It starts at about the 8min 25sec mark in the show. Very funny. Relates to what I was talking about in the Digital Elves paper, which has been accepted at the journal Games and Culture. And, recently, a great post about humanizing Orcs!

Ritual, Television, and the Olympics

I was reading the New Yorker recently (August 6, 2012 issue) and there was this great quote from a piece, titled "Glory Days: What we watch when we watch the Olympics" by Louis Menand.

If someone described to you an ancient civilization in which, every four years, at great expense, citizens convened to watch a carefully selected group perform a series of meticulously preset routines, and in which the watching was thought of not as a duty but as a hugely anticipated and unambiguously pleasurable experience, you would guess that, socially, this ritual was doing a lot of work. You would assume that it was instilling, or reinforcing, or rebooting attitudes and beliefs that this hypothetical civilization regarded—maybe correctly, maybe just superstitiously—as vital to its functioning.
I love reading about ideas about ritual described like this, especially as it is reminiscent of both Geertz and Carey. Ritual is... often? always? a communicative act, and as such is pro-community behavior (especially with its historical dimension, tying the current community together and with its embodiment in the past).

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Python's csv.DictReader returns...

I spent a few hours banging my head against what now seems like something that should have been pretty easy to figure out, except I haven't coded in 20 years so a lot of the time although I have a general idea what I'm doing, figuring out the specifics and finding and understanding the online help (of all sorts) is really difficult. When I learned to code, there was no online help.

csv.DictReader.... it doesn't return a Python dictionary object. (It returns a... list? of dictionaries...)

Seems like it would, given the name, but no. And that was so difficult to figure out (thus, have to make a blog post out of it).

The csv library is great for dealing with data (since it deals with csv files). And Python dictionaries are pretty cool. But the csv.DictReader object is not a dictionary object.

It's like, if you hand it 100 things, and expect one big dictionary with 100 entries, you don't get that. You get back 100 little dictionaries of one entry each.

I haven't yet used Python's dictionaries at all, but I think the benefit to the csv object is it iterates better. I assume there's some reason to do it that way, but if I understood that, I wouldn't have had any problems in the first place.

Create an object which operates like a regular reader but maps the information read into a dict whose keys are given by the optional fieldnames parameter. If the fieldnames parameter is omitted, the values in the first row of the csvfile will be used as the fieldnames.
"Into a dict....", so, a dictionary object, right? No.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Game Homage: H. P. Lovecraft in Oblivion

One of my favorite games, and one of my... well, he's not one of my absolute favorite writers, but as an old-school New Englander he's my boy: H. P. Lovecraft. In Oblivion, there is a questline called "A Shadow Over Hackdirt" which, as pointed out in various wiki entries, is an homage to Lovecraft's "The Shadow Over Innsmouth." A town! A dark secret! Mystery! Note that, according to the Wikipedia page, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" is based on other stories. Culture begets culture.

One of the Oblivion wikis also has a list of easter eggs, many of which are homage.

I mostly focus on homage in EverQuest 2, since there is so much of it, but people like to play with the things they like, so homage shows up in a lot of game spaces.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Because You Should Use R

A colleague asked me about starting with R, which is not the easiest thing to do unless you know the ideas behind object-oriented programming (for instance, you don't open files, you load a spreadsheet or CSV into a data object, probably a dataframe -- this is not Excel or SPSS where you have the file open and staring you in the face).

I came up with a list of intro books I have so far found useful, besides help from friends and all of the awesome help online.

There are some good books by the publisher Springer, in its "Use R!" series and related books, with nice matching spines for if they are ever shelved (so far mine are all desk).

Also, here's a useful intro PDF a friend of mine put me onto, it's by John Verzani, if you prefer digital to paper.


A Beginner's Guide to R

Introductory Statistics with R

For graphing you will use the excellent ggplot (aka ggplot2) package.
ggplot2: Elegant Graphics for Data Analysis

If you are an SPSS or SAS user, a Rosetta Stone:

Or if you are a Stata person instead:

And some non-Springer books too.
I have liked both of these a great deal.

