Monthly Archives: November 2012

Nintendo Confronts A Changed Video Game World

With the launch of the new Wii U console next week, Nintendo hopes to reassert itself in the gaming world.  Writing in the New York Times, Nick Wingfield pits the aged Mario and Link against the hordes of cheap, accessible mobile games. (In this analogy Angry Birds are goombas and skulltulas.)

After Nintendo “posted the first loss in its era as a video games company,” Wingfield outlines the business challenges facing Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.

Games on mobile devices and Facebook are free or mere pennies.  The time investment for users is much lower for mobile games.  And the multi-screen dynamic that is increasingly more common in US households (TV + ipad + smart phone) squeezes consoles out of the equation.

(At one point Wingfield says that it can take “minutes” to boot up your Xbox and set up your Halo match as opposed to a few seconds to turn on your iphone’s field runners.  This is perhaps a very sad and oblique reference to our country’s pronounced ADHD.)

Citing industry analysts, Wingfield questions Nintendo’s decision to not develop games for android or iOS (imagine playing Mario on your iphone).

The piece is generally optimistic towards the Japanese brand, but it tries to frame the original Nintendo Wii as the company’s last great achievement.

While the onslaught of cheap, downloadable games is eating the console’s market share, Angry Birds will never replace Zelda (with games that are 99 cents, you get what you pay for).

The article helps explain key economic trends that are reshaping the industry.

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20 Tweeters Sued For Libel

During the broadcast of BBC’s Newsnight earlier this month, the network erroneously accused a “leading Tory politician” of child molestation. After users on social media amplified the false information and incorrectly identified the mystery man as Alistair McAlpine, the former Conservative Party treasurer is now seeking legal recourse.

The Economist offers some background and the Guardian reports on the 20 influential Twitter users who are being sued by Mr. McAlpine.

Interestingly, those who tweeted defamatory remarks about Mr. McAlpine but who have fewer than 500 followers were offered the option of making a charitable donation to avoid legal challenges.

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From Essential Characters To Mixed Media Madness: The Devolution Of Twitter

Matt Buchanan of Buzzfeed chronicles Twitter’s evolution from a microblog of 140 characters to embedded pictures, music, expanding news snippets, and a Facebookian social feed. While he has come to accept the new Twitter, and isn’t overly critical of the changes, he questions the company’s direction.

Where users and third party developers helped shape early key functions (hashtags, retweets, direct messages), Buchanan views the new Twitter as less open to outside engineers and more domineering towards the user experience.

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The Password As Paradox

After his entire digital life was hacked, writer Mat Honan pokes holes in the idea of the password. Logging in is supposed to be both easy and seamless for the user, but also private and hard to breach. But these two features are at cross purposes. Honan explores the paradox of the password.

Let’s say you’re on AOL. All I need to do is go to the website and supply your name plus maybe the city you were born in, info that’s easy to find in the age of Google. With that, AOL gives me a password reset, and I can log in as you.

First thing I do? Search for the word “bank” to figure out where you do your online banking. I go there and click on the Forgot Password? link. I get the password reset and log in to your account, which I control. Now I own your checking account as well as your email.

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The “G” Stands For Government: What Are Google’s Criteria For Handing Over Gmail?

As the Petraeus scandal grows more absurd, it’s hard not to see the irony: our head spy-guy snooped on by a secretive government agency with expanding surveillance powers.

Writing in Forbes, Andy Greenberg notes that the FBI’s search of Paula Broadwell’s email was just 1 out of 7,172 fulfilled requests of Google handing over its users’ data to the US government. (That 7,172 stat was just in the first 6 months of 2012.)

Greenberg goes on to say that unlike Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo, Google puts out a semi-annual transparency report disclosing such information.

In a statement Greenberg received from a Google representative, the criteria for honoring government requests are summarized: “the requests come in a written form, are sent from an appropriate agency, cite a criminal case and are sufficiently narrow in their demands, both in terms of which users are affected and what time frame of data is requested.”

It’s important to note that while Google is trying to appear both compliant to law enforcement and protective of their users, Greenberg reminds us that there is no strict legal standard over the data these internet companies hold.

As journalists and elected officials question why Ms. Broadwell’s email was searched in the first place,* many tech observers and industry professionals are calling for legal reform in what is known as Digital Due Process.

*While the FBI states that Ms. Broadwell’s harassing emails to Jill Kelley were enough to warrant investigation, many see this as dubious pretext and police-state overreach.

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Response From A PPlanter Designer

After writing a post on the fascinating new PPlanter, one of their designers, Julia Schmitt, was kind enough to write in and provide some key details.

Hey there, I’m one of the PPlanter designers. To answer your question about how it works – there is a 5-layer filtration system built into the center module (where the urinal and sink are located) to help capture excess nutrients, pollutants, and salts prior to urine/sink-greywater being pumped into the bamboo planters. Indeed, you’re right – we could use the center urinal module with ANY nutrient/salt-tolerant plants. That’s part of what makes the system modular/reconfigurable as we describe it. For multiple urinal units, we could bring out 10+ bamboo planters, or just locate the urinal adjacent to a large garden, farm, or compost pile as long as there are plants that are nutrient/salt tolerant.

We like to point out that this project will initially be intended for festivals and food-truck confluences. Down the line, once we’ve gotten enough funding, fixed any bugs that exist, and made it more rugged, we could deploy it on streets for more permanent use by anyone and everyone.

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