Watch_dogs quick review: #blogjune 5

I’m giving myself a relative rest day, so this will just be a quickie.

I’m playing through Watch_Dogs. For those not in the know, it’s a sandbox* game set in a hyperconnected near-future Chicago.

The role I’m given to play is of a hacker. I wander the streets, smartphone in hand, using custom apps to achieve goals.

As with any hyped game, it’s received a fair amount of slamming. I see what they’re saying. Graphically it looks nice, but it’s a few steps back from state of the art. It has a reputation for visual and physics glitches – not witnessed by myself at this time.

The thing is, I don’t play for visual perfection. The games I enjoy most often look like this:


That’s Risk of Rain. I’m not reviewing it here but seriously, play it.

So for me – the greatest graphics aren’t important. What’s important for me in Watch_dogs is it’s point of difference: the hacking. At a basic level, it’s fun to run round the city listening in on people’s phone conversations and reading their text messages – it’s a rich game world, and in between fun diversions there’s a fair bit of story texture that comes out of these.

Also fun is the game’s approach to puzzles. One genre centres around QR codes placed around the city. Each one will span a number of surfaces, and will only line up when viewed through a particular hacked camera. Sometimes the challenge is simply finding the right camera, other times it can only be found through a clever series of hacks on hacks – working one’s way around circuits of cameras to find the right one, which is otherwise unaccessible.

I haven’t completed it by a long shot – at the moment I’ve all but abandoned the story missions, even though I’ve just met possible love interest, Clara Lille (aka Badboy17 when online), a “hot geek girl” replete with facial piercings and neck tattoos.

To heck with her. I want to climb towers. I want to hack mainframes. I want to find… to find all the things.

*open roaming, multiple objectives with storyline only representing a small part of the set of goals.


Reviewing something current: This is My Jam

Here’s what this one is about. I just want you to like this site, this product.

I’ve used it for just over a week now. I’d like to give you a nutshell, and then explain my experience of it. Hopefully that will support me in explaining why I want you to use it.

The nutshell

The concept: Tumblr, but just for music. Industry experts can correct me.

Signup: Easy, as usual. Link your social profiles, emails etc. Follow people you know who are on there, expand as your other friends join.

You start on the “My Jam” page. You have the option to search for a jam, and your search gives results from soundcloud and youtube. Once you choose your jam and optionally add a little comment, it is set for a week.

There’s some design options for you people who care about that stuff. I don’t think they’re that complex, more a kind of flavours thing.

Embed-on-request rights are respected. As a consumer of a service, I assume the provider(s) of that service are vigilant to protect me from inadvertent rights misuse. I’ll happily discuss that (1) in the comments should anyone be interested.

Your jam and those of your follows are displayed in reverse chronological order on the site home page. If you click the play button on an individual jam you will start the list playing in reverse order until the one week event horizon is reached.

Developing of your network occurs virally, and through the discovery tools. I’ll discuss them under:

My experience of it

The social discovery tools are very interesting – I’ve just linked through to my profile, which should give me some crunchy recommendations for random follows.

Social Recomendations are categorised three ways that I’ve found so far:

Derived from my jams – I’m introduced to people who are jamming similarly.

Trending jammers – not necessarily so fond of that.

Friend-of-friend recommendations via likes – I saw a jammer (into the lingo already!) recommended as “most liked by your follows”.

If you want things to change on your jam, throw down some records

It’s ok to change one’s jam anytime – you’ll remove your previous one, so you won’t be spamming in terms of “post count”. I’m not sure if I’d get annoyed at someone who continually threw out new tunes. Sure they’d stay at the top of the list, but if they were sharing good songs I’d go with it.

Your playlist isn’t evolving the way you’d like? Add people to it. Prune it. Throw out tracks. Most importantly: Respond to the community you’ve created.

I don’t use TiMJ constantly – I check in on it. I give the people on it time to surprise me. My favourite kinds of surprises are new songs, which is

Why I Want You To Join

The limitation – music only – is where the victory lies.  It’s a perfect answer to my issues around sociality – sometimes words don’t work at all for me, but sound always does.

Yep, it’s all about me

It’s good therapeutic practise to ask for what you want, in an honest and respectful way. Anyhow,

Bowtie it with a story seanfish

Someone laid down a remix of Blue Jay Way, which I liked.(2)

I threw out Fiona Apple singing Across the Universe.

Someone #2 shared “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” by Eddie Vedder (which wasn’t to my taste).

Someone #3 rolled out “Creep” by Radiohead – the acoustic version, which I “liked” and love,

@wilwheaton stepped up with Massive Attack – Protection, and

I got all the squee

This is My Jam.

(1) At nauseating length.

(2) In airquotes and simultaneously not in airquotes. Please view this as standard practise.

#blogjune 25: Blogjanarama: A tentative summary

I think I’m close enough to the end of the month to examine some of the benefits of this exercise for me, and I’m doing this before an INSANELY busy week happens.

Rather than faffing about with French baked objects I’ve used my tagcloud as an aide-memoire. This would be a different post had Helensville an authentic boulangerie, or had I gone to music practice at the Alliance Francaise last night (I didn’t) and asked them to recommend a late-night boulangerie in the central city area (I also didn’t). So what learning have I encountered?


I reminded myself further that I’m simply not into themes. I wouldn’t describe myself as incapable of them; certainly when writing some kind of memo, email or otherwise for work I stick very much to the point.

