Robert Frost wrote a poem entitled “Fragmentary Blue,” in which he pondered why humanity took such delight in the beautiful blue present in birds, flowers, eyes, etc. He ends the poem by hypothesizing that we view the blue sky as heavenly, and because we cannot reach it, we revel in nature’s heavenly reminder to us through fragmentary blue. Right now, social networking is all fragmentary blue. We express a certain part of ourself on Facebook, Myspace, and others, however, we never really display our whole self, and we limit our ability to network in doing so. There are job networking sites (a plethora of them, focusing on recent grads or 100k+ jobs, etc.), school networking sites, band networking sites, ad infinitum. These sites are all specialized for a reason, but they lose a part of the person when doing so. What if there was a website that allowed users to collect all of their online (and offline!) activity and chose to whom and how they want to display it?Read More
Every game is an escape from reality in some fashion or another. Games take some element of reality and simulate it to varying degrees. Battleship, for example, simulates a naval battle by allowing opposing players to select where on a board to place their ships and where to fire their missiles. Fog of war is simulated to increase the challenge. Second life’s goal, as its title suggests, is to simulate life itself. A digital world with digital assets is nothing new. Pixels have long been used to display uber cool gear. Bits have long been used to store phat lewt. However, never before have digital goods been transferable to tangible goods. (Selling characters and gear on EBay doesn’t really count…)
The conversion of in-game money to real life money has created a completely new ethical dilemma. It means that any asset a person has in game can be sold in game and converted into dollars. In fact, these are generally fairly liquid funds that can be used in a pinch if needed. Some may question whether bits should be bought and sold, but that doesn’t concern me. We buy TVs, which merely display bits. We buy internet access, which merely transfers bits. In short, we’re already paying for bits for the sole purpose of entertainment. Why should it matter if people start paying more for entertainment through bits?
The real question is this: if imaginary assets can be quickly and easily transferable to real goods, should they be included as part of a person’s net worth? Should Second Life assets be taxable? These exact questions are being investigated at the moment. It’s actually rather easy to imagine a money-laundering scheme that goes through Second Life in order to avoid government “interference.” Additionally, some people make their living on Second Life. Should they be taxed on their assets in game? Should casual players who merely play the game for some cheap enjoyment also be forced to pay taxes on the bits that they own, even if they never plan to convert them to cash?Read More
10 years ago, the idea of ebay would have sounded absurd to most people. Who in his right mind would buy something from a random stranger over the internet? Anonymity, one of the internet’s biggest strengths, is also one of its biggest weaknesses. Ebay has successfully harnessed the power of the individual on the web while constraining the uncertainty his anonymity brings. User-controlled feedback has created an online community where anonymous pseudonyms are held accountable for their actions, allowing for a sense of certainty and creating the trust necessary to spend money online. Paypal also plays an important part in this process. It acts as a third party to hold the buyer’s money as the seller ships the auctioned item and completes the payment when the item arrives. This means that, even if there is fraud, the buyer is insured.
The way I see it, EBay’s greatest success is the seamless integration it has with Paypal. It’s so easy that senior citizens, who are usually either apathetic to or scared of the internet, can buy and sell online. (Getting them used to the idea of interacting with an anonymous person online is a different story, though. Some perceptions just take some time to change!)Read More
“Web 2.0″ was one of the biggest buzz words last year. It means different things to different people, but in general, “Web 2.0″ is the idea of user-generated and controlled content on the web — the idea of moving away from static web “pages” to more dynamic web applications (anything from google earth to ebay). This idea has been at the forefront of web programming for years, but not many companies have succeeded in implementing it. Facebook, which has “Web 2.0″ at the heart of its design, is one of a handful of successful applications.
The very idea of Facebook is a user generated set of profiles. Without a large enough ratio of profiles to community, the application would be worthless, which is why it made perfect sense to gradually roll out the application. This doesn’t explain why Facebook is viewed more highly than MySpace and several other social networking sites, though. I think that there are three other reasons for this. Firstly, the ease with which one can customize his profile, as well as the many different modes of doing so, are better than any of Facebook’s competitors. Second, Facebook successfully (generally…) walks a fine line between censoring crude content and ads (and who can view YOUR content) and allowing freedom for consumer-created content. The third reason is the ease of consumer-created Facebook applications (those annoying viral applications like “join the pirates in the fight against the ninjas!!!, as well as some pretty cool ones like a stock market exchange). Any programmer can grab the necessary documentation to interface with the Facebook API in short time and be merrily on his way to creating the next Hobo Wars.
Facebook definitely has its problems, such as the mass of annoying viral applications, but it is still a work in progress. Think of the basic state it was in four years ago when we could first get it at Grove City, and think of where it is today. It could be anywhere four years from now, but I’m guessing that it will have more of a focus around consumer-created applications and become a programming environment in its own right, much as the World Wide Web has today.
-Blake Ingram-Read More