Yes, I missed last week in the Iron Blogger SF group. So I dutifully went to pay my $5.00, and after the donation, the redirect took me here:
Well played, sir.
I just want to quickly tease three things I’m working on and hope to release soon:
I’m starting a podcast, tentatively titled Jamming on Games. It’ll consist of a few things:
I’ve recored the first session and hope to edit and post it later this week!
This morning I wrote a short story heavily inspired by the magical realism of Jose Luis Borges. I met with a good friend who was also working on a story and we workshoped each other’s work. I’m aiming to edit it in the next day or two and post it here on my site.
I’m working on a submission for Golden Cobra, the larp writing competition and it’s about people watching. I’ve playtested it and received solid feedback. I just need to make some final edits and then work on the visual design. The deadline is the 26th but I hope to finish it even sooner!
It looks like Youtube stopped supporting Flash a while back. In the course of updating some broken embeds on my site, I found a bunch of old videos from the SF Zine Fest and the Alternative Press Expo back in 2010 and 2011. I’ve always loved documenting things like this by shooting little interview videos, so it was fun to go back and watch these videos 7 years later and still find inspiration in them. Nowadays I always carry an iPhone lavalier mic around with me for interviews like this, but back in 2010 I’d have to get NICE AND CLOSE to the subject to get the audio right.
For anyone interested, you can see the original posts (with lots of accompanying photos) here:
SF Zine Fest 2010 pt 1: The Clip Video
SF Zine Fest 2010 pt 2: Peter S. ConradSF Zine Fest 2010
SF Zine Fest 2010 pt 3: Jeff Plotkin
Peter S. Conrad’s Lottery Comic
I’m slowly rolling out some of the photos I took from our most recent trip to Iceland. A already posted some color shots from our week of camping in Hornbjarg, but this week’s collection is off of a roll of Lomography’s LomoChrome Purple film from that same adventure.
LomoChrome isn’t just a purple filter effect, it really brings out unusual color combos depending on the amount of light and the colors you are shooting. A similar effect comes from intentionally flipping a roll color negative film, so the light hits the film from the wrong side. That effect is often called “redscale”, since the predominant gel on the backside of color negative film is usually red. You can see more of my LomoChrome Purple photos here.
The process of soap making involves a chemical reaction, called saponification, that converts fat (acid) and lye (base) into soap (salt) and glycerin.
Some commercially made bars are not called soap because they’re actually synthetic detergents with the glycerin removed. The company makes more money by selling the glycerin on its own, I assume to other companies that specialize in extremely large bubbles.
Unlike saponification, emulsification involves a non-chemical process where two or more non-mixable liquids are allowed to be mixed. Milk, vinaigrettes, and mayonnaise all fall into this category. There are different processes, but you can imagine that in an oil and water mixture, the oil surrounds small droplets of water allowing a stabilized suspension.
Yo-Yo Store Rewind just posted a bunch of short “combo videos” from the World Yo-Yo Contest in Reykjavik, Iceland. I was happy to find a couple of my yo-yo tricks made the cut, so I wanted to share them here.
The first combo starts off with a Magic Trapeze Mount, which is a ton of fun once you get the hang of it, and then goes into an alternate hand version of Branding.
The second combo is a fun new outer arm (or what I like to call “bendy”) mount and ends with a newer version of my old gyroscopic flip trick.
Both of my videos are really just about shorter concepts, but there are a bunch of great videos on Rewind’s channel, like this combo from Riccardo Fraolini.
new live little ones~*
Most of the credit goes to dashain house of the santa barbara student housing co-operative, where three and a half years ago jeremy ferrara moved into the bedroom three feet away from me, and anbareen and i started a funky little band that (almost) opened for kimya dawson at a show in the old moldy arcade room of the batting cages.
Is there a word for the feeling you get when you watch two people you’ve been madly in love read each other’s tarot in your dirty backyard?
the desert chewed me up & spat me out
but guess what~we’re still in love !!!
Last weekend I married my amazing partner, Avital!
Leading up to the wedding, we wrote a set of core values to guide us as a couple. We started by mapping out a wide array of values and norms we care about and then distilled them into a final set of six. Here’s the list:
We communicate in a direct yet compassionate manner, striving to fully understand the other’s perspective and their needs while clearly conveying our own.
We keep a positive outlook while staying grounded in reality, especially when facing challenges. We make thoughtful decisions that work toward our goals and balance our needs.
