iPhone People…

Are smartphones killing polite conversation? Personally I find that my attention span seems to get shorter and shorter the smarter my phone is, when there is a lull in the conversation it’s sometimes easier to quickly check Twitter or Facebook than it is to try and re-engage the conversation. Perhaps there is a hope in the back of minds that something on Twitter will be usable as a starter for the next short burst of conversation. The cycle then repeats it’s self ad nauseum…

I acknowledge it’s rude, I’m not sure that there is an equivalent pre smart phone behaviour, I guess if you always carried around a magazine or a book and popped it open during a lull in the conversation that would be similar, somehow that is less socially acceptable though, I’d never consider reading a paragraph of a book midway through a chat with someone but for some reason I find siren song of Twitter almost impossible to resist. I’m sure there are studies that could be conducted on the subject of why in our heads we think it’s okay to glance at Twitter or Facebook despite that fact that it’s essentially telling the person or people that you are talking to that they are not worthy of your full attention.

Perhaps it’s something that has evolved around the way we use our phones? If you receive a text message, I’d say it’s perfectly acceptable to quickly glance at it and if required quickly respond, maybe in our heads that’s how we justify it? On the other hand I’m sure most of us have been in a situation where someone is blatantly having a really heated conversation with someone else via text message, I think there is a point where is just crosses the line, I’m not sure where that line is and I think that’s the issue. Is there a rate of text message replies per hour that makes it rude? I think it’s a bit subjective, but it’s very easy to slip from being polite to whomever has texted you by providing a prompt and swift reply to being rude to the person who you are physically with. Twitter makes it easier to cross that line I think…

Don’t even get me started on people who pull out their phones and play games in the middle of conversation…

Via Suicide Geeks.

The Clocks Went Forward on Sunday Morning… Or Did They?

On Sunday at 1AM the clocks went forward an hour in the UK, that is the official UK time changed from GMT to British Summer Time (BST) I was at a party at the point which lead to the inevitable is it actually 3 O’Clock or is it 2 O’Clock, has my phone automatically gone forward or not… I think these days most phone automatically set themselves forward if you are set to a timezone where that is relevant, computers likewise will automatically change the time unless you have told them not to.

To be honest those two devices are my core method of telling the time, sure I own a myriad of watches, but I’m one of those people who despite owning multiple watches forgets to actually wear them. I’ve also got a few clocks strewn about the house, one in the living room, one on the microwave and a bedside alarm clock among others. The thing is for almost all the clocks in the house I didn’t have to change the time. Not because they are super smart clocks that automatically change in synch with daylight savings though, but because I never bothered to change them when the clocks went were rolled back, so now they tell the right time again.

I view this not as laziness however but as a mental exercise, knowing which clocks are not telling the right time and by how much they are off keeps me on toes. At least that’s what I like to tell myself. Also it confuses any house guests I get, which provides me with no end of amusement.

I hazard a guess however that many clocks will not have been reset on Sunday, out of pure laziness either because they magically started telling the right time having been an hour off for 6 months, or because the people who own them are too lazy or distracted to remember to change the time on them. Then of course there are the clocks which no one can figure out how to change, like the ones in your car, inevitably when you are getting in your car you are doing so with the intent of using the car for it’s primary purpose, getting you from A to B. You don’t have time to sit there wondering about the inner workings of the in dash clock, which invariable requires you to hold down half a dozen buttons, put your car into the correct gear and drive forwards or backwards a number of metres equal to the number of minutes you want to change the clock by. It’s just too complicated most of the time and to be honest it’s easier to just remember that the clock is off by an hour.

A Series of Catastrophes Leads to a Drastic Changes of Plans…

So this time last week if you asked me where I thought I was going to be today I would have told you I would be in Bahrain at my fathers university reunion. If you’d asked me where I thought I’d be in three days time I’d tell you I’d be on a plane making my way to Tokyo in preparation for my brothers graduation.

Neither of these things have happened due to recent tragic events in both Bahrain and Japan. Both events are really tragic, one man made political crisis and the other a natural catastrophe followed by a nuclear disaster, and my heart goes out to the people of both those countries. No matter how you look at it having my holiday cancelled pales in significance to what the people of those two countries are experiencing, it’s just been a minor inconvenience for me.

