Kickstarter: Automatic time control for gameplay

This idea came to me recently when a friend divulged that he could not own a gaming system due to the likelihood that it would absorb all his time. Many attempts have been made to help moderate gameplay, but they always seem to lack an intuitiveness the modern generation expects. That’s why I am announcing my kickstarter to automatically control time spent in gameplay with the simplest means possible: Frozen mashed potato PS4 game controllers!

potato-ps4-controller

The plan is to mass produce a kit containing moulds, electronics, and a starter set of mashed potato flakes. Each night (or once per week for those who plan ahead and prep in bulk), you make up your mashed potatoes, fit the electronics inside the moulds, and then inject the moulds with mashed potatoes. Leave the moulds in the freezer overnight (0° Fahrenheit or lower for best results) and you have the perfect gameplay time-modulator. As you play, the controller gradually softens until it becomes unusable. Games with higher intensity will cause quicker degradation, which in turn helps quell the stress that would otherwise wreak havoc on your health. Such a simple solution to a complex problem.

Please help me raise the estimated $275,000 to make this happen!

“Thank you, Pete Blowitnow”

Or at least that’s what I imagine some opponents of Pete Hoekstra are thinking the morning after his campaign ran a–what I will bluntly call racist–ad during the Super Bowl.

In my few years of political ad absorption, there have been a couple flops that embedded themselves in my mind. First, in the mid-90’s, Geoffrey Fieger ran an ad against incumbent Michigan governor, John Engler in which Engler was portrayed as an actual chicken running off the set. Not terribly offensive, but clearly stupid. And it did him no favors with the election results. The second ad was what I consider the notorious “sour on Schauer” rant of Tim Walberg’s (current US Congressman from Michigan). Not only was it childish, annoying, and completely lacking in substance, but it practically accused Mark Schauer of being in bed (no pun initially intended, but now I like it) with child pornographers. I was quite satisfied with Walberg’s defeat, though I had supported him in earlier elections.

To my amazement, Pete Hoekstra has put these antics to shame… at being shameless. Likely taking a cue from now-Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, Hoekstra decided to throw down some serious cash to improve his own brand awareness. Well, thirty racist seconds later, he achieved just that. The Detroit Free Press has the commercial posted here, right below Hoekstra’s oblivious response to questions regarding the ad. The basics: a young Asian woman thanks Debbie “Spenditnow” for sending money and jobs to China. As the actress puts it, “Your economy get very weak, our economy get very good.” Picking up the broken English hearkening back to “Breakfast at Tiffany’s?” About ten seconds into the ad, I turned to my friend and exclaimed in a shocked voice, “That is so racist.” Not a very profound reaction, but one that I am sure echoed through many Super Bowl parties around the real state that looks like a mitten.

If that had been the whole ordeal, I may have only tweeted exactly what I had already said (the “that was so racist” bit). But that was not the end. Not only did Hoekstra dump an amount of cash I can only guess at into this ad, but he followed it up with a whole themed web site reinforcing his social disconnect (http://www.debbiespenditnow.com/). And, if you follow the link above to the Free Press, you will find that he stands behind the ad. His campaign and supporters call it aggressive and consider it a great victory against Debbie Stabenow. In the Free Press article, Hoekstra claimed that anyone who called the ad racist simply wanted to avoid the issue. Which issue was that? That American consumerism is no bad news to the Chinese economy, or that you think anyone actually wants to engage in a serious discussion with someone who does not understand how he has immediately disqualified himself from adequately representing nearly 250,000 Michiganders? I also find it ironic that the ad was apparently filmed in California, despite Michigan’s recent attempts to attract filmmakers. Wasn’t Michigan’s economy supposed to be the point of the ad?

Wow, what an expensive way to drop out of a race. I am no political expert, but I have a feeling this is the kind of event that signals the end of any major future political hopes. It is even more surprising coming from someone with as much political experience as Hoekstra. Typically, I try not to aim words so negatively at specific people, but this was simply too shocking and infuriating not to speak up. Many have called on Hoekstra to apologize, but I have yet to hear him relent. Here are my suggestions for Pete Hoekstra (and this coming from someone who supported him in the primary against Rick Snyder):

  • Take down the web site, though it cannot now be erased.
  • Take the video off YouTube, though it cannot be erased either.
  • Apologize, though it will likely do little to make people think better of you.
  • Step out of the race; whether you are a capable policymaker or not, you have communicated the opposite and forfeited the privilege to represent Michigan.

Am I calling Pete Hoekstra racist? Thirty seconds is too short to conclude such a heavy verdict. Was the ad racist? Yes. Did Hoekstra approve the ad? Yes.

Quantity is Quality… Or at Least it Can Be

Last week on the social media panel, the question of quantity versus quality came up. The question asked which was better, quantity or quality. This is my attempt to respond.

Where I failed in the discussion was to define what exactly quality is. So, what is this quality that quantity seems to threaten? One example might be a certain book published just before the turn of the twentieth century. This book required pain-staking research over the course of a decade. A vast amount of statistics were compiled and top authorities in the field were recruited for input. The author even disclosed his inability to be bias on the issue because of his birthplace. All-in-all, something we would deem quality.