Using R for Introductory Statistics

R in a Nutshell

That should get you started!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On Leaving Academia - Terran Lane

A great blog entry by Terran Lane, titled, On Leaving Academia. A snippet:

Countless people, from my friends to my (former) dean have asked “Why? Why give up an excellent [some say 'cushy'] tenured faculty position for the grind of corporate life?” 
I agree wholeheartedly with everything in it and highly recommend you read it.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Homage in WoW - Gamera!

Homage in games isn't just found in one game, like EverQuest 2 -- as I detail in my paper "When firms encourage copying: Cultural borrowing as standard practice in game spaces" which was published in IJoC. Given that we like to play with the things we like, including cultural items, this is no surprise. Here is a photo from a quest in World of Warcraft, and, if you know your old-school Japanese Godzilla/Ultraman-esque kinds of things, you'll know Gamera the turtle (friend of all children!).

Repackaged here as "Gammerita", female, and not friendly, Gammerita is obviously an homage to Gamera (giant turtle, the name, the fangs....). The quest is from a troll, which are presented with some Jamaican-typed speech (this is a whole other issue that scholars have dealt with, so I won't go any further with that contentious subject), as you can see in the quest text. A bit blurry since it's a photo not a screen shot.

Again, it's one of those things that if you get it, you get it (in-group), but if you don't it isn't a big deal and has no effect in-game either way.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"Pay to Publish" Scam Journals

A great list of "fake" journals that continually spam everyone and that don't actually have peer-review, they are just vanity journals where you pay and you are published. I find this kind of behavior really offensive. If they have enough resources to run a website and send out so many emails, why not do something legit? I do object a bit to the "open access" label used here, although it is true that the journals in question label themselves as such I don't feel they have anything to do with the actual concept. List is here: Beall's List of Predatory Journals (updated 9/2015 with new URL).

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fallout: Switzerland -- The Game

Apparently, the nation of Switzerland could be the setting for the Fallout game series:

In a nuclear emergency, huge doors would slide closed with the town's population inside.
One of the main elements in Fallout is always The Vault, where the player starts. It protected everyone from the nuclear disaster, so they could re-emerge to a world that was full of mutants that glow in the dark.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

MMO Evolution

I think the next step in MMO evolution -- keeping in mind the group focus of MMOs -- is music.

Yes, music.

Not background music like you find at a mall, the dentist's office, or an elevator. Groups are important to MMOs, and to people generally. Communities are a part of who we are -- we are geared to be social and be part of a community. Robin Dunbar has some great work on this that finally made me realize, not only does communication create and reinforce community, but in a stronger sense communication is community. (See, for example, The Human Story or Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language.) But there are other mechanisms that are a part of the story -- dancing and music.

I'm not sure how this would be implemented exactly in an MMO. Making would be a part of it. Perhaps music would be a spell, like it is used very indirectly with bard classes (like in EQII). Instead of just clicking a button and activating a musical art, you would actually have to interact with the interface to play something. And, you'd have to co-ordinate with your group members. That's the important part -- co-ordinating with the other people there. Co-creation of music, for an in-game purpose but more importantly for group bonding.

So, more than DDR or GarageBand. And, the 1st International Workshop on Musical Metacreation (MUME 2012) will be held October 9, 2012, in conjunction with the Eighth AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment (AIIDE'12). Not exactly what I am talking about, but, close enough to mention here.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Microsoft's Approach?

From a current NYTimes article by Nick Wingfield about Microsoft:

The [Microsoft] executives were stunned by how deeply Apple was willing to reach into the global supply chain to secure innovative materials for the iPad...
I read that as, "Microsoft executives don't give a damn about quality or innovation." However, neither quality nor innovation have ever been Microsoft hallmarks. Zune?

