Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Everybody, Everybody!

    Clay Shirky opened my eyes to the deeply social nature of our species with his book, Here Comes Everybody. I had never thought about it before, but it makes a lot of other things make sense, like why people are so addicted to social media and social video games. We as humans have a deep-seated desire to collaborate and feel like we are valued contributors. This is why Electronic Arts can get away with releasing yet another iteration of SimCity---this one lets you build your city next to another user's city so you have to work together to avoid disasters. It is also why things like the Steam Workshop are so successful. People with specialized skills are willing to contribute their time and talents to improve their own experience, and that of the group. New tools are helping make more parts of our lives group experiences, and are helping us share the fruits of our individual improvements with our peers.

Monday, March 25, 2013


    Regarding technology, Boyd K. Packer said, “The Lord has inspired men to invent these great tools. Now if we don’t use them to teach His gospel, Satan will use them to lead the people astray.” It is wonderful to see social media used to spread the gospel in a personal way that other media cannot achieve. It is helpful, however, to periodically assess how you use social media, and the amount of time you spend doing so. It is easy to spend two or three hours of your time online without noticing, only to look back and realize nothing you did during that time mattered. As great as media is, we do well to make sure we do not spend too much time entertaining ourselves when there is always work to be done.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cathedral, Bazaar...or Both?

   Eric Reymond talks about two different methods of software development: Cathedral, and Bazaar. These two methods don't have to be as exclusive as Reymond seems to think. These days game developers are starting to release open beta versions of games earlier than before. Open beta testing usually means the public have freedom to play-test the game and report any bugs they find, or suggest improvements. This large amount of crowd-sourced testing does a great job at finding bugs, but what if the game's source code were included in the beta? Bugs could be fixed faster, and for free, but users might not buy the finished game if they already possess a near-working version. As far as users adding features, many games, especially newer games on Steam, already have ways for users to create additional content and integrate it into the game. The cathedral is in the bazaar, and the doors are opening.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Family Binary Search Tree

    I had to smile when I read about a 12-year-old girl who was apprehensive about family history because she didn't think she'd even be able to "work" the computer. It's safe to say that the average 12-year-old in America today feels at home on a computer, and this has boosted family history work. It's interesting to see how the Church's technology for family history has evolved with our culture. Specifically, has progressed through the last couple decades by assuming a much more social approach, mirroring the way our culture has made video games, job hunting, home videos (think YouTube), etc. more social. Now users of FamilySearch can correct and add to each other's work, and even request specific pieces of information. The whole project has become collaborative.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

All Reasonable Rights Reserved

"It doesn't matter if you're a grandma or a 7-year-old girl/
They'll treat you like the evil, hard-bitten criminal scum you are!"       -"Don't Download This Song" by Weird Al Yankovic
    Weird Al's sarcastic song illuminates the growing absurdity of copyright over-protection, and many artists share this sentiment. Orson Scott Card contends in his essay MP3s Are Not the Devil that artists are not suffering because of file sharing, and are in fact more successful because of it. I have been exposed to many musicians and consequently purchased albums because a friend played a few songs for me. If we applied the same restrictions on printed literature as many are proposing for digital media, we would have to close down all public libraries for "file sharing". The fact that we have libraries is a testament to the value of shared culture. Indeed, public libraries actually lend music albums, films, and even video games. I'm not saying that artists should work for free to produce culture, but for people to not even be allowed to allude to other artists' works in their own art is ridiculous. We need stop trying to treat culture like we do Furbys and potato peelers.