The name of this publication was “Race Traits and Tendencies of the American Negro” by Frederick L. Hoffman. Here is an excerpt from this well-funded and highly-published work: “It is not in the conditions of life, but in the race traits and tendencies that we find the causes of excessive mortality. So long as these tendencies are persisted in, so long as immorality and vice are a habit of life of the vast majority of the colored population, the effect will be to increase the mortality by hereditary transmission of weak constitutions, and to lower still further the rate of natural increase, until the births fall below the deaths, and gradual extinction results” (p. 95). So, while the method of writing and publication of this work could be regarded as quality (aside from his use of passive voice, right?), its message is that immorality is hereditary among African Americans and will lead to the extinction of this group.

I think we may need to redefine quality.

Quality may have more to do with effort and participation than a well-polished outcome. Not everyone is Shakespeare or Homer. Let’s use the example of a boy named Calvin. Say Calvin sits in the back of a classroom, does not listen, and does not speak. He shows up almost on time and tries to sneak out before the bell rings. Is this quality participation? Without going into much detail, we will assume not. Now, let’s say Calvin starts paying attention one day. Another day, he starts processing what he hears. Another day, he raises his hand and shares a few words. Maybe the day after that, he speaks the equivalent of a whole paragraph. In comparison to his initial state, this would be major progress in Calvin’s quality of participation.

Likewise, I believe part of the quality aspect of social media is getting people to participate. Someone on the panel raised the idea that social media may serve as a platform for shy folks (like myself) to share ideas. I would say that is right on. As an introvert, one of my dark secrets is that I love having a microphone. This is because I don’t have to try and talk over anybody; I just do. Social media allows that, if I get your attention. Participation where there was none before is one point for quality.

The second point for quality, in my humble opinion, is effort. Teachers (which includes all people who share something, not just professionals) should put their best efforts into what they teach. This includes research. Students (again, not just those in the classroom) should put forth their best efforts in learning. This also includes research, as well as application. When people post through Facebook and other media, they should seek to post the best they can. Failure to do so helps push the society at-large in a downward direction.

Now, maybe I am stuck up, but I have a lot of problems approaching Twitter in the preferred method. A limit of 140 characters makes writing without abbreviations and LOL’s, IDK’s, and IMHO’s very difficult. But I still have a hard time getting myself to give up a properly written (although at times misspelled) word. Yet, those who do concede and instead use this new form of short-hand are not necessarily reducing the quality of communication. Any drop in quality is more likely a result of poorly thought-out or proof-read posts or an inability to control one’s self in front of a camera lens.

As we can see from Hoffman, quality is not just the package something arrives in. Rather, everyone participating and participating with their best effort is how we can accommodate an increase in quality with a simultaneous increase in quantity. If we use social media, let us use it to think critically and share that which we believe will build up each other and our world. Let’s get Calvin engaged, spare him the unnecessarily harsh criticisms (i.e.: choose your battles), and help him learn to more fully develop and share his thoughts. Quantity is not the enemy of quality; fear of participation is.

Adam Clicked

This is really just a brief follow-up to yesterday’s post. I got to thinking about the Sistine Chapel after writing about our efforts when worshiping God. I have heard at least a few people point out how God is portrayed on the ceiling as reaching and extending all of His body as an intense attempt to reach Adam. Meanwhile, Adam sits rather relaxed and barely lifts a finger in response.

Thus, I give you “Adam Clicked.”

Adam Clicked

Tworship

(Everybody else gets to add “T” to words, so why can’t I?)

After the panel discussion on social media today, I heard grumbles of frustration from the audience. To be honest, I felt the same way. And I am sure some people were frustrated with me. But that happens when you ask a small group of people to try and define what something new means to a larger group of people. It was an interesting conversation and brought new topics to light, but it was certainly not authoritative and I don’t believe anyone on the panel pretended for it to be so.

There was (at least) one idea that rubbed me the wrong way: worship through Twitter and Facebook can be the same as worship in the presence of other Christians. I certainly do not wish to attack another person’s evolving perspective, since that is not how I would want to be treated. Still, I would like to share my evolving perspective. And I begin by asking “How did Abraham worship?”

This may seem odd if you are unfamiliar with the context (or maybe even if you are familiar). Abraham worshiped by taking his promised and beloved son to a distant hill to place him on an altar of true sacrifice (God never planned for Abraham to go through with the sacrifice and stopped Abraham just in time). That is worship. I repeat, that sacrifice and effort is worship. Can that be traded out for Twitter? When I think substitution I think of Christ being the substitute for us, not substituting the fellowship of the believers with Facebook.

This not to say people who are physically or even mentally unable to gather with other Christians are “evil.” But if we have the opportunity to fellowship with real human Christians and we choose Facebook instead, what does that say about us? (And what does it say about the people we would rather not interact with?) What are we missing out on and what are we withholding from others?

