goldkin: i has book (Default)
Earlier, I tweeted this at an old acquaintance of mine from Second Life, qDot:

@qDot VR in a nutshell: all this extra bandwidth by adding a dimension, and we still haven't figured out how to make it useful beyond porn.

@qDot The translation of the literal to the spacial is still a work in progress. That design problem is still surprisingly underexplored.

Let's unpack what's going on here. qDot and I are both big VR enthusiasts, for entirely different reasons. He's a hardware sort of guy, whereas I spend almost all of my time in software. What I'm saying here is that the spatial design that makes virtual reality actually work is missing from many designs, and that this design space seems, largely, underexplored.

This seems strange to me. The human mind is very good at spatial perception and spatial memory. So much so, that a common strategy of memorizing long strings of digits is to construct a memory palace that spatially organizes specific sets of digits into mnemonic objects or concepts.

It seems equally strange, then, that our common devices continue to use such a flat design. Even as I sit here typing this, I'm using a display model that's nothing more than an extension of the Xerox PARC GUI. Screen rendering is flat and fixed-axis, with the horizontal and vertical corresponding to the boundaries of my monitor. The third axis, depth, is entirely flat, constrained to compositing windows on top of one another in priority order. Depth of field is removed almost entirely.

It's a nice, clean, accessible design that misses out on much of what the brain has to offer in terms of processing power. So, what I really said to qDot above was:

"I think we (as a species) can do this VR thing much better, if we focus on the right spatial design problems."

How, then, does one make existing technologies make sense spatially? The games industry certainly solved it for themselves: look at the jump, for example, between
Super Metroid and Metroid Prime.

This is less of a doing and more of an undoing, however. In those older 2D platformers, we were trained to the 2D abstraction. All the newer 3D games needed was to undo the flatland perspective, while retaining (and in many cases, forward-porting) all of the concepts, art, and lessons learned along the way.

I believe that this is so with the state of computing UI, as well. All we need to do is undo the flatland abstraction, while porting what we've learned along the way. I openly have no idea what form that will take, but I believe, from simple analogy and many, many experiments, that it's entirely practical.

It shouldn't surprise anyone, then, that I'm extremely excited about Google Glass, and to a lesser extent, the Oculus Rift. The primary source of my excitement is in how they change the UI model: from a flatland perspective into an overlay of reality.

This imparts in me a sort of visceral zen that I experienced, to a lesser degree, in Second Life. Even with its clumsy interface, terrible lag, and laundry list of other problems, Second Life provided for me one of the most compelling environments that I could tinker within. The sole reason: it offered me a 3D world that I could constantly alter, allowing me to bring my full mental resources to bear.

I haven't experienced quite this same feeling since then, beyond rare real life operations, working in a CAD tool like Blender, or playing the occasional 3D videogame. I miss it. But, I feel the return of this model is rapidly approaching, and it fills me with joy that others might get to finally experience this.

It seems trite of me, but I believe this small change in UI may profoundly impact how we see the world and see ourselves. That is, provided developers spend the time learning how to express their user interfaces, designs, and concepts in spatially-oriented, idiomatic ways.

Which is why I'm a software sort of dragon. I like abstraction. I enjoy playing around in the virtual ether and sharing my creations. And I just think (nay, hope) that this will let me express myself in ways that I feel are more like me.
goldkin: i has book (goldkin bookly)
As an infovore, one of my biggest difficulties is prioritizing the information that I need for daily decision making. I receive and digest about 150 new articles a day from 154 separate news feeds (after several pruning passes). When I balance that against the social overhead of IRC, Email, Twitter, Google Plus, LiveJournal, and Dreamwidth, plus my reading and study buffers, that's a massive undertaking.

It probably comes as no surprise, then, that I simply don't read it all. Instead, I employ several heuristics to help me prioritize, in the form of rules that make reading less choreful and more pleasant to read and respond to.

From a high level, the system is very simple. I deploy two components: one to notify immediately when someone contacts me over any medium (pushing all notifications to my iPhone), and a second that packages up only the important parts and sends them to me each morning. It works quite well, and it deliberately skips the memetic trivia of he-said-she-said-cat-video that bogs down so much of social media.

