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[Comments] (1) Constellation Games Author Commentary #28, "Someone Is Wrong On The Outernet": I found this little sketch I did for Sumana during the second draft, when I first completed the chapter with Ariel and Tetsuo playing Temple Sphere. It shows the Tool of Justice guardian-caste strapped into his cockpit, upset about Tetsuo having landed on top of his ship. It also invites Sumana to enjoy peanut butter cookies.

I invite you to enjoy peanut butter cookies as well, but I don't have any prepared. Instead I made you a Twitter archive, and this commentary. The spoiler thread from last week is still open, but no one's posted to it, so perhaps the time for spoiler threads has now passed. Anyway, commentary:

Now that you've seen Your Quiescent Achievement and met You'll Only See Kis ShadowEcho!, I wanna talk a little about the Gaijin. I designed this species to force me to write outside my comfort zone. I don't get pushed that far outside my comfort zone in Constellation Games, but I'll be able to in any future Constellation stuff I write. Here's how it works:

"Vanilla" introduced the ur-Gaijin, a male named This Guy Loves Salt!, a cheerful bloke who was effectively the manservant to a foppish Inostranets named Geshmu. I was never sure what their relationship was, why This Guy Loves Salt!, a member of a post-scarcity civilization of anarchists, was willing to spend his days literally carrying around his "boss" in a briefcase. I figured it was a case of two eccentrics who'd found each other.

The tipping point away from that idea was the 2009 Star Trek reboot, which saw Montgomery Scott exiled to Hoth along with an alien Starfleet officer who Memory Alpha says is named Keenser. I wrote: "Scotty's always yelling at [Keenser], shoving him around, generally treating him like Igor... this seemed cruel and even kind of racist of Scotty." Jake Berendes responded:

anything dealing with alien races invites a weird "possibly true" style of racism. which is to say, you can just declare "these people are not intelligent" or "these people are money-grubbing schemers" or in the case of the batfaced lackey race, "they respond well to being bossed around". perhaps this is just their way, so let's not be culturally insensitive!

You can declare that, but that kind of SF racism is Star Trek bullshit, because it assumes not just that (e.g.) all Ferengi are greedy, but that something about Ferengi biology makes significant cultural or individual variation impossible. For an entire species to be that one-dimensional they'd have to be... eusocial insects... or something...

So! Some species (Aliens, Inostransi, humans) join the Constellation by dumb luck: they happened to get contacted before wiping themselves out or turning into Slow People. But most surviving species tend towards conservative, low-impact cultures (like the Dhihe Coastal Coalition of the ancient Farang) that can just hold on for tens of millions of years.

The Gaijin have the most conservative culture of all. Their basic culture and behavior are hard-coded into their genes and fine-tuned by evolution to maintain the complex kin selection that propagates their three-gendered caste system. When the Gaijin civilization that produced smart paper collapsed (probably due to an asteroid impact--I like using those), everyone was sad about all the people who died, but the collapse of civilization itself was not a big deal. The Gaijin just moved to the caves and started farming, because that's what you do to survive when there's no electricity.

Gaijin don't form a hive mind, like Them; they're pure individuals. But the individuals only come in three flavors, one for each caste. They're like the Cylons in the Battlestar remake. And it's not clear to outsiders which of their behavior is voluntary and which is instinctual. (Not that it's super clear for humans.)

So, in chapter 31 you'll meet a Gaijin male who's shouty and cheerful and loves doing grunt work. That's just how they are. This Guy Loves Salt! was the same way, and so is He Sees The Map And He Throws The Dart!, the guy who organized the Mars mission, and so is the person What-The-Fuck Creek wanted Ariel to be. There are three character classes, and that's it. This idea makes me super uncomfortable, but it's not very different from a lot of other science fiction I enjoy.

Whew! After all that, I have just one question for you: are you ready? Ready for chapter 29, the GAME-CHANGING, CHANGE-GAMING cliffhanger that ends Part Two? Ready for Ariel to say, "That fucking hippie was right."? Ready, dare I say, for some football?