We push ourselves to continuously improve and actively encourage and support each other’s growth.
Build for Impact
We have a bias toward taking actions that create scalable positive impact on local and global communities.
We maintain an inquisitive, often playful, mindset to better understand the world and to generate more creative options.
We continually strengthen our own relationship and our bonds with our family and friends by actively creating shared experiences, storytelling, intimacy, and fun.
Christine and I spent a couple weeks in Iceland. We started with the World Yo-Yo Contest in Reykjavik and wrapped it up with 5 days of camping in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. Here are a few shots from Hornvik, where we camped, and some other parts of Hornstrandir.
I did have to put my boots back on after a while. We had to get back down the mountain—the last tram left at 4:30, and if we missed it, we would have to walk the additional three miles down to the parking lot. Time to hustle. The four of us worked our way out of the sand of the oasis and back onto the trail, feeling accomplished but quite thirsty. The sun blazed its soporific radiation against the skin of my arms and my eyelids. The landscape in front of us shimmered with heat. We each had one swallow of water. The only thing I wanted was to be back in the car, hydrated and air-conditioned. But that was hours away still.
Within five minutes, Mom needed a break, resting with her head back and her eyes closed, breathing hard. Kendall and Dillon and I looked at each other. Mom opened her eyes and said, “I’m okay, I’m just. Oh! This heat.” She took her hat off.
“Take your time, Momma,” Kendall said.
I am not patient. That 4:30 tram.
“Well,” I said, “take some time. But maybe not toooo much.”
“I know,” said Mom. She opened her eyes. “Okay, I’m okay. Let’s keep going.”
But at the next shady spot she was murmuring about spots in front of her eyes. “I think I’m just going to lie down for a minute,” she said calmly. The three of us looked at each other, alarmed. “My heart needs to slow down.”
The November that Dad was diagnosed with liver cancer, Mom was scheduled for knee surgery. I came down to visit them. Dad had been losing weight for a while now, and he had started having a lot of abdominal pain that kept him awake at night, but he was still taking care of his wife—he had gotten her the walker, tended to her as she lay prone, fetched her medications from the pharmacy, helped her bathe. Today Mom was on the couch with her knee propped, her eyes closed, her head back, and hand over her heart. They found a spot on my liver, Dad had told her. What does that mean, she wanted to know. Death, he had said. Her heart was not taking the news well.
“What’s the matter, Mom?”
“It’s my atrial fibrillation. My heart is beating so fast. I just can’t get it to slow down.”
“That’s concerning. Does your doctor know?”
“Daddy called my doctor a little while ago. He’s going to take me to the hospital when he wakes up.”
“Are you sure you want to wait?”
She nodded, as though speaking were too much effort.
“I can take you,” I said.
“I’m okay,” She said, and took a deep breath.
I’ve been exploring blockchain opportunities and which blockchain startups might make sense to found today. One of the sectors I’m intrigued by is gaming, partly because I love playing and making games and partly because gamers are early adopters. This post will look at some of the ways blockchain is already being used by game companies and some way it might be used in the future.
I’ll break it down by use case:
The earliest experiments on the blockchain were currencies, like Bitcoin. I’ll break game related currencies into three categories: in-game currency, play tokens, and developer compensation.
Games have long had types of in-game currency that players can earn through actives and spend on upgrades; sometimes this takes the form of ‘gold’ or experience points.
In the late 2000’s social games (think Zynga) made a lot of money allowed players to spend real world money on in-game currency. Typically these games are free to play but there is heavy pressure to buy in-game currency to speed up the boring parts or gain a competitive edge. This is often derided as ‘pay-to-win’ and can incentivize companies to make games that aren’t fun but prey on weaknesses in human psychology.
It’s easy to replicate in game currencies on the blockchain but I don’t see why a game with blockchain currency would have an advantage over a non-blockchain game.
In the heyday of electronic games, most people played at arcades where they bought play sessions by putting tokens or quarters into an arcade machine. This style of pay-per-play could easily translate to the blockchain but, as with virtual currency, it’s unclear if there’s a strong reason for why it would be better than a pay-per-play game off of the blockchain.
Furthermore, it’s unclear if gamers are interested in returning to a pay-per-play model after growing accustomed to buying games outright and having unlimited play sessions.
