FaceBook Beaten Into Submission.

We grumble about it. At each layout change or move of a button, we complain ad nauseum.

So why on earth do we still use FaceBook, if we hate it so much?

For one thing, it has such a large portion of our immediate population attached to it, that in order to know what is going on socially, we need to be on FB. How many times have you heard of an event that invites really only went out on the darn site?

Secondly, in this time-poor world we need all relevant social data in one place so as to minimise time spent trawling for details. It also gives us a nice one-stop-shop for “catching up” with friends in a minimalistic way. Little to no actual applied effort means we can feel good about ourselves for having sent a message to that friend just to see how they are.

However, those constant changes are really annoying. Just as you get used to where one thing is, it gets moved. And what is with all the privacy setting changes? I personally thought that if we made our settings one way, the site we made them on shouldn’t be able to just change them, or if they did, they should have to let us know…? Clearly not, as such information is generally passed on via friend connections.

I have been using an add-on called Social Fixer for a good few months now, to help me manage all the curfuffle that FaceBook seems set on including in my life. I am logged into FaceBook for the better part of most days, so it stands to reason that I make it as easy to use as possible.  It’s free to use, and darned easy. It is not, however, supported for Internet Explorer, though if you’re a real computer user, this shouldn’t be a problem. Let’s face it, no one who has a say about how their computer is run, and knows what a real web browser can do for them, uses IE.

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Lifehacker got a hold of Social Fixer and called it “… [an] essentially a panacea for the most common Facebook problems…” so it has to be good, right? Reading the rest of the LifeHacker article also gives you a fair few good ideas on how to simplify your FaceBook presence. Consider adopting frequent “friend” culls. Do you really know all of the people on that list? Also, check the apps you’ve given access to your account. do you still use all of them? If not, cull!

Just as a side-note, personally I think FaceBook only has a few more years left in it before the “next big thing” in social media comes along and steals its thunder. It will go the way of MySpace before too long, so don’t invest too much in it (monetarily or otherwise), and start thinking about slowly adopting a “removal” process to your data. Download those pics, notes, significant details or anything else you think you might miss if FB were to go belly up. You will find the move to the next big thing easier, and less frustrating. Also, it never hurts to have less of yourself on a site that refuses to acknowledge privacy as a real thing that shouldn’t be changeable unless by the end user.

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Fallout: Lanius Cast Details

I honestly cannot wait to see this project up and off the ground. Never before has a fan film been so close to me and so close to my heart. Just last month I presented a paper about the Browncoats fight for more content after the “hiatus” of Firefly was called by Fox. This is just another case of the fans wanting more, only this time they’re in a position to do something about it themselves!

Things I Like: Fallout.

Okay, so you may have guessed I am something of a geek. I like things that are a little … “different” from the “ordinary” girly likes. Don’t get me wrong. I like high heels, makeup and stupid restrictive clothing as much as the next goth girl who is into that stuff, but I also like nerf wars, getting grass and leaves in my hair from combat rolls, wearing combat boots and jump suit and sniping players from a distance.

To this end, the Fallout games suit my sensibilities perfectly. I can sit at home in my pretty pretty clothes and make believe that I’m roaming the nuclear wastelands in naught but what I have scavenged from radioactive mutants and Jet-heads. I love it!

ImageI love that there are so many ways to work through a problem. Sometimes it calls for sheer brute force, sometimes thinking outside the box. I love that the world that Bethesda created is so immersive. It has to be one of the most addictive and crazily involving game worlds around. Now, I like other games. I’m also into FPSs (First Person Shooters), RPGs (Role Playing Games) and RTS (Real Time Strategy), but I can’t help but feel that the Fallout series has really encapsulated all that each of these other gaming types has to offer and rolled it into one beautiful package.

If you’ve never tried them, take a look. Start at the beginning, and play a bit of each, keeping in mind the context in which they were released. I don’t normally like using wikipedia as a reference (thank you Uni for that) but this one is pretty well written and accurate. So, get yourself a Geiger Counter and get out there!

Now, like any good past time, there are people who will take the initial ideas presented and make something out of it. We call these people fans, and we love them, bless their cotton socks. Yes, I’m including myself in this group. I own some Nuka Cola caps (stockpiling them for when the nuclear bomb goes off. I may also be working on a post-apocalyptic cosplay costume, but that’s just between you and me (yes, I’ll probably document it here). There is, however, a dearth of information out there on how to make your own props and costuming items.

