My RSS way

January 17th, 2019 by harold

RSS still exists. It’s still the most brilliant, discrete and beautiful technology to get served content. Here’s how to use it at its best.

RSS is for “interesting stuff that you follow”. You don’t need them every day per se. But you don’t want to click on all of those sources every single time you think about browsing their new stuff. You want to be able to do that from one application that allows you to browse quite some content, at once.

Yes, an RSS reader is crucial because it separates the web, email and interesting things.

  • Web: anything, but mostly quick things.
  • Email: mostly work and friends, maybe some deals and notifications about important shit.
  • RSS: interesting things.

I say interesting things instead of news because I believe this is the only way to use RSS: to gather things that make you think mostly positively. Which is the exact opposite of news. News, torrents of vapid ass shit that is so addicting, are everywhere from your coworkers, the radio and family members on social media. You really don’t want to subscribe to that kind of content. It’s just not interesting.

Now, to build an index of interesting things takes a long time. Years. At first I only had a dozen feeds, mostly friends’ blogs. Then I extended to a few folders: design|gamedev|people|music|tech in each of these categories I added feeds, one at a time. RSS being discrete –it barely takes any space- I’ve never deleted more than a few feeds in 14 years. And RSS being so strong, it’s delightful to have a dormant feed for years and all of sudden, you read a new post that says ”I’m back” or something like that. It’s awesome because it comes to you. RSS is the best mailman on earth.

Make sure your RSS reader has an import/export OPML feature. OPML is basically the .zip of your feeds. What it does is, if you don’t like your RSS reader, you can use another one, pop in your OPML file and you’re back in business in 2 seconds. It’s wonderful (and why most recent RSS readers don’t support it: they want you to stay forevah). Of course, save one in your cloud and whatever happens to your machine, you can go back to reading wonderful things in a heartbeat. Dope.

Don’t share that OPML file. I mean, of course you can. But what I mean is that it should be considered like your “secret source”. Share the links, articles, paragraphs. Don’t share the whole thing. The whole thing is yours and yours only. Subtle obscurity is fine.

Disable any type of notification and make sure that once you visit a feed, it checks all posts as read. RSS is about Z reading through a lot of great things or stopping on a tremendous 1,200 words post. It’s not about reading as much as possible or check some arbitrary number (I read 300 feeds a day, resPEK me!). In the same way, don’t synchronize between your phone, laptop and or tablet. Just have RSS on ONE machine and ONE machine only. Trust me, I tried the sync thing and it’s terrible because it doesn’t work so well outside the big RSS players and it’s a terrible experience where you “run” after making everything disappear. We all have that already with email, let’s not do that with RSS. Not on my watch.

Yes, you can do most of that with newsletters, social media and favorites in your browser. But you lose the flow. You start doing too many different things in the same software. Not only it feels weird –work in a tab, fascinating article in another one, stupid TMZ next, etc– but it kills performance, your laptop gets hot bingo, your knee caps just got seared.

Meanwhile, I’m been using the same RSS reader since 2004. Around 150 feeds. In one month, thousands of articles. In six months, hundreds of thousands. The software doesn’t even flinch. I can skim through months-old content like I’m browsing local files. It’s been like this since my old ass and beloved Centrino laptop. I clean up the database once a year and it’s not even because my machine slows down, it’s because the app keeps telling me I might want to. RSS is insanely efficient compared to a web page that tracks you, that feeds you ads, that shows you a pop-up etc. You don’t need to fight, click “no” or “please, no wtf” while waiting on the browser to display everything. RSS is super-fast.

Don’t listen to the doom and gloom. 14 years that I’ve been using RSS. Every single WordPress website has a feed. So does Tumblr. So does Craigslist. So does many, many things. Services exist to RSS other feeds like social media. I won’t tell where because walled gardens are so powerful, we’re in the “don’t ask don’t tell” era of RSS. If it works, don’t touch it.

I suggest you use your reader with feeds on one side, content on the other side. 2 pane view. You don’t want 3 pane view because it slows you down and becomes more like email and you don’t want that. You want to have access to interesting things as fast as you can. 2 pane view does that very well. “hey, what’s up with this person?” You click on his/her feed boom, you have the content next to it. No “I read the title and then decide if I want to fully commit”. If you subscribe to interesting things, that’s not even an option: everything is worth your time! Hence why it’s important to subscribe to interesting things and not extremely light things like photos or YouTube playlists. Those are better to be used in social media apps or browsers.

Now go subscribe to that inspiration waiting for you.

Fortgreed

January 15th, 2019 by harold

It’s a ruthless world. Fortnite didn’t do so well, they made it a Battle Royale thingy, added emotes and there you go, making hundreds of millions of dollars a month.

