- Good UI — easily digested tips for improving UIs. (via BERG London)
- Mapping Millions of Dots — tips like The other thing that goes along with this brightness scaling is to draw fewer dots at lower zoom levels. By the time you get most of a continent on the screen, the dots are so much smaller than pixels and there are so many of them to draw, that it looks the same and is much faster if you draw half as many dots at twice the brightness apiece. (via Flowing Data)
- 118g 10x Zoom Camera for Drones — little less than 800×600 resolution. (via DIY Drones)
- Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform7 (Amazon) — all you need to write your own Zork, or even do better. With foreword by my hero (I squee like fanboy when I remember meeting him at the first Foo Camp) Don Woods. Yeah, Colossal Cave Adventure Don Woods. WIN. (via Marshall Tenner Winter)
Teaching Future Coders
Ever since PyCon 2013, the interest in the Young Coders class has been intensifying. Practically every Python conference since then has asked about doing one, and several have run their own. Classes outside of conferences have sprung up, as well, from one time workshops to after school clubs.
As more classes happen, more people have been asking about running their own. These classes do take quite a bit of effort to set up, but the payoff is enormous. Also, once you do one, doing subsequent ones gets easier and easier.
Better UIs, Dot Tricks, UAV Camera, and Writing Interactive Fiction
Driverless Intersections, Quantum Information, Low-Energy Wireless Networking, and Scammy Game Tactics
- Autonomous Intersection Management Project — a scalable, safe, and efficient multiagent framework for managing autonomous vehicles at intersections. (via How Driverless Cars Could Reshape Cities)
- Quantum Information (New Scientist) — a gentle romp through the possible and the actual for those who are new to the subject.
- Ambient Backscatter (PDF) — a new communication primitive where devices communicate by backscattering ambient RF signals. Our design avoids the expensive process of generating radio waves; backscatter communication is orders of magnitude more power-efﬁcient than traditional radio communication. (via Hacker News)
- Top Free-to-Play Monetization Tricks (Gamasutra) — amazingly evil ways that free games lure you into paying. At this point the user must choose to either spend about $1 or lose their rewards, lose their stamina (which they could get back for another $1), and lose their progress. To the brain this is not just a loss of time. If I spend an hour writing a paper and then something happens and my writing gets erased, this is much more painful to me than the loss of an hour. The same type of achievement loss is in effect here. Note that in this model the player could be defeated multiple times in the boss battle and in getting to the boss battle, thus spending several dollars per dungeon.
The Contract, Fixing Signin, Pi Gaming, and Glitchy Marketing Constructs
- The Unengageables (Dan Meyer) — They signed their “didactic contract” years and years ago. They signed it. Their math teachers signed it. The agreement says that the teacher comes into class, tells them what they’re going to learn, and shows them three examples of it. In return, the students take what their teacher showed them and reproduce it twenty times before leaving class. Then they go home with an assignment to reproduce it twenty more times. Then here you come, Ms. I-Just-Got-Back-From-A-Workshop, and you want to change the agreement? Yeah, you’ll hear from their attorney. Applies to management as much as to teaching.
- Fixing Signin — The general principle can be stated simply, in two parts: first, give users a trust-worthy way to identify themselves. Second, do so with as little information as possible, because users don’t want to (and simply can’t) remember things like passwords in a secure way. (via Tim Bray)
- Retro Gaming with Raspberry Pi (Adafruit) — finally, a clear incentive for kids to work through the frustration of setting up their own Linux box.
- Mieko Haire — Apple’s fictious demo lady. Or is she fictitious? This is a new aesthetic-esque glitch, but while most glitches are glitches because you see something that doesn’t exist, this is glitchy because the fictions are actual people. Ok, maybe I need to lay off the peyote.
Videogame Hyperinflation, Thumbdrive Computing, Distributed Consensus, and Organism Simulation
- Hyperinflation in Diablo 3 — interesting discussion about how video games regulate currency availability, and how Diablo 3 appears to have messed up. several weeks after the game’s debut a source claimed that there were at least 1,000 bots active 24/7 in the Diablo 3 game world, allegedly “harvesting” (producing) 4 million virtual gold per hour. Most of the gold generated by the ruthlessly productive, rapidly adapting bots found its way to third party vendors in a black market which undercut the prices in the sanctioned, in-game auction houses.
- Dell Project Ophelia (PC World) — $100 USB-stick-sized Android computer.
- Call Me Maybe (Kyle Kingsbury) — a series on network partitions. We’re going to learn about distributed consensus, discuss the CAP theorem’s implications, and demonstrate how different databases behave under partition.
- OpenWorm (The Atlantic) — simulating the c. elegans nematode worm in software. OpenWorm isn’t like these other initiatives; it’s a scrappy, open-source project that began with a tweet and that’s coordinated on Google Hangouts by scientists spread from San Diego to Russia. If it succeeds, it will have created a first in executable biology: a simulated animal using the principles of life to exist on a computer.