The best part of the second category is running my own personal newspaper. I make liberal use of Calibre Periodicals and Yahoo Pipes to automatically send things to my Kindle every morning at 8AM, and then carry that around with me and to read over the rest of the day. It's gloriously simple, and it pars things down to just my interests, which I supplement with The News (I use the Seattle Times) in a separate periodical.

For the nosy, here's a selection of what I download daily, ordered by section number:

  • Sythyry's Journal
    Really, can you argue with the musings of a little blue lizard wizard? I certainly can't, and I'm sure xir translator, [ profile] bard_bloom, would agree. Oh, but this will be switching protagonists soon.

  • LiveJournal Friends Feed
    Public posts from my friends on LJ. Note this version doesn't actually include my account name, but it's obvious if you're reading here!

  • Coding Horror
    Jeff Atwood is simply inspiring and wonderful. If you're even vaguely interested in how computer programming works, read him.

  • Everything2 Cool Archive
    A wonderful little feed from a proto-Wikipedia. E2 continues to provide random inspiration, because its noders are literate, insightful, and surprisingly comprehensive.

  • Fark
    For when I just need to laugh at the world.

    Bad summaries for tech news start here. Slashdot remains useful for figuring out what the rumor mill is talking about, though is better if you like the nuts and bolts instead. I keep both.

  • The Consumerist
    Retail and service provider PSAs, with the occasional (and blessedly skippable) cat thread.

  • GrokLaw
    Once dedicated almost exclusively to SCO v. Novell, GrokLaw is still one of the best sources for interesting tech legal news. (Good luck, Samsung. Sincerely.)

  • The Volokh Conspiracy
    And for all other interesting legal happenings in the US, I read here.

  • Daily MTG
    Article feed for the latest happenings with Magic: The Gathering. This is basically a puzzle feed for me, because the metagame is just so combinatorially interesting.

  • Nintendo Life
    I'm also a Nintendo fanboy. My first game console was an NES, so I suppose my experience has been tinted slightly.

  • Futility Closet
    A daily selection of historical curiosities and word or chess puzzles. It's much higher quality than newsprint publications of the same, too.

  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
    It's something like XKCD meets Calvin and Hobbes in a mad toboggan race against killer snowmen. I read XKCD, too, because I'm exposed to it everywhere else.

  • The Old New Thing
    Microsoft's own Raymond Chen ranting about Windows. This is always a special treat, because it illustrates why and how Windows is so Byzantinian. It's just plain interesting.

(Notable bits that are missing: Reddit (I use an official client instead), private entries for LiveJournal (ditto), and Dreamwidth reading (I use the web interface occasionally).

It all ends up nicely syndicated into a Kindle newspaper that I can download from my bedside and start reading in the morning. And I enjoy that; it gives me a start to what's going on in the world, without making me feel overwhelmed.

What do you read daily, and how do you make it work for you? I'm curious.
goldkin: goldkin tranquil (goldkin tranquil)
One of the most interesting things about being otherkin is, alongside therians and similar groups, we're among the few that can substantively explain what it's like to be more than human. While our condition is one firmly rooted within the human experience, it also transcends beyond, letting loves and experiences we'd otherwise not express help define whom we are.

I'm not sure why that seems fundamentally broken to some people. When you strip out all of the mysticism, woo, and notions of past lives and prior existences from the equation, what you're left with is this group of people interested in simulating how they wish they could be. It's quirky, it's weird, and in many cases it's outright kinky, but it says as much about the capabilities of humanity as it does about the attempts to transcend it. We're just a group that, given half the chance, might want to shed the mantle of humanity entirely.

I'm not sure why I feel the need to express that. I think a lot of it has to do with this "is otherkin/is not otherkin" dichotomy, where people still aren't certain who is "genuine enough" to receive consideration for their beliefs. And, in the midst of the very real possibility of being wrong about all of this past-life woo, it's good to have a solid base that defines that which I am.

