Category Archives: Longform

I am a typical Amazon customer

This was on my Amazon home page today:


This has been the top of my Music Wishlist for close to a month now (you’d know that as well as I if the WordPress template didn’t cut off the “added” dates):


So (without a lot of statistical analysis), I am an 88% typical Amazon customer. Or maybe, I’m in the 88th Percentile of typical Amazon customers. Or maybe, I fit Amazon’s data model to 88% accuracy.

Reading Between the Battle Lines

Acquired via BookMooch: a trio of books about Halo including The Fall of Reach, The Flood, and First Strike.

Tell Me A Fable

I was trying to read the triology before the arrival of Halo 3, but only made it a little over a third of the way there (i.e., a little bit into the second book). I’m now nearing the end of the second book, but I got Halo 3 a week ago, and am over half way though the campaign. The second book is basically a recounting of the campaign from the first Halo game with some side stories about the marines and Covenant thrown in. I use the words thrown in, but really, these side stories add a lot of depth to the story of the game. And speaking of depth, the first book tells the (nearly) entire backstory of the Master Chief (aka the big green guy); something that probably would have made a very boring game, but which works very well as a novel.

Speaking of boring games, though: In playing Halo 3, I have been made aware once more of what a poor job the games do of telling the story. The main characters in Halo 3 – the Master Chief and the Arbiter – are actually very deep (the latter actually more so than the former), but the campaign still feels like just another run through a bunch of levels, shooting/grenading/smacking everything in your way. That’s not to imply it lacks the fun factor that makes for a good game, but since I’d read the first book before playing any of Halo 3, I was really hoping that the power of the 360 would allow the story to be told in much more depth and with a greater level of emotion than the first Halo. The second Halo game did a somewhat decent job of weaving the story in, and actually making the game more than just a shooting gallery.

Unfortunately, Halo 3 feels like like a step backwards from Halo 2 with respect to the realization and illustration of the storyline. The levels are more varied and incorporate the use of strategy better than the previous two games (though Halo 2 did a good job of trying to make you think strategically), but the game so far hasn’t told the story of the Master Chief or the Arbiter (or Cortana or Gravemind) nearly as well as I’d hoped. And with only three and a half levels left, I’m worried (and relatively sure) it’s going to stay that way. I mean, Darth Revan reveals himself only halfway through KOTOR (warning: following the link may spoil that game if you haven’t played it).

Playing By The Book

What the book(s) did well in addition to expanding the story from the game was teach me how to play the game. No joke. Reading the descriptions of how Master Chief deals with the Covenant and the Flood in the book made me realize that each part of the game(s) is set up to try to get you to deal with a situation in a certain way. Of course, you don’t have to, but by recognizing strategic points in missions, I feel like my experience with Halo 3 has been enriched. I did notice this in some sections in the earlier games, but I’m not exactly Mr. Final Boss Owner, so I tended to just brute force my through a lot of parts in the first two Halo games, but in the third one, I feel like I’m playing with a lot more finesse and actually playing the game the way the designers intended it. And I know it’s not because of the improved storytelling (see above if you skipped over that part). And I know it’s not because of the improved graphics.

… The graphics are improved, and it does make the game better. That’s kind of a given and an expectation. But when the grunt’s methane tanks sputter and hiss when you hit them (something they didn’t do in the previous games), I notice the improvement because I read the books and know that they breathe methane and have those canisters strapped to their backs to survive.

Finely tuned ear muscles


Now, while I can assure you that not everything Timbaland touches turns to gold, I can assure you that I have been Jocking (yes, capital J – it’s currently #9 in the past 6 months according to Apologize since this album came out in – as you can see above – March 2007. It’s just hitting the radio now. That does give you an idea of just how good the album it, though. It’s not without holes, but it’s one album that is definitely worth paying for (which, of course, is what I most certainly did), as opposed to a lot of other albums this year that I’m glad I was able to “preview” before buying.

