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A Battle of Wits On the Net's Effect On the Mind

happyemoticon Re:we were scooped on this one (218 comments)

I'd say slashdot's average post quality is a lot more informed than, say, 4Chan.

Oh yeah?

more than 4 years ago

Caffeine Addicts Get No Additional Perk, Only a Return To Baseline

happyemoticon Re:Makes sense (506 comments)

I gave up coffee a few months ago and I totally found this to be the case in terms of the alertness. I'm up like a shot at 6:30 every morning.

The funny thing was that after years of being a regular caffeine user, once I had gotten through the withdrawal phase (and I suppose my chemistry had returned to normal), I felt significantly less edgy than normal, and not in a good way. I was fully awake, but my experiences seemed bland and tasteless. I had gotten used to being a little anxious all the time, and everything seemed banal by comparison. Even more distressing, I felt like this edginess was an integral part of my personality. "You're going to start wearing pastels and listening to pop music," a friend of mine said.

It's hard to say whether I'm now back to my normal level of edginess. I haven't stopped listening to metal, though.

more than 4 years ago

The Race To Beer With 50% Alcohol By Volume

happyemoticon Re:Is this really beer (297 comments)

I'm inclined to agree with you, but at the same time, freeze-distilled beer isn't quite whiskey. Distilled spirits have a pleasant purity of taste because a lot of the larger molecules that give beer its characteristics don't distill. I like the guy above's term "Bierschnaps."

At the same time, I think the category of "beer" should include more than just Reinheitsgebot beers, at least internationally. That leaves out all sorts of interesting, traditional brews such as oatmeal stouts, Hefeweizen, and many belgian ales. In my opinion it's more adulteration of the time-honored malt-mash-sparge-boil-ferment process that makes it invalid than the addition of large amounts of adjuncts. I certainly wouldn't call a nice hefeweizen or an oatmeal stout a "malt beverage" or some such.

more than 4 years ago

The Sopranos Meet H-1B In New Jersey

happyemoticon Re:Let it begin (324 comments)

They should be able to quickly and easily get a citizen-track visa or green card, but if we just grant citizenship to everybody who wants it, people will just be citizens for as long as it is convenient - say, as long as it takes to acquire the knowledge to offshore a process or function. There is every reason to give green cards to hardworking people who want to live and die in America, but I can't fathom why we want guest workers - except to hold down domestic wages.

more than 4 years ago

Study Finds That Video Games Hinder Learning In Young Boys

happyemoticon Re:What about the parents? (278 comments)

There are still alternative explanations. For example, you can't measure a system without affecting it. It could be that the parents in the Playstation group thought that letting their kids play with them as much as they wanted was part of the study, and thus did not curtail their activities.

Maybe it was a selection bias: since "Weis' new study involved 64 boys aged 6 to 9 who didn't currently own a video game system," it could be that the drop in performance had something to do with an initial overindulgence in video games, whereas their lifestyle before had been more spartan. Or, since kids who are 6-9 and don't have a video game system of some sort are more likely to be working poor, the parents in this category were simply overworked and didn't have the energy to tell them to get away from the Playstation.

I realize that I'm playing Devil's Advocate here to some extent, but I do think there's reason to doubt the strength of the correlation. There's a reason that scientists are always extremely cautious about assigning causation.

more than 4 years ago

Do Your Developers Have Local Admin Rights?

happyemoticon Re:Yeah. (605 comments)

There's nothing that pisses off a supervisor like, "I couldn't get anything done this week because the guys who have admin access to [insert name of vital but poorly-integrated resource] were on vacation."

more than 4 years ago

Is Console Gaming Dying?

happyemoticon Re:No (496 comments)

  • Children pick up video games very quickly. Children are naturally drawn to video games of all kinds because the idea of moving a controller and having something on a screen respond is almost magical to a child. Don't you remember being a child?
  • There is a constant supply of children.
  • Old people die.
  • Therefore, both the amount and percentage of people who can play real games is constantly increasing.

Once you know how to play one game in a particular genre you're pretty much set. Only once in a while do you encounter a game with a real learning curve, like Demon's Souls or Ninja Gaiden, and even then, gamers will STILL play them because it's actually refreshing to feel like you're LEARNING rather than just storming in and facerolling a bunch of bad guys who are trivially different from the ones in the last game.

Furthermore, developers won't stop making hardcore games because the casual space is bigger (and I doubt it is, because hardcore gamers buy MANY more games per year). As long as there's enough of a market to make a profit, there will be games. Look at Galactic Civilizations 2, or Sins of a Solar Empire, or EVE Online. There aren't as many people who want to conquer the galaxy as there are people who want to stop terrorists in Modern Warfare II, but the games are there because the customers are there.

more than 4 years ago

Google Tries Not To Be a Black Hole of Brilliance

happyemoticon Re:Evidently, they do hire idiots (322 comments)

Google shouldn't be hiring only the best and the brightest for the same reason that the world wouldn't necessarily be better if everyone were a genius.

