Tag Archives: statistics

Things 127: Partner Parity Problem, Games and Stories, Beautiful Pictures

Mild NSFW warning: the last part of this edition embeds some pictures of female comic characters. There’s also a cat video, but I just assume everyone is fine with that.

Make-your-own hyperlapse video
Well, this is incredible: set a start and end point in Google street view, a target for the camera, and get as output a time-lapse video of that journey, in which you can still control the direction of the gaze – Google Street View Hyperlapse.

Here’s the demo reel.

Rabbit Hole: No to No UI
Timo Arnall says No to No UI (more commonly referred to as “invisible design”), and puts forth a detailed and cogent argument, but the main reason I recommend reading it is the warren of rabbit-hole links he uses as implicit citations. For example, Kevin Slavin talks about algorithms, how they don’t share our goals and can have emergent properties we can’t understand like a flash crash due to algorithmic stock trading, and then he takes a hop from “60% of Netflix viewing comes from the recommendation algorithm” (not true if you check carefully), a skip to “Epagogix can algorithmically evaluate the box office potential of a scipt” (no) to jump to this wonderfully flippant quote:

What does a flash crash look like in hollywood? Maybe it’s already happened! How would we know?!

Puzzle and Tim Link

Reporting on a reasonably conducted study’s findings on heterosexual parternships, the Telegraph ran with the headline “Average man has 9 sexual partners in lifetime, women have 4.”

First, what’s wrong with this claim?

Second, how does such a result come about?

Third, as the second is too easy for Things readers, I invite you to guess: which sub-set of respondents is most responsible for the discrepancy?

As some of you will know, I work at a web analytics consultancy where we disentangle data conundrums not dissimilar to this, so I wrote up my findings in a blog post – I found the answer to the last question quite satisfying!

Animal Videos – flocking starlings, evil cat
Kottke has the perfect pair of Starling flock videos – the standard high definition, clean and beautiful static camera one, and then a low resolution one that’s much more thrilling. You should watch both on as big a screen as you can.

Meanwhile, in the sub-genre of YouTube videos enlivened by a dramatic movie score, I declare this cat video the winner:

Games and stories
There is a tension between making a fun game and telling a good story; it seems to be very hard to do both at the same time. I think this might be because these represent two opposite learning methods; learning from someone else’s example, and learning by trying stuff out yourself in a safe environment.

But there’s a flip side of this conflict: sometimes, in the course of playing a game, you generate your own story, one you would never normally get to tell. Here’s an example.

I once played a match of 4-player local GoldenEye, back when I wouldn’t have needed to specify that 4-player GoldenEye was local. I ran out of ammo, and was chased down a twisty dead end by my friend who had some kind of machine gun, so I was pretty much doomed. I did have one thing though, and I said as much:

“I’ve got a proximity mine. If you come any closer I’ll kill us both!”

He laughed, and continued to pursue me round the final tight corner.

I set the proximity mine.

It killed us both.

I don’t remember the final score of that game – I don’t think I did well. But that tiny story remains one of my favourite gaming moments. For that reason, I was very interested to read Tom Armitage’s review of Game Dev Story, a cute little game that crudely simulates running a game development studio through the major console generations, because he made this assessment:

Game Dev Story exemplifies a kind of mechanical storytelling: stories told not through text or voice-acting, but through coherent systems that cannot help but generate stories.

I gave it a go, and he was absolutely right. Apart from the sense of ownership you get from making company decisions, the ability to name your company and the games you produce has some kind of magical effect that makes the whole thing strangely compelling.

It’s not a great story, but it meant a lot to me: after a difficult start, Squidopolis released a string of titles whose success built a war chest which specially trained hardware engineer Stephen Jobson put to use in developing the ultimate console: the Kraken, for which we then produced a string of hits, despite some major setbacks in production.

Game Dev Story is available on Android and iOS.

Folk Games
I like the term ‘folk games’ for equipmentless games a group of people can spontaneously play, such as Standoff, or Ninja, or Fantasy Fencing. I highly recommend all of those, the last one being particularly notable as it is an example of the ‘Tiny Games’ that Hide & Seek are putting into an app (so you don’t have to memorise these sort of things for every occasion). That’s happening on Kickstarter, and with a day to go at the time of writing it’s already funded, but I still recommend the £12 tier (which includes their Board Game Remix kit) to help reach the stretch goals!