Most coveted among these is the Pipboy3000. It is the item, during the games, which shows the player stats and journal items, and also allows for Stimpack and other item use. If you were clever enough to buy a limited edition of the Fallout3 game, you got a clock radio that many lucky sods have then turned into a pipboy for their own use. Now, I saw one on ebay, but it was insanely priced (over a grand!), so there went that idea. Also, given that I have much smaller arms and wrists than the average pipboy user, it would just look stupid if I were to try and make it work. Instead, I will be making one from scratch. Yes… That’s right. I have traded one kind of insanity for another.

This will require me teaching myself electronics, fibreglass molding and other techniques. Thank goodness I have people around me who know what they’re doing. I hope, at some point in the not-too-distant future to have my very own Pipgirl3000. 🙂

In other fan-made Fallout-ness, there is the Nuka Break short video series. These are up on youtube and, just quietly, they also show you how a lot of the props were made here… I love it for its simplicity in story line. One character is simply looking for all the Nuka Cola left.I’m sure there’s other stuff that happens, but that is the basic premise; one guys looking for a drink, misadventure follows. The main character is from outside the original storyline of the games, but is definitely believable.

AND…

*drum roll please*

I am super super super super excited about this latest project, set to send shock-waves through the Fallout community. Fallout: Lanius is a fan-film set for production in little ole Perth, Western Australia. If you remember form last entry, I was talking about crowd-sourcing? Well, these guys will be employing that method for obtaining … whatever it is they need. Extras and the sort I imagine. Watch this space.

Fallout: Lanius follows a character from the 2010 release Fallout: New Vegas, Legate Lanius. I have to say, when I saw the stand at Supanova, my little fangirl heart missed a beat and I may have gotten a little teary. This will be a not-for-profit endeavour and I CAN’T WAIT!!! They also have a Facebook page you can keep up to date via. They have gathered interest in such far-flung reaches of the world as Spain, Croatia, Russia, Japan and France. It would seem I am not alone in my enthusiasm.

So why do fans make stuff? Isn’t the original material enough? Well, imagine you like a sporting team and that team only plays three games a year. You’d want to enjoy more of that team playing, right? So what do you do? Play office fantasy sports? Seems legit. Get involved in lengthy debates with your friends about “what if your tam were to meet this team under these conditions? Who would win?” Well, it’s that kind of “what if” that gets fans making their own projects. Sometimes the original story lines don’t cover all the side stories that arise. Why is that character like that? Where did that thing come from? What would happen if these guys met each other? It’s those sorts of questions that get played around with during fan projects and, if done properly, can actually turn out really well.

So, you’ve checked out the games, and you’ve thought about the Fallout world. Want to get more involved? WATCH THIS SPACE!

Crowd-Sourcing – Why It’s The New Way To Get Things Done.

In case you’ve been living under a rock this past decade, there’s this New Thing called “crowd-sourcing” and it’s here to take over how we thought things got done.

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With the world having been so heavily driven by “what’s in it for me” and the Next Big Thing, we sometimes forgot that there were still small groups working on projects that deserved just as much attention as the over-publicised ones. The only reason we didn’t hear about them so much was because the companies who had invested so much money into these projects were seeking the best Return on Investment (ROI: it’s a real thing) and this drove the producers to flood the market with merchandise and marketing to drive us all insane. So what about the little guys? What about the people sitting at home on their computer making their “small time” film, music project, art work, etc etc etc? Where do these guys fit in?

This crowd-sourcing idea is by no means new. Not really. It has just become the latest tool for small groups to get big things done. Basically, it works like this:

Step One: Make people aware of your project.

Step Two: Make sure your project “has legs”.

Step Three: Publicise that you’re looking for extras, crew, make-up artists, costumers, etc etc etc.

Step Four: Get Things Done.

These days there are many platforms for hosting and tracking your crowd sourcing, but why would you want to do it? Why would you want to trust your project to potential no bodies? Wouldn’t you rather just pay people to do good work? Well, the answer is simple. Not always.

Imagine, for a moment, that you are a group of fans, gathering to organise … let’s say … a fan film, based on some kind of awesomeness you all enjoy. You probably don’t have a budget or, if you do, it’s not the blank check the guys from the Matrix had. You still need camera crew, lighting, sound, make-up artists, costumes, sets, locations, logistics, catering, electrical, post-production. Depending on what kind of a film you’re intending to make, you may also need special effects make-up, special effects in post-production, greensmen, pyrotechnics, animal wranglers… Oh, and you’ll probably want some actors too.

