On Feuds, Appalachia, and Reasoning

A few days ago, my former boss and friend posted on Facebook that he considered the National Rifle Association’s rhetoric around the Second Amendment to be primarily driven by race.

As you might imagine, this set off quite a debate on Facebook. I don’t want to recount the entire affair so let me summarize a few key points of background before we get started.

  1. In general, I agree that the language is couched with racial undertones, but I don’t agree that is the primary motivator.
  2. The discussion on Facebook was quite intellectual, and moderated well. Trolls there (as here) weren’t welcome.

My contribution to the discussion was this:

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A Return to Ultima (ish)

A few years ago, it seemed as if the MMORPG world had passed Richard Garriott by. He’d had two rather contentious breakups with corporations, Electronic Arts and NCSoft, and he seemed more interested in pursuing his dream of going to outer space.

Two years ago, Garriott re-emerged at the SXSW Accelerator, an event I emcee that pits start-up companies against each other in a “pitch off.” Garriott, who didn’t win, was there to launch his newest endeavor: a simple social game called Ultimate Collector, which was published by Zynga through Facebook.

I won’t lie, I found the whole enterprise a little strange. I’ve known Richard in a professional sense since the mid-1990s, and all of our interactions have centered on discussions about storytelling, epic adventures, and communities. Ultimate Collector felt like something else.

Just one year later, though, the world seemed to tip back onto its proper axis. Once again at SXSW, Garriott launched a $1 million kickstarter, The Shroud of the Avatar, an epic storytelling adventure. How excited was the game community: The project was successfully funded in less than 10 days. More than 16,000 people contributed.

Garriott no longer owns the rights to the Ultima name (it would seem), but the Avatar was the main character in the series, which means we will once again be returning to the world that helped launch the modern game industry.

Dungeons & Dragons Documentary Comes to Carmel

Dungeons and Dreamers: A DocumentaryAs John and I work not so feverishly on the second edition of the book, we received a pleasant surprise from the guys behind Dungeons & Dragons: A Documentary.

They were kind enough to ask us to participate in the project, and we were stoked enough to say “YES!”

We spent three hours talking about Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, game developers, Richard Garriott (whom I had the chance to chat with at this year’s SXSW Accelerator), and the importance and impact of games as art.

I can’t wait to see the final product, and neither can  you!

A Very SXSW Interactive 2013 Recap

Every year, South by Southwest Interactive changes for me.

When I first started coming in the mid-1990s, I wrote about music and stumbled upon technology. By 1998, I’d largely abandoned the music conference for what we now call Interactive. I was a journalist, then a moderator, then a panelist, and now I’m a mixture of all three when I emcee the SXSX Accelerator finals.

What hasn’t changed for me, though, is that every year SXSW is the most intense, most humbling, and most accessible learning space that I have. Within 10 days, I have the opportunity to fill up on bits of information that I’ll spend much of the next year processing.

This year, I decided to stay out of the mix, and just listen to the summaries that filtered up to me. Here’s what I learned:

2013 is the year of hardware:

A few years ago, I had a conversation with some of the SXSW organizers about the proliferation of social media types. I was concerned that we were seeing a shift from hackers and makers to talkers, and that technological acumen was being pushed aside by second-class punditry.

This year, SXSW leaped that chasm and the hackers and makers re-emerged in a public way (although I’m sure there are still a plethora of the talkers). Nowhere was the more present than with the concept of 3d printers, which was trumpeted by MakerBot’s kickoff presentation and MakieLab’s 3d printed toys project that won the SXSW Accelerator Entertainment Technologies competition.

Build, Build, and Make:

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The Relatively of Wrong, or How I Evaluate Technology

This well-written piece by the New York Times Nick Bilton, “Disruption: When Sharing on Facebook Comes at a Cost” came across my feed this morning. Bilton does an excellent job dissecting the problem of trying to build a business model using Facebook. Entrepreneurs of all levels should read it.

However, Bilton’s analysis isn’t a surprise. In fact, this is the inevitable architecture of Facebook, which was always been built upon the idea of private networks, limited interaction, and hidden messages.