I started by declaring this the “month of superlatives”. It has only been so in that it’s been one of the bloggingest months of my life and the failingest theme this month on banjosinthestacks. I sometimes had similar levels of activity during the height of my engagement with livejournal, but not usually with a theme.*

I’ve also discussed this with other children’s librarians in relation to themes in programmes. One friend suggested that I “was the theme” in my storytime sessions. As much as a complement as that is, I think it’s overhyping my abilities, or at least misreading where they lie. I do engage well with young children, but my programmes are ultra-structured – I’ll have the same games and songs in the same order every time with differing books. This allows me to modify – pull elements in and out – in response to my energies, and the energies of the children on the day without having to have a think. I achieve infinite variety in the songs and games because I ask the children for elements such as the animals for “Old MacDonald”. I also pursue other themes, such as sharing joy, creativity, support, love and humour through modelled behaviours. Oh all right, and love of reading is in there too. It should be implicit.

So I don’t so much fail at theme as have more investment in structure, tone, style and participation as creating continuity between differing elements.

It is possible.

The same as I don’t see a point in theming, I don’t see a point, other than an exercise, in blogging every single day. As opinionated as I am I don’t feel a wish to find something to express a well thought-out, edited opinion every day. That being said, at this end of the month I have found that when I do blog, I prefer to do that editing and thinking rather than do “something quick”. Even yesterday’s dinner break post, one of my quicker that wasn’t just complaining, had two days of distributed discussion and occasional pondering behind it.

My shortest one I didn’t publicise except through RSS, which I acknowledged in the post. This in itself sparked a fun discussion.

Creative activity enhances wellbeing.

Readers who have been following for a while will have seen mention of insomnia. I tend to have this when I’ve a lot to think about, although this tends to be abstract topics such as “what are some useful models and modes of thought which can support engaged information literacy” and “if I listen to my new song fifity times in my head with my fingers twitching that’s the same as practicing it” rather than “the big boy next door called me names”. In fact I get on with Brett, my large and tough next door neighbour, rather well.

In the past I’ve tended to avoid engaging in writing about these topics or developing musical ideas at times when I should be sleeping because I haven’t wished to stimulate myself further. This month has convincingly demonstrated to me that fully engaging my creative faculties leads to better managed sleep patterns.

I can talk about information profession things.

While I am linked to a small handful of active projects at work presently, my main role right now is to explore and propose a definition and related useful functions for my role, knowing that other related roles and functions may or may not be changing.

A necessary process at for success in this task is the active avoidance of prejudicing the views of people one is seeking  input from. Admittedly this is impossible – in an organisation of capable people, nuances are as deftly derived from what isn’t said as what is said.

This isn’t to mention time factors. To speak to an informed and representative sample of an organisation, individual conversations must be limited. Interesting and compelling topics must be touched on then left aside for progress in the key tasks at hand to be made.

So, getting a place to talk about the information profession, the  theory that surrounds it and the wonderful culture that springs forth from it is a good thing.

So what?

So I’ll keep on letting structural and stylistic approaches serve as my themes and not worry about it. I’ll stop worrying that creative activity is something I risk using up, although I won’t blog every day. I think now that I’ve cleared a regular window in which writing happens I’ll allow some of that to happen in blog form, and some of that to happen in the many other writing projects  I’ve got sitting round on scraps of paper and in little files.

I’ll not only continue to share my infoculture thoughts, I’ve got some new people whose thoughts stimulate to share with to add to the wonderful, but less new, people. *waves*

And I’ll look forward to enjoying some good nights of kip.

*Bonus content: Three years, two months, twenty days, seventeen hours, fifty minutes and twenty-six seconds ago I shared** the following Beetle Bailey cartoon on my livejournal. I still think it’s a pretty hilarious statement for an ostensibly unironic newspaper toon:

Beetle Bailey loves them Goth girls

** If you hack me and find content you find uncomfortable, serves you right for being prurient.***

*** Also I will hack you back. Just saying.

A nice book review, and not as long as some of my rubbish

In many cases, if asked to pick a favourite of some kind of thing, I will reply evasively. I have been heard to avow that I don’t believe in them, which is generally the case.

Not so in literature. I have a favourite author – Kurt Vonnegut, and a favourite book. Which is not by him.

Neal Stephenson’s “Anathem” is one title that has truly guided me over the few years since I read it, and I think some of its messages have coalesced somewhat for me.

Here’s what I think he is talking about: The great, aeons-long war between Socratics and Sophists. Jazz and Pop. Satirists and copywriters.

Buggering around as a means of finding truth, or establishing powerful methods of communication to serve a decided upon truth.


Is it a war, as he frames it? Sun Tzu suggests the avoidance of war as being the warrior’s first strategy, and Stephenson moves his narratives through warlike frames whilst his characters find ways to rewrite the collective narrative to an optimally peaceful conclusion.

He also is talking of community. The setting starts in one of a distributed network of cloistered colleges organised on monsatic lines. A discussional culture drives, and our initial protagonists are very much Socratics – truth is sought through agreed on and examined lines of reasoning.

I have to allow that I am in some ways a Socratic. I can generate strategy to effectively accomplish any reasonable aim, but I feel most comfortable doing so for aims I believe in and have taken time to investigate.

A global catastrophe arises, and the real purpose of the network of monasteries is revealed as they rapidly take their immense knowledge – having been around for uncounted aeons undisturbed – and Socratics, Sophists and all save the universe.

In a nutshell.

Here’s the mechanism: The Sophists take over the running of things, and manoeuvre the Socratics out, so the Socratics go guerilla.

A philosophical college of ninjas get involved.

True love happens.

The Sophists are revealed to be trusted allies, and hook the Socratics up with a space mission invented from first principles.

And they save the universe by literally mucking around with the quantum mechanics using their Socratically-trained brains and change the story to the right ending after examining a possibly infinite number of alternate timelines.

As you do.