Improving on a CodeAcademy exercise

In CodeAcademy’s “Data Structures, Meet Iteration” exercise, I was asked to create a Histogram program. It would take any input and then list the words from that input in order of how frequently they occurred.

I had some issues with this program, however.

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Flagship Unclutter

Unclutter is the harbinger of an idea for consumer internet products. Indeed, perhaps, for many kinds of products.

It is the idea of customization.

But perhaps more than customization, which is already represented in the ability for a potential customer to choose one of a select bunch of pre-customized permutations.

i.e., To choose whether she is going to have the Red Corolla or the Blue Corolla in Physical Goods, or the 6gb of RAM or the 8gb of RAM for her new Windows 8 laptop in Electronics, or the Casual or the Pro plan in her SaaS.

Nay, that which Unclutter harbinges is the idea of auto-customization.

This is not customization that happens automatically, but customization done by the user. This is the creation by the user of that permutation, exclusively to optimize their own productivity based on their idiosyncratic style of using a product.

(Perhaps another aspect is DEPTH of customization, not just that it is done by the user?)

But there is another factor that makes this idea unprecedented.

It is the ability to be “on-the-fly”. Once you have chosen your red corolla, it is red except by the will of a mechanic who will install for you one of the other pre-customized permutations for a fee.

The alternative that Unclutter presents is the ability to ‘tune’ or ‘remix’ your unique iteration of the product *as you use it*, then ‘tune’ it again based on the quality of your first ‘remix’.

It is the ability for the USER of a software to ITERATE on that software. At least, in the USER INTERFACE aspect of it.

So the three enumerated aspects of this movement would be User-performed, Iterative, Customization.

Or Iterative Auto-Customization.

Unclutter contributes to this ability by giving users a Graphical User Interface to edit Graphical User Interfaces. It lets the user cut, paste, or delete HTML elements of web pages – Removing distracting or unnecessary elements of a website, or moving features you use most often to somewhere more convenient, like dragging it out of a drop-down menu where it was formerly buried and putting it on your toolbar as a stand-alone element.

Unclutter is Iterative Auto-Customization for the web. This allows users to take a consumer web product that was once frustrating and make a version of it that is beautiful, simple, and easy to use from THEIR perspective, not that of the designer.

I’m not saying that users will become better than professional designers at respecting the tenets of Design Theory that makes things beautiful. But they do understand what is intuitive to them better than a UX designer does, because they are iterating through their own process, and can do it faster than even a startup. Even if only as a diagnostic tool for pre-production design, the ability for a user to express how they think about a product and how they WANT to use it is incredibly valuable for internet companies.

And perhaps, if every person had a tool that they could actually use, human productivity and the fulfillment of human potential would go up around the world.

An Alternative to Visioneering

This post is inspired by The Visioneers, a book by W. Patrick McCray.

The worlds imagined by visioneers are many steps of massive technological innovation away. However, these steps don’t happen simultaneously. Thus, the social impact of any one of the steps isn’t taken into account by the original vision- visioneers are not oracles who can predict complex dependancy chains of cause and effect. We have no human nor group of humans who is cabale of complete prognostication.

An alternative to distant future visioneering, futurism, or science fiction, is
The ability to imagine a near future made possible by one well-placed step, and the resulting social impact on innovative potential. …

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Involving Everyone

A belief, excitement, and feeling of mastery over the prospect of being rich and influential is developing in me. Singularity University has a concentration of people who are both wealthy and primary players in the good of the world and humanity.

I am becoming more confident that I can add to their contribution.

I have many thoughts that I reflect on as particularly luminary and rich in potential, that I then find echoed by other influential people attempting to take action on them.

There is one thing I want to do that is attractive to generally everyone, that is not being done despite its wide-spread acceptability, and I am confident would have a radical influence on the human innovative potential for good.

I want to open the doors of invention and market influence to the general population. As the owner and operator of a company, it is the discretion of the company’s leaders to involve whomever they see fit in doing the business of the company. I have been working more and more to lengthen the possible wingspan of a company so that it can put its arms around the shoulders of greater numbers who wish to be involved in their work.

I am consistently inspired by the image of a child, playing Super Mario Bros., and having brilliant and passionate ideas to add to the experience that she wishes more than anything else to contribute to Shigeru Miyamoto’s team. The products of brilliant people inspire that sort of passionate devotion. If Shigeru Miyamoto were to have reached out his hand and welcomed that child into Nintendo where they could contribute to existing projects and develop more games using their ideas, that child would work tirelessly and with unbridled joy to invent a better game. Passionate devotion makes the people who feel it extremely powerful creators. Currently, the body of radically inspired individuals all over the world are encapsulated in a demographic group called a fandom.

The service a fandom does to the source of its inspiration is generally a supporting role. They are responsible for contributing monetary support, virality, and encouragement.
The fandom contributes monetary resources by consuming a wide range of products related to the inspirational source, including the exclusively emblematic. They share the source of inspiration with others, producing more fans, who can provide more support – this is referred to as virality, as they communicate their inspiration like a disease to those they contact. Lastly, they provide moral support in the form of encouragement.