It struck me when I read about Alphonso suing: those Fortnite emotes are basically digital blackface. It’s really problematic because there’s a dramatic lack of diversity in big game companies. As long as you simply acknowledge culture with a nod, like previous games using dance moves without making money off of them, it’s totally fine. The second you make mad money off of them without trying anything to mitigate the move (cutting checks for artists, create a fund for education, I don’t fucking know),  it’s just bad. It’s greedy.

It hurts because I have massive respect for Epic Megagames as they used to call themselves. Epic was everything to me in 90-94 on MS-DOS. I have pristine memories of playing Jill of the Jungle on rainy days, realizing that it’s a pretty good game. And then in 1998 they released Unreal, which I saw running on a 3DFX, with 5.1 sound, subwoofer and all the goodness on the last floor of a building in the Paris suburbs and it was life-changing. Tim Sweeney has been a terrific business man –and quite lucky–, making moves at the right time, from escaping the early 2000s PC hell to making tech demos for mobile to allowing Tencent to basically take over and offer Unreal Engine for free, which is used for so many games now (Street Fighter and Kingdom Hearts, 90s-me wouldn’t believe this shit).

Epic started as a mom and pop software shop. It is now “worth” $15B. You won, Tim. But it feels like you could have won without going down this road. A little humility and fairness would be good and not destroy your business either.

Being unpredictable is the goal

January 11th, 2019 by harold

This is what r/nba doesn’t understand: the game of basketball is about putting the ball in the basket, no matter what. Free throws, jumpshots, 3s, whatever works. It’s not about optimization. Players are not robots. It’s about unpredictability.

If you drive or make 3s, you’re predictable.

If you only do 2s, you’re predictable.

Now, you can be really good at one of those and win games like that. Houston does it. In regular season. During the playoffs, they’re very fragile in the sense that all other teams know their plan and will actively make sure the plan doesn’t work. Also, pressure. That’s how James Harden misses 12 3-pointers in a row while during the season he seems absolutely unstoppable from the perimeter.

Enter a team like the Spurs. They are good at being unpredictable. They have people who can and love to shoot from everywhere on the floor. Last night, 16/19 from 3s, 56/99 total. 89% from the line. That makes defending them a nightmare. You can’t really win when a team is not missing from anywhere. And if they do, they can switch plans, try different things. The Thunder last night had no answer besides their athleticism.

Take the Warriors. It’s not that Steph is the best of all time from 3, it’s that he can score as well from half-court than he is in the paint. That’s unpredictable as fuck. How do you defend that? That’s why Klay had to add moves to his game because every NBA fan knows what he’s going to do. Catch and shoot. With KD and Cousins the Warriors added absurd randomness: those two can score from anywhere.

Unpredictability, son. In every single game of basketball or anything ever, that’s the key to win. Or put it this way: the more everyone does something, the more you need to do something different.

Dreams were real

January 7th, 2019 by harold

Anil Dash wrote:

This expectation of pop music’s conversation about race persisted for decades. By the end of the 80s, Janet was pushing forward the boundaries of pop music with Rhythm Nation 1814, with many of its songs explicitly articulating a vision of color-blindness. Even its title track, an all-time classic, opens with a spoken incantation:

We are a nation with no geographic boundaries
Bound together through our beliefs
We are like-minded individuals
Sharing a common vision
Pushing toward a world rid of color lines

Within two years after the release of Rhythm Nation, Michael Jackson would release his single "Black or White", whose chorus repeatedly insists that it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white. The same year, Prince would release his album Diamonds and Pearls, whose bridge enthusiastically promises, "u will be colorblind". The biggest stars of the MTV era had weighed in, and they had found consensus in their lyrics.

Imagine my black ass growing up in a white family, white world, listening to that pop culture, seeing Benetton ads all over Paris. Of course I believed, even with a doubt in my mind.

Imagine my peak color-blindness, not so long ago, with a left-handed black president, me married to a white/Asian woman and the world telling me in every single possible way, how much richer living is in this setting. Even with a doubt in my mind.

It’s 2019 and it feels like I need my black people around me, for well-being and healing purposes. Election polls and workforce statistics don’t lie. Black bodies in caskets don’t lie.

I grew up with a wall falling in Germany and now I’m aging with an idiot trying to build one in Mexico. For my generation, today’s world is really, really not going the way we wanted it to go. I don’t have a doubt in my mind this time.

R-Kel

January 7th, 2019 by harold

Watched the whole thing.

I didn’t really want to because of the added drama (music and edits). It grosses me out but Twitter being so loud, I watched.

It’s a story about not listening. The music industry is well known for being abusive towards women.