If not, you have a week to prepare. Unless you're going through this commentary simultaneously with reading the complete book, in which case you should take a break and have some herbal tea or something.

Image credits: Yours truly, Luca Masarco, NASA, Eric Fischer (hi!), Pop Culture Geek.

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[Comments] (1) Blindsided: Recently it became my duty to scan my mother's high school yearbooks. While going through the last one (1970, Fremont High in Sunnyvale) it occurred to me to check Wikipedia to see if my mom went to high school with any "notable" people. As a matter of fact, there are two notable people in the 1970 yearbook, and this led to a horrifying realization that came from the yearbook itself. This is probably the only time I'll talk about sports in this weblog, so settle in.

Here's Frances Anne Larrieu, now Francie Larrieu Smith. I like to think of her as "the other Frances." This picture is taken in 1970, the year she wins a national title in the 1500-meter run. Two years later she'll be running the 1500 for America's Olympic team in Munich. In 1975 she'll set the world record for the mile run. She'll compete in the 1976 Olympics, she'll make the 1980 team but won't participate because of the boycott, and she'll compete again in 1988 and in 1992, when she'll be the flag bearer for the American Olympic team. Runner's World will call her the "most versatile runner of the quarter century." Here's her entry in the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame.

Do you see something missing from the yearbook entry of this high school student in the year she wins a national track title? "Astras, Aquatics, Arbor Girl, Nominations Convention, Mothers' Tea." Where's "Track"? It's not on there, because this is before Title IX. Fremont High School didn't have a girls' track team. It didn't have any girls' sports teams.

I hadn't been paying any attention to any part of the yearbooks not likely to feature my mother. I went back and looked. None of the three high schools my mother attended had any sports for girls, apart from an annual "Powder Puff" basketball game which pitted the varsity cheerleaders against the j.v. cheerleaders.

Well, there is a page in the 1970 FHS yearbook about the "Girls' Athletic Association". It shows girls playing volleyball and doing gymnastics. I don't know what this is. It's in with the chorus and the school plays, so I think it's a club. If you were a girl and interested in sports, you joined a catch-all after-school club.

Or there's always cheerleading. In addition to the varsity and j.v. cheerleadering squads, Fremont had squads of "song girls", "flag girls", and "letter girls", as well as the Featherettes, a forty-girl pep club. But no sports teams.

Here's the story from Francie's perspective, as given in a 2012 interview (fake paragraphing inserted for clarity):

I joined a girl’s age group team (the only game in town) that disbanded after a few months. As it turns out, the coach was the new coach at what would be my HS the following year. He invited me to come out and train with the boys at the HS (remember no girls programs in schools back in the 60’s).

My first two years in HS, I trained with the Fremont HS (Sunnyvale, CA) boys cross country and track & field teams. My coach arranged for me to run in some of the boys XC meets but only so I would not miss workout when they raced. The other coaches agreed to allow me to race with the boys with the stipulation that I could not score for the team. He took me to girl’s only meets on the weekends.

In the beginning I trained 5 days week during the school year and never in the summer. It never occurred to me I lacked opportunity because I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing—competing and working towards my goal of winning an Olympic gold medal.

After my sophomore year in HS my coach disappeared. I often wonder if his allowing me to train with the boys had anything to do with his leaving Fremont HS. In the mean time, Augie Argabright had formed the San Jose Cindergals, and I soon joined the team (again the only game in town for girls).

By comparison, here's Carl Ekern, the other notable person my mother went to high school with. He'll go on to play pro football for the Los Angeles Rams. He'll die in a car accident in 1990, and the Rams will name an internal award after him, honoring "sportsmanship, work ethic and commitment to teammates".

Carl Ekern doesn't have a big portrait in this yearbook because he's an underclassman. But he does show up in two group shots. Here he is on the j.v. football team:

And here he is with his older brother Eric on the wrestling team:

I counted 23 pages in the Fremont yearbook devoted to boys' sports, and five devoted to cheerleading-like activities. For comparison I went through my high school yearbook (1996, Arvin High). I counted 22 pages devoted to boys' sports, 15 devoted to girls' sports (there's no girls' football, wrestling, or cross-country, and no boys' volleyball), four pages for the three cheerleading squads, one page for the coed track team (which only has one girl), and a one-page general collage.