And, later in the article:
In a nod to Apple’s work with aluminum, Microsoft began to closely study materials that could be used to create a distinctive case for a tablet. Members of the Windows team gravitated toward magnesium...
Except of course, Steve Jobs knew about magnesium. I owned a Jobsian computer made of magnesium for some time: a NeXT cube.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Incredible! "Deer Antler"

I don't even know what to say. Humor? Museum? Learning to read? Awesome. From the National Museum of Ireland.

DVD Region Codes

Granted, the DVD industry has made itself somewhat irrelevant moving into the future given these ridiculous restriction schemes, what with improved digital streaming (and DVDs and BluRays with fifteen minutes of unskippable cruft at the front end - #designfail). But, I would have impulse-bought a copy of The Secret of Kells at Trinity College except it's region code 2, so I can't easily play it here. That's a lost sale, and that's no good for business.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Diablo 3 as MMO

The game Diablo 3 is an odd product. In many respects, it is a single player game, yet it requires a constant Internet connection (which led to total disaster at launch), has an auction house which includes all players (I think, lots of players at least), and has some sort of in-game general chat. (It's not clear to me if this is all players, or if there are servers like in an MMO but they aren't highlighting the servers.)

It's not an MMO, in terms of the massively, since the maximum group size is 4. Yet, everything else about it is like an MMO, given the chat, the auction, and the focus on the end-game and leveling up. Basically, it's like an always-instanced MMO, with a maximum group size of 4.

Perhaps it's a feeder for WoW, as if they need more players.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mixed Shapes/Colors in R's ggplot

R is easier to learn than Dwarf Fortress, and just as awesome, although it is for statistical analysis and visualization, not beer-swilling dwarf sim fans. But I had a little problem when trying to get both different shapes and colors, at the same time, in a scatterplot in ggplot.

(Ok I went back to edit this and Google destroyed it, sometimes blogger is ok with greater- and less-than, other times, it will destroy the entire post.) But, what was going on? I knew you could do both the color and the shape simultaneously, as there is an example of both shape and color being user-set in the ggplot2 book by ggplot's creator, Hadley Wickham, but there was no code sample (page 112, figure 6.14).

Turns out you have to "activate" the attributes you want to set manually!

I had a hard time finding and understanding the extensive and somewhat diverse help sources, so thought I'd put this up.

Here is the final working code -- I had to go back into my files to get it. Note I'll use the equals sign here (so the post doesn't blow up again).

my_graph = ggplot(my_csv_data) + 
    geom_point(aes(my_x_value, my_y_value, color = Desc, shape = Desc)) +
    scale_colour_manual(name = "Legend Name", values = c("This" = "black", "That" = "red", "Also" = "grey33")) +
    scale_shape_manual(name = "Legend Name", values = c(1, 2, 5)) 

The comment I have after that code:
You need BOTH color = and shape = in the aes call or else the later scale calls won't work for whichever you don't have!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Digital Cities

May was very busy, what with ICA in Phoenix (and the Comic Con! -- we saw a ton of the ST:TNG cast, the guy from Eureka, Ed Asner, Lou Ferrigno, and spoke to Gil Gerard about media effects I kid you not, and saw other stuff), and next it's off to Dublin for ICWSM. I was poking around for some amusing digital cities images for my presentation, and since I live in Brooklyn thought I'd use GTA:IV as an example of a fictional digital city, and I found this image with the sign from my local drugstore! I inquired about the sign, the pharmacist said there used to be more of them back in the day, so it's possible the in-game one is based on another one somewhere in the city.

Look at that sign!

Look at that sign!
Gil Gerard and Cliff Lampe at Phoenix Comic Con, 2012, taken by me.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Disappointing Analysis from Pogue

Usually, I like David Pogue's posts on technology, as he has a bit of humor and humanity that some other reviewers lack. But today Pogue lacks decent analysis in a review of the Lumia 900 phone. His presentation of pricing and screen resolution do not meet the basic standards of reporting. Recall I used to work at Ziff-Davis many years ago, where we did computer reviews.