I. Technology As Distrust

One of the reasons I decided to (re)-pursue my teaching career after 12 years as a journalist was my realization that the industry wasn’t solving its most basic problem: understanding technology.

When I started my career in 1995 as a news aide at Cincinnati CityBeat, a local weekly, my then-boss refused to allow me to telnet into the Cincinnati Public Library to do our daily research. Instead of allowing me to access and print the files she needed (while she sat across from me), she made me trudge a few blocks down the road so that I could physically sit in the building.

When I asked why, she said she didn’t trust that what I was getting was the same as what was in the library.

In many ways, I would have that exact conversation in news rooms throughout the next decade. As new technologies emerged that were built on the increasingly user-friendly Web platform, the possibilities for its use seemed both endless and untrustworthy.

The platform was too good. The possibilities too great. Surely, the reasoning went, nobody could understand how to use these, and so those new tools were relegated to a pile in the corner, one that future generations could sort through.

II. What You Don’t Actually Know

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A South by Southwest Guide to Surviving the Nerdpocalypse (2013 Edition)

Greetings People of Earth:

A few years ago, I wrote my first South by Southwest Guide to Surviving the Nerdpocalypse, which included this handy Things To Do map of Austin. In just a few days, the post became the most read piece I’ve written since leaving Wired and MIT’s Technology Review.

Last year, I wrote the 2012 follow up that picked up a few important tidbits that I missed the year before and explored a bit of what you should do in Austin to make sure you don’t completely burn out.

As this year’s event is about to begin, I thought I’d add a few more things to the list of Things To Do in Austin When Your Dead.

First, though, a brief list of what I got right:

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Helping Jay: Loveland’s Class of 1990

Greetings everyone:

As you may have heard, our classmate Jay Napier was in an accident a little while back. He’s currently going through an extensive recovery, and the Class of 1990 (spearheaded by Michelle Kruse and Chrissy Kenyon) has been raising money to help his family offset the costs.

We’ve got a few PayPal links set up for those who would like to contribute. You can click here or on the Facebook link.

You don’t need to have a PayPal account to contribue. You can sign in as a guest and use a credit or debit card as well.

If you’re not familiar with PayPal, here’s how it works. The basic overview is this: The site operates a bit like a waystation. You contribute money into a secure, virtual account, and then we can share those funds directly with Jay’s family. In this way, we don’t need to manage checks and cash. We can get the money to Jay’s family as quickly as possible.

If you have questions – or problems – you can contact me (Brad King), and we’ll figure this out.

I will keep everyone updated on activity within the account.

Thanks for any help.

Loveland’s Class of 1990

Games, Violence, and What We Know

In 2001, John  and I were approached by McGraw Hill with a book idea that explored the research behind video games and violence. As fate would have it, we were nearly finished with a proposal about games and communities. While we rejected the idea of a book based on violence, we did include a chapter on the issue.

We spent quite a bit of time reading 60 years worth of studies, interviewing folks, and sifting through medical research. What we found, not unsurprisingly, is that games with violent images (e.g. first-person shooters) have no effect on actual violence. 

In the wake of recent events and the re-kindled discussion about games and violence, we thought we’d share that chapter with you. This is Chapter 8: Gamers, Interrupted from Dungeons & Dreamers.

That OPSF 50/50 Ultra

Last weekend, I completed my first ultra marathon: the OPSF 50/50 race in Spencer, Indiana, a brutal all-day affair that sent runners out on 1, 2, or 3 14.1 mile loops depending upon the length you were running (plus a 5-mile Power Line loop for the 50K runners, and 2 5-mile Power Line loops for the 50 milers).

I ran the 50K (which is actually 33.2 miles9 hours and 22 minutes. (The race officials have me listed at 9 hours and 36 minutes, but Najet and I finished together.) The race looked like this:

On this particular day, time wasn’t a factor. I was determined to finish this race no matter what since I’d bonked out of last year’s event.

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