Innovative effort is not typically part of this arrangement.

However, this is changing over time.

Modding is the act of fans, who are not part of the company who created a video game’s software, adding to the software and distributing their work for free. They are essentially working on this company’s game for free, in their free time, to make it more fun for their customers. Modders are sometimes, but not often, hired by the company and become an employee, as in the case of Mojang’s Dinnerbone, a Minecraft contributor. More seldomly, the Intellectual Property of a mod is incorporated into a company to become its own internal project, as in Counter-Strike, which spawned several sequels. Even more seldomly, mods created for a game become a product outside of the company and go on to be distributed for profit as in the case of Gary’s Mod, which stemmed from Half-Life.
Creators of games are incorporating the creative involvement of their fans more and more as time goes on. Games that begin as Kickstarter campaigns are the specific drivers of this change, as a popular reward for high-paying backers is entry to, for example, a developer feedback forum where they can contribute bug reports, advice, and creative suggestions for the development of the game to its creators. They can’t, however, produce the game content itself, or contribute design to the game, which I assert they would desire to do. What I envision is a sort of volunteer division of the company which becomes its own development team, where the passionately inspired contribute actual game designs, art assets, and code to the core project.

Valve is already dipping its toe into these waters. They have created meta-markets for user-generated content in the game Team Fortress 2. They provide rudimentary education to their fans, and skilled fans create 3D commodities such as hilarious hats that players can purchase for their characters to wear. When those hats are bought by players, the fans who created them have a revenue share with Valve. Many hat creators have earned more money from the sales of their hats on the TF2 meta-market than from the salaries provided by their legal employers.

A subgenre of games has come about to scratch the itch to develop creative content. These are maker games, such as [that game with the mask gods where the entire gameplay is creating stuff], [that other game that’s just for kids where they create avatars, do projects offline and upload them for points]. These games are an outlet for the passionately inspired, but I argue that they are diverting the passion of their players away from innovating with completely new work of their own.

One potential implementation would be a hybrid of models I have already cited. Mods, short for modifications, are extensions of the very software of the game that inspired them, and can be installed into the game to extend its features. If we took away the divide between game and mod, the creators of mods would essentially be additional unpaid developers. Companies spend significant time creating tools for fans to mod their games as a way to encourage and increase community involvement, and satisfy the desire of those who want to use their inspiration to contribute to the game. If they were to layer Valve’s practice of game-specific meta-markets for mods onto their games, they could catalyze the development contribution of their fans, legitimize mods as game extensions to the rest of their players, and allow for the benefit of the company and the modder. This is a step toward what I imagine, halfway between incorporating fans directly into the company and leaving them out entirely. Effectively, it is almost as if the modder has been accepted into the company, as they are receiving monetary compensation for their contribution to the company, as well as increasing the value of the company’s product to their customers while increasing the return of revenue to the company, which is the aspiration of all employees.

This idea of companies capturing the inspiration that their products create to exponentially increase their own potential is being pushed forward almost exclusively by video game companies. I am envisioning a world in which the inventors and manufacturers of medicines and other bio-technologies invite children, students, and adults who are unemployed or employed outside the company, to incorporate these non-employees into their company so that their innovative work can be added to the company’s and increase its potential. The company wouldn’t dictate when, for how long, or necessarily how these contributors would work, because they would not be employees. But they would create environments tailored for their involvement. Where software companies allow the public to modify their products, test the effectiveness of their additions, and submit them to the company for inclusion into the product.

Success in Slide Presentations

Putting together an educational post about slide presentations, tools, approaches, and other content for a potential workshop on the subject.

If you have used any resources for putting together your slides, please share them with me or in the comments so I can add them to the workshop!

Images- has hundreds of symbols discoverable by keyword search that can illustrate your concepts
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Adventure Mode Time

Hi all,

Now that Minecraft has an Adventure Mode that lets you design your own games within Minecraft, I’ve been itching to make an Adventure Time map with quests for public release.

Here’s what I would change in Minecraft to make the Land of Ooo.

What would you add?

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Alternative Funding Models for Video Games: CH.1

Hi all.

Today I found an article called “1,000 True Fans” by way of Tim Ferriss’ newest book The 4-hour Chef.

I was reading through the second half of the article, after Kevin Kelly had gotten through the explanation of his idea and was listing examples of his research, a True Fan model for book publishing online.

This model almost directly matches an idea I had for an indie game studio funding model about a year ago, and have mentioned to a few people in conversation since then.

The gist of it is, you get a studio together, raise some money, and release a stellar first game that is free. Not freemium, not free-to-play(pay-to-win), just free. And soon after the release of that game, once it has garnered some love and initial wows from the internet, release plans for your next game with a slowly filling meter on your front page that represents how much you’ve got to raise to keep the studio open and work on this next game. Your fans don’t pay you for the game they play and love- they pay you in order to birth another fantastic experience into the world for them to experience.

Apparently this is called micro-patronage, and is done by a few creative groups.

Take a look at the article here, on Kevin Kelly’s blog.