September 27, 2005
BizTalk Wellington user group: designing and developing custom adapters
The sample code hasn't been particularly fully marked up and I've not had the chance to build it on a pristine machine -- please leave a comment or mail me (address in the readme) if you have any questions or problems and I'll try to post a fixed version.
September 25, 2005
Putting the cult into culture shock
This is weird: "OS-tan ... or simply OS Girls are the personification of several OSes, most famously Windows, by various amateur Japanese artists." The cosplay feud bit in particular sent me into deep culture shock. Here's a fan site: "Windows 95 rappresents the most traditional and both combative sides of Windows. She's used to be a quiet and good mannered girl, but the presense of an Apple-tan turns her in a merciless samurai... I found this pic of [Internet Explorer] on the web, and considering she's my browser I have to support her, also if she allows everyone looking at her panties."
In the interests of balance: Moezilla.
Keith Locke fronts up
I never thought politics could top the spectacle of the Deputy Prime Minister of Great Britain punching a voter live on tv, but the NZ 2005 election may just have pipped it at the post.
Green candidate Keith Locke found a telling phrase before the election, remarking that he would "run naked through the streets of Epsom" if the unfancied Rodney Hide, leader of the tiny right-wing ACT party, won the seat. I don't know whether the voters of Epsom construed this as a promise or a threat, but in any case, Hide took the seat.
Credit to Locke, he fronted right up: "Mr Locke said the Greens were a party of their word, and he did not want to break an election promise. 'We haven't set a date, we've got preparations to do in terms of choreography.'"
Not that the local business community were going to let him off the hook: "We don't want our electorate to be the home of the first broken campaign promise... When Mr Locke is ready, the Newmarket Business Association will warn the faint-hearted, clear the footpath on Broadway from Two Double Seven to Khyber Pass Road, ensure there are the necessary officials, and provide a much-needed loincloth.... We don't want Mr Locke's organics to frighten away any of our customers."
And today... Locke made the Greens the first to deliver on a campaign promise: "My only regret is that I didn't read our gambling policy thoroughly enough."
By the way, barring any surprises in the special votes, Locke will be a MP. Man, I feel proud of my adoptive country.
September 11, 2005
User interface patterns
I've not tried to work through the differences between Jenifer Tidwell's two UI patterns sites, Common Ground and UI Patterns and Techniques. Some of the newer site seems to be rewriting, expanding and illustrating the Common Ground patterns, other bits seem entirely new. From a first glance at the newer site, I marginally prefer Common Ground because of its more generalised, "patterny" language, but this is probably because I have been corrupted by evil techie developerspeak; I can certainly see how the simpler language and visual examples will make the patterns concrete for a non-academic, non-developer audience.
Anyway, Tidwell's work has now been picked up by O'Reilly and will be published in dead tree format in October. For my money, this will be a must-buy. A pattern catalogue really hits the sweet spot between HIG-level specifics like "Buttons will be 120 pixels wide" detail and wise but unhelpful generalities like "Think how a digital device will be held and carried." UI designers do deal with the same problems in application after application, site after site, and patterns are a superb technique for capturing these kinds of common problems along with their solutions. And even ignoring the cookbook aspect, a pattern catalogue gives us a common vocabulary for describing and debating UI solutions, much as developers now find Observer, Decorator and their ilk to be handy shorthands for explaining technical designs. "Hey, why not combine the four filter boxes and use a Forgiving Format instead?"
By the way, I particularly like the intro to the newer site. "There's nothing new here." In our industry, it takes a brave writer to make that her hook.
September 08, 2005
September 06, 2005
On his watch
The News Blog: "Bush just proved what would happen with another 9/11. Dead Americans as far as the nose can smell."
US media in non-quiescence shocker
Matt Wells: "American broadcast journalism just might have grown its spine back."
On the other hand, Tom Tomorrow finds that the wingnut media have shifted not one jot: "I actually heard some right wing moron on the radio yesterday complaining about the damage done to the Superdome by the refugees stranded there."
First session angst
I hate running first sessions. Afterwards I almost always feel sick with tension and disappointment.
Looking at it rationally, I actually think tonight went better than most of my first sessions, thanks entirely to the players, who pretty much ran their own "group bonding" subplot. And we were able to introduce some of the mysteries and secrets of the initial NPCs and setting, some of them as part of the player-driven subplot, some of them through external plot. This is probably an improvement on my usual record of stuttering open plotline or artificial pressure cooker.
I think the tension and disappointment is probably a kind of performance anxiety. Naturally one enters a game with high aspirations, and one wants to make a great showing right from the start, but the reality is that the first couple of sessions are likely to involve an awful lot of awkward, stumbling attempts to get second gear to catch. (Yes, I know, but right now I don't feel up to coming up with an unmixed metaphor.)
Anyway, I shouldn't take the angst too seriously. I can't think of a successful game I've run where the first session hasn't left me feeling like I've let the game down. On the other hand, I've run a load of convention games, where the game has to catch fire in the first twenty minutes, keep up the momentum for anywhere from three to eight hours, and deliver a satisfactory but still sequel-friendly wrap-up -- all this despite the players never having met before. I suppose in a con game the GM can generally tailor the characters to gear nicely and the plot to burn "twice as bright but half as long"; but still, I wish I could bring that same dynamic to a campaign kickoff.
Perhaps this is why the artificial pressure cooker works so well. It imposes a fast-moving dynamic on the group, but disassociates it from the broader situation, so that the APC subplot can be resolved without taking away from the main plotline. By the time the group gets onto the slower main plotline, the APC sessions have established momentum and group dynamic, and have given the group a shared victory or defeat. Ideally, the APC subplot is linked to the main plotline, so that resolving the APC draws the characters not only (a) together but also (b) into the ghastly undertow of the greater plot. Looking back, I begin to suspect that most of my successful games have involved an APC at some point, even if not as the starting scenario.
And you know what this means? It means roleplayers may have something to learn from the artificial teambuilding dogma of the management consultants and the HR wonks. And that really does cause me angst.
September 02, 2005
iPod infestation almost dooms New Zealand
The Register: "The iPod ... has been revealed as an agent of environmental destruction in which the entire country of New Zealand was only saved by a quick-thinking owner and his freezer cabinet." Though I think El Reg is secretly disappointed it wasn't a Windows-based audio player.