These old yearbooks have lots of girls (like my mother) in student government, band, journalism, etc. It's just sports. And I didn't notice because I don't give a damn about sports.

[Comments] (10) Constellation Games Author Commentary #29: He Sees The Map And He Throws The Dart: PLOT TWIST. Please tell me you didn't see that coming. Well, tell me the truth, but I hope you were just about to figure it out when it happened. It helps that most of Ariel's really odd behavior (the unpublished blog posts, "eyes on the prize") ended up in this chapter, so you didn't have a week to think about it.

The day I brought chapter 28 to writing group, just as we were leaving, Andrew stopped and said "Oooooooh." Ideally that realization will now happen right in the middle of chapter 29.

I've mentioned before that this plot twist was originally going to be the end of the book (along with a little bit extra which became the seed of the actual ending). I'm pretty sure y'all would have screamed bloody murder if that had happened, so it's a good thing that as I wrote part two I thought of more and more stuff to happen after the "end".

The PDF of part two should be released soon. Here's the Twitter archive. In news of "dammit", the Twitter feeds stopped working last Wednesday, possibly because of this UTF-8-licious tweet, and I didn't notice. Especially furiating since last week featured many classic bits, like Tetsuo discovering The Game and Ariel mocking thrift store T-shirts. So I do recommend you read the in-world timeline for chapter 28.

In news of "non-dammit", I'll be appearing this Sunday on the Cambridge (UK) radio show The Science of Fiction, talking about "Games in Fiction and Fiction in Games", and about Constellation Games in particular. Even if you don't live in Cambridge you can stream it "live" (we're actually recording on Wednesday) over the net, or download the program[me] afterwards.

This is a story all about how Ariel's life got flipped, turned upside down. And I'd like to take a minute—just sit right there—

then to the elements
Be free, and fare thou well!

Thus ends part two, "Software". The stage is set for "Artwork", the action-packed miniseries that will end the serialization. It all starts next week, when Ariel will say, "It's fucking romantic, okay?" Will it be okay? Is it actually romantic? AllMost will be revealed! Tune in next week.

Photo credits: Voyager 2, Wikimedia Commons user SeppVei, NASA, Dorothy Harris, Flickr user zdw.

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Dada Update: I just finished the prerecording of this Sunday's episode of The Science of Fiction. We had a good time talking about games, how they tell stories, how we tell stories about them, the fact that Dwarf Fortress is 3D now, and so on. But I also got in some plugs for dadaism (via generative content) and Queneau assemblies, and in a move sure to shock the Brits, I read aloud a sonnet generated by Spurious.

But quelle horreur! When I looked closely at the sonnet before reading I noticed that it wasn't a proper Queneau assembly! It was un petit queneauesque, but some of the lines felt wrong. After recording I looked at the code and discovered I'd been tripped up by Sonnet 126 ("O thou, my lovely boy, who in thy power"), which only has 12 lines.

The old Spurious code thought the first two lines of Sonnet 127 were the last two lines of Sonnet 126, that the third and fourth lines of 127 were actually the first two lines, and so on for the rest of the sonnets. This of course defeats the whole purpose of a Queneau assembly, which is to let T0 equal Tn0 for some n, not to sometimes choose Tn0 and sometimes Tn2.

Anyway, I fixed the code and now Shakespeare is rolling in his grave at the correct frequency. I also took down the "pure random" sonnet because I've decided that one's not nearly as fun.

Oh, and earlier this week I wrote @DadaBrendan, cashing in on the recent spate of Brendan subminds on Twitter (e.g.). But let's pass lightly over that one.

