Both Digg (http://www.Digg.com ) and Reddit (http://www.Reddit.com ) are social news sites that accept stories from users and then let users vote for stories they like and allow them to make comments.
Reddit was founded in 2005 by two university of Virginia graduates and grew to become a super power of weird news current events. The simplicity of Reddit design puts function before form. There is no glitz, just content and lots of it. Compared to Digg, Reddit wins the simplicity award. Reddit also squeezes more content per page than Digg by foregoing hover-overs and fly-outs. The straight forward approach of Reddit appeals to reader who wants simplicity and content.
Digg, on the other hand, was founded by Kevin Rose in 2004. Starting primarily as a tech news site, it has grown to include World & Business news, Science news, Gaming news, Sports and other more mainstream content. This has lead to a growth in popularity of the site that allows users to DiggÂ stories they like and BuryÂ stories they don’t. Stories that are popular can experience spikes in traffic causing what some refer to as a Digg effectÂ where the sites get really slow or even go down completely.
With that in mind, let the Smackdown begin!
Content. Digg ds have a more mainstream group of news and a popular podcast, Diggnation, highlighting some of the more popular stories on Digg. Reddit packs more punch by utilizing a streamlined interface loaded with odd stories. For my needs, Reddit wins this round.
Audience. Reddit has a very active community submitting and commenting on stories, but Digg has enough traffic to bring down otherwise stable web sites. That’s a significant power to wield to be able to drive that sort of traffic to any site that the community that deems interesting. Digg wins this one hands down.
Design. Digg has always been a clean interface with iconic Digg buttons that are spread throughout the web by imitators. Digg has always stayed true to simplicity of design and easy to use navigation interface. Reddit’s design is barebones which is perfect for the loads of content on the site, but the reddit site design hasn’t been stolen near as many times as the Digg interface.
So in this three round smackdown, Digg takes the title, but I am anticipating this won’t be the last time we will see Reddit bring some innovative ideas and excellent content to the smackdown ring. Congratulations, Digg, on winning this match up. Until next time.
First up, http://noodle-house.blogspot.com/ Much like getting dressed in the morning, putting black and navy blue together is not always a wise choice. The various blocks seem to sit uncomfortably on the blue background and seem unintentional. The goldenrod borders around everything, including boxes within boxes, stare at the reader like a bad blind date. Thankfully, the fonts are white on black background, so I have an opportunity to read the content. Let us not forget the Sylvester the cat graphic with a white background sitting on the dark blue background. The only thing I think Sylvester is missing is possibly a goldenrod border.
Next, http://happymomiam1.bravejournal.com/. I love that this blog resembles the exact table cloth my grandmother used so we wouldn’t spill food on her table. Unfortunately, the color scheme of baby blue, red, grey, acid green, electric blue, and orange says I don’t understand hex notation so I just guessed. The badges for several other sites sit haphazardly under the horrifying animated gif logo at the top of the site. The Beauty of Life? The travesty of design.
I have to include this one because it is SOOOOO ugly. http://cmdshiftdesign.com/ilovesmekitty/
This blog follows the rule, if one animated gif is good, then six is better. Everything is animated on this site, but it has NO content. Just pictures of her cat, a terrible cat background along with ANOTHER cat background in the left column. Visible table holding links that are barely legible, visible hit counter AND my browser got a warning that a Windows Media Player was trying to start. As if there wasn’t enough going on in this site that is the equivalent of a 12 year old girls messy room.
http://www.hammerdowndesign.com/ugly/ is the next blog that makes my design brain physically hurt. Having only four animated gifs on the page, the designer, and I use that term loosely, has decided that a repeated image of Sarah Palin is the best background for any blog. Unfortunately, one of the graphics is broken, most likely it was an animated gif of me scratching my eyes out. The most appauling thing is that the domain name, HammerDownDesign, alludes to someone who thinks they are actually good at this. Less is more, Hammerdown.
Lastly, http://jayj.dk/grim/. Blogs typically want people to read their content, but this site seems to be hell-bent on the opposite. With barely readable text on tie-dye-inspired backgrounds and badly executed animated gifs, this site verges on abominable. The structure of the page seems to be two columns occupying 50% of the width each combined with NO content. What surprises me most is that someone, somewhere thought this site would drive people to their door asking them to design a site for them as well. Sort of the philosophy of a wedding photographer advertising the business with blurry dark photos of someone’s cat.
