Robots run amok

Interesting story of the life webcast of the Hugo Awards being blocked by copyright enforcement bots. Short version: the live webcast included clips of the television episodes up for best script (as award ceremonies do) and UStream’s bots for detecting copyrighted work spotted it and blocked the entire rest of the broadcast. The article points out that not only is that fair use but, the clips were provided by the copyright holders who were happy the content was being promoted as award winning. The whole thing is reminiscent of NASA’s footage of the Curiosity landing being removed from NASA’s YouTube … Continue reading Robots run amok

This entry readable in lynx 2.8.3 or higher.

This security critique of the Tesco website is a hoot. It walks through an increasingly deep, and increasing damning, look at what is wrong with their setup, and how you can tell. The critique is well peppered with links to additional content about the problems being described, so it’s not a bad starting place to learn something about web security. It is also an accessible illustration of the type of exploration and deduction that can be used to profile a system and its vulnerability. Finally, to me, it reads as a nice lesson in why you can’t just “throw some … Continue reading This entry readable in lynx 2.8.3 or higher.

Readability versus Realism

I’ve been reading a lot about games and game design over the past few months, and this recent blog post about when visual detail in games becomes overwhelming rung true for me. It’s responding to the difficulty that can emerge when trying to actually play the stunning, complex, 3D games that are coming out, when compared to less graphically “sophisticated” games. The idea of readability, and what makes a game readable, is nicely discussed. I liked the idea, hinted at, that if your game is only playable because you have added meta-labels that appear when you’ve successfully found or targeted … Continue reading Readability versus Realism

Playing games about making games

While Gamestar Mechanic isn’t really a fit as a development tool for my course, it’s an excellent example of a teaching game, and I would highly recommend it for anybody with a middle-school aged kid (I think that is the right age range for it). The game is structured as a quest to learn to be a game developer, but what surprised me was how much of the focus was on good design, not just how to place blocks and enemies and make things go. You start out by just playing the various types of games that might get built … Continue reading Playing games about making games

Tsk Tsk Speedometer

I really enjoyed this assessment of how a speedometer both breaks a ton of good-visualization rules, and yet is a great visualization given its purpose and context of use. I particularly liked its discussion of why you would want to change scale halfway through a visualization in this setting. Obviously, don’t break the rules until you understand them disclaimers apply, but it’s a really elegant example of how blindly following rules alone also doesn’t make good design.

Sourcecode access wanted

GameSalad is a graphical game-programming tool available for Windows now as well as the Mac (though I had to install something called the Microsoft XNA Framework which doesn’t sound horrible at all), and supports HTML5 for deploying games on the web but also iOS and Android for tablet/phone games (in the pay version). It seems like the pay version focuses on integrating tools for monetization, ads, in-game sales, and social gaming. The core of the free version is very full-featured though. The built-in behaviors and attributes are broad. It’s nicely object-oriented, which I liked about GameMaker when I used it … Continue reading Sourcecode access wanted

Blocky coding

One of my projects this month is looking into tools I might use in a very-introductory course organized around the theme of games. I’m still circling in on the exact set of capabilities I’m looking for, but since one goal of the course is to warm people up for a more intense Java programming course, exposing them to simple programming in a visual manner is appealing. One possibility is Blocky from Google. Web-based drag-and-drop programming where constructs are puzzle pieces. The maze demo gives a nice starting point for thinking about solving problems, using ifs and loops, debugging, etc. You … Continue reading Blocky coding

Machine Learning in Usability Testing

It’s an elegant idea I haven’t run into before: gather data on site preferences by selecting what version to present on the epsilon-greedy solution to the multi-armed bandit problem and just letting it run. You’re looking at a setting where effectiveness can be easily measured, such as by clickthrough, but the contrast is with A/B testing where the effect of a single change is being measured for a time and then a switch is being made, if desirable. Comments suggest tweaks/details like ensuring that a single visitor sees a consistent view of the site, at least for small windows of … Continue reading Machine Learning in Usability Testing

Choosing an Analysis Tool

I’ve been learning some Octave recently and have refreshing my Python on my summer to-do list for a course I’ll be teaching in the fall, plus I’ve been running into a ton of articles about R (particularly for data visualization) that are making me think I ought to give it a look as well. So this comparison of the three from Slashdot was a nice overview from one person’s experience of which tool to turn to when: R, Octave, and Python: Which Suits Your Analysis Needs?. The comments (as always) offer some interesting input as well, including suggestions for other … Continue reading Choosing an Analysis Tool

To Code or Not To Code

There is an interesting pair of essays about how universal “learning to code” ought to be over at Coding Horror: Please Don’t Learn to Code and a follow-up So You Want to be a Programmer. The first essay questions whether we really need more programmers, and whether learning some basic programming is that valuable a skill as compared to learning how to understand a problem and its solutions. The followup clarifies that what is being criticized is learning to code for the sake of knowing how to code, as compared to learning to code in order to solve a problem … Continue reading To Code or Not To Code