[Comments] (1) Dada Da Dada Da Dum: My appearance on The Science of Fiction just aired. I talked about how generative art takes advantage of our tendency to find patterns in randomness, and during the discussion Dr Andy Holding had a whizzer of an idea. (I may not be using that term correctly.) After I read a sonnet from Spurious, he said that you could do Queneau assembly on limericks. I said "I may do that as soon as we stop recording." And so I did!

The project's called Dada Da Dada Da Dum. The dataset is the 95,000 limericks from the Jim McWilliam collection. It's a dataset large enough to ensure that the generated limericks rhyme:

How could Orwell have been so mistaken?
Even if true, why be shaken?
He got an erection
I did an inspection
I'm referring, of course, to F. Bacon.

(as as with limericks in general, most of the generated limericks are obscene.)

I'm really proud of this project. Queneau-assembled limericks are very effective cognitive illusions and they're a lot of fun to read. I've created a Twitter bot @DadaLimericks which posts six of these limericks a day, so the fun never has to end. Never, I tell you!

Said Eve to Alonzo, "You may"
Why then, I must carefully say
When she jerked on the chain
And I pooped from the strain.
And a beard on a nude by Monet.

Update: A couple days later I saw the project commenting on itself:

A phoney pop-artist named Hart
I'm dada! R. Mutt Anti-art!
His idea of fun
She cries, "Better run"
And dumb millions took it to heart.

[Comments] (9) Constellation Games Author Commentary #30: "Constellation 'Shipping": Here it is: the weird chapter. The chapter that takes what was fairly realistic SF and does I don't know what to it. Why? Because, like Her, I despise being dull. I despise it enough to risk pulling a Battlestar Galactica and ruining the reader's experience of the entire book. Amazingly, the only major complaints I've gotten so far came from writing group in the second draft, saying that the emotional tone of what came before was never as powerful as this. But if you want to complain, you're welcome to do so.

As you may have gathered from the text, I don't like the idea that certain fictional characters "belong" together in a teleological sense, an assumption that underlies a lot of art and fandom. I think it's lazy character development and I think it encourages people to think that way about real life, where it's absolutely false.

On the other hand, fiction is teleological, and fictional characters are puppets. Declaring romantic destiny between two characters is no more difficult than saying how tall they are. You just have to be careful not to contradict your statement by the characters' words or actions.

"Explain why Ariel and Jenny aren't together" annoyed me, perhaps unfairly, because the need for an explanation reminded me of this assumption I dislike. I mentioned this earlier in commentary, and also mentioned that I'd decided to include an explanation if I could think of one that wasn't a cliche. This is what I came up with: the One True Pairing phenomenon is real, but it's a curse. Any two parties so affected are the Keymaster and Gatekeeper of a door that opens into stark, existential horror.

This was kind of inspired by a story idea (I don't remember if I came up with this or read it somewhere) where an intelligence augmentation technique is invented, but people who use it too much become listless and nihilistic because they can see the true nature of the universe unfiltered by the usual coping mechanisms. There's no plot there, which gives it the hallmarks of a story idea I came up with, but I'm not laying claim to it.

On the off chance that you are really really bothered by this shift in the rules of the book's universe, here's an easy out. Ariel is an unreliable narrator! He's writing this letter to distract Krakowski as much as to communicate with Jenny. So he exaggerated something that actually happened. What happens in "Found Objects" is compatible with either interpretation of Ariel's letter.

(But it totally happened the way Ariel says.)

The train we call Part Three is just getting started on its rampage down the track. Destination: the end of the book. Don't miss next week's installment, when Ariel will say, "Your gender-neutral use of 'men' isn't nearly as endearing as you think it is."

Image credits: Flickr user frostnova, NASA, Alan Shepard.

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The Least Clever Limericks: One side effect of downloading 90,000 limericks is you have a lot of data. Actually, that's the primary effect. Given that Dada Da Dada Da Dum requires I classify the limericks by the sounds they use in the A and B rhymes, I thought it would be interesting to tabulate that data and see which rhymes are the most common.

Well, some of the stuff's not that interesting. Here's a stack graph showing the number of limericks using the top hundred A rhymes and the top hundred B rhymes. To me it looks like a generic graph. There's no shocking pattern and no real difference in the way A and B rhymes are distributed.