So, keeping those sites in mind the next time you set off to design a web site, avoid the busy backgrounds, make your design seem intentional, avoid animated gifs, make sure the site has purpose and valuable content. Choose colors that contrast well with each other and limit your color choices to prevent the site from looking like confetti. Lastly, if your site ends up in an article like this, it’s time to rethink your design and career choice as a professional web designer.
Social networking giants like MySpace and Facebook have proved useful for a variety of general purposes for both professional and social networking as well as business promotion. However, that generalization can only go so far and for people with more specialized areas of interest or business focus. For this reason, a number of social networks have emerged catering to special niches that allow users to make more useful connections. After all, what is the point of networking with a million people on a large, generalized social network if none of those connections are interested in your particular product, service, or area of interest?
In this multi-part series on specialized social networking, I will scour the digital world and take a look at some great social media sites that are addressing the needs of the niche market in social networking including everything from sites for writers and artists to off the wall social network sites for vampires and the gothic scene. To start the series off, here is a great list of social networking sites for Writers and Artists.
One of the biggest groups that social networking specialty sites are catering to include writers, painters, and other artists. These sites are a great way to showcase your talents, network with potential clients or collectors as well as other artists that can help you discuss your art, and to find great information for improving and expanding your natural talents.
Ten great sites dedicated to this genre include the following:
A great network site for contemporary artists, Art Slant is where you can show off your latest creations, write a review, announce a showing, or contribute to their array of general content while networking with other contemporary artists.
This is one of my favorite artist’s communities. Not only do you get the benefits of networking with members of the art community but you can also showcase your work and even make arrangements to sell it to potential buyers at Art Break with no commission charges of any kind from Art Break. You can get an account with them for free, or if you prefer an ad free experience they do have a premium option available.
For those that feel like waxing poetic, My Own Verse, which describes itself as a poet’s playground, is a great choice. Set up your profile and connect with other poets to share and critique one another’s work which can help you to grow your own talents or simply satisfy your love of the written word by discovering fresh new voices in poetry.
My Art Info:
My Art Info is a social network for artists, art students, and collectors. The site allows artists to show off their talents while giving collectors an opportunity to find new artists or discover a great piece to add to their collection.
This is a new but interesting community for the creative types. At Artition you can upload a gallery of your art work, music, videos, or even written works so it offers a little something for everyone in the art world.
If you are looking for a young and hip creative community, then check out The Outpost, a fairly active community for music, arts, fashion, and culture.
Next we have a social network designed specifically for writers. With all of the standard trimmings of a traditional social networking site, Writer Face is a great way to connect with other writers.
A great place for finding the latest artists and art related news and blogs now offers a network feature to allow you to post your own profile, network with other artists, and show case your talent to Art Review visitors.
Another choice in social networking geared towards writers. Post your profile and upload a portfolio or attend online workshops to help you fine tune your writing skills at Peer Scribe.
Art Log provides a great way for artists to announce their events while networking with other artists and commenting on various pieces of work highlighted on the site. They also have a regular newsletter and tons of great info on art events around New York.
The Writer’s Network (Frome OnceWritten):
The folks over at OnceWritten.com now have a social networking service to help you find and connect with fellow writers. Hosted on the Ning network it has all of the standard social networking features such as blogs, customizable profiles, and a friends list.
My Art Space is another great choice for artists who are looking to show off their current work and get inspired by networking with other like minded and creative souls.
Of course, no list of writer’s social networks would be complete without the long standing authority in the world of writing, the Writer’s Digest. This magazine which is devoted to the craft and business of writing now has its own social networking community which provides an excellent community for networking with other writers.
As Twitter has matured, the Twitter clients have appeared, and they have flourished. Being a twitter addict, I felt compelled to check into some of these for you so you wouldn’t have to install them only to find out that they are incredibly painful to use.
Here’s my list of Twitter Clients:
The Web interface : (http://www.twitter.com) It would be a disservice to leave out the twitter.com site itself. In fact, many people only use the web interface to update their tweets. It’s simple, it’s fast, and it gets the job done.
TweetDeck: (http://tweetdeck.com) TweetDeck is the dark alpha dog of twitter clients. It is feature rich with the ability to monitor multiple twitter accounts, Facebook,, and MySpace. You can also quickly see replies, direct messages, topics, saved searches, and it has a built-in spam monitor.
Twhirl: (http://www.twhirl.org) The cheery twitter client, twhirl is a bright, well designed interface that allows you handle all your usual twiter needs, but also includes the ability to send photos to TwitPic, automatically shorten long URLs, and cross post to Jaiku.