Ordinarily a movie budget may run into billions of dollars. At the very least, it’ll be millions. If you can fundraise that much for your fan film, power to you! Let the rest of us know how you’ve done it. Write a book on it and profit from your knowledge! For the rest of us mere mortals, crowd-sourcing it is!

You advertise, generally for the positions not requiring so much technical knowledge. Things like extras, or logistics. You will have, generally, already asked friends and family and friends of friends to the nth degree, for the crew and lead actors. Crowd-sourcing is most usually utilised to fill in the gaps. Going hand in hand with crowd-sourcing is crowd-funding but that, boys and girls, is a story for another day.

So why? Why bother?

Well, you’re a fan of product x, right? You want to make a film that amounts to a side-story. Why wouldn’t you also want other fans in on the action. I mean, ultimately they’re the ones who are going to be buying, downloading or otherwise using your product, so why not get them involved? They know, better than any other Joe Bloggs off the street, what is required in their costuming and, nine times out of ten, will provide their own outfits and make up, saving you money and time: two Very Precious Things.

Interested in seeing what out there has been crowd-sourced? Take a look at a couple of sites:

http://www.crowdsourcing.org/

http://www.crowdsourcing.com/

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.06/crowds.html

The final article is a good piece on other applications for crowd-sourcing.

Conventions: a guide for attendees and convenors alike.Part Two.

This one’s mostly for the conveners.

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It’s really not difficult.

Let the people who are donating their time to you know where and when they are supposed to be ahead of schedule. And I’m not talking about three days before they are supposed to be there. A week at the very latest. A week allows for them to make sure they are free, make sure everyone knows where they will be and why they will not be available for anything else. It also gives you enough time to make sure you have all the volunteers you want/need and that they are allocated to the areas you need them.

If you are supplying meals for them, please let them know. If you are not, please let them know. Again, ahead of schedule. It saves them from lining up and spending stupid amounts of money on terrible food which essentially amounts to them paying to work for you.

I get that it is difficult to reward excellent work in any meaningful kind of way, so please understand that we rally do appreciate a “thank you so much” or “you did an awesome job” when you see it. It really does make us feel as though our good work has been notice and is helping.

We get tired and cranky and petulant as much as a paid employee, without the added bonus of there being a pot of gold at the end of the monochromatic rainbow. Please, forgive us our snappiness as we try to forgive those who snap against us.

Thank you for the extra few minutes of break or sleep in in the morning. It is one way, without giving us money that you can show us you appreciate us.

But really, please do something about the coffee… 🙂

Conventions: a guide for attendees and convenors alike.Part One.

This particular guide is more directed to those in affiliation with the more “geek” convention, rather than academic or otherwise. It is, in no way, designed to be complete, but is just some simple guidelines I have put together in my years of attending such events.

 

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Cosplayers:

Please be aware that sometimes your costume will cause people to stop and stare. If this is the case, smile. Pose for photos. Be gracious. You do not simply don an outfit for the sake of simply wearing something different. You wear it for the attention, the kudos or maybe just for someone to notice that you’ve put in a lot of work. To that end, don’t look sour if that wig is causing your head to feel like it’s in a vice. Don’t frown in the ten mile high shoes you’re having to wear in order to be in proportion with your team members are causing your feet to scream in ancient Armenian. Smile. Be nice to the people appreciating the work.

General Attendees:

We will all “bump” into people we know. It happens. The geek community in ven the largest of cities is still insular enough that the odd “stop and chat” opportunity will arise. HOWEVER, do not do this in the exact centre of the general thoroughfare. People are trying to get past. Be nice, move to the side, away from the stall trying to make a buck or two from your captive audiences of the convention.

If you are waiting for someone who happens to be standing in a line for an autograph, kindly do so away from the line. You are making the line manager’s job harder by making it impossible to gauge who is in and out of the line. Also, Don’t stand in between the line and the actual place of signature. It too is in the way.

Along these lines, if you happen to be wanting an autograph from a celebrity, kindly use those things in your head called eyes and see if there is a line for such things. If there is not then, and only then, may you simply stand where you like. If you fail to notice the line and someone wearing a lanyard, wearing an event tshirt or carrying a clipboard asks you to go and join the line, kindly don’t roll your eyes, sigh, moan and bitch and complain. Pick up your bags and go and join on the end of the line, regardless of how long you spent “just standing there”. It’s not our fault the line was difficult to see, or you could not use your eyes. Not our fault at all, we’re just trying to make it fair for all. No, you will not be given preferential treatment for being older. The kids paid just as much to get into the event as you did, sometimes more, having to pay off their parents for lifts and advances on allowance, so they have just as much right to be treated with fairness as you.