I guess I don't feel shame for being otherkin, even if everything I believe about myself were unequivocally proven wrong. In my minds eye, it remains the person whom I wish to be. Through simulations, it remains the person whom experiences have led me to be. And in that sense, it ceases to be this past-rooted thing, instead becoming that whom I am.

But, unrelated to all of this, let's stop to celebrate the small victories. And, for all of you in the states: I hope you had a happy and safe 4th of July.
goldkin: A goldkin squishie? By Jirlae? Here? Surely, you jest! (goldkin squishie awake)
When I am done with my current commission, I will be divesting of my time in 3D art and design. It's as simple as that. Its reasoning, less so.

For the longest time, I had wished for a future where graphical representations of self would reign supreme. By this, I mean the full monty, augmented reality, rawr-I'm-a-dragon sort or existence in which we'd blend ourselves with our technology and discover just how far the rabbit hole goes. I call this an embracing of "complex media": anything that primarily and actively requires user immersion to understand the message. Videogames fall into this category, for example.

In hindsight, I don't see that as anything approaching unrealistic, and certainly not by modern technology... but it's just not what was ultimately successful and practical as the primary mode of expression for ideas and the culture of the Internet. That view would learn to understand and embrace human laziness, and, slowly, I've come to respect that.

A large part of this is the pain of specification. The idea of defining a world exactly, right down to its dimensions, behaviors, and microscopic layers, is simply tedious to do in complex graphical form. Spoken and written language, and to a lesser extent image and video content, seem to be much faster methods of conveyance for a much larger audience of people. This is precisely because of the lossy and simulative qualities available to the human mind, which enables it to grasp concepts quickly and easily from asynchronous, targeted culture than something that's always on and just sort of running in the background.

What works for complex media, then, is repeatability. Complex media is much better at capturing a certain shared qualia of the setting, packaging it up, and repeat-broadcasting it memetically throughout society. This is why videogames and Pixar-like immersive animations are as popular as they are -- they're able to document large swathes of culture and share them quickly, effectively, and in elegant ways that text media, graphical slide shows, and YouTube poop can only offer glimpses of. They can be unabashedly and knowingly epic. That has value.

But, at the same time, they're difficult to prototype in and outright expensive to work with. While complex media makes polished, organic use of the brain's spatial cortex when presented, their creation and delivery is often ploddingly slow. And, almost bitingly ironically, it just seems that the written word and these small bits of culture strewn about are better at conveying abstract concepts and elements of expression than simulations and ARGs, which I'd originally tinkered with. Well enough, I suppose.

Over time, I've sort of migrated from the repeatability camp over to the prototyping one. I like new experiences. I like sharing my ideas quickly, then flitting off on a whim to new ones. And I find it more healthy for me to try believing in six impossible ideas before breakfast than focusing on just the one and getting it perfect.

So, I dropped the stale vision that complex media would rule our world. Interestingly, it marked the end of a longstanding ambition for me. That ambition began with a conversation I had in what was then Horizons: Empire of Istaria, with Narse (yes, that Narse) when he was just beginning to futz around with his earliest illustrations.

In that conversation, we hashed out our two separate paths. Argued about, really. His view was that he didn't really know what he'd be doing with his illustrations, but he enjoyed them and his then-abilities, so he continued making them. My position was that I believed these crazy videogames and all-embracing visions of self would slowly become our world, so I would make 3D in order to embrace them. Then, as we slowly fell out of touch with one another (we had many more conversations in the meantime), we went our separate ways.

I became a sensation in Second Life and, slowly, faded into obscurity. He, well... you probably know by now, if you're reading here. Suffice it that one of these things was more popular and more expressive, and I don't believe it was just the porn that did it.*

Rather, I believe it's a simple matter of expressiveness and prior expression. So, I'll be giving up the 3D to see where text and basic drawing take me for a while. As far as hobbies go, I hope it works out.

* And I still wish him well, especially in light of recent events, though we haven't talked in nearly 8 years now. I kind of wish I could get ahold of him again in a bizarre showing of camaraderie and friendship. Not because he's become such a spectacularly popular porn artist now, but because he was one of those interesting people I liked to talk to all those years ago.

October 2015

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