MPG: over 9000

August 20th, 2017 by harold

Hey, that stuff was supposed to be quite impossible when I was a kid.

Combustion engines have gotten so much better and are still improving, that’s pretty crazy. We are going to need those old school gas-powered cars, as there will be a shortage of cobalt for car batteries in a few years. EVs are not going to become cheap anytime soon.

Fearbook

August 18th, 2017 by harold

I often think about FB these days. 2 billion people, what an achievement. The engineering part stimulates my brain like crazy. It’s a feature to connect so many people seamlessly, even more so earlier when they didn’t have unlimited cash flow.

But then of course I think about the implications of such a giant network. I keep thinking about the fact that FB knows when we give up. It’s one thing to know where we’re going online, what we buy or secretly want and sell that data to advertisers but it’s another thing to know when we stop giving a shit. The breaking point when we collectively don’t protest anymore. FB knows more and more how and exactly when we become docile. Knowing that at the scale of countries and entire regions of the world, for every generation alive and being able to run tests and tweak things to see what happens? That’s ridiculously powerful and unprecedented. FB learns more everyday, and with people on the Facebook’s board who also are heavily involved in politics and AI development, I feel concerned.

I’m not feeling it.

You have new notifications

August 10th, 2017 by harold

There’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness.

Do not buy phones to your kids.

It’s interesting because it’s mobile screen activity more than others. On a laptop you can create, make things, play deep games. On a phone social media wins all the time, it’s the perfect form factor and perfect interaction for it.

Every generation deals with the world with new tools previous generations did not have. Because the world has not decided on a lot of things, kids compensate and do what they can. Gen X parents, brainwashed by news, think that the neighborhood is worst than ever –it’s not- and prefer to have their kids around, who are turning into zombies more than we ever have been.

The comments section focuses on who did what in the past. It doesn’t matter anymore. What we can ponder and think about is the future and VR/AR. It really feels like we should fix a bunch of stuff in the world –UBI, what do we do once we’re over 50- before a new generation grows up on almost 100% digital world being more important than the actual world.

It’s probably too late already. Maybe not!

UI Infantilization

August 2nd, 2017 by harold

Beauty of the internet right there: I was reading Scott McCloud’s interview at No Don’t Die. In there, a reference to a Simon Pegg’s blog post. Who in it, talks about Jean Baudrillard, a well-known French sociologist. Simon writes:

Recent developments in popular culture were arguably predicted by the French philosopher and cultural theorist, Jean Baudrillard in his book, ‘America’, in which he talks about the infantilization of society. Put simply, this is the idea that as a society, we are kept in a state of arrested development by dominant forces in order to keep us more pliant. We are made passionate about the things that occupied us as children as a means of drawing our attentions away from the things we really should be invested in, inequality, corruption, economic injustice etc.

I was thinking about User Interface these days. Circled icons and pictures. rounded corners everywhere. Why? To make us feel like we are safe, playing. To make us feel like those companies are soft and cozy, that they are not harmful despite the fact that they have access to everything we do online and use that to leverage money in a way (ads) or another (investor’s money). Do not forget that they know exactly how long we stay online, what we click, what we look at etc.

Emojis is the culminating point. It’s not cute, it’s language’s infantilization right there. Icons everywhere instead of words is the same tactic. I was looking at iOS 11 and how there was one thing where they had to write what it was for (screen mirroring) because you can get confused on a sign, but not on a word. Words are strong, you can’ really interpret them. They say what they say. Images and symbols on the other hand are open to interpretation, always will be.

Those interfaces are not trying to help us, they are trying to keep us in a state.

Book

August 2nd, 2017 by harold

I’m writing a book. Not a big one, just my biography from a few angles. I thought it was time to do it before I forget some detail. It’s weird, it makes me feel like I might die soon or something but I do not plan to do that at all, thank you. Writing at the past tense, I guess. Remembering the good old, innocent days.

After writing thousands of blog posts, writing a book is not very difficult. I’m approaching 30K words at about 10,000 words a week.

Juicin

July 21st, 2017 by harold

Reading a lot.

Writing more.

Composing (here and here).

Fixing a damn phone.

Hustling.

Sleeping.

Jay 4:44

July 17th, 2017 by harold

This is a very good article on Jay Z and his last album. Political and smart, yet ignorant. This line made me shake my head for sure: “Credit. You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America? This how they did it.”

You mean they were free to capitalize and invest unlike black folks? Jay, you know about discriminatory practices of those times when black people could have done it, right? You probably heard of the Federal Housing Administration who from 1934 to 1968 explicitly refused to back loans to black people, haven’t you?

There are a lot of articles about that and you are pulling a Cosby on us. You probably have heard of Black Wall Street and how it got decimated, then rebuilt a bit to finally get a highway to settle it all down, to mute it in concrete blocks. Just like the 10 freeway was built in the middle of a thriving black business area along Washington Blvd in Los Angeles, cutting off communities. Those could have leveraged an unimaginable amount of great things and great people. Credit gone.

So….OK, Jay.

The case of SoundCloud

July 14th, 2017 by harold

SC had everything. But it lost its mind, then money and now the service will die. Let’s face it, it died a while ago.

There’s something that just doesn’t add up: startups need a return on investment immediately while music is a very, very long term game. SC didn’t execute well even though timing was perfect. For its successors, here’s a few points:

– Don’t make it about streaming

Bandcamp has been fantastic about this. Don’t make it about consuming music like switching channels on a TV or running water at the faucet. Make it like it’s better to download and listen, because it is. Buy an album, download it and listen to it. In the beginning I had way more downloads on SC than streams. It changed so rapidly –like within a month, everyone switched to streaming- that I always was suspicious about it. Streaming sucks, listening on phone speakers suck, don’t do that. People will stream, no need to push them.