Twitterfeed: (http://www.twitterfeed.com) Sign up and enter your blog RSS feed and Twitterfeed will publish your blog posts onto your twitterfeed. You choose how often it published the new blog content.
Tweetie: (http://www.atebits.com/tweetie-iphone/) Strictly for iPhones, Macs and iPod Touches. It has a super clean look and lets you post to multiple Twitter accounts. It allows you to follow tweets, replies, direct messages and trends on Twitter. It is super easy to set up and will help tweeting on your iPhone, Mac or iPod Touch easier and more powerful.
Twitterberry: (http://www.orangatame.com/products/twitterberry/) one of the best twitter applications for the Blackberry platform. Twitterberry separates the replies, direct messages and the posting tof tweets, but makes it very usable on the Blackberry. Currently there is not integration to TwitPic within the application, but that would be a nice addition¢â‚¬â€(wink wink).
Ping.fm: (http://www.ping.fm/) What Ping.gm brings to the table is how it centralizes updates of Twitter, but also Facebook, Jaiku, Bebo, Friendster, and Myspace. The interface is simple and straight forward. I’ve experienced a bit of a lag on the cross-posting, but the ease of use to update all those sites at once may be enough to lure you over to this site.
HootSuite: (http://hootsuite.com/) Tweetdeck can tend to be a bet wide especially on netbooks, but that’s where HootSuite comes in. It allows you to create custom columns to store searches so you can keep an eye on people talking about your store or brand name. HootSuite was one of the first to incorporate multiple twitter accounts as well.
Seesmic: (http://seesmic.com/) Available in a web application, a desktop application and rumor has it, a mobile application soon. Seesmic is one of the dominant twitter clients and it’s easy to see why. They are continually pushing the envelope of features including a single column interface that resembles the familiar e-mail interface. They also allow an unlimited number of columns to be added, a simple way to watch search terms, direct messages, and @ replies. They included all the follow stats and complete profile view of your followers. Not bad for a company that started as a vlogging site. Seesmic is making tweeting on any platform easier and more intuitive.
Destroy Twitter: (https://destroytwitter.com/) An unusual name for an application, but in a sea of weird twitter clients, it needs to be this odd to stand out. After all, it would be a little different if you were building an application for your Mac called Kill Apple. I am digressing. Destroy Twitter is eerily similar to Tweetdeck (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?) What appears to be Destroy Twitter’s strong suit is configuration. You can choose when to ping twitter, font size, column size and a plethora of other settings to make your tweeting more enjoyable
Every person has different likes and dislikes, but if I were to recommend three to look into, they would be Tweetdeck, Seesmic, and HootSuite for their attention to detail, ease of use and over all usefulness in daily tweeting. No go forth and tweet!
Have you ever been at a web site and thought, OK, now what?
This is what you DO NOT want to happen to the users of your web site. One of the most under-rated items when it comes to web site development is usability testing.
Usability testing is just an evaluation of the site’s ease of use and navigability. Take a look at the brick and mortar stores. Many stores have this concept mastered. If you are looking for something, you can look across the store and look for signs, or ask an associate who is identified in a brightly colored vest. When you are done shopping, just head for the exit and you will see the check outs. If your site doesn’t have plainly labeled areas, a search function for users to find their items and an obvious check out method, you will lose customers. After all, it is easier to leave a browser window than walk out of a store.
As Steve Krug titled his book on usability, Don’t make me think! That’s the secret. People don’t think about where the checkouts are in any store..they just head towards the exit.
Here’s what you need to perform your own usability testing on your site.
- 1. Find 7-10 people who may use your site. These should be a variety of people and not just family and friends.
- 2. Write down a list of questions to ask the testers. These should be centered around the activities on your site. For example if you are an e-commerce site, ask them to buy a specific item. Have them walk you through their thought processes as they go through the process of that activity. It may be helpful to video tape these sessions for review later.
- Keep the requests simple.
- If they have trouble finding something, ask them What are you looking for? or What are you expecting to see?
- You will find 80-90% of all the usability issues after 7-10 people.
- Keep record of the patterns that occur between testers. Are they all having trouble finding one particular item?
- Don’t worry about them successfully completing the task, just document what they did to accomplish it. Later, analyze the results to see if there were any changes that would make sense for your site.
- Keep the testers at ease and let them know you are not evaluating them, but rather the web site. Reassure them that they are helping the web site development team make the site better for everyone.
