Infovore » A Year of Links →

Tom Armitage:

I thought it would be interesting to produce a kind of personal encylopedia: each volume cataloguing the links for a whole year. Given I first used Delicious in 2004, that makes for eight books to date.

Beautifully done.

A Heck of a Stance

If both of Angelina's legs were showing.

The 8 Most Opulent Gifts in the Oscar Swag Bags →

Each gift bag was worth about $60,000. And these got handed out to all the nominees. Reminds me of that line from Withnail & I - Free to those that can afford it. Very expensive to those that can't.

Dear Esther

With no characters to interact with, no enemies to fight, no puzzles to solve, no way to manipulate the environment around you, Dear Esther is guaranteed to spark a thousand hand-wringing debates about what a game actually is. Can a game have none of the elements listed above and still call itself a game? Or is it enough to provide an experience to the player? Come to think of it, if you're not "playing", what do you call it?

I guess you could call it exploration. Dear Esther is great at exploration. You explore an uninhabited island, with its beautifully rendered landscapes and scattered clues to the people who once lived there. You explore the story (or stories) being told by the disembodied narrator. You explore the nature of gameplay.

More than anything, though, Dear Esther is about atmosphere. The story being told, the tone of the narration, the haunting soundtrack, the gorgeous visuals. These all add up to a singular atmosphere of loneliness and desolation. The creators have said they were influenced by Tarkovsky's Stalker -- a film that is more about creating an atmosphere than telling a compelling story.

But, although it tries, it can't escape its game roots. Dear Esther is built with "Source" engine, the same one that powers Half Life 2, and so it's necessarily constrained in the scope of its ability to tell a story and build the atmosphere it is going for, in much the same way as a book is bound by the constraints of having to tell its story through the medium of static print. As a result, its game-like artifacts are completely out of place in such an anti-game. To prevent you going too far off the prescribed path, Dear Esther uses conventions like invisible walls and insta-death points. Arbitrary rules that people often expect and that sometimes even make sense in a traditional 'game'. In something like this, though, they shatter the illusion and the atmosphere.

As a game (if that's what you decide to call it), Dear Esther a failure. As a story, it falls similarly flat, drip-feeding the brunt of the story through the same kind of cack-handed, painfully oblique passages as we saw in Braid.

As an experience, there's nothing like it.

Feltron Biennial Report →

Nicholas Felton has released the latest version of his "annual reports" - a collection of all the data that makes up his life. As someone who has trouble keeping track of the movies he's watched, I'm very jealous of his ability to consistently keep track of this stuff.

After the internet design community started spooging over these things a few years ago, he set up daytum, a website to help people collect these various discrete bits of information and to present them in a "Feltron Annual Report" kind of way. And yet according to the "about" page of the report, (and even according to his account page on daytum), he doesn't use it himself. I dunno, I just found that interesting.

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All I need is a giant 70s 'fro and this could be a picture of me and my wife heading out on a Saturday night.

The myth of the eight-hour sleep →

Scientists are arguing that the 8-hour sleep is unnatural, and that humans naturally fall into a more segmented sleep cycle. In other words, I should be treating every day like I treat Sunday, with a pre-sleep nap.


The problem with Gamification is that it tries to solve a problem that doesn't exist. We already have a universal points system, across all aspects of life, that represents status and is redeemable for real world prizes. It's called "money."

Greg Costikyan nails it

Fountain - A Markup Language for Screenwriting →

John August:

Back when we announced FDX Reader, I got a lot of emails asking, 'When are you going to make a screenwriting app?” Answer: Today. My hope is that we just made a thousand. Fountain turns every text editor into a screenwriting app.

This means flexibility. This means genuine collaboration - people in geographically different locations can edit the same Google Doc at the same time. This means I can write a screenplay on my phone.

This means I don't really have any excuse not to write any more.

El Wingador →

Errol Morris Op-Doc on Bill 'El Wingador' Simmons. I love that he has a cross-stitch by his front door saying "NOTHING EXCEEDS LIKE EXCESS".


One of the unfortunate effects of living in another country for almost five years is that you have to almost completely rebuild your knowledge of your home city. Specifically, I find that I need to find out where the best bars and restaurants are (because, honestly, there's only so much Crackbird a man can handle).

In theory, this is where things like Yelp and Menupages are supposed to come in. The internet hive-mind is supposed to work its magic. I should be able to shout "Yelp! What is best in life?" and it will tell me "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.". Instead, it says "Paulie's Pizza, Kilmainham Gaol and Croke Park."

Wrong, Yelp.

I guess it's just a fundamental problem with crowdsourcing. Rather than helping the cream rise to the top, the noise generated by these sites actively drowns out useful information, making them useless. Even large sites like Amazon suffer from the same problem. I recently tried to buy a wireless access point for work. I checked out a few tech blogs and read reviews of some products. I finally settled on a Cisco product and went to Amazon to order it. Despite the almost entirely favorable reviews I'd read, the access point had only two and a half stars on Amazon. Turns out this was based on two reviews, the first of which was a one-star review with the person saying he'd had a problem with the technical support for another Cisco product. The other review was from Cisco themselves, giving the product five stars. The text of their 'review' was "if you have an issue with a product, please email us at $blah". Both reviews were useless and, if I'd been basing my purchase on the overall score of the product, I would have walked away.

More useful than the hours I've spent trawling Yelp and Menupages has been the one post I put up on Facebook, asking my friends where they'd recommend for places to eat. This way, I've immediately got context for each one of the places that have been recommended - this friend has impeccable taste, so I'll try their recommendation first etc. It's a similar reason why I trust Brian Lam's The Wire Cutter over the countless aggregation sites, or anything that relies on the average score of a large group of people to recommend technology. A sufficiently well-curated site run by a single person can still trump the wider internet.

Connecting nvALT and Address Book →

I use nvAlt (synced with SimpleNote) all over the place, from storing little code snippets to keeping track of ideas and lists over time. Brett Terpstra has come up with a great idea for linking notes with individual people in your address book. Love this.

Lighthouse Cinema re-opening →

I was saying to my missus on Saturday about how I was really sad that I was living away from Ireland for the entirely lifespan of the Lighthouse Cinema in Smithfield. Now it's Monday and they're announcing that it's being re-opened!

So let's see if I can use my new power for good: I am also really sad that Rubicon and Terriers were cancelled.

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The Little Prince.

Why hasn't this been done before?

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Guy Laramee's Biblios project. I can already hear all the snarky voices saying "Can you do that with a Kindle?"