Even so I’ve been glued to the TV/Twitter/Various new sites whenever possible following what’s been happening to the people of these two countries. Bahrain is a third home to me, I may have grown up in Saudi Arabia, and I may now live in the UK but Bahrain has always had a special place in my heart. Ever since the King Fahad Causeway opened when I was 6 it’s became the place that we went to for a bit of sanity as a respite from the madness of living in Saudi. And it breaks my heart to see whats happening there, my Dad is currently as far as I can tell trapped in Bahrain, they aren’t letting anyone use the causeway to get to or from the country and my dad happened to be in Bahrain when they decided this. He’s safe, he is with family and far away from the protests, at least as far away as you can be in a country which you can drive the entire length of in an hour. My mum on the other hand, and I never thought I would utter these words, is safe in Saudi.

I’m not sure what the general sentiment in Bahrain is I would assume it’s one of apprehension and probably also fear, my dad who grew up there says that the anti-sectarian sentiment is the worst he’s ever seen it, he also seems to be of the opinion that the news are blowing some of it out of proportion, and that the western media are portraying the situation in a very one sided way. I don’t have enough information to back this up, but from his point of view so long as you stay away from the “bad areas” you are fairly safe. Though the last time I spoke to him the roundabout was still occupied so that may have changed as the protesters have dispersed.

What I’m seeing from Japan on the other hand is both devastating and inspiring. If ever I had any doubt about the safety of nuclear power it’s been erased, a 30 year old power plant has managed to survive not only a 9.0 magnitude earth quake but also a 7 meter tsunami, as well as a multitude of aftershocks, and at the as far as I can tell it’s still relatively safe. The damage, or lack thereof to the buildings in Tokyo is a testament to the engineering prowess of the Japanese people, and the reaction of the people of Japan has nothing short of inspiring. I think had something like this happened anywhere else in the world there would have been riots for food and resources. Not in Japan, the Japanese people seem to be forming orderly queues for fuel and supplies, they are helping each other out and just getting on with it.

My brother has been studying in Japan for the past 5 years, he was not in Japan when the quake hit, he’s currently safe and sound with our cousin in Houston TX. He missed the quake by a few days as he was supposed to be arriving back in Tokyo on the 15th, he’s cancelled his flights and will stay in Houston a little longer before heading to Saudi. I assume his graduation has been cancelled or at the very least postponed, but he doesn’t seem to have bothered to check.

My friend Jamie is in Tokyo and was there when the quake hit. His first hand account of the quake is just scary. I’m so unbelievably glad that he, his wife and 2 week old baby are safe and sound despite all the chaos that is surrounding them.

I sure know how to pick my holiday destinations… I’ll give you fore warning the next place I intend to visit is York in early April, lets hope nothing bad happens there…

People seem to keep on telling me that they are really sorry for me, all I’m losing out on is a holiday. I’ve reclaimed my Annual leave, I’ve got a refund on my flights, I didn’t have to book a Hotel as I was staying with friends so I’ve not had to cancel that, and I’m getting a 90% refund on my rail pass. There is nothing to be sorry for when it comes to me, and while I appreciate is, they should save their sympathy for people more deserving, the people of Bahrain and Japan are both a million times more deserving of any sympathy you might have directed at me.

I’m not sure why I wanted to write this but I felt that I should say something.

Saudi Arabia Bans Blogging Without a Licence

Words cannot begin to describe my disgust at this, Saudi Arabia has passes new “rules” which prohibit posting content online without a licence. I’ve not read the actual policy document, but my interpretation of the article is that this cover a wide range of sins from blogging to posting to forums and even posting to sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

In order to obtain this licence, which is valid for three years, you must be a Saudi who is at least 20 years old and be a high school graduate. You also need to provide documents that “Testify to your good behaviour”. What a crock of shite! No one under 20 can have a Facebook profile? That defeats the purpose of Facebook…

I need to get a hold of the actual document because I might be breaking Saudi law right now, I am an unlicensed Saudi blogger and I am writing a blog post about how I dislike this law, heavens! Although I doubt they can enforce it outside the kingdom… ( I hope…)

There are apparently people speaking both for these new regulations and against them:

From Arabic Network For Human Rights Information:

“It is not a regulation to regulate the activities of electronic publishing as they claim, but rather a set of measures to seize freedom of publication on the Internet,”

“Authorities will not be able to stop expression, the snowball has started to roll and no one can stop it. The siege imposed by the Saudi government on citizens will not succeed in killing ideas, opinions or stopping information and news from flowing.”

