JT: Ok, on three, give him the old Rochambeau!
A: Rock paper scissors?
O: What does a general from the American Revolution have to do with this?
JT: American? Rochambeau sounds… French.
O: Yes, the Franco-American forces.
JT: They fought with Spaghetti-o’s and meatballs?
A: Why would a company called “Franco-American” make Italian food?

Off the beaten Path

I will start off by saying I am a Path apologist. I love the app; it is my go-to for sharing moments from my phone. The design is cutting edge, and the concept works well. I began using it around their second major release (found out about it here) before their last privacy kerfuffle. This was serious, but they fixed the issue almost immediately. They ended up paying an FTC fine for accidentally collecting this contact data from minors (which, again, it immediately deleted).

Path went on its merry way, creating new ways to interact for Facebook to copy (see: Path’s search and Graph Search, launched in beta a month later). But when the only major story about you has been a privacy issue, that seems to be all anyone remembers. This past issue frames new attempts at growth in a bad light, which is why the tech media is accusing Path of spammiing users’ contacts.

The “spam” in question, which, albeit annoying, is far preferable to whatever other monolithic networks are doing without telling you. Furthermore, it is most likely due to user error. I have never heard any of my contacts complaining about spam from Path (contacts – please correct me if this assumption is wrong), and I know from use that there are 2 prompts to go through before Path gets any of my contacts’ info. It invited a couple family members, but only when I specifically told it to do so. Path’s biggest issues here are occasional lag time (which is probably why these “spam” messages were sent after this guy uninstalled the app) and selecting everyone for invite by default. It is a little uncouth, but it is an easy fix – last I checked (after the latest update), the “Invite Friends” list left my contacts unchecked by default.

I realize that some people see this as a second strike on privacy, but the team at Path has shown that, while they make a few sloppy mistakes every once in a while, they are committed to fixing those mistakes and keeping users’ trust, not alienating them as the tech media seems to think. No matter how douchey the CEO might be, people should soon realize Path makes a product they would enjoy greatly, and is FREE TO USE. They occasionally accidentally use your data to contact people you know, and then fix it when they realize the mistake. In my book, that always beats selling your data to people you will never meet.

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The Verge: Offline


I’m still here: back online after a year without the internet

Paul Miller returns after a year off the internet.

I was wrong.

One year ago I left the internet. I thought it was making me unproductive. I thought it lacked meaning. I thought it was “corrupting my soul.” It’s a been a year now since I “surfed the web” or “checked my email” or “liked” anything with a figurative rather than literal thumbs up. I’ve managed to stay disconnected, just like I planned. I’m internet free.

And now I’m supposed to tell you how it solved all my problems. I’m supposed to be enlightened. I’m supposed to be more “real,” now. More perfect.

The Art of the Review, The Validation of Medium, and Why Bioshock Infinte is Awesome

Video games are a staple of culture, regardless of what Roger Ebert thought (RIP). The joke is that parents let TV raise their kids, but my generation was raised by Nintendo (or Sega), and the current generation is raised by the spectre of Steve Jobs. These relationships are two way streets as well; video games are coming of age along with us, and it is extremely satisfying to experience a game done right in all its facets. I just finished the newest game in this category: Bioshock Infinite, and it knocked my figurative socks off. (because Merriam-Webster’s website buried this general definition) defines art as the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance. In his piece, Ebert uses Plato’s definition of art, the imitation of nature, but he goes on to say that art “improves or alters nature through an passage through what we might call the artist’s soul, or vision,” and that it is a matter of taste. Clearly he never met Ken Levine. Ebert chose to see beauty expressed through the lens of cinema, and sadly did not take the time to find “more than ordinary significance” in the Bioshocks and the Mass Effects and the Fallouts of the world. The saddest part is that he probably would have enjoyed it.

Video game reviews like to deal in technical aspects like graphics and gameplay mechanics, but trying that with something as poignant as Bioshock is a bit like forming an opinion on a novel based on its grammar and spelling accuracy. “The margins were consistent throughout, but the font made the letter G look weird.” Things like that. But video game reviews tend that way because there has never been much substance above that. I think that is what makes it hard for gamers like myself to synthesize these ideas from a video game and put them into words. (Or it could be that I just don’t write a lot.)

BioShock Infinite takes place on the steampunk...

BioShock Infinite takes place on the steampunk air-city of Columbia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Experiencing the story of Booker DeWitt and the flying city of Columbia through any other medium would not evoke the same reaction. I am convinced of that much. Sure, on paper, you could still form your own ideas about his motivations and your own relationship with Elizabeth. One could picture an actor swinging on sky lines, catching ammo cartridges from an actress on the big screen (see footnote). But it would not match the immersion of Infinite.

That is what great games offer: total sensory immersion into a world, at an unprecedented level. You don’t just read about it, and you don’t just watch someone act it out in front of a green screen. You explore as you see fit, you make the decisions, and you suffer the consequences. And I am only referring to single-player games here, because adding other human-controlled elements makes this another conversation entirely. One can find a deeply personal, touching and gratifying experience with buttons and joysticks and keyboards in hand, and it makes me happy to live in this brave new world.

TL;DR Two thumbs way, way up.

(Footnote: I’m thinking maybe Jon Hamm playing Booker, Zooey Deschanel as Elizabeth, Anthony Hopkins as Comstock, Tilda Swinton as Lutece.)

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Is this guy a shark or what?

-There are two kinds of people in the world: sheep and sharks. Anyone who is a sheep is fired. Who here is a sheep?
-Excuse me – which is the one people like to hug?
-Gutsy question. You are definitely a shark. Sharks are winners, and they don’t look back because they have no necks. Necks are for sheep. I am proud to be the shepherd of this herd of sharks…

Futurama RIP 1999 – 2003 2009 2013