Tim Link: Devil May Dance
I like putting in place processes in which incremental progress is made towards a goal, and this year I reached the end of my biggest project so far: I finished my webcomic, Devil May Dance, which I had been updating weekly since April 2006.

The premise was to swap the macho protagonist of the video game Devil May Cry with the feminine lead of seminal rhythm action game Space Channel 5, and see how they got on in one another’s shoes, partly as a way to investigate gender expectations, and partly as an attempt to get some cheap laughs.

If that sounds interesting to you, or if you’re curious what would happen if I wrote a story involving time travel, you should check it out.

I also did a little summary of the web stats of the comic over its lifetime.

Beautiful pictures.
Sunset on mars. Pictures with High Dynamic Range. Icebergs that are naturally stripey. An abandoned epic communist building.

But more importantly, there’s another Kickstarter I’d like to draw your attention to. A friend of mine illustrates comics using primarily traditional techniques, and although she works incredibly hard, I get the impression this means she can’t turn out pages at the kind of speed a regular publisher would like (on account of having to wait for individual colours to dry!), so this is exactly the kind of thing Kickstarter is good for – delivering the kind of projects the invisible hand would usually hold back.

Unfortunately, according to kicktraq’s projection, at a little over half way through, the project has a 50/50 chance of success, so it’s going to need some extra help to make it. Check it out before April 24th!

-Transmission finally ends

Things 37: Ideas of 2008, Centripetal Hamster, Pictures of 2008

(Originally sent January 2009)

It’s 2009. Time for some Things.

A quote
Richard Feynman:

“There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it’s only a hundred billion. It’s less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers.”

A link
NY Times ideas of 2008, presented in a fascinatingly browseable format: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2008/12/14/magazine/2008_IDEAS.html#w-ideas-3

A video
Hamster demonstrates centripetal force:

httpv://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=YXRH50fvHWA

A puzzle
Last time I asked if there were more households with dogs or with cats.

According to the data available to me (which covers the UK excluding Northern Ireland), 23.1% of UK households have 1 or more dogs, and 23.2% have one or more cats. So the answer is cats, but by an almost unbelievably small margin.

(6.1% of households have 1 or more cats and 1 or more dogs; there are about 14.7 million dogs and 17.7 million cats).

This week’s puzzle is a classic: the paradox of value.

Water is generally much more useful than diamonds, yet diamonds are more expensive by a gargantuan factor. Why is this?

Pictures
The Boston Globe ‘Big Picture’ section always does the best round-up of a year’s photos. Three pages of amazing images start here:
http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2008/12/the_year_2008_in_photographs_p.html

Things Special: Twitter week

Last week I was in the “Tweet Seat” for my workplace, @RAPP_UK

So in this week’s Things I’m compiling my tweets, and will give them some kind of review and additional context. This is mainly because 140 characters feels a bit like pointing at something and making a kind of grunting noise, when what I really want to do is sum up what’s interesting about the link and what my view is. Since this adds up to quite an intensive read, I’ve arbitrarily broken it up with some pictures I recently found online that I liked.

So, here’s the first tweet:

Tommy Pollata’s Collapsus.com looks cool, but as with other transmedia it’s hard to assess cost/benefit (i.e. time/quality) before diving in

I think this tweet falls between all stools – “looks cool” isn’t enough of an endorsement to go check something out, and there still weren’t really enough characters left to make my point properly. The point was, for something I’m familiar with like movies, I know exactly where to look to assess how good a movie will be (imdb, rotten tomatoes, lovefilm or youtube or filmcrave for trailer), I can easily find out the running time, and I know exactly what kind of commitment I need to make to watch it. For transmedia projects, ARGs and the like, none of this stuff is in place, meaning I have no idea if it will be good or not, and no idea what kind of commitment it will require.

@wireduk Cover story Kinect’s tech is smart, but if Amplification of Input (http://bit.ly/9nDhRc) = Fun, surely Bigger Input = Less Fun?

