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Ask Slashdot: High-School Suitable Books On How Computers Affect Society?

Woodie Something by Douglas Rushkoff (140 comments)

"Program or be Programmed". "Present Shock".

It really depends on what you're trying help the students get out of the reading. While some aspects of Sci-Fi (Gibson, et. al.) would be interesting - and many things explored in some of those novels became in some ways, science fact... their primary purpose is one of imagination. Possibly selected a few chapters as excepts for that sort of content? In the realm of non fiction - you could do a lot worse than some of Rushkoff's titles, or "In the Beginning was the Command Line" by Neal Stephenson. It's a bit dated at this point - but still interesting. A possibly better source of inspirational writing might be "The Diamond Age" by the same author.

about a year ago
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UCSD Lecturer Releases Geotagging Application For "Dangerous Guns and Owners"

Woodie Re:1 2 3 4 I declare flame war (976 comments)

since a mixture of diesel fuel and fertilizer is way the hell more dangerous than a gun could ever be.

Note that post Oklahoma City - large purchases of fertilizer and other unsophisticated bomb ingredients are, in fact tracked much more effectively than gun purchases.

We're currently entering a phase wherein the development of "big databases in the sky" (BDBS) are easier than ever. We've also entered a phase where contributing to the BDBS via portable hand-held electronics (smartphones) or wearables (Google Glass) is getting even easier. The crux of the problem here in the states revolves around issues of privacy (and the right thereto), bearing arms (and the right thereto), and free speech (...). Where does one right end and the other begin?

If it's private citizens participating in a BDBS - can your right to privacy said to have been violated? What about their right to free speech? And they have definitely not infringed on your right to bear arms (in the aforementioned case). If this were a government backed initiative - there would be problems galore, but it's not. Since you trotted out the straw man of the sex offenders - lets remember that's a government initiative, so that makes it different in means, if not the ends. One could certainly argue that such registries constitute cruel and unusual punishment (I'm not, but for the sake of argument). If we're afeared of sex offenders, why not have people convicted of DUI have a "scarlet letter" on their license plates?

I think we all see where this ends. If the government is engaged in this - it's automatically "bad". If private citizens build and offer such a service, is it automatically "bad"? In either case the ends are the same - there's now a publicly available database of information on you - which you don't have control over. How do you deal with misreported or erroneous data?

What about a Slashdot like system of moderation? Upmods and Downmods. Karma, etc.? Build a HUD into new cars, and you can autotag the dangerous drivers - and boom, up to the BDBS! Get cut-off, notice a speeder, or an erratic driver - and you could report it to the BDBS. That info would be available to your HUD, and automatically overlay onto the other drivers on the road in your field of view. You could steer clear, literally of bad drivers. But what to do about those who report everyone but themselves as bad drivers? Karma. The downside of this is we become our own surveillance state. The upside is that police could concentrate on real crime - you'd just get your tickets and auto insurance hikes in the mail.... enough of them and your drivers license gets auto-suspended.

The same sort of thing could be said about guns, and any number of other activities we engage in. I'm not sure that's a world I want to live in. But I'd also say a few reads of David Brin on privacy and how some aspects of how it's evolving might be food for thought regarding the privacy and/or transparency of things.

about a year ago
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Ask the Designers of D&D Fourth Edition

Woodie Re:Why 4th Edition? (482 comments)

3rd edition is crap. Most of the soul of the game is gone. The books look nice but it's not D&D. It's a bad imitation with D&D on the cover. Come on, magic using dwarves, evil rangers, and wizards carrying swords. That goes against the very core of the game.


My question is this then. How many "house rules" did you play with in order to accommodate characters that didn't quite fit within the rules? One of the issues that seemed to crop up over and over in pickup games, and long running campaigns and the occasional CON - was that people always seemed to end up having a plethora of house rules to play the game the way they wanted to. As a consequence those rules tended to "break" certain aspects of the game - as the original rules were pretty brittle.

While the 3rd edition allows for magic using dwarfs, etc. There is nothing that says your campaign must allow it. Separating the setting from the rules was not a bad thing - as some people would like to play in settings that don't necessarily follow the preconceived stereotypes.

Some of the better changes in 3rd edition were the increases in consistency. Chiefest amongst those changes was that higher is always better. A higher AC, a higher attack roll, a higher skill check, etc. Recall earlier editions where a negative AC was desirable, and you wanted to roll low for skill checks; yet for almost everything else you wanted to roll high - saving throws, attacks, damage, etc. Another big win was standardizing on the D20 for all checks. No more D100 for thieves skills and (if you used em) psionics.

However the bane of 3rd edition was knowing what and how many modifiers applied when. With each new supplement you entered into a complex realm - with players stacking modifiers and hoping the GM wouldn't notice. A complex game of cat-and-mouse ensued with players and GMs countering modifiers such that in high level play up to 10 or more could apply to a single attack roll.

In any case - yes 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 3.5 aren't the same. Some of my best memories are playing 1st edition - inconsistencies and all. And then 2nd edition seemed to ratify all the usual house rules people had been using; most of which came from Dragon magazine. And it was good. Upgrading to 3rd edition was good - although it was painful to lose a lot of setting information that had been acquired over the years for 2nd edition. I appreciate each edition for what it is.

more than 6 years ago

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