Saturday, December 31, 2005

Visual programming for the 21st century

This is a recurring theme throughout my life... perhaps it's the natural extension of being an information architect with a computer science background.

I continually think that for programming to evolve into the next generation of complexity it needs a visual system that non-techies can understand.

Until now, attempts at Visual Programming, have been equally confusing systems of flow charting.

What we need is to define and test (using user experience design principles) to create a metaphorical language.

This metaphorical language should be analogous to building something in the real world. Like building Lego Mindstorms or an electric train set.

You should be able to click together components in a physical, tactile way, and take them apart as well.

For for instance, you take apart a word processor, pull out the spell checker and plug it into your program.

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Making millions from stupidity

I remember when I was little, I thought if I could just get everyone in New York to give me $1, I'd be a millionaire.

Well, this kid Alex Tew actually did it.

Partly because his idea was so silly and childish that it appealled to his mental peers - cheap banner ad businesses. He's sold 1 million pixels of real estate on his homepage for $1/pixel.

Forget the fact that when the hype is gone, no one in their right mind will visit that site -- he's made his money!

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Friday, December 30, 2005

I've joined the Wiki-side

I've avoided Wikis for ages. I think this was due to the fact that I'd seen some horrific examples of websites that you wouldn't wish your worst enemy would have to use.

But this is just down to their techie-roots. Most early wikis were by techies, for techies -- who didn't mind that their page was filled with links like 'devRelease v1.0'

I've since become a regular to Wikipedia and realised the usefulness of Wikis.

So I took it upon myself to find one with Blogger-like simplicity that allowed custom design templates.

Easier said than done. I found a nice, user-friendly one for free called WikiSpaces only to learn that they didn't support simple features like deleting a page. However it looks like they launched in late 2005, so they'd be one to watch.

I settled on EditMe. The closest thing to Blogger out there, but they charge a minimum of US$4.95/month. I'd strongly encourage them to go free, and follow blogger's example -- and get bought out by Google or Yahoo!

Anyhow -- here is my first foray into the Wikisphere:

Watch it grow.

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Shadow of the Colossus

When I was in Japan I played a game in the Sony Centre that blew me away. It's environment and ambience were far beyond anything I'd ever seen.

I later learned that this game was ICO, but do to its limited release in the west I was never able to play it again.

I've since learned of a new game from the developers of ICO called Shadow of the Colossus

My guess is that it's equally impressive. Maybe I'll get to play this one.

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Sudoku is so 2005!

These Japanese puzzles have been published for years in Japan by Nikoli

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Shut your mouse!

...and start paying attention to narrative

So I've been playing FlyFF, a mmorpg game in the Korean anime-style that's been gaining in popularity.

It's fun, and the graphics are neat... but I'm starting to become bored with it because of the lack of plot. And what little plot is poorly translated -- like a dwarf who says 'That should shut his mouse!'

It's really sad, considering the rich narrative history of text-adventure games that were around in the 80's and spawned this genre. How did the early attempts at natural language processing for games (remember "light candle with torch" ?) devolve into the click-to-advance story interaction of today?

Going back even further -- all RPGs are based on Dungeons and Dragons, which was a complete storytelling experience. When I was a kid, we didn't play Dungeons and Dragons with all the cards and dice, we just sat around telling cool stories.

Well... hopefully, I'll be putting my hat in to change this.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Appreciating Bowie

I knew he was a genius, but I hadn't actually listened to him. It wasn't until I was watching an episode of Without a Trace, where the played Space Oddity, that I thought to download some of his tracks.

Maybe it's because I only knew his newer tracks -- and was less familiar with the music that came around when I was born.

But I'm loving the 72-74 Bowie.

And I'm also loving the internet ... how easy it is to take for granted the idea of 'I think of it -- I get it'

We're certainly approaching the Singularity. I can't imagine what the kids who will have grown up with the internet will be able to achieve. At the very least they will achieve new records in A.D.D.

Maybe the classroom of the future will rotate through subjects every 3 seconds:

"Hugenots came to protest the roman catholic church, and the sum of the angles of a triangle is equal to 180 degrees. While helium, neon, argon and kryton are noble gases, mitochondrion are found in most eukaryotic cells. Pop Quiz!"

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Remembering 1999

I've been updating my website and I came across this party flier I made in 1999.

At the time, I got a couple of emails from Sapient management saying 'What are you thinking?!?' and I couldn't understand what upset them.

Now I see!! The lil devil's tail looks like a massive phallus.

Oh the innocence of youth.

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Kaigani 3.0 - my plans for 2006

Holidays are always moments of clarity for me. In 2003, I realised it was time to leave Sapient and finally start my own company.