- Make the changes deemed necessary to improve the usability of your site. This could range anywhere from relabeling some navigation items, to a complete redesign of the site.
10. Finally, reevaluate after making some changes. Test with another group of 3-4 users to see if the same issues continue to occur. Keep all usability testing sessions brief. Also don’t be afraid to retest after any changes in the site in the future. Sometimes it’s difficult to see the faults of the site since we are the developers and it makes complete sense to us.
Many successful sites like Amazon.com and Google rely on usability testing to ensure people can easily use their site to fulfill their needs. Usability testing is easy to do and relatively inexpensive, so start small and do it. Your visitor’s will thank you with more visits and maybe more purchases.
There are a lot of websites out there to share photos. They all have different features and prices and everyone has a different favorite that they use to share photos with friends and family. There are a couple of things I look for when I review a photo sharing site. I like to be able to order prints from the site. I like to be able to download the photos I like that aren’t mine. I want to be able to navigate through the pictures and look at them all, whether by slideshow or individually, and it’s also nice if it’s easy and simple for me to upload my own pictures.
Flickr is Yahoo’s photo sharing service, and it’s a popular one. Flickr allows you to friend people and follow their albums and updates as well, which can be interesting if you know someone that regularly takes good pictures. However, Flickr is more of an online photo share site, in that it seems to be designed to show and share pictures and albums across the internet, but no so much for personal albums. You can order prints, but only through a couple of third party sites. These third party sites encompass everything from book and mugs and postcards and prints, but it means having to pick and select from a variety of choices and compare prices. Flickr provides a variety of viewing options. You can sort your photostream into different sets and galleries, and join groups where you can have multiple photographers contributing to an idea, which is a great idea for weddings to have everyone upload their pictures to a common album. If you are looking to download a picture for your own use, Flickr only provides pictures up 1024×768, which is only marginally acceptable. One of my biggest knocks on Flickr is that it limits you to 100mb of photos a month, which is another reason why it’s not great for sharing photos of events. With the rising megapixels of cameras a picture can be multiple megabytes and this limit will limit you to a couple of dozen pictures unless you sacrifice quality and make them smaller. Overall, Flickr is good for online collaboration of different types of photography projects, but if you’re looking to share photos of Grandma’s birthday with family across the country, you’d be better off elsewhere.
Snapfish is Hewlett Packard’s photo site. HP is known for printers, and as would be expected it’s easy to order prints from Snapfish. They provide a variety of sizes as well as borders. They have poster prints if you need to blow up a picture. Mousepads, mugs, ornaments and clothing are just some of the different things you can get printed with Snapfish. Most of the complex stuff you need to have shipped, but for basic prints and posters you order them online and pick them up at a local Walgreens, which saves on shipping costs and allows you to pick up your pictures in less than a day. Viewing is a simple enough process, as photos get uploaded to albums and you can scroll through each picture or view them via the slideshow. Snapfish also has it’s own program you can download to aid in uploading pictures directly from your camera or memory card. However it’s not possible to download photos on Snapfish without paying a fee per download. It’s not much, but if you’re talking about an album of 300 pictures, it can add up, especially when you can ask the person who uploaded them to email them to you for free. Snapfish is a great service to use when you plan on printing physical copies of photos or ordering mugs or calendars, but if you actually want to share your photos over the internet with friends and family there are better services.
Shutterfly is perhaps a less commonly used service than some of the others, but it does have what you need to share pictures. Once you upload the pictures onto their site, it is organized into albums, and then you can share specified photos out of that album with friends. When your friends and family view the photos you’ve shared they have the option of saving them to their own album. The printing process is also pretty easy with Shutterfly. You can select which photos you want, with a variety of size options, and have them either mailed or pick them up at Target. They also have some photo books, calendars, and other products. The website itself feels a little older than most of the other sites, and it runs that way too. If you’re looking for a digital copy of a photo in an album, whether a friends or your own, you are out of luck. The only way is to right click and save it, but that gives you the photo in a rather small size. Shutterfly is an okay service, but it feels like it hasn’t changed in years or grown with the times. This definitely wouldn’t be my first choice of photo sharing services.
