WN08 Preptober

🔥 Alchemy of Creation

It’s October, which to some means it’s Preptober! At the beginning of the year, when I did FAWM, I also decided that I would do NaNoWriMo this year, in prep for FAWM next year. So October rolls around, and I had completely forgotten about it, until I hear others talking about NaNo. So, what am I going to do? Open myself up to the possibility and see if I find an idea ripe for the taking.

There was no mention of NaNoWriMo last week in my notes, because I hadn’t even thought about it. I it was barely on my radar. This week, I’ve been thinking about it and working with some ideas on paper, and I have the seed of something. So, fuck it. Here I go. 50,000 words here we come.

The official NaNoWriMo Prep process is six weeks long. Six steps, really. I could do that in two weeks, right? The last couple of weeks are about project and time management, which I’m less concerned about.

My biggest concern is that without an outline, I will have no structure from which to write. But finding time to write, I have been doing morning pages on and off most of this year. I know I can write about 750 words in half an hour, and 20% of them will be gibberish. And 600 words morning, afternoon and evening is word count. Now, editing is hard, but editing is not the target. Don’t expect to see the first draft. I already have time blocked out on Wednesdays and Sundays for creative projects. So I can get myself ahead. Which gives some slack, as I’m not used to writing long narratives. The trick is keeping those words on-topic.

Working on an outline this week and next is finding a way to make a writing session sustainable. Going through the official prep has given my process some structure, and having the outline will keep me on the rails once NaNo begins. With it I’ll know where I’m starting each writing session, and it will help me get to the end of it.

📯 From the World

Ryan Singer at Basecamp has put a book out. Basecamp seem to actually do what Agile Software Development should be; high quality, customer-focused work in a low pressure environment. Yet, the way they run is counter to many of the standard practices.

I’ve been looking forward Shape Up since Ryan Singer went through their process on the Getting Real Youtube Channel a couple years back.

What stood out was the Hill Chart. Yes, it’s a it’s a feature in their app, but it’s an interesting model for describing risk at different phases of a project. There are at least two different types of work. There is discovery work, like research and design. This is the uphill part. And there is the execution. Once you understand the problem, getting it done feels like a downhill task.

They’ve built their entire project process around the risk of uncertainty, pulling a lot of it forward. To the point where they don’t even commit to a project until they have explored and shrunk the scope to reliably fit in a six week time-box with 2-3 people.

💎 Rethinking

So, NaNoWriMo… That’s a timebox. As a four week project, we have a clear target, the word count, and significant editing is clearly out of scope. By following the prep process, having characters and an outline, removes the biggest barriers to starting to write.

Ryan makes a point in Shape Up I hadn’t considered before. When you’re defining your work at the same time as trying to execute it, you can design yourself into a corner. Here, I’m making it possible to have a story with a beginning, middle and end. There’s still plenty of room for creative freedom, but I know I’m writing this book, not just any book.

📍 A Point on the Timeline

Cyberpunk Red

We left off with Camden and D311B0i breaking into Dr. Carver’s office. Our black market contact would be taking it over since Dr. Carver is dead. D311B0i is more oblivious as to the state of his own building than you’d expect. He was only now noticing that Dr. Carver had reinforced some of the walls and added security doors for the main entrance. The side-door, however, was a standard glass-panelled, wooden door. That one couldn’t even take two good kicks.

Waiting room. Consultation office. In the back another set of reinforced doors. There was a keypad, but best let the tech take care of this. By this point Alex and Apogee Borne had been released from the police station. Camden went back and picked them up. They were in a dour mood. But, Alex’s mood brightened when Camden mentioned that Dr. Tero was around since he’d offered to fix her netrunning gear.

Alex gave the doctor the latest info on her gear, while Apogee got into Dr. Carver’s operating theatre behind the office. Dr. Tero then ran a test and yes, Alex’s hardware was in a bad way.

In Dr. Carver’s kit there was an external firewall block. It would reduce the speed at which Alex could work in the net, but keep her from infecting more hardware. Make it safe to jack-in! Alex tried this out on Dr. Carver’s computer and went through various layers of encryption and counter-measures to unlock the contact list. Stims may have been involved. She had just been operated on. But she got through.

The new doctor was very pleased with This and in the scheme of things, this goes some goes a long way towards a penniless netrunner retooling their gear.

WN07 Ikea and Akira

📯 From the World

Cineworld and Picturehouse have closed their doors indefinitely. When we went to the cinema in September, the screen as about a quarter full. Full enough that it didn’t feel empty. On Tuesday we went to see The New Mutants, and we were the only people at the showing.

The cinema was also showing Akira, and I couldn’t pass it up. That screening made it to a whole 5 people!

💎 Rethinking

The way we’ve used the house this year has changed. I’ve tried changing-up my desk a couple times during lockdown, but the furniture we have is a limitation. But more than that, what even is a home for? That may have not changed, but what we needed it to be to achieve that has. My keyboard and guitars have been scattered to make space for the professional office. This is not ideal. Work, hobbies, and the domestic life have been layered on top of each other. How can we make the space for each distinct, and inviting?