In fact, there's not much difference between the way A and B rhymes are written. The two most common A rhymes are UW1, the elongated "o" sound used most frequently in "you", "do", and "screw"; and EY1, the long "a" sound used most frequently in "day", "way", and "say". On the other hand, the most common B rhymes are... EY1 ("day", "say", "way") and UW1 ("you", "do", "two").

This is a very disappointing conclusion, but with this knowledge I have been able to write the world's least clever limerick, statistically speaking:

Oh, hi, I was looking for you
I'm bored and there's nothing to do
I've been listless all day
So what do you say
We take off our clothes and we screw

After writing that, I went through the dataset and discovered a naturally generated limerick that comes very close to having minimally clever rhymes! Its only failing is it uses "way" (#3 word for the EY1 sound in B rhymes) instead of "day" (#1):

In an earthquake, the best thing to do
Is to set about having a screw.
When you're done, you can say
In your nonchalant way
May I ask, did the earth move for you?

Here are the top twenty A rhymes and the top twenty B rhymes, each with the number of limericks they're used in and their top three words:

A rhymelimericksWord #1Word #2Word #3
4EH1 D1583bedheadsaid
5AO1 R1315moredoorwhore
6AY1 T1295nightrightsight
8EH1 R1228therehairair
9IY1 T962feetmeatsweet
11IH1 T903itshitbit
12EY1 T820greatlatefate
13IH1 R816feardearbeer
14EY1 N803painbrainjane
15IY1 N784seencleanobscene
16AE1 S775asslassclass
17AH1 N743funonedone
18IY1 Z711pleasekneesease
19EH1 L676wellhelltell
20AO1 L648allballfall

B rhymelimericksWord #1Word #2Word #3
4EH1 D1684saidbedhead
5AY1 T1319nightrightdelight
6EH1 R1213therehaircare
8AO1 R1064moredoorwhore
10IH1 T1037itshitbit
11AH1 N819funonedone
12AY1 Z799eyesthighssurprise
13IH1 R771dearfearclear
14IY1 T767meatfeetsweet
15AY1 D761insidewidedied
16AA1 T743hotnotgot
17EY1 T706dategreatlate
18AE1 S691asslassgas
19EY1 N596painbrainexplain
20EH1 L590hellwelltell

I think a comparison to a similar corpus of non-obscene rhyming poetry would be instructive.

While gathering this data I fixed a bug in my screen-scraper that was sometimes causing a B line to be treated as an A line, which of course screwed up the meter of some generated limericks. I've also changed the way limericks are posted to Twitter, so that if you go to the @DadaLimericks page the limericks in the archive won't seem to run into one another.

As a bonus/palate-cleanser from those unclever limericks, here's a very clever Queneau limerick that I don't think a human would have come up with:

The North Pole is a little bit shy
And Air France? Just the pure l'eau de vie.
My question today
That this mortal clay
She was born just before World War I.

Tricks of the Trade: Realtors subtract one block from all distances, even if it's not "advertised distance to the subway".

"I'm almost at your office. I'm at [x] and [y]."

"Perfect! You're one block away!" [I am two blocks away.]

[Comments] (2) How to Follow Instructions: Last week I gave a talk called "How to Follow Instructions" at QCon New York. It's a talk about hypermedia and code on demand, as well as the not-so-great techniques web service designers (myself included) have been using instead of hypermedia and code on demand. The jumping-off point is this story from my seventh grade algebra class, and the process by which we recognize instructions and choose which ones to carry out.

I was very nervous about the talk, because my work on Constellation Games has taken my creative attention out of the world of REST for the past couple years. To me the talk feels more like complaints from a user than advice from an expert. But it was well-received and I may be giving an updated version of "How to Follow Instructions" at REST Fest in September.