Google has their hands in everything, photo sharing on the internet included. Picasa Web Albums blows the other services away, offering more in just about every area. They offer up to one gigabyte of photo uploads per Google/gmail account, and you can upload them at the original photo size, or a streamlined version. There is a downloadable app that will upload and organize your pictures for you, and it’ll even search your hard drive and update albums as you put more pictures on your computer. You can then use it to upload to a web album viewable to friends and family, just you, or everyone. It’s a static URL so it’s easy to find all the albums by one user, and everyone that has access to view the file can also save it, at the size it was uploaded. After you upload the photo to the web, you can tag it, link to to it, embed it and caption it as needed. You can also print the photos in your Picasa albums. You can funnel them through Snapfish, Shutterfly or a couple of other sites, or you can print directly to Walgreens. If you’re going to print to a mug or something it’d probably make sense to upload directly to Snapfish, but otherwise Google’s Picasa is the way to go. It also has a tab where you can search through recently uploaded photos as well as search by tag for any public image across all of Picasa.
Of all the photo sharing services I’ve used over the years, Google’s Picasa is definitely the best. Snapfish and even Flickr have their uses as well, but Picasa is my first choice.
Sony launched a major offensive in the console war this week with a number of big announcements. During a presentation at the GamesCom 2009 event in Cologne, Germany they unveiled the new slim PlayStation 3 and talked about their plans for the platform. There have been suggestions that Sony are lagging behind Nintendo and Microsoft in the battle for gamers and this package of products and updates is clearly an attempt to redress the balance.
The Wii and the Xbox 360 have been outselling the much more expensive PlayStation 3 and Sony has resisted any price drop. Back in June they claimed to be happy with their price point, which even then represented a loss on every console sold. With pressure to stimulate the market amid falling sales they have finally made a move. The new version of their popular console heralds the long awaited price drop and the 120 GB machine will cost $299 in the US, ¢â€šÂ¬299 in Europe and £249 in the UK. By comparison the 120 GB Xbox 360 Elite remains priced at $399.
The new PlayStation 3 slim is 33% smaller and 36% lighter than the old PS3. The interior has undergone a complete redesign and the console will use less energy and operate more quietly than the old model. In fact power consumption has been cut to two-thirds the previous level and as a result the machine does not heat up so much so there is less need for noisy fan operation.
The console looks sleeker and more attractive than ever and the visual redesign has also seen the logo change to lower case and a matte, textured finish instead of a shiny one. It supports Wi-Fi out of the box, it has two USB ports and you can access the hard drive from the front and upgrade more easily than with the previous iteration. In fact you can now upgrade the hard drive without voiding the warranty. The old 80 GB and 160 GB models will now be phased out.
If you are looking for a downside then perhaps you could point to the lack of backwards compatibility for PlayStation 2 games, although it can run PlayStation 1 games. You also can’t store the PlayStation 3 slim vertically unless you buy a stand and they have ditched the option to install another operating system.
Sony didn’t rest there and the announcements continued with a big firmware update for the PlayStation 3 platform. PS3 Firmware 3.0 adds some useful menu updates which make navigation on the console a bit smoother with easier access to the store and a redesigned friends list. There are a few new cosmetic updates as well which allow animated themes and the option of new avatars for your profile. Most exciting for UK gamers is the support for BBC iPlayer. There is also a new video on demand movie rental service offering HD and SD movies due to launch in November.
These new developments look set to take advantage of the superior capabilities of the PS3 and technically speaking it is by far the best console of the current generation. The PS3 supports Blu-ray playback, it offers 1080p HDMI output, integrated wireless, free online support and a 120 GB upgradeable hard drive. The firmware update will combine with a big redesign of their online Home space where companies are now looking to establish an online presence.
The new offensive was not limited to the console space and Sony had news for the handheld market as well. The PSP Go was unveiled back in June. It is a smaller, slide open version of the PSP handheld. At GamesCom Sony announced that they will be launching a mini-game store for the machine and gamers will be able to download casual games which are under 100 MB in size. They also plan to launch a reader for the PSP which will allow people to read full length novels on it and the video on demand service due to launch in November will be extended to the PSP as well. To round things off it will be available in some funky colors.
There are obvious moves here to beat Microsoft on price and also to challenge Nintendo on accessibility and the casual gamer market. Sony is uniquely placed to capture hardcore and casual gamers and their PS3 console is truly an entertainment center. If consumers were to shop for a Blu-ray player with internet surfing capabilities and access to streaming video on demand they would be hard pressed to find a device cheaper than the PlayStation 3 and it offers gaming as well. Perhaps with this new design and all important price drop we’ll see the console really take off at last.