Thanks to Google Books I was able to link to the idea of “Amplification of Input”, and just about compressed my argument down to the character limit, but as a tweet it somewhat relies on the reader already knowing exactly what Kinect is. While there’s technically enough information in the tweet to help you find the online version of the article I’m talking about, it’s not convenient enough, besides which this is the internet, so mentioning something and not being able to make that mention a link seems ridiculous. I’d also add some caveats to my point, in that while Amplification of Input is one thing that makes games fun, there’s certainly plenty of others, many of which the Kinect could be good at, and I’m also keenly aware that DDR being more fun with a Dance Mat than a controller is a perfect counterargument.

‘People that read more books more likely to buy eReaders’, and other predictable but nice-to-know eReader stats, here: http://bit.ly/9SSgL7

My suitably pithy summary is actually a response to the article’s own bizarre misreading of the stats: “Digital reading has caused a shift in book reading and buying habits, too: While two in five Americans (40%) read 11 or more books a year, with one in five reading 21 or more books in a year (19%), 36% of those who own e-readers read 11 to 20 books a year (36%), and 26% read 21 or more books in an average year.” Sorry, no. The fact I was responding to this probably wouldn’t be clear if you read my tweet then read the article, which itself uses the much more reasonable header “Digital Readers Read More Books” before launching into that quote.

There Are 100 Million Female Cyborgs, one of many interesting musings on humans and technology mutually augmenting: http://bit.ly/b5oCbG

This was the first tweet I was pretty much happy with, encapsulating what I liked about the article with enough intrigue to provoke someone interested in that kind of thing into taking a look.

Digital technology continues to encroach on the supposed benefits of analogue versions: http://bit.ly/cslZUe

I experimentally tried removing all context for the link to make room for my view on it. The Bit.ly results showed this reduced the number of clicks (although whether 2 down from 6/7 is significant is up for debate). There could easily be people that read this but didn’t click who would have if I had made it clear that this was about a web-interface for viewing old paintings in incredible detail.

Here is a contextless link providing tacit endorsement of a news article about Science: http://bit.ly/cZLHVP

This link drew more clicks (8), although perhaps people were reading between the, er, words and understood what kind of a thing they were about to read. Fortunately I didn’t feel like providing much more than tacit endorsement, so this tweet just about worked.

Dorothy Gambrell’s Cat and Girl webcomic has a lot of great insights on trends (and many other areas of life): http://bit.ly/bvceXy

Not based on any moment-by-moment discovery, I just wanted to get a reference to Cat and Girl out there, using a reasonably recent addition. I guess it’s an okay tweet.

Randall Munroe updates his Online Communities map over on XKCD – this time using social activity for scale: http://bit.ly/cAqYO6

Tacit endorsement seemed like enough here, and I was happy to give a full citation – I’ve always found it strange when people post “someone has done this great thing” when it’s easy to find out who “someone” is. A weird personal case was someone commenting on one of my own YouTube videos saying “Whoever edited this should keep up the good work” – I’m right here! On the internet.

Doogie Horner categorises Facebook profile pictures on Fast Company, good thing I’m hidden behind a logo… http://bit.ly/dfHFZU

Sitting in a ‘tweet seat’ behind a brand is actually quite a strange experience. I avoided using the first person because that felt actively strange, but I suspect the real problem was I didn’t have any social cues for what the correct manner was, or even any real-time feedback on whether I was doing it right or wrong. But in any case, I knew I was at least somewhat hidden behind the logo, which I found interesting in itself.

@judell (O’Reilly) wants everyone to learn to pass by reference: http://oreil.ly/bCZkoE – I suspect DropBox will help.

This is an extremely dense tweet that needs several stages of unpacking. If ‘pass by reference’ doesn’t make any sense then you need to read the article, but if it doesn’t make any sense then perhaps you will be put off clicking on the link. To see how DropBox might help you need to be familiar with both that concept and the features of DropBox (which I won’t expand this huge post even further by elaborating on). Finally, the tweet originally started with ‘Jon Udell’, which I then realised looked a bit silly in a tweet about pass-by-reference – although making it “@judell” then turns it into a directed comment, which wasn’t what I really wanted to do. It’s ultimately an interesting feature of Twitter that there isn’t really a distinction between referencing someone and (effectively) saying their name while raising your voice and making meaningful eye-contact with them across the room.

