Thursday, January 20, 2005

Billy's First PAC

As if there weren't enough reasons to be disgusted with our current political parties, now they're targeting kids. I'm not sure what is worse--"Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed!" or "No, George, No!"

Criminey!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Moantones? I can't imagine who would pay for them.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Going with the flow

Over the holidays, I caught up on my reading by working my way through "Flow" by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

"In work, sport, conversation or hobby, you have experienced, yourself, the suspension of time, the freedom of complete absorption in activity. This is "flow," an experience that is at once demanding and rewarding--an experience that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi demonstrates is one of the most enjoyable and valuable experiences a person can have."

What struck me was how well the experience of playing MMOGs matches up with the characteristics of a flow activity. Below, I paraphrase the 7 characteristics of a flow activity:

The characteristics of a flow activity

1. A challenging activity that requires skills (but not so challenging as to cause anxiety
2. The merging of action and awareness (complete attention)
3. Clear goals and feedback
4. Concentration on the task at hand
5. The paradox of control (the potential of control)
6. The loss of self consciousness
7. The transformation of time

Let's look at them one by one, and see how MMOGs fit in:

1. A challenging activity that requires skills (but not so challenging as to cause anxiety

MMOGs definitely require skills ranging from strategy to communication to discipline. Yet at the same time, MMOGs aren't so challenging that they cause anxiety. If you are willing to put in the time, you can advance and be successful.

2. The merging of action and awareness (complete attention)

Think of the last time you were so caught up in playing that you didn't hear your spouse/girlfriend/mother/cellmate ask you a question. 'Nuff said.

3. Clear goals and feedback

This is one of the huge advantages MMOGs have over real life. All you have to do is to look at your level and your possessions, and you know where you stand. Plus, feedback is constant (especially for the latest generation of "casual" games like City of Heroes). Contrast this with the years it takes to get feedback and promotion in the corporate world.

4. Concentration on the task at hand

See #2.

5. The paradox of control (things may not always be under your control, but you always have the potential to control the situation)

There's no question that many players feel more in control in virtual worlds than in the real world.

6. The loss of self consciousness

Once the virtual world becomes more real than real life, we are definitely talking about a loss of self-consciousness. While skeptics consider this an identity crisis, in a different light, it is actually a sign of a flow activity.

7. The transformation of time

Every played for 8 hours straight? 8 days straight?

Participating in a flow activity is perhaps the most enjoyable thing a person can do. Given how well MMOGs match up with the characteristics of flow activities, is it any wonder that MMOGs are becoming such an important part of their residents' lives?
But hey, they won't have to eat bugs

NBC is creating a "Fear Factor Live" attraction at Universal Studios. While the theme park ride will follow the TV show's patented mix of physical challenges and revolting foodstuffs, no live bugs will be involved. Dead bugs, maybe, live bugs, no.
The Power Of Failure

Here's a great quote from futurist Paul Saffo on the strength of Silicon Valley:

"If you look, our inventions are built on the rubble of earlier failures. We've learned to fail the right way. Thank god so many managers were so bad that they drove employees to start new companies.

Bad management isn't a bug. It's a feature."
Online Missionaries

This article is both fascinating and scary. Forward-thinking evangelical churches are targeting online gamers in MMOGs (massively multiplayer online games) for proselytization. It makes a lot of sense. Here's what Billy Houston, a young evangelist had to say:

"I think the reason so many people are open to hearing about Jesus in the World of Warcraft is because the majority of people who play the game are lonely kids who don't have any friends. I doubt any of them play sports so you can pretty much guess that there are lots of gay boys and fat little pale-faced Wiccan girls on the servers who hate themselves and escape into virtual characters so they don't have to deal with their pathetic lives. When they hear that someone loves them, even if it is just the Lord Jesus Christ, they always want to hear more!"

Here's another quote:

"I think that when Jesus said in Mark 16:15, Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, He knew that True Christians™ like me in the future, would be called into virtual worlds where we'd be witnessing to gnomes, trolls, night elves and all sorts of other creatures. I also think that verse applies to Christian astronaut missionaries in the future who will encounter and evangelize unsaved alien life forms on other planets. I believe with my whole heart that Christian gamers are sincerely answering the Great Commission of Jesus and we are able to do it without getting out of our chairs or leaving our bedrooms. I bet the Apostle Paul is so jealous!"

Or how about this:

"Sometimes you have to pester people for weeks before they listen to you. I followed some stupid gnome around for 8-hours until he finally told me that he would accept Jesus as his Personal Savior if I would just promise not to contact him anymore. Now that rocks!"

And this is truly frightening:

Christian gamers are also excited that they are able to live out their faith in the same way the early True Christians™ did, before their religion was sissified by liberalism, science, and political correctness. "It is such a rush to kill other players who refuse to accept Jesus Christ as Lord," says one gamer. "I feel like I can really practice my faith the way God intended it. It is like I'm fighting alongside Christians of old, instead of the pansies and sissies from my Sunday school class."

Just one more:

"I follow them around the game, across snow-capped mountains, and blasted wastelands until they accept Christ or persecute me so much that I have to report them to the server administrators for making fun of my religion. I think I've been responsible for getting over thirty accounts suspended for bigotry directed at me because of my faith."

I think religion has an important place in the world, but I also believe that people have a right to live their lives free of persecution. Persistent preaching is griefing by any other name. I wish that the online missionaries would practice tolerance as well as passion.
Bill Gates, Teen Idol

Too disturbing for words. I wish he weren't wearing such tight pants. Blame BoingBoing if you are scarred for life.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Collaboration Age

Today I read a fascinating New Yorker article about how junior officers in the U.S. Army are using message boards and other online tools to share tips and tactics for serving in Iraq.

The success of CompanyCommand.com and PlatoonLeader.org are a microcosm for what I call the collaboration age. Rather than relying on the Army's old system of top-down official information dissemination, today's junior officers (who will be tomorrow's leaders) realize that informal contacts with peers are far more helpful.

Online discussions, peer-to-peer networks, and open source are all proof that we are leaving the age of hierarchy and entering the collaboration age. Yet though the collaboration technologies are new, the new emphasis on collaboration is really a return to the past.

For most of humanity's existence, we have lived in small cooperative groups of less than 100 individuals. Hierarchy arose because the new technologies of agriculture allowed human societies to grow beyond this initial size.

Now, communication technology is allowing us to return to the past. But instead of geographic groups, we live in groups of interest, connected by email, Web sites, instant messaging, and a host of other connections. Rather than deriving all our information from a single group, we collaborate with different groups to help us manage the different facets of our lives.