From Asharq Alawsat (Tariq Alhomayed, editor in chief):

“What the Minister did was right, for who said that freedom comes without responsibility? Don’t they say that the field of publishing is a door wide open?”

“Whoever wants to write, be published, and criticize others, must do so with credibility, and a firm stance, rather than hiding behind a computer screen in order to defame someone, spread ugly rumors, or promote social division under a false name and then they have the audacity to say: let me exercise my freedom!”

Saudi Arabia apparently has one of the highest number of bloggers in the  Arabic world, Facebook use is rife across all ages and Twitter usage in Saudi has apparently sky-rocketed in 2010, so this is the perfect time to instate these new laws just as the country is starting to see reform they try an knock out the instrument of that reform.

I’m not a political blogger, I never thought I would be but this is almost enough to make me one… This just makes me angry and you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. Not that I am threatening to do anything aside from continue blogging.

The question is when I next go home to visit my family, do I maintain radio silence? Do I bite the bullet and get myself licensed? Or do I become an outlaw and become a rogue unlicensed blogger? I might get a mask… And a cape…

Via Firetown


International Freedom of Expression Exchange

Gamification, is it a load of bollocks?

I just read an article over on hide and seek, which was complaining about the recent spate of people trying to “gamify” mundane tasks. His main issue seems to be with nomenclature, he points out that because you are given point for doing stuff you aren’t really playing a game, you are collecting points, he coins the rather awkward term “pointsification” for this. He goes on to say that because there aren’t failure conditions, and there aren’t choices that you aren’t playing a game, you are just collecting points.

It occurred to me that one company/organization which has managed to “gamify” a mundane task is Weight Watchers, the funny thing is that in their game you don’t gain points you spend them, you are allocated a number of points a day, which you spend by eating food, you can replenish your supply by exercising, and you win by losing weight. There is even a lose condition, you don’t lose weight or you gain weight, there you have levels of failure and levels of success.

Why does this work better than gamifying exercise, or drinking cola, or heck even just visiting places ala 4square? I think its the fact that the points are detached from the win lose condition, sure they offer a guideline for how well you are doing, and you can correlate your points expenditure with your success, but losing weight can be arbitrary, you could spend your points correctly and not lose any weight, just like in a game, the game is slightly broken offering an element of randomness.

Also having a points balance to spend each day leads to you having to make decisions,such as do I skip lunch now so I can “afford” cake this evening, you actually have to sacrifice in the short term for future goals. In addition you can do something which RPG gamers are familiar with, you can grind points by exercising in the same way that you would grind for gold or xp in a final fantasy game so you can afford that shiny cake sword.

The two examples given in the article for failed Gamification are Nike+ and CokeZone. I’m not familiar with Nike+ but it sounds like you get achievements for doing things like running 50 miles in a month and so on, as for CokeZone its more of a “Buy our stuff and we’ll give you stuff” affair, neither of these as the author points out are games, in fact CokeZone is just an incentive to drink more Coke, its exactly like the various points cards that stores give you, so how could we make these more like games?

For the likes of coke zone you need to change the way the whole system works, as it exists currently you get a fixed number of points for buying certain items, the more expensive the item the higher its point value, while this is logical you could make it more “exciting” by offering point ranges, or even there being a small chance of a huge reward from a small purchase, for example 90% of coke cans are worth 1 point, but that remaining 10% can be worth anything from 2 to 100 points.

That way if someone is collecting points they get the, anticipation of getting a huge reward for a little effort, this could lead them buying more coke on the off chance that they “win big”. Another way to spice it up would be to add an element of risk to the point spend, sure you could spend 1,000 points on a baseball cap, but how about investing 500 on the chance to win something? I dunno like a car or gig tickets or something, you make a choice to gamble made up Coca-Cola monies for the chance to win something that is actually worth it. If you lose there might be a number of consolation prizes or something, like more coke or a 10% of your points back, things which are ostensibly free to the company but keep you from feeling like you’ve lost all your hard earned points for nowt.