– Don’t invite major artists and/or labels

They take all the oxygen of artists like us who pay for your service. And those invite major labels to put pressure on you. That might make you feel good, make you feel legit but it’s not good at all in the end.

– Don’t do anything social

All the social tools destroyed SC. People immediately abuse those tools to spam every channel they can and discovery goes down. Just make it about music and big cover art. Sharing is done everywhere else with a link. Be the audio backbone of the future and stay this way.

– Don’t do meaningless stats

Advanced statistics are bad. They are a rabbit hole and unhealthy. How many times someone listened to my song doesn’t matter, what matters is if that listener stays around, spreads the word and buys my shit. That’s all that matters.

– Have the best embed player of all time

Make it ultra fast. The web sucks, FB sucks, Twitter sucks. They all have so many scripts and bullshit stuff going on, the embed player needs to load at the speed of light. No need for fancy waveform or spectrogram no one cares about that. Copy Bandcamp’s and add a volume slider, you’ll thank me later.

Instaud.io and Octave.is are alternative worth exploring. RIP SoundCloud.

Cobalt is the new diamond

July 13th, 2017 by harold

Best battery tech ever made: lithium-ion. Born in the 70s. Barely made any progress in 40 years compared to computers that they power. Cobalt is ideal for cathode.

Biggest Cobalt producer? Congo, with 60% of the world’s production. Demand for cobalt is exploding with electric cars and phones and laptops supposed to last a full day.

You have to read this article to understand the insanity. We are, as usual, fucking black people over. An entire, huge ass African country is being destroyed in every way for that lithium-ion tech.

All tech companies are full of shit and hiding behind weak laws and questionable suppliers who in turn don’t care and make kids dig rocks to extract the precious metal. Tech companies know that if cobalt was actually extracted ethically –no children, decent pay, Congolese companies and not Asian holdings- it would probably cost ten times more which would make our battery-hungry electronics unaffordable for 99% of us.

It’s unreal: we have a country with its people crawling under the earth in their own houses to find some precious mineral to sell. And before that, Europe fucked Congo over for about 150 years. Belgium did unimaginable awful things there for over 50 years.

And now that this country has the luck to have something to offer to the world and capitalize on it? We fuck them over as hard as possible as if they didn’t have had enough. Battery technology is ultra hard to make better, if in four decades we barely made any progress, it’s not going to happen. Which is why cobalt will still be extracted, Congo will get fucked more and tons of people will die for that. I’m so disgusted to be honest.

Series that could have been

July 11th, 2017 by harold

In my long quest for sustainable business in the game industry and comparison with Japan, Nintendo and Mario Kart I’ve been thinking of series in the West that could have become huge. But didn’t.

NBA Jam

An oral story at Sports Illustrated just came out. NBA Jam was the jam, obviously. The game was released in 1993 right when basketball was exploding internationally. But also the game was its own thing and not just a basketball computer game. It was way better than any other game in its category and there was no way that we wouldn’t see an awesome sequel and more.

Why it didn’t happen

Licensing. Midway the developer lost the rights to the name and the NBA was probably looking to get more money. I would love to see a new version with something the NBA 2K17 engine. BoomShakalaka indeed.

MDK

There was one mechanic that was just awesome: a sniper mode where you could zoom up to 100x. That and plenty of other cool stuff but this one in particular was dope and never really has been used in anything ever since. The game had flaws, some things were kind of corny but it run so flawlessly. MDK2 did a good job too but never really expanded on that one mechanic that was awesome. I wanted a MDK game were you would have to hide all the time because you’re kind of vulnerable and weak but you would have that crazy sniper/camera thing to observe and choose a path… Imagine that with titans. Yeah man.

Why it didn’t happen

Well it did for the 2nd but that was it. Greed was the reason the game didn’t expand. Interplay pushed really hard to have MDK2 asap. The dev team burned out and separated.

Re-Volt

Small racing game that was abandoned very quickly even though that RC car gameplay was really fun.

Why it didn’t happen

Platform madness (PC/DC/PS1/N64) and not lucrative enough I guess?

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater

Well, there is a series. But after the third one, it simply lost its soul. Story mode, walking around, customization all that was superfluous. THPS was like NBA Jam, perfect from the start. It needed to be about level design, not quests. It needed to be about real locations, it needed to be about flow and the coolness of finding new spots, not about questionable challenges and other artificial gameplay. I played with my own music from the beginning. I played an absurd amount of the DS one, watching TV on the side.

Why it didn’t happen

Too much, too fast. Throwing ideas at it and brute forcing things without trying to build a true legacy. It was about riding the skateboarding wave as much as possible. Skateboarding is kind of for life though and now the series is ruined. Tony probably doesn’t want to have his name used for that stuff anymore. I’m still hoping on a version that uses our beloved 3D maps that we have everywhere from our phones to our browsers so that I can make absurd tricks in cities, forever.

Crimson Skies

This one is a favorite to me. Jordan Weisman describes it as “pilots meet pirates” in an alternative 1930s US. First off, that’s the kind of back story that I really enjoy because it’s the perfect mix of novelty and familiarity. Second, the game was a lot of fun. We don’t have enough fun games about flying, disappearing in clouds, dogfighting and recognizing new territories.

Why it didn’t happen

A little bit like Re-Volt, it was a time when things were absolutely crazy and tech was jumping leaps and bounds every 6 months. The game sold OK apparently, people loved it but I guess that wasn’t enough to convince the guys in suits to order a new chapter or go for at least a trilogy. I think it would do very well today.