With the Monkey Island series now revived in the latest release from Telltale games, entitled Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal, it might finally be time to announce that adventure gaming is back from the dead.
For any of you who didn’t experience the heyday of adventure gaming, The Secret of Monkey Island, released by Lucas Arts way back in the halcyon days of 1990, is considered by many to be one of the undisputable classics of the adventure gaming genre. Written in large part by Tim Schafer, the creator behind the upcoming BrƒÂ¼tal Legend, The Secret of Monkey Island had a fantastic story, hilarious and memorable characters, unique and satisfying puzzles, and some of the funniest dialogue ever featured in a video game. So it probably isn’t surprising that Monkey Island and its sequel amassed loads of critical acclaim and a pack of loving fans, who to this day nostalgically remember it as one of the best games of the early nineties.
Monkey Island wasn’t the only classic adventure game though. Indiana Jones, Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max, Grim Fandango, Full Throttle, Star Trek, King’s Quest, Quest for Glory, and many others were some of the most popular games of their time. But since those ancient, long-passed days of our youth, the adventure gaming genre has all but disappeared. What was once the most popular genre of PC gaming literally stopped existing, quickly and sharply losing popularity as the processing power of PCs and consoles ushered in an era of first person shooters and online gaming. It was a sad and puzzling development for fans of games like Monkey Island; adventure games brought great story telling, challenging puzzles and most importantly, an overall experience that was memorable in a way that no other gaming genre could provide.
As such, the fall of the adventure genre has long been a sore spot for its fans, and its long absence has been a puzzle that many couldn’t solve (pun totally intended). But recently Telltale Games, the company behind the comeback of another classic Lucasarts title in Sam & Max as well as the Strongbad and Wallace & Gromit games, has been slowly and lovingly restoring the once extinct genre. Their latest project, Tales of Monkey Island, is finally bringing back the classic Monkey Island franchise.
Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal brings back the ghost pirate LeChuck and the bumbling, well-intentioned wannabe pirate Guybrush Threepwood, along with all the ridiculous and fun stories that go along with them. I don’t want to give away very much of the story, since one of the best parts of adventure gaming is experiencing all the crazy puzzles and developments on your own, but much like the very faithful Wallace & Gromit series, Tales of Monkey Island captures all the character and style of the original Monkey Island, with recognizable voices, a bizarre and silly pirate story, and of course the humour that fans have come to know the game for.
The game has transitioned into a 3D affair, which might irk some die hard fans, but none of the charm of the original 2D version has been lost. The review copy we received had a few expected bugs in it, but these have no doubt been ironed out by today’s release, as Telltale hasn’t been known to let buggy products out the gate in the past.
Basically, Telltale has proven a few times already how proficient they are at bringing classic adventure gaming into the modern gaming world, and Tales of Monkey Island is no exception. So, if you’re a fan of the original, or you’re just hankering for some puzzle solving, story telling fun, then Tales of Monkey Island is an easy choice. The game is great and it is worth your time.
So that’s over with. Now on to the big question: does the revival of Monkey Island signal a comeback of the adventure game genre?
The easy, completely uninformative answer is that it’s hard to say. There are so many genres and so many game companies in the enormous modern game industry that it’s almost impossible to tell if Telltale’s updates of adventure gaming classics are making a significant impact on the gaming industry. Back in the nineties the market simply wasn’t as big, so it was easy to tell what types of games were most popular. In today’s industry there is such a massive selection of games that even good games tend to get lost in the crowd sometimes, never getting the recognition they deserve.
But there is another way to look at it. Telltale games has released four episodic series of adventure games to date and don’t seem to be losing any steam yet. If anything, Telltale’s adventure gaming focussed line of games is picking up momentum, making higher profile games for more systems, like XBox Live, then ever before. If this was an experiment to gauge the popularity and potential of an adventure gaming revival, then so far the signs are good. Telltale has seen enough success from their efforts that they’ve been able to continue releasing games with progressively higher profiles, finally reaching the coveted Monkey Island license.
Add to that the fact that the current infrastructure of the gaming industry is actually quite friendly to the adventure gaming genre. In an earlier article we discussed XBox Live arcade games to look out for, and noted that many of them are smaller-budget, experimental games that simply wouldn’t be possible at a large gaming studio. With avenues like XBox Live and profitable Internet distribution now available, companies no longer have to make every game an enourmous, corporate affair.