It’s the Lumia 900. It’s beautiful, fast and powerful, and it’s only $100 (with a two-year AT&T contract). That’s half the price of an iPhone or a comparable Android phone — but you’re still getting a top-of-the-line machine.
The problem is that it is not at all half the price, thus his mention of the two-year contract, but that's a weak analysis and not at all true. Granted, different calling plans cost different amounts, but let's look at some hypothesized numbers. Let's call the cost of the phone the "up front" cost, since that's more accurate.

Phone "Monthly" Up-Front Annual Total
Lumia 900 $50 $100 $600 $700
iPhone 4S $50 $200 $600 $800
Compared 50% 87.5%

87.5%, for this theorized monthly, is not half.
But many calling plans cost more. What if the theorized monthly were $100?

Phone "Monthly" Up-Front Annual Total
Lumia 900 $100 $100 $1,200 $1,300
iPhone 4S $100 $200 $1,200 $1,400
Compared 50% 92.8%

92.8% is not half.
(And, you can get the iPhone 4 currently for $100, and the 3GS is free -- of course, like Pogue mentions but doesn't deal with, that's with a contract. Given that you can't divide by zero, the 3GS is unspeakably amazing.)

But that's not the only problem with Pogue's analysis.
Then again, the Lumia actually shows you a larger area, but in less detail. Its resolution is 800 by 480. The iPhone’s 3.5-incher has 960 by 640 pixels, so Apple’s screen is far sharper.
The Lumia 900 has a 4.3 inch (diagonal) screen. The problem is that Pogue gives us two sets of metrics: resolution and size; but these are not directly comparable. Resolutions are comparable, but only at the same size. We don't have the same size, so Pogue should tell us the dpi -- dots per inch (in this case, pixels). You can't exactly calculate the dpi from these numbers, because the diagonal measure does not give you the area in terms of square inches, so you can't calculate the pixels per (square) inch.

So, yes, the iPhone 4S has more pixels, but not 960x640 versus 800x480 more, because the screen sizes (not just resolutions) are different. Pogue addresses this, but not at all adequately.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Slew of EQII Homage

I have come across a whole bunch more (yes, more) homage in EverQuest II across a whole range of cultural references, from literature to the Snuggie. Here they are for your enjoyment, all six. These are all photos of the screen (not screen capture), so sometimes they are a little blurry. Click to enlarge. (Edit: A seventh.)

In order they are...

  1. Literature. Of Mice and Men, I don't know the second, and The Old Man and The Sea
  2. The Snuggie.
  3. Tolkien, Gollum, and "my precious" as Gollum calls the ring.
  4. Chim-chim, which could be a reference to Chim-chim the monkey from Speed Racer.
  5. On April Fool's Day, all loot chests appear as Aperture Science Weighted Companion Cubes from the game Portal. (Well, not exactly, it's homage.)
  6. April Fool's Day quest where the reward is a gaming die (d4 or d20) named after the two inventors of D&D, Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson
  7. Creature from the Black Lagoon, which happened too fast so I only got the text.

1. Literature.
2. Snuggie.
 3. Gollum and his precious, which makes you invisible. Mullok is Kollum backwards, similar to Gollum. Reversing words and names is a common trope in EverQuest I and II.
 4. Speed Racer.
 5. Companion Cube.
6. D&D creators, Gygax and Arneson.

 7. Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Web Boards as Monuments

Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn.
On the issue of community, Conrad (2005) wrote how "[online] learners described the effects of group work, the frequency of sustained discussion, and the permanence of Web-based texts as powerful community builders."

Web-based texts, like archived forums, as community builders, showing what took place in the past and that yes, it took place, are like big stone monuments we use to mark achievements. 

Conrad, D. (2005). Building and maintaining community in cohort-based online learning. Journal of Distance Education, 20(1), 1-20.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Minor Communication as Community

Communication is at the heart of community, both in practice and etymologically (meaning, they share the same root word, from the Latin communis, which I believe means common, or at least that's what I gather from my dictionary).

