Thursday, August 19, 2010

Kittyball go!

My game, Kittyball, just went live!

After several months of work, and all of Sarah's art contributions, it's nice to finally see it up for sale!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New Project

I have started a project to create a site for developers and designers to share and collaborate on UI mockups and designs.

In the past, I have found it extremely frustrating to work on UI design with the current tools available.  Trading zips of files through email and giant PDFs of mockup screens on shared storage are terrible ways to work.

It's hard to keep track of different versions.
It's hard to keep track of comments everyone has made.
It's hard for more than 2 people to be involved in the process.
It's hard to highlight changes.

I'm going to solve all of those problems.

Kittyball submitted!

I somehow forgot to mention this when I did it, but I submitted KittyBall to the App Store on Monday, August 9th.  I guess we'll see what Apple thinks of it.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Modern Liberal Goal Part 2: Work as a game

So the question is:
If the liberal goal [everyone only has to work as much as they want to] is achieved, what is there to do for someone seeking to become wealthy? What can we do with an army of people who don't ever have to work for a living?
Now we've got two types of people in the world: those producing less than they consume, and those producing more.

The government subsidizes people who are overconsuming, so they never have to work if they don't want to.

So what's a future capitalist to do?

We have to make them want to work.

We can do this in two ways: make work fun, or make work easy.

How do we make work fun?
Make it into a game! People will put enormous effort into games voluntarily.

We've already got some great business models for this:

Work hard for free!
Open source software and Wikipedia use this model.
"Hey, give us tons of skilled labor and get no money in return!"

Work hard for social benefits!
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, and every social networking site ever.
"Hey, give us tons of information to help target ads!"

Work hard to create value for paying users!
Zynga, Chinese MMOs (see slide 16 of this excellent presentation). We can make a free-to-play gameworld where our non-paying users add value for our paying users to take advantage of.
"Pay for our game, you can kill noobs!"
noobs: "noooo *adds value*"

How do we make work easy?
Bring it to them! Who minds working from home? Idiots, that's who. All the cool people want to work from home.

What have we got?

Use the massively parallel processor in your head to solve problems!
Amazon's Mechanical Turk lets you solve a single tiny task and get a single tiny amount of money.
"Transcribe this for a quarter!"

Write an essay for $10!
Demand Studios will pay you to write essays for them, which they then spam all over the internet and place ads on. It solves two problems: how do we fill the internet with more crap, and how do we get people to write more crap?
"Write some crap!"

Make some media and we'll sell it and give you a cut!
Infinite stock photography sites do this, as well as the Envato network for sounds, music, graphics, and other media.
"Make a song, we'll give you a few dollars per download!"

Ok, that's enough examples!
Yay! I hope you're convinced that our brave new world of consumers is not necessarily a bleak dystopia. Sure, the government will take a ton of our money, and redistribute it to the less worthy, but that doesn't mean we can't still extract some value from them!


Today I started at Amazon.
Amazon is strangely a software company that sells retail products.  I'm not sure how that happened, but I assume Jeff Bezos is to thank for it.

Thanks, Jeff Bezos.

So now I am officially a Software Design Engineer - Gift Cards User Experience.  If you have any questions about being an SDEGCUE, feel free to ask me.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Modern Liberal Goal

A while ago, I tried to answer a simple question as a thought experiment: “what is the goal of the ‘modern liberal’ philosophy?”

I believe the answer is “everyone only has to work as much as they want to”.
Why do I believe that?
In the United States, we have had a history of creating social welfare programs, and they tend to stick around. Welfare, Medicaid, WIC (the modern food stamps), unemployment, and disability are generally targeted at the poor and disadvantaged. Medicare and Social Security are targeted at the old, who often become poor as a combination of reduced earning ability and increasing health costs. Unemployment, in particular, simply gives money to people who aren't earning any. It's stated purpose is to help people "get back on their feet", but for practical purposes, it can be collected for a year (at least in Texas) without having to do anything in particular.

These welfare programs spring out of a philosophy of "need". I think there's a certain level of guilt that comes from rightfully earning the things we need, and continuing onward to earn things we want, while other people fail to even meet their own basic needs. Governments then codify this guilt into programs to take money from those who've earned it and give it, in varying forms, to those who haven't.

In a republic, these programs have a fair amount of stickiness due to taking money from a few voters and giving it to many voters.

Why do I think it is likely to happen?
Technology has given the most intelligent a massive lever with which to move the world and create value. A rich person today wields more power than nations of the past. Thanks to these forces, there is more marginal wealth per person at the top. Bill Gates easily met his own needs many years and many dollars ago. If we take 99% of his money, we can provide for probably tens or even hundreds of thousands of people. I think there is social pressure to do this.

Along with amplifying the top tier's ability to create wealth, technology also lowers the bar for the poor to meet their basic needs. Food is cheap compared to any time in human history. It becomes easier and easier for one person to meet their own needs.

Marshall Brain's Manna provides in interesting guess as to two alternative futures, one ruled by the tyranny of the rich, who provide for the poor, but restrict their freedom to virtually nothing, and a more communist society where everyone is "rich" by pooling resources.

If the liberal goal is achieved, what is there to do for someone seeking to become wealthy? What can we do with an army of people who don't ever have to work for a living?

I'll tell you tomorrow.