The world - like any medium-to-large-company - is full of work that is not engaging and interesting enough to hold the attention of a truly brilliant person, at least not for very long. What you have then is either a bored, angry, disgruntled genius, or a genius who's doing the bare minimum to not get fired. Either way you're wasting money by hiring an overqualified worker.

And what happens if you try to let all of these brilliant people be creative at the same time? That doesn't work either, because most hotshot ideas take more than one guy to implement in a reasonable way. Someone's ideas have to get grounded - and which ones do will likely be the result of politics, because brilliant people are usually every bit as irrational when it comes to their own interests as average folks. Or you have a hundred thousand half-finished tools of questionable value.

more than 4 years ago

Modeling the Economy As a Physics Problem

happyemoticon Re:Society Expands Up to Constraints of the System (452 comments)

That's not a very good metaphor. With religion, our actions have no bearing on the existence of metaphysical truths or deities, whereas our actions can have an impact on the state of technology.

Faith in technology is very different from religious faith. Think of it as a hypothesis. We observe, through reliable historical documents as well as the current state of the world, that in the past non-military technology has improved the condition of the human race. Based on this robust evidence, we might safely conclude that this will continue to be the case, at least in the near future. It's a fairly simple leap of faith, and one grounded in observable reality. In my opinion, if we fail, it will not be because we've already reached a hard limit to human intellectual achievement, but because we've lost faith in technology and incentivizing non-productive economic activity (banking, lawyering, etc).

Ultimately, the solution will require more than technology. It will require an economy that is capable of being stable when in net equilibrium and population controls and that sort of thing. But to say that we should all just give up because it's insurmountably hard to get people to stop fucking and/or use birth control isn't just pessimistic, it's nihilistic.

more than 4 years ago

The US's Reverse Brain Drain

happyemoticon Re:Sounds good to me (757 comments)

So a lot of Americans don't care about education. That should surprise no one - heck, like half of China and India are still working in agriculture.

The qualitative difference, though, is that China and India have public educational programs that separate the wheat from the chaff early on. In America, we waste huge amounts of resources educating anti-social malcontents who invariably grow up to be criminals, and, more importantly, don't want to be educated. 10% of the class makes 40% act out, and prevents the rest from learning or enjoying school. Put that 10% in a military-style education program and they might just come out productive citizens, because we have a teaching population of lily-white middle-class women, and all these thugs respect is a big, tough, loud muscular man who wants to humiliate them and make them do pushups.

It's not about the character of the American people. Sure, I'd love it if the dominant urban youth culture wasn't racist, homophobic, sexist and anti-intellectual, but we can't control that. What we can do is separate the disruptive element from the bulk, either by giving them a program that destroys their diseased individuality or by kicking them to the curb.

more than 4 years ago

Indie Game Dev On the Positive Side To DRM

happyemoticon Re:Enforcing artificial scarcity is a poor strateg (440 comments)

I think it's important to point out that a lot of the successful indie games out there are 2D, whereas most mainstream games are 3D. Creating the same level of detail in a 3D game requires exponentially greater work. Games like Braid (or even mainstream 2D titles like Odin Sphere and Guilty Gear) can be beautiful without much work - Braid was done by like 5 people, wasn't it? But to get something really beautiful in a 3d setting, you need tens of millions of dollars, and even then it might be like Heavenly Sword - breathtakingly beautiful but tragically short (At least it had Anna Torv - yum).

about 5 years ago

Schooling, Homeschooling, and Now, "Unschooling"

happyemoticon Re:So it's a fnacy nmae (1345 comments)

Far be it from me to criticize my betters (unfortunately I'm only in the top 2%), but there is no reason to assume that making public education target average students is bad. Catering to the middle might have a better net outcome than, for example, only to the very intelligent. After all, average people far outnumber smart people. Maybe public school hobbled my personal development a little bit, but I still seem to be far more successful, intelligent and talented than most people in my age group, so I must not have been harmed by it that much.

Furthermore, it seems that the assertion that people will be better off learning and investigating the world on their own assumes several things which I think are untrue.

First, that they all people (or even some people) are naturally inquisitive. There is actually some research suggesting that while children are naturally curious, it is a very small minority of kids who will naturally research and investigate and explore the world around them. Most will ask a question, or poke something, and if a glib or stimulating answer does not arise they will move on.

Second, that they will have the means to do so. School gives children access to adults with specialized knowledge, books, computers, and their peers. Even if the children have computers, who is to say that a computer is a better teacher than a physical person, especially to a child?

Third, that school provides no benefits to the child, or that these benefits can be recreated elsewhere. Look, I know some bright homeschoolers and some fundie homeschoolers. The bright ones are highly intelligent, hopelessly awkward, and naive. The fundies are impenetrably dogmatic, hopelessly awkward, and naive. Having peers, both for support and conflict, builds character and social intelligence.