Because of that possibility, the text of the talk is still in flux and I'm not going to immediately put in the kind of work I did to get my 2008 QCon talk online with a transcript. But I have put up a PDF of my slide deck (4.0 megabytes), so you can see what I put on screen. And you can see the rhetorical structure of the talk by getting the LibreOffice Impress file (6.3 megabytes), which includes my speaker notes. Both are licensed under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license, and anything else I produce from this talk will be put under the same license. (As oppposed to stuff like QCon's video recording of me giving the talk, which they'll probably retain copyright on.)

I know from being on the other end of this that even with speaker notes, a slide deck after the fact is more a mnemonic for people who've already heard the talk than a way of conveying the knowledge contained in the talk. So this is more a show of good faith on my part than anything else. At some point you'll be able to read a transcript of this talk and reuse whatever parts of it turn out to be interesting, as happened with the 2008 talk. But for now the slides and notes are what I have to offer.

[Comments] (1) Transit of Venus: I helped pay for my niece Maggie to go to space camp, and in a Kickstarter-like move she sent me in return a drawing of the recent transit of Venus. Or, as Maggie's dictated caption calls it, "The sun and Venus in front of it":

Constellation Games Author Commentary #31: "The Peaks of Eternal Light": It's feast or famine! Specifically, it's famine. After a huge chunk of commentary for chapter 30, I don't really have much to say this week. This chapter cashes a lot of checks I wrote earlier in the novel, and I feel it would be tedious and insulting to your intelligence to just list them all.

Because there's not much commentary this week, I want to commemorate the beginning of part 3 with "Human Ring", a little toy I made in Minecraft's creative mode. Back around April or so I was jealous of how Andi Buchanan had thought to get Minecraft auteur Vechs to create a custom map for her novel Gift, so I spent a couple hours creating a little diorama approximating what Human Ring and Alien Ring would look like in Minecraft. It's not a game, and it relies heavily on easily-broken tricks of perspective, but you might find it fun to walk around for a bit.

If not, at least there's a couple posts in last week's microblog archive. And there's this list I found lying around:

OK, that wasn't too light. Next week will feature a number of exciting scenes including the book's final full-length game review. It all kicks off when Ariel says "So there aren't any fossils."

Image credits: yours truly, John W. Young, Colin Chudyk.

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Sumania 2012: Yesterday Sumana gave the opening keynote at Open Source Bridge. There's video and a transcript. The talk, "Be Bold", may bring to light some issues you hadn't considered when deciding how to get people involved in open source.

Still no video of my QCon talk--another triumph of open source over the enterprise stack, I guess.

Month of Kickstarter?: July, my birth month, approaches, and the question on everyone's lips is, "Question on my lips? Who uses that kind of archaic construction?" I do, and now that we've gotten that question out of the way, let's talk about last July's project, Month of Kickstarter.

My plan was sheer elegance in its simplicity. Every day I would go to Kickstarter's list of recently launched projects, scan the ~50 new projects, bookmark the interesting ones and then put money behind 1-3 of the interesting ones. Then I wrote about the projects I'd backed on News You Can Bruise. This was a) a birthday present to myself and b) a great source of experimental data. Would it be fun? (Yes!) Could I could drive my readers to contribute to Kickstarter projects? (Not really!) What would Kickstarter's official stats look like if they only covered projects I, personally, cared about? (Quite different!) Most importantly, what about the backer rewards?

The backer rewards are great. It's like being pen pals with the Internet. I'm still getting rewards. Yesterday I went and picked up my ice cream for July 17's Milk Not Jails project. My laid-back, experimental attitude towards the whole thing has saved me from nerdrage when the shipment schedule slips, or the project owner flakes out altogether, or the reward arrives and is just disappointing or lousy.

BTW, flakeouts are very rare, but I gotta name-and-shame Keith Kritselis of the tesselated cookie cutter project because I did a whole detailed analysis of his project and now he's flaked out and not delivered anything. Didn't see that coming! I hope he's just flaked out, and not dead or in prison.

Anyway, the actual question I've been thinking about: how about repeating Month of Kickstarter this July, to get a new data set, a new bunch of rewards, and see how things have changed?