This year, I've realised the bloody obvious. My life and career has always been dictated by video games. I first touched a computer because I wanted to make video games. I majored in Computer Science at Stanford because I wanted to make video games. I co-opted the teen channel I was co-producing at AOL to create a video game community (I wish I had stuck with it-- I might have rivalled IGN by now.)

So -- in 2006, I will finally move into the gaming industry.

I'm currently developing a concept with Micah (formerly of the True Crime series) and Matia for a game and a unique business model.

Watch this space.

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Governments stop fighting their people

More and more governments are starting to come to the realisation that maybe what the majority of people want to do (downloading and copying TV shows and media) shouldn't be illegal, despite the fact that the media companies haven't worked out a business model and are desperately clinging to legal tactics to preserve archaic business models.

France and now Australia are leading the way in liberal laws that don't make downloading a show -- which you can watch for free in the country of origin -- a criminal act.

I've said for years that all content will eventually be free. The power of information technology has made copyright obsolete, and 'digital rights management' laughable.

If Hollywood and the rest of the world would accept that as a first principle, maybe they could get on with things and figure out how to make some money in this new age.

See Video Crooks Come in from the Cold - from Slashdot

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

2006 Predictions

Since I've made a few valid predictions about the web, I thought I'd take a stab at 2006...

1. Location-based mobile services will gain a foothold
I think something along the lines of Vindago for mobiles will launch in the UK

2. Yet another I-Should-Have-Thought-Of-That service will be bought by Yahoo or Google
If I knew what it was, I'd launch it. But just like Flickr and are so obvious after the fact, I think some enterprising mind will come up with a golden idea in 2006.

3. EBay does something big.
EBay expands in some way, into other services or merging with another company.

4. PS3 puts XBox360 to shame
PS3 will win the console wars, partly due to XBox not cracking Japan. PS3 online service will also outshine XBox-live

5. TV production companies start finally understand the value of putting episodes online
In part, driven by iPod video, television shows will start to appear online (legally). Some will continue to be free, while others will appear on services like iTunes in the pay-per-episode model.

6. VidCasts will not become successful
Hype will spread about the video equivalent of podcasts, but lacking the production value of professional productions, the audience for homegrown vidcasts will be limited. Eventually some cable community production type 'channel'-- local production studio -- will appear, but maybe not in 2006.

7. Encyclopedia Britannica and/or Encarta to adopt Wikipedia model
Given the negative publicity Wikipedia has been attracting due to its lack of an expert editorial process, a major encyclopedia will sieze the opportunity to compete and overtake it.

8. Episodic games finally released by a major publisher
A games publisher will realise the potential of episodic games for the PSP or NintendoDS. Players will subscribe to the game and receive new levels to play on a monthy basis.

9. Affordable terabyte hard drive hits the market
Perhaps late 2006, a terabyte hard drive hits the market for under US$400

10. Space time capsule launched with a digital snapshot of the internet
This is more a wish than a prediction, not likely to happen but maybe the meme will spread. I'd like to see the internet archive and Nasa team up to launch a digital time capsule to the moon. As part of this, I'd like to see the digital equivalent of Carl Sagan's Pioneer Plaque. Rationale being -- if an alien civilisation discovers the time capsule on the moon long after mankind has come and gone, they will likely have the technology to figure out how to boot a hard drive. They just need some kind of non-digital README.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

How to Save Nintendo

There's been a lot of hype about the next generation XBox360. However, almost everyone I've asked about it has had a lukewarm response.

Despite being excited about the last generation of machines, this generation doesn't seem to offer that much more. Sure -- they'll tell us how it will show 200 times as many polygons and you'll be able to see individuals in the crowd move in the reflection of your racecar... but still -- who really cares.

When I think back to what has genuinely excited me about video games in recent times, it was true breakthroughs, like the introduction of cel-shaded animation. Photorealism has never been that big a draw. As far as I'm concerned, the current technology is good enough to be fun, frightening or any other emotion that a skillful game designer can evoke.

To reiterate what many, many people have already said -- Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo should be focussed on improving and evolving gameplay, not graphics. XBox360 seems to offer nothing more than amped up XBox games. Nintendo, however, seems to be interested in innovating at least the controls. Ads for the upcoming Revolution show gameplayers using the truly 360 controller to fish, play the xylophone and many other exciting things, never before seen on a home console.

And yet, I predict the Revolution will prove to be nothing more than Nintendo's last dying gasps in the console wars. And I predict this will be down to them having too few games to compete with XBox360 and PS3. This will be due to the fact that game publishers will not share their 'revolutionary' vision of creating innovative new games when they can cash in on safe franchises.