Blockchains could have an advantage when it comes to new publishing and distribution models. Over the past many years digital platforms like Steam have disintermediated traditional publisher and distributer channels and this process continues with platforms like itch.io that don’t take any commission. While the supply chain has changed, the revenue models are largely in two categories: buy up front or micro-transactions (like the pay-to-win discussed above).
Blockchains might be able to enable news forms of compensation, like having gamers pay based on time spent in game. Platforms like Flattr have tried this on the web and it might work for gamers, too.
There are a few different models that might work. There is Netflix or Spotify approach where gamers pay a subscription and then revenue is shared among developers based on play time. There could also be a donation based approach where players set how much they want to spend on games and that gets divide on a pro-rata basis. Another option builds on the previously discussed idea of tokens, where several developers choose to accept the same token.
Of all the currency related blockchain opportunities, this approach might make the most sense. Gamers are already used to virtual currencies but this models could be implemented without the player having to consciously deal with the blockchain. Instead, the system could be used only to track play time transparently and ensure developers get paid fairly. This might be especially advantageous if developers are comfortable trusting a third party to run the system. (e.g. https://mobilego.io/)
Virtual Goods refer to digital items that players can hold, use, and trade. There’s already a big market for virtual goods that range from purely decorative (like in Team Fortress where players spend tens of millions of dollars on digital hats and accessories) to the function (spaceships and EVE might be worth $5000).
Putting these virtual goods on the blockchain means that trade can happen between peers, outside of a centralized market controlled by the developer. If the goods are built by one for their one specific game, it’s unclear why this is advantageous over doing it off blockchain.
Virtual Goods on the blockchain becomes more interesting in a few cases. If goods are meant to be used among different games or environments, then having it stored in a trusted, decentralized way might be preferable than having just one company control the information.
Virtual Goods on the blockchain also might make sense if the items are designed by independent designers who want to track sales and make sure they receive proper royalties; this is a similar to what the music industry is considering implementing.
While it can line up with several of the above use cases, collectible trading card games (like Magic: the Gathering are especially aligned with scenario and there are experiments along these lines (see http://www.blockchainga.me/, http://ownage.io/)
The above examples have used the blockchain for elements related to a game but not for the actual game play. There are a few scenarios where it might make sense for the actual gameplay to take place on the blockchain.
Games of Luck
There are several reasons why games of luck (blackjack, roulette, etc) might make sense on a blockchain. Because the computation of the results is transparent, the casino couldn’t cheat the player. Furthermore, there could be games with less unfavorable player odds because the casino would have less overhead with everything being automated.
Games of Skill
The same benefits apply to skill based gambling: trust and low fees. Casinos are already experimenting with skill based gambling, there are big prize tournaments for some video games, and there are experiments for other gaming competitions that involve cash prizes. (e.g. Kickback.com)
Loosely related to games of skill are wagers the folks might make amongst themselves. Blockchains can make it easy to define a given bet as well as the judges who can decide who won. The trust and escrow components of the blockchain might make a better option than doing it offline but it’s unclear if there is a big business opportunity.
Skill Tracking ELO
The blockchain might be a good option for managing official rankings in games or sports. It’s decentralized nature allows players to compete against each other away from the blockchain (or on it) and then record the outcome on the blockchain. There could be automatic and, with the addition of a referee, trusted rankings much like ELO rating for chess. The decentralized and trusted abilities of the blockchain might make this a good candidate but, again, it’s unclear if there is a substantial business opportunity here.
A blockchain use that goes beyond games is pay for computation – earning cryptocurrency by having your computer performing operations. There might be a few interesting applications related to games.
There could be a decentralized alternative to the old OnLive, where folks with powerful gaming rigs could have other players use them via remote control over the internet. I’m not sure if this would be more compelling than having it centralized with one company and my guess is that there might be legal issues with renting out one’s copy of a game.
Another option could be paying for players to simulate or store parts of a very complex world in a distributed manner. I can’t think of a specific features which would merit using this decentralized approach but perhaps it could pave the way for an indie MMO with relatively low server costs; that said, I don’t think server costs are the main barrier to an indie MMO.
Another bucked of uses would be using the blockchain to compensate folks for work. There are a few ways this might work:
The former two options don’t seem to have a strong advantage for happening on the blockchain. The third one might because it could take place in a low trust environment where the contract automatically executes when it sees the character has reached a certain level.
