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Web 2.0 SF09

Hallo hoppy reader,

Once again, it’s Thursday and I’m at the Web 2.0 show listening to keynotes. I came in at the tail end of a Nokia talk [The Year of the Mobile Computer: Mobile Computers as Personal (Mobile) Computers by Anssi Vanjoki, Executive VP] about how they hope to fit in the mobile computing space going forward. Nothing surprising came of the talk: a live map will be the interface for Nokia going forward. Your world will revolve around a map of your location and all the stuff you’re interested in will be accessable via The Map…et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. OK, I have problems with that Map–as–überUI supposition but, let’s see where they take it.

Anyway, at the end, he played an excerpt from a speculative video. It’s from their dev lab and partner, showing a future phone or, as Vanjoki repeatedly emphasized, a “mobile computer.” In the animation, the thin, flexible Morph appliance is able to, um, morph from a flat rectangle about netbook size, via a Z trifold to a long, narrow rectangle which can then be wrapped around a wrist as a bracelet. Its external skin, as well as its inside surface, is a display so, the animation shows a user taking a pic of her purse, and mapping that pattern onto the phone’s skin so, when worn as a bracelet, it accessorizes her outfit. Watch the entire vid, it’s worth six minutes of your time.

The next guest was Ellen Miller, talking with Tim O’Reilly. Miller is from the Sunlight Foundation, an organization that takes its name from Justice Brandeis’ statement that “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” The Sunlight Foundation helps citizens to be their own best governmental watchdogs, “…by improving access to existing information and digitizing new information, and by creating new tools and Web sites to enable all of us to collaborate in fostering greater transparency.” Miller mentioned some recent missteps by the new administration to improve transparency, at ridiculous taxpayer expense. BTW, O’Reilly Media and TechWeb run this show and boy, did the techs screw up the 802.11 configuration in Moscone West. About half the attendees, myself included, were unable to jump onto the network…for shame.

Next up, Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch: His example starts with a GUI mockup in Illustrator, which he opened into a new beta tool, Flash Catalyst, to convert it into an application. Catalyst converted the various vector shapes in the mockup into functional, interactive UI elements. The mockup could just as easily be a raster image, from Photoshop for instance.

Catalyst flattens the software design process, giving art farts and web dweebs the ability to not only design and specify a UI, but also build a functional proto with tools they can understand. Granted, a UI does not an application make but, Catalyst does allow a designer to generate Flex code for a UI front end from his or her mockup, which must then be handed over to developers so they can hook in back end code to make the UI actually control something and provide the desired functionality.

Next, A conversation with Will Wright from Electronic Arts, creator of Spore and The Sims…One interesting factoid he mentioned was the database of game objects (creatures) created by users. The database has grown to include 100 million objects, which the company has now made available to propellerheads via an API. So, the game database has become a sort of open source resource for simultaneously enriching the game experience by expanding the functionality, extending and reinforcing the Spore brand, and allowing increased player interactivity. He mentioned that, back in Sims days, many people complained, asking, “Why would I want a game where I have to take out the garbage and clean the toilet?” Over time, however, it was the player–generated content that drove the popularity of the game and influenced the spec for Spore.

Wright mentions that successful games are narcissistic, “The more it’s about me, the better.” He thinks the whole concept of social networking is that they are centered on ”‘Me,’ it’s all about me, and the world revolves around my life, my experiences.” His latest interest is “…games that intersect with the real world,” games that are mapped onto the real world. He’s currently thinking about how his company cane bring that about, a self–centered game that melds the real with the fantasy. Later, he mentioned that the concept of an “immersive game” is a bit old in that modern successful games, like Guitar Hero and games on the Wii, derive much of their entertainment from the social interaction of thrashing away with your buds or family, as opposed to focusing on the actual game itself. Another concept he’s mulling over is how better to monetize games and, one concept is to make the game free but to sell objects and virtual accessories via micropayments. According to the folks at Marketplace today, that model is working well in the Chinese ’net gaming industry, where the internet is thought of primarily as an entertainment medium. What Grameen Bank hath wrought!

Their next topic was education and how gaming and the “Nintendo Generation” will change the nature of public education. I was surprised that he didn’t mention Quest to Learn, the new school in NYC starting up this fall that bases their teaching methods indirectly on game play.

By the way, yesterday was the 1st, April Fool’s Day. Apple’s free iTunes Download of the Day featured John Cage’s four minute and thirty three seconds of silence titled “4:33.” More Poisson d’Avril fun came from Google…their street view avatar inexplicably became a teddy bear?!

What’s wrong with this picture?
What’s wrong with this picture?


OK, enough of this. As Khan once so eloquently opined to Kirk, “I grow fatigued.” I’m off to the show floor…Enjoy your day and, continue to geek!


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