I can tell you right off that I've changed. I am a lot pickier about Kickstarter rewards now than I was last year. I'll like a book/movie/album (preferably electronic), or some food, or a game, or a nice piece of art I can frame and hang up, but that's about it. I don't get any great satisfaction from having my name in the credits, and I'm tired of stickers and patches. I thought those would be great rewards because they're easy to mail and don't take up much space, but turns out I don't use 'em.

And one thing about Kickstarter has changed: usage has exploded. After last year's MoK I kept checking the new projects page every day, but I stopped after a few months because it was just too much stuff. I don't have time to read that firehose, so I backed a Kickstarter project to do it for me.

My estimate as of today is that there are 150 new projects posted to Kickstarter every day. I need to double-check this number tomorrow and possibly update this post, because it's a statistic Kickstarter doesn't provide. (Update: The actual total is more like 125.)

And here we come to the problem. Kickstarter's UI has not changed. Not in any way that would make Month of Kickstarter easier to do, and it wasn't that easy to begin with. 50 projects/day was kinda doable, but I'm not going to look through three times that many, and there's no way of filtering out the ton of projects I almost certainly won't be interested in.

Kickstarter's UI is very carefully designed, so after a year of seeing it not change in ways I think are pretty obvious, I'm starting to think the absence of certain features is deliberate.

Forget Month of Kickstarter for a minute. Imagine that you, like me, are really into board games. You want to track all the new board game projects added to Kickstarter. You can't. There's no way to do this except by going through the global "new projects" page every day and picking out the board games. You can see "staff picks" and "popular this week" and "recently successful" and "most funded" but not "new". (Feel free to prove me wrong--I'd rather have this functionality than be right about its absence.) It's like a bookstore that has all the sections you'd expect, biography and horror and so on, except the "new releases" are all jumbled together and ordered by release date.

I have a hypothesis: there's some basic incompatibility between browsing, which is what I want to do, and Kickstarter's user model or business model. Over the past year, instead of doing things that would make Month of Kickstarter easier, Kickstarter created a site-internal social network so that your pals' activity would filter through to you and you'd find out about new projects that way. I think that's their user model: money flows to a Kickstarter project through a social network rooted at the project's creator. Social networks driven by Facebook and Twitter and just plain advertising (the board game podcasts I listen to have a ton of advertising for Kickstarter projects), but also now possible through Kickstarter itself.

Apart from the "Recently Launched" page and a couple others that aren't as useful ("Ending Soon" and "Small Projects"), every project discovery mechanism on Kickstarter (and there are a ton) is based on finding projects ratified by someone else: Kickstarter staff, or people in your social network, or someone operating under the name of a trusted brand, or (as with "most funded") just an unusually large number of random backers.

And sure, this works. I back my friends' crowdfunding projects all the time. But it means that your Kickstarter project is guaranteed to to sink without a trace unless you can get someone else's attention outside of the site. If I'm right, this is the point of the whole design. We learned from the last Month of Kickstarter that your project will fail if you don't hustle. Kickstarter makes it clear that hustling is your job by effectively hiding all but the most-hustled projects. Most site visitors aren't interested in backing sixty projects to see what happens. They want to back one or two projects from a curated list. So the system works for them.

The problem for Month of Kickstarter is that while hustle may or may not bring success to your individual project, it will not show your project to me unless our social networks intersect. That's not good enough. I need to see a list. But the list needs to not have 150 items in it every single day. I've spent the last eight months doing a project (the Constellation Games author commentary) that forced me to do a big context switch every week. I'm not really feeling the need for a daily context switch, and I certainly don't want to look at 150 projects a day. Last year "Recently Launched" did the job, but this year it won't.

They must have these advanced mechanisms. Whoever puts together the curated O'Reilly page doesn't trawl through 150 projects a day seeing if there's one they want to add to the list. But without access to those mechanisms I can't really do this.

Like I said, I'm gonna give it a shot anyway. But it may descend into me backing projects without writing about them, or I may give up altogether. I've got other stuff I need to work on, and the thrill of gathering another MoK dataset to compare against last year's is probably not worth the time.

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