Finally, I think it is very easy as a learned adult to think that structure is somehow bad and everyone would be better off without it. After all, nobody tells me what to do and I'm great! And that is true. But I impose structure upon my own life, structure which I have partially learned and partially discovered for myself. Children, it turns out, love structure. They crave it. They have no existing apparatus for understanding the world other than some very rudimentary mental tools, and structures learned from others help them to understand their world.

about 5 years ago

What Questions Should a Prospective Employee Ask?

happyemoticon Re:"Dangerous" questions (569 comments)

I always ask about realistic working hours, and I've never had someone balk at the question. Everyone wants to believe that they're a good and decent person, and managers don't want to think of themselves as slave drivers. If you ran a shop where people regularly put in 12-hour days, what would you say? "I make my employees work like dogs because I think they're human waste," or "We work long hours here, but we're at the cutting-edge, do interesting work and a have a great culture?" And plus, they'd hardly want someone to sign on who wasn't prepared to work the hours and then have to go through the hiring process again.

more than 5 years ago

Which Language Approach For a Computer Science Degree?

happyemoticon Re:Go to a "trade school" for that. Not a universi (537 comments)

I know it can be tempting, but please restrain the urge to go after my lice with a magnifying glass and a pair of tweezers.

more than 5 years ago

Is Cataclysm the Next World of Warcraft Expansion?

happyemoticon Re:The next WoW Expansion... (259 comments)

Well, one nice thing they are doing is making mounts available at level 20 (and epic mounts at level 40 if I recall), and the whole start-at-level-55 thing for Death Knights is pretty cool.

more than 5 years ago

Which Language Approach For a Computer Science Degree?

happyemoticon Re:Go to a "trade school" for that. Not a universi (537 comments)

That's like saying an Art MFA shouldn't teach any actual art in any particular medium, just hypothetical art.

There IS a distinction between the "craft" of programming in any particular language and software engineering, but in order to become a software engineer, you need to work through the medium of the language. That's the only way to access it. Knowing how to paint in oils doesn't make you a good artist, but you do have to start making art in some manner in order to get there.

more than 5 years ago

Is Cataclysm the Next World of Warcraft Expansion?

happyemoticon Re:The next WoW Expansion... (259 comments)

Naah. They'll keep coming out with new content as long as it's profitable for them to do so.

The only foreseeable problem is that, with the expansion packs, they're slowly going through every big bad they established in Warcraft 3, which makes it difficult to pull the story back together if they ever decide to do another game in the Warcraft world.

more than 5 years ago

Understanding Addiction-Based Game Design

happyemoticon Re:Subscription based addiction (308 comments)

Well then, allow me to expand my reasoning. First, there tends to be a glut of players at the level cap, since hitting the cap is pretty easy in WoW. It requires no great effort and there are rarely any setbacks. However, once you have one character at the level cap, it is disruptive to raise another character, or another, to that cap for several reasons: A. The probability that your friends will be at the same level as your leveling characters is lower; B. Playing at any normal level at endgame, even if you're just running dungeons, requires a significant additional time investment beyond the running of dungeons; and, C. The natural tendency is for players to continue running endgame content.

The network effect brought by having many friends at the level cap cannot be ignored. When you have those friends - and often it's difficult to avoid making them as you play the game - you all naturally want to do something you can all participate in, and that is endgame dungeon running and raids. From an individual's perspective, this can manifest as peer pressure, which can be quite compelling.

The additional time comes in the form of "grinding" for supplies (repair gold, respec gold, potions) as well as side activities to fill gear holes. Perhaps it's just because I played a good tank, I was constantly in demand, and ergo I was constantly getting my expensive plate ground to powder that I had to grind a lot on the side, but nonetheless, the point stands.

Finally, most of the game is an upward progression in excitement, grandeur and gameplay. The level cap represents a discontinuity in that progression - suddenly the rewards are very few and far between. The natural tendency is to attempt to continue that progression, but this requires more and more time and dedication. Additionally, players become personally attached to their characters, and want to see them not neglected.

Furthermore, I think the role of community is greater than you describe. If you mean you are always nearly anonymous in the sense that no one will ever know who your character is, I think that that is incorrect, at least having never played on one of the top-population servers. You meet people. If you have good experiences with them, you tend to play with them more. Eventually, while there are a lot of people you don't know and will never know, people's reputations get around. And because one noob is all it takes to make the game less fun, you tend to form communities. And there are other systems in place which tend to reinforce communities, such as long, progression-blocking dungeons with raid lockout timers. As the game's difficulty intensifies, these factors become more evident.

In summary, I think that it is perfectly possible and obviously healthier to play the game as you describe, but the forces of the game tend to direct players towards endgame content and the raid treadmill in most cases, and it requires actual effort to play the game in a somewhat healthy way without being tempted to excessively indulge.

more than 5 years ago

Judgement Against Microsoft Declares XML Editing Software To Be Worth $98?

happyemoticon Re:Patent Makes My Head Asplode (230 comments)

The USPTO should start denying patent applications that contain this kind of deliberately obfuscative gobbledegook. This is like describing cup of coffee as a "insulating ceramic material vessel for the transportation of central nervous system-stimulant-laden liquids of temperatures approaching gradual evaporation adapted to both manipulation and imbibation for the purposes of maximum early-hours alertness and/or circadian rhythm modulation." It's like reading Foucault.

more than 5 years ago


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