There are many other things I would love to talk about in detail from the panel, but that was the biggie for me. The question of quantity vs. quality may never be answered. Though, I do want to clarify that when I voted for quantity over quality, that was coming from the perspective that 1.) quality content is still out there, perhaps just harder to find, and 2.) in a democratic society, it is better for someone to have an imperfect voice than no voice at all.

So, that’s all beside the main point. And the main point for me is this: We can worship God wherever we are, but if Abraham and Christ were willing to worship in the sacrificial and difficult ways they did, shouldn’t we do more than click a mouse?

What is Social Media?

I hope you aren’t reading this because you are looking for a quick and concise answer. All I have is the question: “What is social media?” After years of working with social media and considering the fact that I am sitting on a quasi-academic social media panel tomorrow, I ought to know, right? But I am convinced that none of us, at least none of us that I have met, truly know what social media is.

Let’s give examples of the most popular social media outlets today. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, MySpace. That’s the typical response, right? They are outlets of social media, but they are not distinctly social media in their own right. No, they are streams of ad-based revenue. They host something we call social media in return for our valuable clicks (somebody gets paid when you click an ad). The social media, supposedly, is the video or other content you upload or post and to which others respond. Social interaction through multimedia.

I was listening to Shane Hipps speak on Vimeo about the old adage, “the medium is the message.” When he described essentially everything we use to extend some function of the human body as a medium, I wondered yet again why we refer to a very precise set of technologies as social media. If your tie is a medium and someone comments on it, is that not social media? What we might otherwise call a conversation? While listening to Shane speak about presence, I had this creepy feeling of, “I’m not watching or hearing Shane. I am listening to sound waves generated by a series of electronic circuits.” I did not hear Shane at all, but I heard something that sounded like him. Looked like him.

So, as I mentioned, I am sitting on this social media panel tomorrow. I believe I have a pretty good idea of what most people in the room and on the panel will consider social media. Heck, we have social media scientists now, don’t we? I really don’t know what I will be able to contribute. It would be a bit like discovering an organic fossil on the moon and then holding a press conference the next day to explain exactly what this meant, how it got there, and how we should live as a result. Remember, I am still trying to find out if/how it can be redeemed. A bit premature, I think. How many of us trying to analyze “social media” today will look like fools tomorrow?

Unfortunately, most of the “hard” data I see relating to social media is about marketing. We all love to be sold something, right? We send a message to our friend on the other side of the world because we want to get suckered into ordering $50 worth of stuff we will never use. There is no greater feeling than knowing we are giving marketers all the data they will ever need to attract our business.

One thing I don’t quite know if I can say on the panel tomorrow is that the use of social media has a strong relation to autism. People with autism are learning to use technology to enhance their social interactions. People without autism are developing autism. I once gave the illustration to a friend of a group of students walking across a campus, all talking to one another. Except for one. This student is present, but not interacting with the social group. Instead, they are on a phone with someone out of sight. That is social avoidance, a sign of autism. The student is standing amongst living, breathing people and chooses to disconnect.

But what about the good?

I have said many times “War is never good, but good things can come from war.” Perhaps I will now say, “Social media can be very bad, but good things can come from social media.” There are too many good things coming as a result of social media–at least in my mind–to say it is categorically bad or immoral. Besides, immoral is not a popular word these days. But, I think a deeper question, beyond “What is social media?” is “What are we missing in our face-to-face relationships that push us toward social media?” Loneliness? Validation? Fun? A unique experience? Attention? You tell me. When social media acts as a replacement for something real and physical or seeks only an ego boost, it is wrong.

So, here is one of my many attempts at a definition of social media. Please let it serve more as a warning than a working definition…

Social media: A replacement for conversation.

Can IT Be Redeemed?

Last week, I posed the question, “Is technology ill-gotten gain?” While I did not come out strong in my post one way or the other, I think I finally settled on an answer I can accept. Yes. Just as so much of our technology came from Nazi experiments and our long history of fine cotton garments came from the tireless and unappreciated work of slaves, information technology has come to us at the expense of others. Ill-gotten gain.

The next question is “Can IT be redeemed?” My friend Daniel Shackelford, who attends an Eastern Orthodox church, talked to me at least once about how Christ’s participation in Creation (ie: He drank, ate, slept, wore clothes, went to the bathroom, worked, paid taxes, etc.) was a part of redemption. The redemption of Creation. So, now we have this creation by man that has gone awry. Can it be redeemed through righteous participation?

Now, before it sounds like I am going all “churchy,” I mean righteous in the broader sense: right-ness, or simply doing the right thing. By using technology in the right way, purchasing it from ethical manufacturers, and holding the irresponsible accountable, can we all redeem technology together? Take its past and present, turn it on its head, and create something that does not require, as my friend David Goodrich said it so elegantly, compromise? I think so. But, until our technology and our use of it is righteous, we are compromising. And, unfortunately, the excuse of ignorance does not give an ill-treated stranger his or her dignity back.

So, now I pose the question to anyone who will listen. How do we redeem technology?

(P.S.: Peace in Libya, please… please.)