On another Timbaland note, that Ayo Technology song would actually be pretty good if it didn’t have 50 Cent on it. It’s not necessarily a knock on 50, cause he’s made one or two good songs. That song just doesn’t suit him as well as it fits with New Justin. (Please note the clever use of suit and fit there)


In Rainbows

At times it has certainly seemed that Radiohead was trying to destroy their own career just to see if they’d survive. Those times generally occur just prior to the release of a new album.

In Rainbows is Radiohead’s 7th studio album.

From Wikipedia:

While the discbox, which includes the MP3 download, is priced at £40 [approximately $82 USD], the price of download by itself is left up to the buyer. Upon purchase, the buyer is prompted to type their desired price, plus a credit card transaction fee of 45 pence [about $0.91 USD] if purchased for more than £0.00. For free purchases, no credit card is necessary and no additional fee is charged.

Radiohead - It’s Up to You

This seems like a project that an MBA intern came up with while working for Radiohead this summer. When a band goes Platinum or Gold for 10 years straight, you’ll certainly be collecting a lot of data when they go to order the new album. I’d certainly rather have that data in the hands of the band than in their record companies. Although the numbers will have to be released to the public if any thumbing of noses is to occur.

And also, I wonder how much the discbox is subsidizing the free downloads that will be given away?

Orkut preparing to take on Facebook

Orkut taking on Facebook is like David v. Goliath 2.0, but in the 2.0 version, David’s family has a ton of money with which to purchase him state of the art weapons.

Business Week has a long 2-pager on the future of Orkut talking about the opening of the Orkut platform a la Facebook (via TechCrunch. Here’s the part that I was most interested in, though:

Orkut itself could conceivably become a hub for accessing multiple social networks in one place, a concept demonstrated by another Google-funded Carnegie Mellon group last year in a project called Socialstream. “We don’t know what they will use,” cautions Brad Myers, project adviser and a professor of human-computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon.

But there are signs Google sees wisdom in a concept like Socialstream. In September, Orkut introduced an array of new features, some similar to those offered by other social networks. One addition was Updates from Your Friends, a box that alerts users to new photos or links to YouTube videos their friends have posted. Another was Feeds, which enables Orkut’s pages to display information posted on other sites—such as a blog from Google’s Blogger or Six Apart’s LiveJournal, or photos from Google’s Picasa and Yahoo’s (YHOO) Flickr.

If Google can integrate Orkut with it’s other services (like add a status update that synchs with your GoogleTalk status, or allows you to microblog from GoogleTalk), then it will certainly become more compelling. They certainly have some of the right ideas. And they have best-in-class office/productivity apps for just about everything except To Do lists. But will their push for sociality be to build Orkut into Socialstream, which would be a best-in-class social network app?

It’s funny cause I started this post in the morning, and by afternoon… More social networking developments for Google. Jaiku has been bought out by Google. Now, we all know that I am a fan of Jaiku despite only having 2 friends who use the service. But, once again, here’s the interesting part for me:

we’re eager to go beyond what’s there today, and build something completely new for you to enjoy. Take this as an invitation to join us on a journey to reinvent how you communicate and stay in touch with the people you care about.

The most obvious way that I see to read that is that they’re going to build a Jaiku app for the gPhone operating system. The second most obvious choice is they’re going to work on building Jaiku into Orkut to serve as Orkut’s News Feed. If it is the latter, then hopefully they’ll find a way to limit feed items by groups (as Facebook will be doing sometime soon). But first, Orkut will have to add the concept of groups to their current privacy areas of “friends,” “friends of friends,” and “everyone.” Perhaps the Communities play some part in the privacy settings, but I’m not familiar enough with Orkut to know.

The funniest part of the acquisition, though, is all the people on Twitter who are now fighting a Twitter v. Jaiku war via Tweets. Clearly a lot of people don’t know enough about Jaiku to realize that they can just throw their Twitter RSS feed into it and only have to update in one place. I’m sure that’s part of the decision process that led Google to buy Jaiku instead of Twitter. A very small part of the process, but part of it nonetheless.