PAX East 2018

When I was at Berkman Klein a couple years my co-workers invited me to go to PAX East with them. PAX East is a convention that celebrates gaming in all its forms from video games to tabletop and card games. While I have always enjoyed games and have played other people’s video game systems, I had largely taken a break from gaming during my college and law school years. PAX East brought me back into this fun field.

The neat thing about PAX is the variety of things to do. There is a giant expo hall with tons of vendors sharing their latest wares and technologies. There are tournaments around your favorite classics like Mario Kart. You can try things you have not tried before like virtual reality. It’s a chance to branch out and experience new types of storytelling.

I decided my goal this year was to participate in tournaments. I showed up and signed up for a VR tournament, a Mario Kart 8 Deluxe tournament for Switch, and a Super Smash Brothers tournament. I do not know if I will win any of them but I think having a chance to play against others will be fun. I will get to try a new VR experience and some old classics.

Ultimately gaming is a big industry that still feels like it has not quite gone mainstream. PAX East is a chance to see new and creative entries in the field and try things without putting any of my own money on the line. If you are not a gamer I recommend attending to get a sense of the world of possibilities in gaming.

Video Friday - Steve Jobs Sloan Lecture

Yesterday I started watching clips from this talk by Steve Jobs at MIT while he was at NeXT. A few interesting tidbits include:

  1. Jobs love of object oriented software programming as a big leap over previous technologies. He explained how object oriented programming let people write programs much more quickly.
  2. Jobs talked about the importance of betting on people. He notes: “I now take a longer-term view on people. We’re building a team here and we’re going to do great stuff for the next decade and not just the next year. So what do I need to do to help the person that is screwing up learn, versus how do I fix the problem?”
  3. “The code that is the fastest to write is the code you don’t write. We do this by enabling developers to use objects and libraries that others have written.”

Augmented Reality

Last night my colleague Eric shared the following tweet with me:

I thought it was neat on two fronts: it looked like it did a good job of snapping the augmented layer to the real world and I often get lost indoors. Despite the organization system I often fail and waste time trying to locate things in retail stores. I can see this being a helpful tool for navigating super stores like IKEA or a Super Wal-Mart. But I do not think this is the kind of thing everyone will use. It will instead optimize the output of folks who are shopping for platforms like Instacart.

I believe that visualization is compression for information. Effective visualization, like the MAPC Equity Agenda Website, can convey things that would otherwise take thousands of words to understand. Organizations that learn how to harness augmented reality will be able to more quickly train their workers and tell stories that were not previously possible.

Newcomers and Latecomers

Every single week at Code for Boston we do two things for the new people that show up. The first is we have an introductory slide show with project pitches so that the new members know what is going on. The second is we hold an orientation session to familiarize them with Code for America and Code for Boston. These two things work very well, but not for the latecomers.

Sitting in my orientation session it inevitably happens about half way through. After everyone has introduced themselves and I have explained what we do another leadership team member walks into orientation with a group of stragglers. Each time it happens it is different. It might be one person. It might be a group of five. Either way the late arrivals have launched a nuclear bomb into all the hard work we put in to make sure they have a good first experience. I have yet to figure out a great strategy for handling them.

The two options I see are the continuation and the reboot. In the continuation the new people show up, I let them introduce themselves, and then they simply miss all the content they were not here for. They are likely less clear about what is happening. I am not even sure they will want to return. If I reboot and start anew, it is both boring for me to have to repeat what I said and disrespectful to all the folk that showed up on time. It does not feel like there is a winning choice here.

If you click this post title there is in fact a comments section where you can share your ideas for how to tackle this, and I would appreciate those ideas.

Chasing Ghosts

One of the most annoying type of technology problems to battle are the ghosts. Ghosts are problems that appear, are easily fixed for a specific situation, and then later re-appear. Ghosts are persistent and they haunt you. It is incredibly challenging to debug ghosts because their trigger is usually unknown. My first step to handling ghosts is to list them.

For most of my ghosts I have a formula that fixes them. The majority of the time this formula involves a device reboot. For sufficiently infrequent problems this remedy is not a big deal. Once or twice a week is fine. Some issues recur daily or even multiple times a day. These are the ones that are the most painful.

A few things I try to deduce are whether the issues are related to hardware or software. If I suspect it’s a hardware issue then I try to go through device support to get the unit replaced if it is under warranty, or I give in and purchase a new device. Software is more challenging. A new device is not likely to fix it. I need to report the issue to the manufacturer through their support channel. Sometimes they have ideas on how to fix it. Other times I am just trying to get their engineers enough information about the issue to debug it for a software update.

Unfortunately most of the time I just decide to live with the issue. The time to debug it ends up being longer than the amount of annoyance to deal with each individual occurrence. I wish I had more time to fix some of these issues, but ultimately life is too short to keep chasing ghosts.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.