Project Trico, Google Wave, and Benjamin Button

Project Trico

Two of my favorite video games are Ico and Shadow of the Colossus . . . actually, I think they are the only console games I’ve ever been able to pass (not that I play very many).  They’re like puzzle adventure games.  The team that makes them is working on a new title for the PS3 (which I guess I’ll have to get) which for now is being called Project Trico.  The video on YouTube looks . . . interesting.  Some kid going around with some strange cat-bird with arrows in it.  The cat-bird’s movements look very realistic if it wasn’t so humongous.

Anyway, what I really loved about the video was the music.  Very epic and inspiring.  I learned from Wikipedia that music was from a 1990’s film called Miller’s Crossing, a Coen brothers movie, and the music was by Carter Burwell, who recently scored Twilight.  So I put the movie Miller’s Crossing on hold at the library; I’m interested in seeing how the music fits with the dark gangs-and-guns story.  I’m also probably going to end up buying the soundtrack (because they still sell on CD *cough* stupid Disney Records *cough*).

Google Wave

The other exciting thing I saw earlier this week was this video on Google Wave (or this article which sums up the main points).  Ooooh, doesn’t that look awesome?  Hard to say exactly what sort of impact it will have on online communication, but it could be very big.  I’m especially interested in the real-time multiple-user collaboration; I would’ve loved to have that available while still in school working on group projects.  I’m also excited by the gaming possibilities this could provide, and would be very interested in trying to program some gadget-games for it.  I requested a sandbox developer account, but they never got back to me . . . of course, I’m sure tens of thousands have requested one, and when this Google Wave goes live to everyone, it will already be oversaturated with games . . . which is good!  I look forward to playing them!  But I will still want to try designing my own.

Benjamin Button (with spoilers!)

I finished watching the film The Boring Stupid Case of Benjamin Button the other day.  Visually, it was great.  The recreation of older time periods, the make-up, the cinematography . . . brilliant work.  But the story . . . what story?  There really wasn’t much of one.  There was hardly any conflict, only a couple of very shallow romantic conflicts.  The main character, Benjamin Button, had no important goals, and therefore there was really nothing he had to overcome.  This is a huge disappointment because the premise, a boy being born old and becoming younger, would seem to spark many conflicts.  How would others react if they knew the truth?  (They didn’t seem to be very bothered.)  How would he find love when he was young but looked old?  (Easily, it seems.)  When he was young, shouldn’t he be jealous of normal people?  And when he got old, shouldn’t others be jealous of him?  (Nah!)  When he grew down into a child’s body, wouldn’t it have been more dramatic if he had been a wise 70 year old, trying to convince adults that he was older and more experienced than them?  Nah . . . they just have him start forgetting everything when that point comes.

And, since Benjamin really had no goals, he had no personality.  He never really wanted anything, besides to be with a woman every now and then.  He didn’t struggle with envy for normal people, he didn’t worry very much about his awkward future, he didn’t deal with anger issues toward his father who abandoned him, he didn’t struggle with very much loneliness.  Lots of missed potential.

It seems like the writers were in a bit of a hurry to create this film, because they did a horrible job.  They expanded an idea into a screenplay without adding any story.  *Sigh*  It could’ve been good.

Remember . . . an idea is not a story!  You might start with an idea, but the story still has to be about something.  It might seem mundane or cliche, such as a simple love story, or a war story, or a life-struggles story (which is what Ben Button should’ve been about), but it needs that conflict built around the initial idea.  You can’t just take the idea and run with it.

The only way Ben Button could’ve succeeded without a story is if it had been a comedy.  Comedy can get away with there being little story because the point is in the little stories, the gags, the jokes.  Forrest Gump had no big story, but it was funny.  A Christmas Story had very little story, but it was funny.  And I’m sure there are plenty more . . .

So I give Benjamin Button 2 out of 10 stars, which is pretty pathetic.

Okay, that’s all I have to say for today.

Not another social network!

This post is not about some other social network that has just popped up and why it is stupid.  It’s about social networks in general.

I know a few people who, alone or with others, are trying to build and start their own social networks.  Of course, my first mental response does tend to be “oh, please, give me a break, like you’re ever going to be successful with that!” … but that was my first response to both Facebook and Twitter as well, so I’m obviously bad at predicting whether or not something will be successful.  (Facebook still really doesn’t appeal to me that much, I just stay on it because friends and family are on it and it makes it easy to keep in touch with them all at once; I think they should really just all join Twitter.)