So... how could Nintendo save themselves? I think they could launch and support a truly Open Source machine. There is already a ravenous community of console hackers. If Nintendo embraced this community, supported them with development tools, and thought about how to make game development as accessible as game playing -- they could truly create a revolution in the industry. They shouldn't just create an open source machine, they should create an open source architecture -- meaning that any game developed for the machine would have to expose its 'guts'.

Here's a quick scenario of what we'd see if they did that. Some game developer publishes a racing game. Given the open architecture, the game's models and programming are easily edited. Soon enough, you'd see custom, tricked out, cars appearing across the net, ready to download and add into the game.

Or just think of all the homegrown Splinter Cell levels that would appear.

Ah well, and Open Source Nintendo is not likely to appear anytime soon, but it's worth dreaming about.

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More graphics experiments

particles, originally uploaded by kaioshin.
More fun with graphics.

I'm making these by giving different properties to particles that start off randomly placed with a constant velocity in a random direction.

After that, there are rules that determine the motion from the start.

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Saturday, December 17, 2005

more experiments

s_curl, originally uploaded by kaioshin.
I've done some more graphics experiments.

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Sunday, December 11, 2005


voxels, originally uploaded by kaioshin.
I've been dusting off the old programming skills to do some 3D modelling.

Turns out that what I wanted to build requires formulas that people have used for a PhD thesis -- but hey, baby steps.

Here is a sphere modelled with smaller and smaller voxels (volumetric pixels)

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Friday, December 09, 2005

Video game speedruns

I also recently heard about an archive of video game speedruns.

Speedruns are people who complete a game in the fastest time possible.

Anyone who has played Metal Gear Solid 2 will appreciate the guy that does a 100% dogtag run on the Tanker scene.

One thing I was disappointed about though, is that when you watch games like Resident Evil -- in the interest of speed, the players will naturally skip all of the cutscenes.

I'd like to see a site where you could watch all of the video game as a movie, cutscenes and all. Even better, if some film student would edit down the live action bits for dramatic effect. After all, watching the player running around for 15 minutes collecting keys is not much fun to see.

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A piece on Daily Show reminded me of all the Hollywood stars who do cheesy television ads in Japan.

It didn't take long to find this little site,, which archives these ads.

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First lasagne

I made my first lasagne yesterday. Unfortunately I failed to take a pic, but I'll try to describe it:

Made layers of mushroom, garlic and mascarpone, mozzarella & tomato sauce, spinach, courgette (a.k.a. zucchini) and onions and parmagiana cheese.

The lasagne noodles were spinach.

It was very good, however next time I'll slightly cook the lasagne noodles.

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Monday, December 05, 2005

My magazine idea

I mentioned before that I had a magazine idea that i felt was a no-go. Still, I thought it was a good idea, and I think someone will come to fill this gap in time.

The idea was to create a magazine called Downloader that would be a cross between RadioTimes, Broadcast and Wired.

The market gap I was hoping to exploit was the lack of coverage, in print, regarding downloaded media.

In the same way that RadioTimes shows what is available on TV and radio that week, and Broadcast reports the ratings of what was viewed over the previous weeks, I wanted to do the same for downloaded media.

In other words, you could read a review of the latest BBC Three comedy series being offered for free online. (In the past shows such as The Mighty Boosh, and Nighty Night were available). It would also cover internet shows such as Everyone Hates Chris.

I also wanted to cover the Grey Market. Providing an objective view of the semi-legal or illegal downloads that are taking place. Not with the goal of endorsing illegal downloads, but to shed light on the size and shape of a huge market so that media outlets would see the potential for expediting legal alternatives that actually work.

So there was the idea. I still think it could work, so if anyone out there decides to take this an run with it, at least offer me an editorial position.

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Lost & Found

So... where have I been?

Essentially, Limbo. What started as a few weeks to unplug from the internet and spend some time thinking about my business and career plans stretched into a few months and continued through nearly half-a-year (as you can see by my previous post from June).

Having been working on my own business for a year and a bit, I've realised why many people choose to launch a business with a partner. There's only so much thinking about strategy, planning and self-motivation one can do before starting to get diminished returns.

After a couple of DVD projects didn't get very far, I developed a magazine idea, but reached the point where I could see the amount of fundraising and tireless effort (with little foreseeable return) it would take to successfully launch, so I abandoned that.

I am happy to say, however, that I have finally reached the end of this long tunnel and I have a strategy and positioning for my company.

I will be developing and pitching consulting projects based on distributed media. In other words, I am interested in shaping how existing content producers, copyright holders and media outlets make use of the new channels afforded to them by technologies such as P2P internet and mobile devices (phone, iPod, PSP, etc.)

Wish me luck!

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