It’s a story about corruption of the mind, and greed. People will do anything to get “the bag” (more like amenities and plane tickets) while they agree to give up their souls, their integrity and their bodies. Fans and fandom are terrible things, they will make you do things you wouldn’t do otherwise. Like believe that a trial for child pornography doesn’t mean anything or that a jury’s decision is the truth. And then you regret.

It’s not a new story. I always think about Marvin Gaye because he got a pass. He still was a piece of shit, who at 33 started to date a 17 year old foster girl that he abused and tortured for years. That story never really came out. She wrote a book about it. No one has ever tarnished Marvin’s legacy with this horrendous fact. I only heard about it very recently, in the past few years. It’s still a fact. He was “lucky” that it happened in the 70s and 80s and that of course, he died before today’s world.

Yes, in the society we’re living in money buys anything, anyone, all the time. The delusion that people will never trespass some principles like trust is naïve yet understandable. Thinking that a teenager is telling you the truth, for important matter, is not being responsible even though you think you are.

I’m amazed at what music can do. These black girls and women fans were not believing these black girls and women over there. Music brings so much to one’s self that we deny anything that goes against it. Music is sorcery.

Hopefully everyone in those stories can heal. Stop buying his music goddamn.

Faketernet

January 3rd, 2019 by harold

How much of the internet is fake? Studies generally suggest that, year after year, less than 60 percent of web traffic is human.

That is quite surreal when using it everyday to do stuff for decades. But not that surreal when thinking about bots on social media.

Also pictures and videos are so fake now. It used to be relatively good evidence that something happened.  You cannot believe anything without 3 to 4 “trustworthy” sources that will help decipher if something is real or not.

That’s exhausting.

Google et al are responsible. Software developers continue to do shady shit instead of empowering people.

Metrics matter in the real world, not in computers. Views and retweets are vanity bullshit. Quit it, it’s 2019.

Win10 is the worst Windows ever

December 30th, 2018 by harold

Now that I have been using it for over a year at work, I can tell.

The first 9 months, I blocked every single update. Experience, son. Everything was fine. Then the IT department forced updates and changed policies so that now updates are happening constantly.

It freezes the damn machine. It resets settings every single time. Wifi connection issues I’ve never had before, not just on that laptop but on all computers ever. The last time Windows was that bad, it was called Windows ME and we all forgot about it real quick. WTF happened with 10?

Windows 10 interface with that weird mix of black and sad taskbar with thin ass fonts , symbols and colorful, useless tiles is horrendous. The way there are 4 different ways to do anything is too much. Fuck Cortana. It takes 2 good second to display a folder content even with less than a hundred files. It’s embarrassing.

What’s more embarrassing is all the tech “journalists” who said it was fine. Y’all are liars or corrupt to the core or both.

Yes, Windows 8 is the best OS ever. It’s snappy and stable as hell. The super simplified Metro apps are perfect for 95% of people using computers. Any PC software from 1979 to 2019 runs on it. It’s still the shit.

Downgrade, people. Show some spine.

Spiderverse

December 30th, 2018 by harold

SPOILERZZZ

It was monumental. That Spiderman is like the show Atlanta: we needed that 10-15 years ago. It’s so good. I resent myself watching one trailer, which killed some tension. And sometimes the changes of framerate annoyed me.

Everything else was perfect. As it happens often to me these days, I was having a conversation with my housemate’s nephew in the morning about his relationship with his parents and his uncle and that movie is like, the same.

Also said nephew just looks like Miles. It was eerie and beautiful. He enjoyed the movie thoroughly I believe.

Animation is the best. I only want to see superheroes and spaceship stuff in full CGI now. The freedom offered in terms of shots and editing is impossible to not want every single time after watching Spiderman: into the spiderverse.

Chapeau bas.

Retrospective2018

December 20th, 2018 by harold

H O T D A M N

January starts, I live somewhere and now I live somewhere else, 15 mn away. Sometime that month, for a short period, I make money on the side writing pseudo academic papers for someone. Rough times.

I deal with a black woman being in an abusive relationship the same way that we all often do: too late.

I remember driving another black woman back to Compton, as we were singing over King on a beautiful morning on an empty freeway. Of course I missed the exit. It didn’t matter. She told me I should sing. Maybe I will. I hope she’s well too.

More work. Wood work this time. Paint on weekends, sanding in the morning, staining in between.

I get my bike wheels stolen. I make a video to get hired. I bike with my friend Richard, talking about games for hours. I write to my friend Arthur all the time. We chat over life, as lefty black nerds. Cathartic.

Sometime in July I get a job interview for an outstanding position and it goes well! Best interview of my life. The same weekend a dog bites me in the stomach and I learn that I have 30 days to leave my place. I don’t get the job. I end up getting 60 days to relocate.