Around the time of adventure gaming’s demise these options simply weren’t available. PC gaming had grown to the point where bigger budget games were becoming the standard, and technology was advancing to the point where a simple 2D game wasn’t as attractive as it once was, but opportunities for more modest productions simply weren’t available yet. Adventure games were stuck in an unenviable position: with their once almost universal popularity giving way to PC gaming blockbusters like Quake and Duke Nukem, adventure games lost the drawing power necessary to justify the budget and team sizes that were becoming the standard, yet no alternative was available. Eventually, adventure gaming just went away.
But nowadays smaller companies can afford to develop games that aren’t necessarilly going to be the next GTA. In other words, small games can be designed by small teams without a Hollywood-sized budget and still be profitable, because the developers can get the game straight to the audience at a reasonable price compared to some of gaming’s behemoth titles. Of course, this means that modern adventure gaming is, for now, inherently a more low key phenomenon than it was in its golden age. These games aren’t being released with the budget, marketing and hype that blockbuster titles have behind them, and their popularity will be reflective of that.
But of course, this smaller, indie platform that adventure games are taking advantage of is a lot more than the nothing that existed a few years ago, and adventure gaming’s popularity only seems to be growing, even if a redux of Monkey Island doesn’t immediately usher in a new era of adventure gaming dominance. The games are lovingly crafted by fans of the genre for fans of the genre, and enough of them are buying through avenues that a few years ago didn’t exist that the future is looking strong.
Who knows, if Telltale’s games keep growing in popularity then some time in the future we may even see a big name developer try to get in on the action and take on the adventure game genre once again. For now, the technological advancements that once spelled the end of adventure gaming are now giving it a second chance. It’s safe to say that adventure gaming has found its way back into the industry’s heart, even if it is only a small piece of that heart.
So is adventure gaming still dead? If it is, it’s been looking awfully lively lately for a dead man.
Significant changes to Digg’s Application Programming Interface (API) promise to open up new possibilities to third-party developers, and might even make them some money.
Last week Digg announced some important changes to the policies that govern what sorts of things third-party Digg application developers may do. The changes lift old restrictions on certain Digg app functionalities and present new options to developers, giving them the freedom and flexibility to create programs that interact with the social networking site in ways not possible before.
There are a few differences between the old Digg API and the new. First, developers no longer need to get permission from Digg to make applications that make use of the site’s content. Also, third-party developers may now charge for access to their apps and make use of ads. Essentially, third-party Digg application developers are now free to make applications on their own without oversight from Digg, while profiting from them, which means we can expect a lot more Digg apps competing for users’ interest in the near future.
Third-party developers now also have developer’s access to the Digg search engine, allowing them to make use of all the particular Digg search functions in their apps. Along with access to Digg’s search functions comes access to users’ favourites, allowing third party apps to make novel use of info about which stories are most popular among Digg users. Essentially, third party Digg application developers may now make use of the most crucial information about Digg stories, so we can expect plenty of applications in the future that give users new insight into the trends and popular topics of Digg.
Finally, third party Digg apps can now participate in Digg just like a normal user. Users may vote up , bury, comment on, and favourite stories through third party apps. Formerly third party apps could only watch the digging action from afar and were powerless to affect the Digg world.
The bottom line is that the new Digg API will allow for the creation of Digg applications that will give users a new level of interactivity with Digg stories. With unprecedented access to essentially all the information on Digg, it is easy to imagine that many apps will make full use of that info to glean as much of an understanding of the mysterious Digg popularity algorithm as possible, giving users the ability to understand and contribute to popular Digg stories more effectively than ever before. Applications like Sub Digger will no doubt benefit a great deal from the new API.
A couple questions arise about this change though. First, will this shift the balance between those users with a great deal of influence and the average Diggers? Digg has long had something of a problem with so-called power users. The idea is that some users have so many influential friends and such a tight grip on the pulse of the Digg community that the majority of their stories make it to the front page — the hallowed halls of Digg where continued success is guaranteed.
Sometimes this popularity is even detrimental to average users of Digg, who might post a story earlier than a power user, only to see that their own story has floundered while the power story has gained a truckload of diggs, due to the power user’s influence. For some it is a frustrating trend that runs counter to the communal, semi-democratic character of the social networking site.
It’s easy to imagine that these new developments to the Digg API could make the power users’ job even easier, further cementing their status as top Digg users. With applications that give novel, and possibly even better, access to and understanding of critical Digg information comes a better grip on control over Digg stories.