As with all blockchain startups, there needs to be a compelling advantage gained by using the blockchain. While this isn’t true for many of the use cases I’ve mentioned, there are a few that might make sense today.
Did I miss anything major? Disagree with anything? I’d love to hear!
As I look around for a new company to found or join, I’ve been spending some time investigating opportunities around blockchains (Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc). I’ve gathered some of my initial thoughts in this post and would love your feedback!
I’m not going to provide definitions for blockchains or Ethereum but, if you want a primer, try the Coinbase article: A Beginner’s Guide to Ethereum.
As with any new technology, it’s useful to ask: in what scenarios will it have an advantage over traditional technology? I’ve a lot of blockchain ideas that don’t have a clear answer to that question. Scenarios that might make sense today seem to group into two broad clusters: Low Trust Environments and Complex Multiparty Systems.
Low Trust Environments
Blockchain activity is transparent and irreversible, making it a good fit for environments with low trust. Low trust can emerge through a variety of vectors: strong incentives to renege on agreements; poor legal infrastructure or high legal cost of legal action; anonymous individuals engaging in one-off transactions; lack of independent reputation signals.
Areas where there’s already blockchain innovation in low trust environments are:
Complex Multiparty Systems
Platforms like Ethereum enable complex contracts (code) that are transparent and execute automatically. This makes it a good fit for contexts with many stakeholders and transactions, especially when none of the stakeholders are a good candidate to centralize responsibility and act as a clearing house; this dovetails with the trust examples as a trusted third party might be able to overcome some of the complexity.
The music industry is already looking into the blockchain to manage rights and royalties. There are opportunities in healthcare to give patients more control over their health data by storing it in a decentralized, secure manner. Individual identity, whether government supported (Social Security Numbers) or private is also a candidate for the blockchain.
A subset of this category is slashing transaction costs in existing low-margin markets. Markets on the blockchain should be able to enable lower transaction costs by replacing intermediaries and overhead with code. In sectors that already compete on margins, there might be a significant advantage to shaving off a fraction of a percent. This can range from stock markets to money transfers to betting markets.
A Note on Decentralized Governance / Organizations
I really like the idea of distributed autonomous organizations that run and are governed on the blockchain. However, I think that they are only effective in certain contexts that are stable and don’t require quick adaptation. I wrote a bit about that a few years ago.
Many startups perish because they had the right idea but the wrong timing. It’s especially hard to figure out what blockchain companies make sense to start building today. Some of the things making it more difficult:
These factors make it a tough time to start something on the blockchain. That said, once the problems are resolved, it’ll might be too late; some startups will have early leads on building network effects and others will have a huge advantage just from tinkering with the technology for years. Ultimately it’s incredibly tough to say which ideas are right to start building now versus waiting a year or two.
I’m very interested in the potential of blockchains in the long run but am skeptical of a lot of approaches in the short term. The most successful initiatives today will involve consortiums of business or governments. Consumer blockchain tech is probably further out or obfuscated behind a traditional, non-blockchain interface.
I have a few blockchain related ideas I’m currently noodling on and I’ll share them here if they pass my initial vetting. Until then, I’m keen to hear your feedback on my thoughts; does the above make sense? Am I missing or wrong about something?
Christine and I are traveling around Iceland, where we are eating great food and doing crazy hikes. Our trip began with the World Yo-Yo Contest, which was a ton of fun this year.
During the after party I snapped some photos of some friends and makers in the yo-yo community, including Rei , the 5 time world offstring champion. Enjoy
Desert Ash 7
“Al, do you want to do any?” Dillon had performed some balancing tricks on the rocks in his perambulation of our oasis, pouring out ashes all the way, and still the black box was heavy as he handed it over to me. I didn’t want to put my boots back on, maybe ever, so I stood in the wet sand and poured ash slowly, gently, into the live sparkle of light that danced and flickered on the water around me.
I did have to put my boots back on after a while though. We had to get back down the mountain—the last tram left at 4:30, and if we missed it, we would have to walk the additional three miles down to the parking lot. Time to hustle. The four of us worked our way out of the sand of the oasis and back onto the trail, feeling accomplished but quite thirsty. The sun blazed its soporific radiation against the skin of my arms and my eyelids. The landscape in front of us shimmered with heat. We each had one swallow of water. The only thing I wanted was to be back in the car, hydrated and air-conditioned. But that was hours away still.