But, even a trivial amount of communication can lead to a community feeling, and thus I link for you this review of the game Journey at No High Scores.

There is also a button for speaking. Or singing. Or laughing. Or screaming. It’s your choice. The reason it’s there is because eventually, you will come across another pilgrim that will accompany you. It’s another player, although you don’t know who they really are. And you can’t speak to them except through this one button and what you do in the game.
On my journey, I went through an amazing range of emotions, many tied to my companion. When he (or she) would be away, I would feel sad and look for them, pressing the button to see if they’d respond. When they did, it was a huge relief. We worked on  some of the game’s cryptic, simple puzzles together. We celebrated when we made it through an area. We laughed as we slid through the desert through crumbling gates left behind by unknown builders. We hid together from a giant dragon made of cloth.
But his scarf was longer than mine, and I wasn’t quite sure why. I wanted mine to be like his. When we were close, we replenished each other’s energy. I can’t  help but think that maybe the other felt like they were taking care of me, sharing his wealth, knowledge, experience, and energy.
Eventually, at the very end, I lost my companion during a dizzyingly ecstatic sequence that’s  best left for you to discover. Walking into the final section of the game, I was alone. I felt guilty about going on without my companion. Was I so caught up in my ecstasy that I neglected the person who walked with me all of this time? I stood on a cliff, pressing that button to see if they would answer back. They didn’t. I moved on.

I believe the button-press just makes your avatar "sing" a note, but I haven't played the game yet. You can probably find it in the videos at the Journey site.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Elves as Human

This is super nerdy and cultural studies, but it's for a presentation I'm giving at the PCA-ACA conference in April in Boston. There's also a lot of background for it that I won't go into (like how Tolkien saw his version of elves as human or part of "the humane", and both elves and humans were variants of the humane). But, I don't Photoshop much (ok I use Gimp), and I was sort of proud of how it came out.

For Dragon Age fanservice (ha love that word), I present, Merrill as human. She's an elf. (My point is, somewhat, that most default elves are white people with ears. To some extent that's obvious. The photo manipulation makes it moreso.)

Merrill, Elf (Original) Merrill, Human (Edited)

Monday, January 30, 2012

More Random Conference Reviews

The annoyance at this kind of thing apparently diminishes with time, as this only annoyed me for about ten minutes.

Reviewer C, are you insane? Actually Reviewer C seems like a quantitative person based on the comments, and half the paper is qualitative, which in the circles I travel in is a strength of analysis thing but if you're hard core one or the other you won't like it (and you'll be wrong).

MeasureRev ARev BRev CAv.
Quality of Theory Development/Literature Review 4423.3
Quality of Method and Analysis Employed 4323
Significance of the Findings 5323.3
Relevance to the SIG 5434
Quality of the Writing 5323.3

See also this entry on random reviews.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Makers vs. Takers

I was having a discussion about online communities--really they are communities with an online component (which may be 100%), but if you start thinking about them as online then you are putting the cart before the horse--and I realized there is a nice phrase that is also an important part of the issue: makers versus takers.

Communities are made and re-made through a few key actions:

  1. Communication (shares the same root as community)
  2. Making (can be making textual content, the same as communicating)
  3. Sharing (communication is part of this)
  4. Play (with others)
Communities make themselves. Yes that is analytically unhelpful, but I don't really care, because it is true. They are self-forming. Despite what I have seen on some marketing web forums, marketers and forum hosts do not make communities--they can provide the right environment, but the people (the community members) have to do the rest.

Often the result is an in-group versus out-group situation: the community (in-group to itself) versus those who think they made and think they own the community. If you are outside the community but seek to harness the community for your own gain, you are taking from it. Communities don't take kindly to this (if you're familiar with American history, think taxation without representation).

There are lots of examples from spaces such as Second Life, Spore, LittleBigPlanet, WoW, and others. These are spaces where there is a community (of some sort, and also communities) which occasionally disagrees with and argues with the controlling company. It is makers vs. takers.