Please observe the general niceties of social conduct. Don’t yell. It’s annoying. Especially when you may think you’re playing the most high-pressure hand of “go fish” because the fate of the world depends upon it, while everyone around you is simply wishing you would shut the hell up.

I know it’s crowded. I know there’s lots of people. Please, for the love of all that is dear and sacred to you, do not feel that give you the right to stand within my personal space if I do not know you with little to no care for having done so. An apology can be as simple as an “I’m sorry” mumbled when you bump into me because the sour cosplayer in her incredibly itchy and hot wig has shuffled past. I’m not expecting a written apology resplendent with platitudes. Just acknowledge that you are in my personal space, and that you will do all you can to leave it when you have enough space.

Food vendors:

I get that you have a captive audience and that your rent is insane. This should not make you feel that it is okay to charge a bajillion dollars for a small cup of crap you want to nominate as “coffee”. Yes, I am something of a coffee aficionado, but I can accept that what you have to offer may not be as good as what I can get at home. It is like that with many things. What I do take offense to is the fact that what you serve to me has little to no taste, is scalding hot, seems to have all caffeine burned out of it and is full of sludge. To pay a small fortune for such a disappointing “drink” is just adding insult to injury.

Another one for the cosplayers:

Please please please learn to style your wigs. Simply buying a wig and plonking it on your head is not enough, especially if your character does not really style their hair the same way. Cosplay’s beauty is in the little details. Please, don’t bring disgrace to the art form.

For those dragged along:

We get it. You didn’t want to come along. You think it’s a waste of time. We understand. No, really, you may think we don’t but we do. We geeks think the same when we are dragged along to something we don’t particularly find interesting. We would ask, if you didn’t want to come why did you, but that is a rant for another time. Suffice to say, you are here, presumably to show support or try to understand why it is someone close to you is into all this … “stuff”… Get over yourself. You are not better than all these people. In fact, I am sure you have interest that makes your partner/friend/family member yawn. We all do. It’s called support so just deal with it or don’t come along.

 

That wraps up part one of this particular guide. Part two to follow soon.

What is the cost of knowledge?

I ought to be university work. Instead, I am blogging, but it’s related so it’s okay, right?

This article came across my feed a few days ago.

Angry Librarians is not just the name of a game from the AppStore. It is a reality of the changing face of value and it is growing. Academics, students, librarians and experts in their fields are all starting the join the cause that is seeing academic publication companies on the receiving end of the flak.

They are protesting the cost of access to academic journals. These subscriptions, which can cost some univeristy libraries up to US$10M per year, give students and academics alike access to articles which some say should be available for cheaper online, or free. In the past there have been “…good intentions and utopian schemes…” says Robert Darton (Director of the Library at Harvard University) but now it seems we are back int he grasp of a profiteering racket driven by publication houses. The protestors are saying that now we have the means, why do we not use the technology to make knowledge accessible to all of humanity?

This is not just an isolated protest either. We are not looking at just one field of study, or just the major universities and academic safehouses. We are looking at a world wide protest. It seems to this blogger, at least, that people are fed up all over the place, with how we have become so complacent as to how “value” is perceived.

When research libraries have reached the point where they can’t afford their yearly subscriptions and feel they have no choice but to dig in their heels and protest, then we know something is wrong. When the research library spearheading this campaign happens to be a university with the reputation of being the wealthiest in the world, then we know something is really wrong.

The thing is, these publications have a decent amount of something called “prestige” behind them. Now, I’m not an expert on what prestige actually is, but I gather it is rather like your Klout score or the number of followers you have on Twitter. Sure, it may mean something to someone somewhere, but it is an arbitrary valuation of your reach in the world. Prestige supposedly means that if you are published in these journals, you are cooler than people in your field who are not. It’s essentially a popularity contest and a means of ranking academics by knowledge quotient. I’m not saying that I completely dismiss the idea. I mean, it’s definitely cooler to be published in The Amazing Journal of Coolness Studies That Only Really Really Really Cool People Can Be Published In, than in Women’s Weekly, but if people have to pay stupid amounts to read your article, then how is your knowledge going to help the world?

So, this has been something of a deviation from my usual blog style, but I think it’s a very important issue that bears more looking into. If you want to know more, you can read about it here, the online petition and boycott site.