I give French lessons to my badass Brooklyn Jew. I receive a letter from my foster family giving me some sad news: conflicts emerged and family members stopped talking to each other. Fuck. I meet this gorgeous and super smart black woman and am low key thinking about impregnating her, that’s how strong she hit me. But then it was like nah, man.

It’s August and KRS-ONE is performing under my window and I run grabbing friends in the streets to go on the roof to smoke and bop heads. I almost open that block party playing a crazy version of the Star Spangled Banner on bass.

I help my homeless black folks hanging at the playground as much as I  can: dollar bills, change, candies, phone calls, leftover pie… I help my black folks at the library as much as I can. I remember going through the motion of sending money to a black woman’s brother in jail somewhere in the midwest. It was wild, convoluted as fuck. I still have my favorite Japanese old woman drive all the way up to see me to help her out with her phone. She’s so adorable.

Gentrification is on some Thanos shit this year, moving relentlessly. My blackity black recreation center is under pressure. My neighbors and I got booted out in a few months. I help to move 3 couches, 2 mattresses, 1 lounge chair and 18 years of random, heavy shit. I haven’t really recovered emotionally.

In October a giant Chinese company wanted to see me to talk sound design, so we met. Although it didn’t go much further than that, it was great for my soul. Luckily, my new place is amazing and I work as much as I can to make it even better: paint jobs, various fixes from the gate to a new router. I can finally not worry too much about food even though I’m still on the Harold’s In The Thick of It Diet (spaghetti for lunch, tuna salad for dinner).

I now bike 20 miles a day and I don’t want to think about it. I miss my white family in France and at the same time, every 2 weeks on Skype, I’m wondering over and over what we have in common, besides sharing a space years ago. Sometimes I feel like I love strangers. Complete strangers. And it’s probably the same for them. It’s super wild.

It’s December. Christmas is very important for my housemate so, everything looks dope as hell. Tree. Fireplace. Lights outside. Stockings, even for my favorite dog that I will have for a few days.

I don’t own shit, but I have access to a lot. It’s intense but I’m thankful. Onward.

Examples of bad game design business decisions

December 18th, 2018 by harold

You have a hunger meter that’s constantly counting down so you have to look for food to eat. You have a thirst meter that’s constantly counting down so you have to drink. You have a gem meter that’s constantly counting down so you have to kill enemies to get gems to power your lantern. Then once you get to level 3 there’s a cold meter so you constantly have to find fires. Oh, by the way, the fires die after a little while so you have to constantly find NEW fires. Oh, don’t get hit either because you’ll start bleeding and you have to find bandaids otherwise you’ll bleed out.

This is from a review of Below, a new game. Right off the bat, I’m wondering if the developers have been around, walking in cities and reading about what’s going on in the world. People are struggling, y’all. Everywhere. In every class besides the 0.1%.

Let me rephrase this: PEOPLE ARE ALREADY ANXIOUS AND YOU WANT THEM TO RELAX BY BEING UTTERLY ANXIOUS FOR FUN? AFTER A FEW YEARS OF WAVES OF SUCH GAMES??? I don’t understand how you can validate a game design that is so deeply anchored in anxiety with the world we’re living in. In this economy?

I hate seeing this because I’d love the game to be successful –it’s highly polished, great audio- so that its developers continue to make more. And such a mistake –going super hardcore- was easily avoidable. People need one of two super hardcore game, not plenty. There are already hundreds of those rogue-like games. Capy the developer didn’t adjust to what people would enjoy in 2018/2019. Not many people want to pay to taste pain and punishment. We get that for free in real life, all day everyday.

And there goes the not very convincing argument: “but they made the game that they wanted to play” and I’m like “this is a business, get real. if a game takes 6 years to make and you NEED to sell it, you’d better do some market research if you don’t want to die”.

Example two: Gris. Gorgeous world. Thin gameplay. Despite good word of  mouth, it’s not doing that well. Because the representation is, at least that’s how it feels to me, very very white. Had the protagonist and whole aesthetic aim to a more ambiguous crowd, it would be more attractive to many more people. Hell, make Gris: Black Edition, make the heroin a voluptuous black woman and that game would have an order of magnitude more players playing right now. That shit would go on Ellen and Oprah, gifs all over Tumblr, selling like pumpkin-spice beverages in October.

“That would be a dirty marketing trick!” No it’s not if you  listen and do it right. Once again, look around and listen. It’s about connecting with people. Expand your vision.

The players who can sustain your dev madness are out there. They’re hungry. Reach out by changing your game design or theme/setting accordingly. It’s not complicated.