The Nooski Mouse Trap – a better mouse trap, but also a smarter business model: http://bit.ly/d20sru

This tweet hits a lot of the buttons, I would just prefer to be able to link to the specific reference to  ‘a better mouse trap‘ as I’m saying it for those that haven’t heard the phrase before.

Facebook fix Groups, show app data, allow data export: http://on.fb.me/bHH3mL As usual, EFF has insightful commentary: http://bit.ly/9igUl4

It was fun to try to compress this into a single tweet, and linking to commentary from EFF means I don’t feel I need to add my own view, which was also useful because I didn’t have time to do more than scan through both articles at the time. Having subsequently read them both, I think the most interesting point is that the new groups functionality is a more accessible way of communicating with sub-sets of your friends, which seemed like something Zukerberg was ideologically opposed to doing.

Skype is on Android: http://bit.ly/aw5fXG Androids are on Skype (sort of): http://bit.ly/ds6J3A

It’s probably obvious that I was very pleased with this tweet. I found it interesting that it could not have occurred if I had insta-tweeted the Skype-on-Android news, as Twitter effectively incentivises people to do, since I only read the ‘Androids on Skype’ article later.

Find out if Libya is happy for you to click on this very link, by clicking on it: http://bit.ly/aqn6Ui

This was the most clicked-on link (at 11), perhaps because of the hint of interactivity. Perhaps it reads as something of a bait-and-switch, but I think it still has some validity. If you want to judge for yourself you’ll just have to click and see.

Most ideas are obvious in retrospect, but few more so than McDonalds getting a Farm on Farmville http://bit.ly/cQq9k3

This is a superficially well-formed tweet, but I would much rather have had the time to engage with the deeper questions raised by this kind of sponsorship – is it measurably beneficial for McDonalds? For Farmville? For Farmville players? What are the long-term implications of this? For now it will just have to sit as an example of some kind, waiting for others to join it, until I finally feel I have enough ammunition to look into the issue properly.

Audio zoom presumably means sports broadcasters will now be looking for real-time bleep censoring technology: http://bit.ly/ckuX25

Another tweet that takes a few leaps to process, but is hopefully clear… the technology presented allows one to ‘zoom in’ on the audio in a crowd, most obviously useful in the public sphere in big sports events, typically broadcast live, which would therefore need swear-words to be automatically bleeped. The public surveillance angle is actually more interesting to consider, but is too deep to get into in a tweet, or even here. So just… think about it.

Chrome pushes IE below 50% share in “promote it and they will come” shocker http://bit.ly/9uZJxT

More ‘reading between the words’ needed here to decode the reference and how it applies to this story. Since most are probably familiar with the quote (which is almost always misquoted, a fact I think is very interesting in itself), the remaining thing to add (that may be less obvious to people not watching these things) is that Google would build a lot of things and just see what happened, whereas they have recently begun to actively promote their products, the result apparently being that people are actually trying them. There’s a full blog post of material to unpack here, so I may one day revisit this point.


Tried the Playstation Move; could be Sony’s stalking horse for interactive AR – see blog post for my reasoning: http://bit.ly/c4Bj3z

This is a qualitatively different kind of tweet. I scraped together enough time to write a post on something, which means no ‘viewpoint’ is needed on the tweet, just some useful explanation along with the pointing finger. But what I found particularly interesting was that in the process of distilling down to 140 characters I actually came up with a better turn of phrase than two drafts of the original post had yielded – “stalking horse” is I think exactly right.

My tweet seat time is up, so I figured I’d take the opportunity to review and expand on my tweets: http://bit.ly/coWQkG

Well, here we are. And that was that.

igital reading has caused a shift in book reading and buying habits, too: While two in five Americans (40%) read 11 or more books a year, with one in five reading 21 or more books in a year (19%), 36% of those who own e-readers read 11 to 20 books a year (36%), and 26% read 21 or more books in an average year.

See full article from DailyFinance: http://srph.it/b1uO5D