But of course this might work both ways. Average users will also have access to many of these apps, giving them the same competitive Digg advantage that the power users have, evening out any benefits gained. New third party apps might even give the average users, who formerly didn’t have much at their disposal to help them with getting digged up, a new tool to compete with power users.
It’s hard to say exactly what will happen, although I’m inclined to say that any advantages given will likely benefit the power users more than the average users. They are called power users after all, and are more likely to take full advantage of whatever is available to make Digging easier, while the average user is more likely to continue using plain old Digg as a simple pass-time, not worrying themselves with the complexities of the Digg hierarchy. But perhaps these new apps will make it easier for the average user to become a power user, giving them access to all the information and tricks that were formerly exclusive to power users. Only time will tell.
But the other obvious question is: will this make Digg profitable? This seems to be a conscious move on Digg’s part to open up the site to a wider market, essentially making a small industry in which developers can focus on making money off of Digg applications. This is reminiscent of the iPhone third-party app model, in which developers can make money for themselves while simultaneously increasing the desirability of the iPhone among consumers.
The short answer to the question of profitability, unfortunately, is no. The difference between Digg and the iPhone is that the iPhone costs money. Third party app development encourages people to buy the iPhone, whereas third party development for Digg will only encourage more people to use Digg for free more often. At best, third party developers will make money off these apps, but until Digg figures out a money-making strategy, which has eluded them until now, it will remain unprofitable.
But in the long term the answer is a bit more optimistic. Digg’s choice to make these changes to its API seem to mirror the strategy of the social networking powerhouse Twitter. Twitter has long allowed development of all kinds of third party applications, letting users make use of Twitter however they feel with whatever app they feel, not just through the Twitter site. Third-party Twitter apps are so integrated into the service that the submitted through X application signifier is tagged onto every post, allowing users to see what third party app was used to make a tweet. (I can’t believe I just wrote the word “tweet.” Forgive me.)
Essentially, third party development has allowed the outside world to improve upon Twitter, making it all the more popular. Mind you, Twitter has yet to make any serious money either, but building massive popularity and a cottage industry around third party Twitter apps can’t be a bad place to start when trying to become profitable. It would seem Digg is trying to do the same, which in the long run may pay off.
In the end, this is probably a smart move on Digg’s part. By making Digg more accessible, improvable and open, it is attracting not just more users who will make use of third party apps, but a whole slew of developers who will now be dedicated to working on the networking service while making some money of their own. Essentially, Digg will hopefully be able to build another whole community besides the one that already exists, out of application designers and marketers.
And if it all works out, we can finally see the website that brings us important news — like caterpillars who need a haircut — become profitable.
During the early 2000′s, netbooks originally emerged as low cost laptops with a heavy emphasis on web browsing and wireless internet – it was initially aimed at needy children in developing countries. It came bundled with an adequate enough OS to run the most basic of software (email, word processor, the odd mp3 player, etc) the focus was to keep the computer connected to the Internet so that the information the child received was always up to date.
However, word spread of the low cost laptop (netbooks usually range as low as $100 – $400). This option made especially perfect sense for traveling business people, however, the pre-installed OS (commonly Windows XP home edition) was sub par and forced the user to use either processor intensive, bulky, and outdated software which could reduce precious battery time, or search for time consuming workarounds to meet their needs.
That is what JoliCloud is trying to change. Designed for netbooks and using the best of what Open source software and open web technologies have to offer – JoliCloud is an Internet Operating System aimed at being a clutter-free, simple, yet slick solution to the current netbook operating systems out there. Using parts of the Ubuntu and Debian Operating systems (which are both Linux based) JoliCloud intends to blur the lines between web application and locally installed software. For example, Facebook, Twitter and Gmail (which are web applications) will look the same as Skype, VLCplayer, OpenOffice Writer (which are locally installed software applications).
With cloud computing becoming a reality with every forthcoming day – JoliCloud’s developer, Tarik Amin, foresees a future where applications designed for powerful processors will be a thing of the past. He sees everything being processed on web servers and all the user really needs is a basic computer with an internet connection of some sort (in netbooks case its 3G and wireless).
Already examples of this are evident, as GoogleDocs and Zoho are online office suites that don’t even use your hard disk to store data, it is stored on the service providers severs.
The world is slowly turning into a forever connected state. It’s not uncommon to hear about someone leaving their laptop switched on overnight to download the latest 100 MB office presentation to view it the next morning. Sure it doesn’t happen everyday – but it is happening…and JoliCloud intends to be the first OS to catch and surf this new wave.