Exsting implementations which deserve a higher mindshare


Can open source games be any good? Most open source games are relatively small and simple, but the open source movement has produced some gems over the years, such as Battle for Wesnoth and Neverball. Blender’s Project Apricot is an example of a game developed using a new model of collaborative funding (DVD pre-orders) which was previously successfully used for open source 3D movie productions.

If you’re interested in keeping track of the progress of open source gaming, LibregameWiki is a great place to go. Sadly, many of the open source games it reports on aren’t considered notable enough for Wikipedia. In addition to the games themselves and the people who make them, LibregameWiki also writes about game development contests like RubyWeekend, which have recently become a source of lots of nice, open source mini-games.

Apple Officially Evil

Jon Johansen says it best.

It’s time to completely boycott Apple Computer products. Their consumer-hostile lock-in/lock-out tactics are despicable.

Project Peach Pre-Orders Approach 1000

Project Peach is the latest “open source movie” that will be made by the good folks behind Blender, an open source 3D content creation suite. Unlike the first movie, Elephants Dream (which was codenamed “Project Orange”), Project Peach will have a cute story with cute furry animals. Like Elephants Dream, Peach will be released under Creative Commons Attribution License, allowing anyone to use any part of the work for any purpose.

People who pre-order the Peach DVD before October 1 can have their name listed in the credits. They’ve already taken almost a thousand pre-orders. What this means, in simple terms, is that the Blender Institute now has enough reputation to fund free culture projects to the tune of EUR 30-50K through online donations. Not huge, but still pretty exciting. & paying for free culture

Micropledge is a new platform for pooling resources to develop software. Users can pledge money towards the development of a specific project; the money is only paid if the pledgers vote that the project has been successfully implemented. Note that you have to transfer money to Micropledge before you can pledge it towards any specific project; this largely eliminates the risk of pledge fraud, but also reduces the likelihood of spontaneous pledges.

I’ve started an example Micropledge for a MediaWiki extension which I would consider very useful, an RSS extension for namespaces with smart quality filtering.

Micropledge is part of a growing number of sites and services that combine Web 2.0 style social networking and slick UIs with mechanisms for fundraising and pledging towards specific goals. Pledgebank is a universal pledging service (without built-in payment processing), whereas Fundable is a platform for goal-oriented fundraising. I’ve blogged before about, which tries to connect people concerned about certain causes with non-profit organizations that relate to them. When it comes to widgets, ChipIn makes it easy to embed dynamic fundraising boxes into any website. And there are a number of Facebook applications as well.

Of course, free culture does not mean that people do not get paid; it means that the cultural works people create are not encumbered by monopoly rights. Distributed funding mechanisms are one of many ways in which people can and do get paid for authoring works which are freely available to everyone, in perpetuity. It remains to be seen which ones of these new services will be successful in the long run. I’d also love to see some pilot projects in the area of content development on Wikimedia Foundation projects.

Beyond usability, one key question seems to be: Why would people visit a pledging platform in the first place? It seems clear that many people would do so in order to start a pledge, but how do you get people there to join an existing effort? Wikipedia and eBay could gain popularity because they offer things people want: information or goods/services. It seems much harder to match people searching for a particular application to the relevant pledge on

Instead of trying to generate attention for hundreds of small pledges, I suspect that it may be more effective to focus attention on a broader cause, and to let an interested core community decide how the pooled resources can be used in service of that cause — especially if you have some credibility from prior endeavors. Campaigns like “Let’s create a world-class open source game” or “Let’s massively improve the state of open source drivers for graphics hardware”, if backed by a credible non-profit organization like the FSF, might motivate many people to give without requiring individual donors to think too much about every single step it takes to achieve the larger goal.

A real-world example of this model is Project Peach, an open source / free content 3D animated movie project by the good folks behind Blender. People who want to see the film done can pre-order the DVD; those who want to get involved in the details are also encouraged to do so. Having already successfully produced one open source movie, Elephants Dream, the Blender folks have the credibility to pull it off again. My only criticism of the project is that it does not seem to aim significantly higher than the previous one.

That said, the Micropledge model might still work very well for solving very specific problems that would never be addressed under the umbrella of a larger initiative, provided that the instigator of a pledge manages to network with those who have the same problem.

Interesting historical perspective: An Economy for Giving Everything Away.

Read Rice Boy

Surreal brilliance.

I dream of the day the best webcomics are turned into open source movies. 😉

Piqs: CC-BY Photo Repository

Bryan Tong Minh points out that his cool Flickr/Wikimedia Commons Upload Tool now also supports Piqs , which is a database of CC-BY licensed photographs. It’s really good to see the proliferation of free content licenses as a default for user uploads.