I’m sure there are more ways that they could make it feel more game like, and in turn make people actually want to participate in the “Game”.

As for Nike+ that seems to work like an achievement system, you do things you get badges. Run 50 KM over the course of a month and you get a badge is the example given in the article, I’ve never looked into Nike+ but I assume that is uses GPS and a pedometer track your runs. If there is a GPS in there and the facility to somehow synchronise with the internet there is actually a huge scope for user generated content there, you could get badges for submitting routes in your area, people could download those routes, try them out and rate them, you could earn badges for people voting up your routes, for trying out a number of different routes, steal that concept from Little Big Planet.

How about having algorithms that merge user generated routes, and tells you when you get to an intersection that you can take the high road or the low road? Bam! choice and interactivity. I’m sure I can think up more ideas.

The real question here is do these things benefit from being made into a game? Personally I don’t think that anyone but Coca-Cola will benefit from Coke-Zone being properly Gamified, Nike+ well the users benefit I guess, it makes your run more interesting to have route suggestions, and challenges to overcome.


NaNoWriMo Day 12: Not going to lose hope!

I will do this! I’m lacking a bit in the inspiration department at the moment I’m currently sitting at 18,330 when I should be sitting at 20,000 I’m going to try and hammer in a few more words but I doubt I’ll get more than a couple of hundred before I need to go to bed.

Tomorrow is another day and I plan of spending the weekend doing quite a bit of NaNoWriMo.

Of the people I know who are participating in NaNoWriMo I’m currently doing the best which is not normal, I’ve also managed to reach more that double my word count from last year which is an achievement in it’s self I guess. This year I will however win! I am going to do this no matter how hard it is, I am determined, I am also probably doomed to fail…

I’ve jumped the story 10 years into the future, added a character which I’d not initially envisioned being in the story and I’ve written a chapter from their point of view. I think the next chapter after the one I’m writing will also be from their point of view, I’m going to have to come up with some more characters because I keep on killing the ones I have. I’ve also got no idea how I’m going to work one character into the plot, and I’ve not even begun to explore someone who I thought would play a major role but has up till this point only been mentioned in passing. I don’t know how to introduce them at all.

I’m writing utter drivel, which is to be expected, especially for NaNoWriMo where word count is king and coherence is well a little lower than king… Maybe an estranged cousin of the king who they still call a prince, but would never ever inherit the throne…

I’m having serious trouble naming my characters, I’ve tried to come up with names that don’t sound silly, but to be honest they all sound stupid… I may have to rename every single character in the book when I am done.

That is all for now, because I actually need to add words to my NaNoWriMo and I’m sure none of you are actually interested in reading about it.

About me…

No this isn’t going to be a post about me, I’m rubbish at that. It’s a post about the way those words make me feel. Am I the only one who finds being confronted with a little box with only those two words as guidance really intimidating? Facebook, Twitter, you name it they all seem to have a little text box that says something along the lines of “About Me” what the hell are you supposed to write in there? I don’t like to advertise what I do for a living, mainly because the second you tell someone you are a software engineer they run a mile, or ask you to fix their computer. I was in for a blood test the other day and the nurse asked me what I did for a living by way of just chatting to me, I said I was a computer programmer, and the next thing I knew she was asking me for advice about setting up a proprietary medical records database… Seriously…

I’m not one to talk about my hobbies either, I mean I play video games, I role play, I read, I occasionally watch TV and or films, I used to go to a lot of gigs because I worked in the entertainment industry, but don’t any more because I  got sick of them (And got  a 9 to 5 job that made moonlighting as a stage tech was difficult). I don’t really do anything interesting, I’m not really into any sports, I’d like to to get back into martial arts because I used to practice Tae Kwon Do (I even got a black belt) but I had to stop because I was school got in the way.

I don’t particularly consider the enormous amount  of time I’m on the internet as a hobby, but it takes up a shit load of my time, I am not a “blogger” I do blog but I’m not a blogger (there is a song in that), I try to write fiction but I’m by no means a writer, I own a DSLR and enjoy taking photos but I wouldn’t describe myself as a photographer either. I don’t think I do anything enough to consider it a hobby, I just do stuff. So what the hell do I write in the about me box when I sign up to a website? Usually I write something along the lines of it’s none of your business, or I don’t see the point in filling this out. But then I see other people’s profiles, where they describe themselves as artists or writers, or tell you of some great life adventure that they are on.