Google Ingress, Micrometer 3D Printing, Design Thinking, and Tote Bags In The Cloud
- On Google’s Ingress Game (ReadWrite Web) — By rolling out Ingress to developers at I/O, Google hopes to show how mobile, location, multi-player and augmented reality functions can be integrated into developer application offerings. In that way, Ingress becomes a kind of “how-to” template to developers looking to create vibrant new offerings for Android games and apps. (via Mike Loukides)
- Nanoscribe Micro-3D Printer — in contrast to stereolithography (SLA), the resolution is between 1 and 2 orders of magnitude higher: Feature sizes in the order of 1 µm and less are standard. (via BoingBoing)
- Thingpunk — The problem of the persistence of these traditional values is that they prevent us from addressing the most pressing design questions of the digital era: How can we create these forms of beauty and fulfill this promise of authenticity within the large and growing portions of our lives that are lived digitally? Or, conversely, can we learn to move past these older ideas of value, to embrace the transience and changeability offered by the digital as virtues in themselves? Thus far, instead of approaching these (extremely difficult) questions directly, traditional design thinking has lead us to avoid them by trying to make our digital things more like physical things (building in artificial scarcity, designing them skeumorphically, etc.) and by treating the digital as a supplemental add-on to primarily physical devices and experiences (the Internet of Things, digital fabrication).
- Kickstarter and NPR — The internet turns everything into public radio. There’s a truth here about audience-supported media and the kinds of money-extraction systems necessary to beat freeloading in a medium that makes money-collection hard and freeloading easy.
Fit2Cure taps the public's visual skills to match compounds to targets
In the inspiring tradition of Foldit, the game for determining protein shapes, Fit2Cure crowdsources the problem of finding drugs that can cure the many under-researched diseases of developing countries. Fit2Cure appeals to the player’s visual–even physical–sense of the world, and requires much less background knowledge than Foldit.
There about 7,000 rare diseases, fewer than 5% of which have cures. The number of people currently engaged in making drug discoveries is by no means adequate to study all these diseases. A recent gift to Harvard shows the importance that medical researchers attach to filling the gap. As an alternative approach, abstracting the drug discovery process into a game could empower thousands, if not millions, of people to contribute to this process and make discoveries in diseases that get little attention to scientists or pharmaceutical companies.
The biological concept behind Fit2Cure is that medicines have specific shapes that fit into the proteins of the victim’s biological structures like jig-saw puzzle pieces (but more rounded). Many cures require finding a drug that has the same jig-saw shape and can fit into the target protein molecule, thus preventing it from functioning normally.
Automating NES Games, Code Review Tool, SaaS KPIs, and No Free Lunch
- A General Technique for Automating NES Games — software that learns how to play NES games and plays them automatically, using an aesthetically pleasing technique. With video, research paper, and code.
- rietveld — open source tool like Mondrian, Google’s code review tool. Developed by Guido van Rossum, who developed Mondrian. Still being actively developed. (via Nelson Minar)
- KPI Dashboard for Early-Stage SaaS Startups — as Google Docs sheet. Nice.
- Life Without Sleep — interesting critique of Provigil as performance-enhancing drug for information workers. It is very difficult to design a stimulant that offers focus without tunnelling – that is, without losing the ability to relate well to one’s wider environment and therefore make socially nuanced decisions. Irritability and impatience grate on team dynamics and social skills, but such nuances are usually missed in drug studies, where they are usually treated as unreliable self-reported data. These problems were largely ignored in the early enthusiasm for drug-based ways to reduce sleep. […] Volunteers on the stimulant modafinil omitted these feedback requests, instead providing brusque, non-question instructions, such as: ‘Exit West at the roundabout, then turn left at the park.’ Their dialogues were shorter and they produced less accurate maps than control volunteers. What is more, modafinil causes an overestimation of one’s own performance: those individuals on modafinil not only performed worse, but were less likely to notice that they did. (via Dave Pell)
Pandemic, a collaborative board game, casts a different light on competition and gaming.
At a recent board games night hosted by Greg Brown (@practicingruby), we played a game called “Pandemic” that made me rethink the meaning of games. I won’t bother you with a detailed description; it’s enough to say that there are four or five players who take turns, and the goal is to defeat outbreaks of disease.
What makes this game unique is that you’re not playing against the other players, you’re playing against the game itself. It’s almost impossible to win, particularly at higher levels of difficulty (which Greg encourages, even for newbies). But you quickly realize that you don’t have a chance of winning if you don’t cooperate with the other players. The game is all about cooperation and collaboration. The players don’t all have equal abilities; one can move other players’ pieces around on the board, another can create research centers, another can cure larger swaths of disease. On your turn, you could just move and do whatever you think is best; but once you get the hang of it, you spend a good bit of time before each move discussing with the other players what the best strategy is, whether there are other effective ways to accomplish the same goal, and so on. You’re always discussing whether it would be better to solve a problem yourself, or move someone else so they can solve the problem more effectively on their turn.
In some ways, it’s not all that different from a role-playing game, but there is never any advantage to stabbing another player in the back or striking out on your own. But at the same time, even though it’s radically collaborative, it’s challenging. As I said, it’s almost impossible to win, and the game is structured to become more difficult the longer it goes on.
It’s a great example of rethinking gaming and rethinking competition, all in a little game that comes in a box and is played with pawns on a board.