We’ve been looking at how we want to use the space we have at the moment. There will be some rough edges and compromise. We can change too much at once. Yet, we have a chance of making the spaces in our reach better, and better suited to how we’re living right now.

🔥 Alchemy of Creation

Browsing Ikea and making floor plans isn’t my usual, but it totally counts.

📍 A Point on the Timeline

We’re not in one of the increased lockdown areas. But there is that feeling of the world shutting down again. The team got together for one more pub trip before winter. It’ been good to get more time with them in 3D. Especially with our newest member, who had started while we were remote. I have met them face to face, but getting a full evening in the pub (even if it’s an earlier close) was good!

Family is in an increased lockdown area, though. We were going to take a trip go to Ikea and catch-up with them over a weekend. But the practicalities of that are bit different now. So, we went to Ikea as a day-trip, keeping some of our momentum.

Cyberpunk Red

The second wave of cops came and we took cover. The cops round the corner and Alex fires the rocket launcher. Only in VR would we trust a netrunner with explosives, and even that’s a bad idea. The shot goes wild and Camden dives for cover. Shots are fired, but everyone’s standing.

Between us and them, we get a respawn. This hostage negotiation sim isn’t going to plan. Blocking Alex’s shot at the cops is a giant bear. She shoots. Questions can come later.

The bear grabs Alex, and in a familiar tone asks her to stand down. Only D311b0i is that polite. Next he addresses the cops. “Something is wrong. The game is broken. We need to stop shooting each other.” A talking bear is enough to give pause, and start a conversation. Camden asks about the clowns. The cops don’t see clowns, but one of the trainees is attacking another. Elevator goes ping. More bears! Acts of non-violence and restraining the hostiles gets us enough trust. After taking out the other bears, we let the timer run out.

The sim ends, and we’re back in our VR pods. Alex isn’t here. The rest of us get ushered into a room. We’re getting paid for silence and asked to sign an NDA. One of the conditions; don’t talk about Alex. Camden flies off the handle. “We didn’t want to be here, you picked us up. Now you’re saying we planned this?” D311b0i calms the situation. We sign and leave. Still got our freedom and some creds. This could have gone so much worse.

Meanwhile, Alex is getting interrogated, and the penny drops. Zeebadee did this. That shit-hot netrunner from the arcology. She recognised their signature in the hack on the apartment. She knew they were good, but this! Not only is the deck fried, but the malware has infected her implants, then jumped from the VR pods to the city’s comms grid. The public sector really should pay for better security. Alex gets to leave with her skin, but her netrunning ports have been sealed. She has history with Zeebadee, now she’s got beef.

WN06 Flash is Dead

📯 From the World

Flash is Dead

It’s funny, I still find myself defending Flash against the lumbering and dreary HTML5 pipeline that proclaimed itself successor – even now, HTML5 gaming struggles to hold a candle to what Flash could do a decade ago with a lack of decent vector animation and inconsistent performance across browers.

I think that the Flash game scene circa 2006-2010 was a LOT more friendly to newcomers. The current mobile market is too noisy and everything goes through one gatekeeper. If mobile stores worked more like the Flash portals of that era, I think there would be a much more interesting and vibrant indie ecosystem on mobile.

I’ve heard from people that Apple helped kill of Flash by not supporting it on iPhone, but Adobe had years and years to adapt and constantly let the community down, and I wonder what the world of casual games would be like now if Flash was still a viable platform for developers to use. I have a suspicion that the democratisation of platform and development that was seen in the early flash days on web portals would mean a less stale corporate run culture around small free to play games these days. — Flash Game History

Aw the nostalgia. The web’s gone growned up. Hope someone puts together an archive and emulator collection, like can be found for old arcade games.

And there’s all the animation from before we had the bandwidth for video. Maybe it’s a horrible exploit, but there was something magic about Strongbad’s virus opening a new browser window on my machine. I’d say you can’t do that with an mpeg, but Windows Media Player was a a bit hacky back in the day.

💎 Rethinking

REMEMBER: Picking a president isn’t like picking a friend. You are choosing your adversary. All politicians must be held accountable by the people… but only some of them show willing to listen. — Amy Hoy

I’ve never heard this expressed so explicitly in non-partisan ways. It’s also a plea for active participation.

🔥 Alchemy of Creation

Is now the time to change the furniture? What if we changed everything? No no no. Too much… But, what is the space for? We can make it inviting.

📍 A Point on the Timeline

Apparently, I’m a virgo and act like it

Cyberpunk Red

Alex’s netrunning deck got hacked when we were defending the apartment from WorldSat. Apogee unplugged her, but we haven’t got it fixed yet. VR is kinda like netrunning; you’re jacked in somewhere. Whatever virus pwned Alex’s deck got her interface too. Brain Dance just got weird.

The sim profiled us for all our gear. Weapons, Cyberwear, netrunning gear. Alex tried this VR version out. But, she wasn’t hacking the sim, the interface was infecting the hardware. The game glitched out. It felt… pleasurable. Then it glitched out again. Where did these clowns come from?

We shoot down JoJo the clown, and one of the cops pop’s back in. I thought this sim was PG, why is there blood here now?