Terrorist idiots

Portrait of the Modern Terrorist as an Idiot
by Bruce Schneier:

So these people should be locked up … assuming they are actually guilty, that is. Despite the initial press frenzies, the actual details of the cases frequently turn out to be far less damning. Too often it’s unclear whether the defendants are actually guilty, or if the police created a crime where none existed before.

The JFK Airport plotters seem to have been egged on by an informant, a twice-convicted drug dealer. An FBI informant almost certainly pushed the Fort Dix plotters to do things they wouldn’t have ordinarily done. The Miami gang’s Sears Tower plot was suggested by an FBI undercover agent who infiltrated the group. And in 2003, it took an elaborate sting operation involving three countries to arrest an arms dealer for selling a surface-to-air missile to an ostensible Muslim extremist. Entrapment is a very real possibility in all of these cases.


Gapminder is a highly useful tool for visualizing and analyzing human development statistics.

An Adventurer is You!

I love it when I discover utterly bizarre and wonderfully unique worlds on the Internet previously unknown to me. And of course, as is so often the case, I did so when browsing Wikipedia. Specifically, in the article about NetHack which I check occasionally for updates to this deeply fascinating comptuer game classic, I found a reference to another game called Kingdom of Loathing I head never heard of. The article is pretty informative, though I think the intro written by the game’s designers gives you a better feel for the game. 😉

Essentially, KoL is a browser-based role playing game and online community, but instead of fighting giant rats or hordes of the undead, your enemies are sabre-toothed limes, ninja snowmen, and fluffy rabbits. Items (“filthy corduroys”) and character classes (“disco bandits”) are equally bizarre. But what is the most surprising (and perhaps concerning) is the number of active players. The KoL community is huge, with more than 2 million messages posted to the game’s forums, and thousands of players logged in at a time. The community is further sustained by large fan websites, “clans”, and frequent real-life meetings. The game is financially supported by donations and merchandise.

What makes it, to me, more fascinating than other similar browser-based game communities is the incredible level of surrealism and satire. It is in some ways a complete abstraction of certain RPG core principles like quests, skills, levels, magic, all these elements being replaced by jokes and nonsense. The visuals are literally doodles and stick figures, and interactivity is limited by the minimal browser interface. Still, in spite of the lack of an environment that could possibly be immersive without additional drug use, all the core RPG mechanisms seem to be as addictive as ever to its user base (though I would imagine that the humor also helps).

Within Wikipedia, factions often dispute the usefulness of articles about “non-notable” web phenomena like this one, because they tend to not receive significant coverage outside the web’s micromedia. I’m glad Wikipedia has an article about KoL, especially because no other place would provide me with a neutral, comprehensive summary of such a bizarre subculture. Indeed, I hope that the wikisphere will encourage and drive original research into these topics — not in Wikipedia itself, but in other spaces like Wikiversity and Wikinews. Even within Wikipedia, I hope the bias against using primary sources in documenting projects like KoL will decrease. Indeed, as I mentioned previously, I think wikis have the potential to take referencing to new levels.

And why, you might ask, is it even important to understand such an obscure, silly phenomenon? Why is it important to understand gaming culture, furries, or TV fandom? Should we not dismiss such embarrassing cultural idiocy, and lead humanity towards a golden age of a new enlightenment? I believe in the latter, but not in the former. If we want to advance as a species, we must understand what makes us tick. We must develop models that help us to explain why people form online communities around the idea of hunting menacing citrus fruits. If we can accurately predict these motivations and their underlying patterns, we can make use of this knowledge to build sustainable communities dedicated to human progress. Should, for example, a project like Wikipedia make use of RPG-like mechanisms to build motivation for routine tasks? Probably not, but right now we are stumbling in the dark when it comes to predicting the effects particular mechanisms might have, because we have no empirically sound framework to place them in. We can use trial and error, but the more errors we make, the harder it gets to justify more trials.

Information gathered about a project like KoL should eventually be part of a massive database with an overlaid ontology which allows us to compare it to similar communities (online and offline), analyze growth patterns, see relevant case studies of conflicts and procedures, and so on. Psychologists, economists, sociologists, historians, neurobiologists, and researchers from many other disciplines ought to work together in developing unified models we need to engineer the rules and structures of networked communities systematically towards certain ends. That will require science itself to mesh into a networked community, independent of institutions and disciplines. We see the early beginnings of this in the wikisphere, but also in the open access movement with PLoS leading the way in web-based innovation of the scientific process. But there are still great challenges to overcome, ranging from proprietary licensing and closed data over institutional vanity and academic arrogance to short-sightedness in policies for communities like Wikipedia.

And that’s why you should care about ninja snowmen. :-)

Zotero & Wikipedia

… perfect together.

Zotero rocks. It should be part of the toolset of any serious Wikipedian.