Anyway, when determining whether or not a social network will be successful, I think there are two factors.  The first is:

1) Luck! If there are two social networks that are roughly the same, the one that attracts the most participants will do so out of luck.  For example, I joined Facebook because people I knew were already on it.  (When I first joined Facebook, I didn’t know it would go anywhere, so all the info on my profile was fake, saying I enjoyed playing soccer and watching romantic comedies.  When it became much more popular, I truthed it up.)  If my friends and family were on some other social network that was roughly the same, I would have joined that.  Once one social network starts snowballing, the others are doomed, and there’s just nothing that can be done.

This luck factor is I think what makes some social networks popular in some countries and not in others.  Because most of the people we know the best live in our own country, different countries may have different social network popularities.

Anyway, what this also means is that no matter how many great “qualities” your social network has, there’s just no way to automatically get it snowballing.  There is no magic element you need to add.  There’s nothing you can do to ensure success.  Nothing.  Nothing! It will depend on luck.

2) Elegant organization. This won’t ensure success, but it may at least prevent your social network from being complete uninovative copy-cat drivel.  I’m reading a book called What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis.  In it, he mentions that he went to some conference or something and people were asking Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, what to do to create such successful social networks.  And Zuckerberg said “You can’t.”  You can’t force-create a social network.  You can’t just build info forms and expect people to use the system you control to connect with each other.  But Jeff Jarvis went into a bit more detail about what Zuckerberg said:

[Zuckerberg] told the assembled media moguls that they were asking the wrong question.  You don’t start communities, he said.  Communities already exist.  They’re already doing what they want to do.  The question you should ask is how you can help them do that better.

His prescription: Bring them “elegant organization.”

~From What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis, page 48.

So … don’t even try to create that community.  Just give people something useful, a way to elegantly organize their photos, their messages, their whatever, in a way that they can’t now (though I think photos and messages are pretty much covered, thank you very much).  The community that already exists and would benefit from your method of organization will then, with luck, move in.

(The book expands on just what “elegant organization” means, but I think it might be self-evident… still, it’s worth checking out the book.  I also recommend Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets and The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb for the whole “luck” issue.)

Now… how will Twitter make money?

Why e-books stink

Technology opinion

I keep hearing mention of the kindle and other e-readers, and I see them at book stores on display. They do look nice, definitely better than reading from a computer screen. They’re small and look easier to carry around. They look pretty darn convenient; I’d like to have one. Unfortunately, they stink.

The main reason I think they stink is because, to read a book, I would be paying for a digital file. So . . . what if I don’t like the book? Can I return it? How much control do the e-reader makers have over my collection of digital files? Can I copy them to a new e-reader if I get one from a different manufacturer? Can I copy them to my computer and copy and paste text I like? I can re-sell my old books, but what about some old digital book file I don’t care about anymore? I wouldn’t be able to get a penny for it, would I?

I currently have a part time job at the local library, and I’d say about 66 to 75 percent of the books I read are from the library. Because they’re free. If I really like a book and want to keep it, I’ll buy it, but I’m very hesitant to pay money for a book from an author I’m unfamiliar with. I use the library to “demo” books. And, as long as no one else has the book on hold, I can demo it for however long I want. Unless a similar structure could be set up for e-books, where I can freely “check-out” books for an unlimited amount of time, I won’t be buying an e-reader anytime soon. The costly monetary disadvantages outweigh the spacial ergonomic advantages.

Also, another thing I would love to have with an e-reader is the ability to underline or highlight text, and then view the writing with or without the highlighting. When reading traditional books, I always have the urge to highlight certain sentences. But I don’t highlight, either because the book is from the library, or because I simply don’t want to create distractions for my future self if and when I ever go back and look into the book again. The ability to view my books with or without my own highlighting would be a major selling point. (But I’d still want the ability to have complete control over my files, no DRM crap.)

My first album news

In other news, I finished composing my third piece for my album, and I’m calling it The Dragon King (Opus 49) … bum bum bum! But, like Dragon of the Mist, it doesn’t sound threatening; it’s not an evil dragon. (I also subtly slipped in the melody from Dragon of the Mist for a couple measures, bwahahaha!) So, about 16 minutes of music is now finished for my album (White Castle Waltz, On the Edge of a Dream, and The Dragon King). I’ve got quite a few other pieces started that I’m still working on (one is over 12 minutes long and will most likely become the longest piece I’ve ever written). I’m hoping to have the album out by mid-August. Right now I’m focusing all my creative energy on it.