Four short links: 19 May 2009

Recession Map, Gaming Psychology, Charging For Unwanted Content, and Two Great Projects

  1. Economic Stress Map Outlines Recession’s Stories (AP) — The Stress Index synthesizes three complex sets of ever-evolving data. By factoring in monthly numbers for foreclosure, bankruptcy and most painfully unemployment, the AP has assembled a numeral that reflects the comparative pain each American county is feeling during these dark economic days. Fascinating view of the country, and I wish I had one for New Zealand.
  2. Handed Keys to Kingdom, Gamers Race to Bottom (Wired) — Free to play the game as they like, players frequently make choices that ruin the fun. It’s an irony that can prove death to game publishers: Far from loving their liberty, players seem to quickly bore of the “ideal” games they’ve created for themselves and quit early. Not only a lesson for creators of user-generated content sites, but also for students of human nature: if you provide a number, some people will act to maximize that number come what may. See also friend counts on social networks. (via jasonwryan on Twitter)
  3. San Jose Mercury News to Charge For Online Content — congratulations to the SJMN for trying something, my regrets that it’s this. This business model didn’t fail in 1998 because there weren’t enough people on the Internet, it failed for the same reason it will fail now: you have a generic product and a cheaper substitute will win.
  4. Two Groundbreaking Open Source Projects — two open source projects that are developing software in very different ways (one with centralised authority, one more distributed), large (60k and 200k+ LOC), in some cases teaching people to code from scratch, with a wonderful vibe and solid outputs. I was stunned and delighted at the OTW’s process for choosing a programming language for the Archive. In the Livejournal post, Python vs Ruby deathmatch!, they asked non-programmers to read up on either language and then write a short “Choose your own adventure” program. {The trick is that we would like you to try writing this program with no help from any programmers or coders. DO feel free to help each other out in the comments, ask your flist for help (as long as you say “no coders answer!”), or to Google for other help or ideas-in fact, if you find a different tutorial or book out there which you think is better than the ones below, we really want to hear about it.} There were 74 comments in reply, and the results — 150 volunteers on the project, many of whom had never programmed before — speak for themselves. It makes me realize how much of the macho meritocracy “it’s just about how GOOD YOU ARE” individual-excellence cocks-out culture in programming in general and open source in particular isn’t about what’s necessary to make good programs and good programmers, it’s what’s necessary to make great egos feel good about themselves.
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