Academic Reviews

Yes sometimes the process takes a long time.... (I have never had so many rounds of reviews in all my life.) Nine months, but obviously I had to write it before I submitted it, maybe a year. Not sure when the issue comes out (IJoC).


Sunday, January 22, 2012

This Is Not The Homage You Are Looking For

Finding a Star Trek reference in EQII was hard enough, but recently I came across a Star Wars reference too. If you know Star Wars, you know this quote, it's one of the more famous ones from the first movie (the actual first movie -- Han shot first, don't forget!). From the Coldain quest line (for the wolf mount), the quote is from the beginning of the film when Alec Guinness says, "These aren't the droids you're looking for." (It even spawned a funny demotivation poster.)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Finally, the Love Boat

I finally managed to get a picture of the quote from the Love Boat that is in EQII. It doesn't fit the gestalt of either the game or the majority of homage in the game, but it fits the character who says it, so if you don't realize it is from the Love Boat it isn't jarring, and if you do, it's just a little weird. "Love Boat" is a lot weirder, it sounds like a boat full of hookers. Most of the homage in EQII is part of what Kaveney* calls a “geek aesthetic,” part of the wider world of knowledge one might have as part of the geek community, and although “The Love Boat” does not fit into this aesthetic at all, it is still playful homage.

Google Search on "love exciting and new".

*Kaveney, R. (2005). From Alien to The Matrix. London: I. B. Tauris.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I Can Has Game

There is so much homage and cultural play in EQII I will have to stop at some point. Here is the I Can Has Cheezburger quest. (And yes that's one of my alts, in his guild cloak, but not on his flying mount, everyone has a flying mount now.) Notice it's a cat-person who gives you the quest, appropriately.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

SOPA, PIPA, Benkler

SOPA and PIPA have made a lot of headlines lately, deservedly so, Luckily the White House stepped up and said Obama wouldn't sign either of these horribly misguided bills. (Edit: Or, apparently only SOPA is shelved?)

I'd like to quote Benkler, from his Wealth of Networks (2006), p. 2:

The rise of greater scope for individual and cooperative nonmarket pro- duction of information and culture, however, threatens the incumbents of the industrial information economy. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, we find ourselves in the midst of a battle over the institutional ecology of the digital environment. A wide range of laws and institutions— from broad areas like telecommunications, copyright, or international trade regulation, to minutiae like the rules for registering domain names or whether digital television receivers will be required by law to recognize a particular code—are being tugged and warped in efforts to tilt the playing field toward one way of doing things or the other. How these battles turn out over the next decade or so will likely have a significant effect on how we come to know what is going on in the world we occupy, and to what extent and in what forms we will be able—as autonomous individuals, as citizens, and as participants in cultures and communities—to affect how we and others see the world as it is and as it might be.
Spot-on. There are two other angles to the story, one, companies following the old business models that have always worked in the past and doing so until the company is run into the ground, and two, those with wealth and power both ignoring the law and bending the law to their will, making laws that benefit them.

Edit: MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito's take on the bills.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Academic Ronin

At conferences, you have a badge with your name and, often, affiliation. I am unaffiliated, an "independent scholar", or as I like to say a ronin, so my name badge just says "New York". On the elevator one day, another conference attendee looked at my name badge and asked where I was from.

"Brooklyn," I said.

"Brooklyn? Brooklyn.... Brooklyn?" Then the elevator opened and we walked off.

Eventually, Dr. S and I figured the guy had probably meant What university are you from?, although that wasn't exactly what he had said.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

HICSS 2012

Just finished a great HICSS (Hawaii, conference, system sciences). Lots of great people and all-day free coffee. Maui was great, I had never been there before (there is a National Park up at 10,000 feet on top of one of the volcanoes). I can't exactly explain what "systems sciences" are, it's not really communication studies, but I have a better idea than last year.