Sure haven’t posted here in a while – I have been keeping busy in meatspace with my family in sunny, pleasantly weird Boulder. Also, I am currently building awesome software at That’s it – carry on!IMG_20150523_122702

My Favorite Game Design Blogs

Paul Sottosanti – Paul Sottosanti is my friend and a brilliant card/board/video game designer. My favorite article is his Tiny Adventures teardown, which has a lot of good talk about social gaming especially.

Sirlin – Sirlin is another board, card, and video game designer. Sirlin’s articles are super crunchy. My favorite article from this blog is Playing to Win in Badminton, a response to the 2012 Olympic Badminton debacle.

Andy Looney – Andy Looney is a very inventive and creative game designer. I especially like his personal Game Design Principles.

I’m always on the lookout for more, comment if you’ve got em.

Stop Not Linking, Forever.

Frequently, blogs copy a news article, reword it, and repost it wholesale, without adding any new research. They very often lose information or veracity in the transliteration of the post. This is a useless practice that needs to stop. Marco Arment, the instapaper developer, says that you should cite your sources visibly – not only does it make you more honest, it provides more raw information for the reader.

There is a tendency among spurious hacks of the world to present someone else’s idea as ones own. As much as I hate the wrong and harmful idea of patents (the exclusive right granted by a government to an inventor to manufacture, use, or sell an invention for a certain number of years), plagiarism is a different beast – in news media especially. The crime here is some part lack of attribution, and some part loss of information.

Arment has this to say about the phenomenon:

The most ethically and professionally sound practice when you have little value to add to the source story is the linked-list approach. Give a teaser quote and a prominent link. Make it clear that you didn’t write the target article, there’s more to be read there, and here’s how to get to it.Don’t replace it. Send your readers there.If you’re truly providing value, you should have the confidence to send your audience away, knowing that they’ll come back to you. If that’s not the case, don’t bother publishing.

It’s true. If you want to pontificate, great! If you want to build on someone else’s point, fine. Cite your sources and don’t massage facts, or you aren’t a journalist. And credit the original research, or you’re a plagiarist. Easy.

Been a while since I rapped atcha

I love working at Sporcle and I love building Dargarth but even more than those things I love knowing that I’m about to have a kid! Please do forgive me for not posting much lately and in the near future. As my artistic friend Eric Hill puts it, people who spend a lot of time working really neglect their blogs. Such is life in 2012. I am a lucky, lucky person.

Code as an Emergent Medium

After however many years you’d like to consider computational instruction to have been around, it looks like it is now ready to be taken seriously as a medium of expression meaningful to humans as well as machines. In our plainly mathwise languages, we have always had the means to convey nearly as much as we’d like (convenience aside) but I really think that we’re taking advantage of our ability to express ourselves in code beyond what’s necessary to use machines as tools.


  • high obfuscation
    It is left to the reader to find more examples, but here is one example of a recognized and heady performance in the field of perl poetry. The selection of perl is not a coincidence, but stems from perl developers’ frequent concern for taste and desire for elegance.
  • more perl
    An open forum for aspiring perl code-poets. Very open.
  • lisp poetry
    Lisp is a dynamically typed language, meaning its data types are defined sort of transiently. When this page doesn’t bother to decide whether it is for poetry about code or code that reads poetically, that’s hilarious.
  • redbox.c
    Slightly more esoteric but of great illustrative value is this C program from 2001, heavy with nostalgia even then.


  • obfuscated voting machine code
    Premise: In a bid to point out the security risks in closed-source voting machines, entrants to this contest devise the most convincingly correct yet reliably ‘rigged’ code.
  • DeCSS
    Rogue programmers create code that allows people to fetch information from dvds, and wind up in civil and criminal court for copyright infringement. The code is open sourced, enthusiastically disseminated on the Internet, printed on t-shirts.
  • meta
    Said code is transcribed into English in a peculiar way. Just for effect?
  • 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0
    Termed ‘the illegal number’, this blu-ray encryption key was the subject of a similar dispute on a large scale in 2007.

The list of so-far symbolically powerful code continues, but it’s as organic as you imagine, and media crosses well – linux/init/main.c and so on.

Who’s got the trees?

I was told this story by a friend years ago, at my first full time software gig:

New College, Oxford is of rather late foundation, hence the name. It was probably founded around the late 14th Century. It has, like other colleges, a large dining hall with big oak beams across the ceiling, yes? These might be two feet square, forty-five feet long.

Some five to ten years ago, I am told, some busy entomologist went up into the roof with a penknife and poked at the beams and found that they were filled with beetles. This was reported to the College Council, who met in some dismay, as where would they get beams of that caliber nowadays?

One of the Junior Fellows stuck his neck out and suggested that there might be on College lands some oak. These colleges are endowed with pieces of land scattered across the country. So they called in the College Forester, who of course had not been near the College itself for some years, and asked him about oaks.

And he pulled his forelock and said, “Well, sirs, we was wonderin’ when you’d be askin’.”

Upon further enquiry it was discovered that when the College was founded, a grove of oaks had been planted to replace the beams in the dining hall when they became beetley, because oak beams always become beetly in the end. This plan had been passed down from one Forester to the next for four hundred years. “You don’t cut them oaks. Them’s for the College Hall.”

A nice story. That’s the way to run a culture.

~Gregory Bateson

Like most great stories, this one is part truth and part fiction, and my favorite version (the one above) is from here.

e-Classroom software sucks

It really does! You know who’s making it better, though? Moodle is making it better. In the software industry, selling to large organizations means sales, not product refinement. Software written for the healthcare, education, and government sectors is especially bad, because they’re especially large customers. A better approach? Build e-classroom software from the ground up, let users and volunteers refine it.

In this age of on-campus Burger Kings and Starbucks, I think it’s great whenever academia adopts the more peer-reviewed, noncommercial approach. Two more areas that I think we could improve with openness, collective ownership, and fairness:

  • Textbooks: Currently, this is a hell of a racket for publishers, at the expense of both students, who pay every semester, and authors, who get a raw deal on the rights to their work.
  • Journals: Professors write articles, give them to publishers for free, and the journal is sold back to schools for absurd prices. Students get to read the journals if their school has access, the information is kept hidden from the rest of society.


A potential customer?

My name is Kristen [redacted] from Memphis Tn, I have an iterative idea the Apple community could defiantly use. I dnt know how to contact someone official but I want to pitch my idea and the this could change the world of the GPS system ! Please contact me Kristen [email redacted] as soon as possible ….. serious enquiries only. Thank!

Sent from Garminfone by T-Mobile.

I’m guessing this is another equity-only gig.

My Time at MokaSocial

For twelve months, I was part of a startup with Koa Metter, a great designer and friend. I could write/yell/brag/bemoan reams about it, but I mostly I’m just fondly remembering sitting in coffee shops and writing apps with him. Apps don’t come easy, that’s for sure, and it’s lonely out there.

MokaSocial started as a product company, and our first few apps were promising – but not quiiiite delivering for two incomes. So we started contracting, which was even more fun, if a little more stressful. We got to build mobile apps for the New York Public Library, and the American Heart Association, and a ton of other awesome clients. Both parts were great, we learned a ton, made some cash, and got positions we love: Koa’s at HTC and I’m at Sporcle. All in all, the whole thing couldn’t have been better.

I sure did love being part of  a startup – Koa and I have a few loose ends to wrap up, and a fucking killer robot game to finish with our favorite Game Developer Emory Myers, but man, it was a hell of a ride. Something I’d wanted to do for years.