I’m not on a great life adventure, I enjoy my life, but I’m not full enough of myself to think that my dabbling in various things is interesting to people, so I don’t bother telling anyone. Is that the problem? Maybe it is, maybe I should be more full of myself. The I would be able to write things like I am a wannabe writer who has tried and failed time and time again to get a novel off the ground only to fail due to sheer laziness. Or that I’m an aspiring game developer who one day want’s to rule the world with his independant game genius, but can’t be bothered writing computer programs in his spare time because that’s what I do all day, so invariably I will never actually be a game developer. No wait that’s not confidence that self deprecating isn’t it? But isn’t being self deprecating the in thing now, surely that’s what all the cool kids are doing, you say something that is in some way self deprecating in the vain hope that people will mistake it for modesty when you are in fact as shit as you say you are, in fact you are more shit than that.

I’m not a cool kid, I’m not hip, I’m not Home with the downies (Thank you Dylan Moran for that, see I can’t even come up with my own turns of phrase).

I’m me, and I am a fairly mundane person, my wit is about as sharp as the cardboard tube you find in the middle of loo roll but I’m cool with that, I just can’t be bothered typing that in a text box that is supposed to sum up my entire existence.

Okay this is technically a post about me, but I’m not narcissistic enough to have wanted it to be, it was meant to be a rant… Honest guv.

Image via Frank Chimero.

NaNoWriMo: The rise before the fall?

I have to say after my second day of NaNoWriMo yielded a pithy 269 words I was starting to think that I wouldn’t make it through. We had an unanticipated gig dropped on us which we’d agreed to go to months ago and forgotten about, so in between getting home from work, feeding the cats and ourselves and actually going to the gig there wasn’t much time left for writing. What little I did write I hammered out on my phone’s email client and emailed to myself while on the bus…

Yesterday however was another story both Avarinne had a presentation to prepare for so we both got up at 5:30 and I was working away on my NaNo by half six. I managed to bring my word count up to the region it should have been at by that point just in time to start work. And upon coming home I managed to pass an exceed my word count goal for yesterday.
All in all I’m in a good place word count wise at the moment, I’m 892 words ahead of where I should be, unfortunately I’ve no idea where the story is going next, fingers crossed I’ll figure something out today but I only have to write 700 words or so to stay on target, ideally I’ll smash through that and increase my slack to allow for stuff to go wrong later this month as I doubt that Tuesday’s surprise gig will be the only mishap to occur in my schedule.
I’m apprehensive but hopeful, I’m going to do my damnest to win NaNoWriMo this year.

You can tell Halloween is coming up because…

I had a quick look at the stats for my blog just there and I noticed that one post was getting a shed load more hits than any of the others:

I don’t get very many hits, so 40 in one day for an old post titled Cool Lichtenstein Pop Art make up is pretty impressive for me and all because I posted this image I randomly found online:

It’s a cool photo, and I predict that this year there will be many copy-cat photo’s taken for Halloween…

On the off chance that anyone gets to this blog post and wants inspiration I found an article with in progress photo’s of someone doing something similar on a blog called illusion360. It was apparently for a Halloween photo-shoot for MAC Makeup.

I think it’s really cool but I’m not sure I think it’s as good as the one in the original article.

You also might find this image of a girl with pixelated makeup pretty cool.

The article its from is in French (I assume, I didn’t actually read it, but it’s not English) but you don’t need to be able to read to rip it off this Halloween.

That is all really, I don’t have much more to say, if everyone who viewed that original blog post clicked on an ad I’d probably make at least a 50p! that would be awesome… Unlikely but awesome none the less…
Here are a couple of examples of someone who has tried the Lichtenstein look from flickr:


Incidentally after just a little bit of digging I managed to find out that the original picture was by an artist/photographer? called Eva Mueller here is another awesome example of her work:
Hommage to Roy Lichtenstein

In case you hadn’t guessed I’m having trouble sleeping…