More glitching. D311B0i gets shot down. Another clown takes their place, Noodles. Noodles starts dragging the trainee’s corpse down the hallway. Why is there an elephant flying 40 stories up? Oh, it’s feeding time. Cops for breakfast.

We shoot down the last of the cops, and shortly after things return to normal. I think. We take a moment to catch our breath. We done? Elevator goes ping.

WN05 Least Reinforcing Stimulus

📯 From the World

Content Collapse

Before social media, you spoke to different “audiences” — family members, friends, colleagues, and so forth — in different ways. You modulated your tone of voice, your words, your behavior, and even your appearance to suit whatever social “context” you were in (workplace, home, school, nightclub, etc.) and then readjusted the presentation of yourself when you moved into another context. On a social network, the theory went, all those different contexts collapsed into a single context.

The problem is not a lack of context. It is context collapse: an infinite number of contexts collapsing upon one another into that single moment of recording. The images, actions, and words captured by the lens at any moment can be transported to anywhere on the planet and preserved (the performer must assume) for all time.

Content collapse, as I define it, is the tendency of social media to blur traditional distinctions among once distinct types of information — distinctions of form, register, sense, and importance. As social media becomes the main conduit for information of all sorts — personal correspondence, news and opinion, entertainment, art, instruction, and on and on — it homogenizes that information as well as our responses to it. — Nicholas Carr

First we have Context Collapse. Everything is shared through the socials and "consumed" on our phone. This has a causal change in the way that "content" is created. Remember when we had different words for articles, pictures and video? The Medium is the message, and we’ve converged on the one medium. Even pre-algorithm RSS removes the design and curation that goes with print layout.

It wasn’t just that the headlines, free-floating, decontextualized motes of journalism ginned up to trigger reflexive mouse clicks, had displaced the stories. It was that the whole organizing structure of the newspaper, its epistemological architecture, had been junked. The news section (with its local, national, and international subsections), the sports section, the arts section, the living section, the opinion pages: they’d all been fed through a shredder, then thrown into a wind tunnel. What appeared on the screen was a jumble, high mixed with low, silly with smart, tragic with trivial. The cacophony of the RSS feed, it’s now clear, heralded a sea change in the distribution and consumption of information. The new order would be disorder.

Post-Social and Cohort Futures

The primary difference between a community and a cohort is that the first is oriented around the relationships between the collective members, and the second is oriented around the progress of each individual. In short, communities are built to connect, cohorts are built to progress. — Brian Dell

In the last six months, I’ve grown close to several communities composed of people I’ve never met in person. We gather on Slack, Discord, and Zoom, share conversation and ideas. I’ve made friends and built connections without leaving my home. There are people I’ve never hugged, never high-fived, and never even spoken to in person, with whom I have profound conversations that span work, love, and ideas. The bright side of this dark year for me are the connections I’ve made, primarily online. — Anita Schillhorn van Veen, via Brian

I’ve been seeing a rise in invite-only or topic-centric, and perhaps temporary, spaces recently. Some is a response to the homogeneity of Content Collapse, and some have been direct responses to a lack of in-person events this year. And, certainly a change in my behaviour too.

Writers groups and workshops, and group chats, have always been a thing. The digital bubbling of time and space it getting baked-in in more places.

💎 Rethinking

Least Reinforcing Stimulus

When a dolphin does something wrong, the trainer doesn’t respond in any way. He stands still for a few beats, careful not to look at the dolphin, and then returns to work. The idea is that any response, positive or negative, fuels a behavior. If a behavior provokes no response, it typically dies away. — Amy Sutherland

Perhaps leaving the undifferentiated media feed, and not the internet itself, is the natural response to an unsatisfactory experience. How we give feedback is a complex thing. I wonder where I can say less.

🔥 Alchemy of Creation

"I’ve got some good news and some bad news. I think we’ve solved all the easy bugs."

The time spent on full event capture and logging is worth it. We expected minor issues moving this service out of our monolith codebase. Event replayability has allowed us to release and catch edge-cases without a degraded service.

Network unreliability without downtime is an unexpected twist. If a call returns an empty response, did it pass or fail? What’s the sound of one hand clapping? When the request that has a pass/fail response, err with caution. When the acknowledgement only request fails… Turns out we have a difference between a client-centric failure and a partial-success.

📍 A Point on the Timeline

Cyberpunk Red

The things we get into, and somehow get out of… D311B0i, ever polite should be in jail right now. Since the shoot-out in his apartment block was highly suspicious, he’d admitted to the lesser crime of holding explosives. He told the cops they were set by WorldSat, the mega-corp, so they could build a new tower here. Legitimately true, but dodgy as fuck.

Looks like we were tried and sentenced in absentia, but the street-cops appealed on our behalf. No prison, only community service. Not ideal, but it’s the best thing that’s happened to us all week.

A psyche test later, we get hooked up to the Brain Dance VR sim. So here we are, handpicked by the cops to play hostage-negotiator to train the cops. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Oh wait, looks like they’re skipping the negotiation and going straight to kicking down the door. He we go!