links for 2007-01-27

Google Reader improvements

The new Google Reader trends page

I hadn’t touched Google Read­er since tak­ing a brief look at its ini­tial launch in Octo­ber 2005. I’m now using it as my pri­ma­ry read­er, hav­ing grown tired of Rojo’s poor per­for­mance and fre­quent inter­face over­hauls. There’s a few things that have real­ly improved since that first release. I’ll sum them up briefly here:

  • Unclut­tered, sim­ple inter­face. They’ve gone back to basics and mim­ic a plain desk­top appli­ca­tion UI. Hard­ly any super­flu­ous web 2.0 fea­tures demand your atten­tion.
  • Trends page (I’ve book­marked a few arti­cles on this); which allows you to look at the feeds you’ve been read­ing the most but, more impor­tant­ly, allow you to weed out the ones you nev­er look at or have died. Essen­tial for some­one who has over 200 feeds to track.
  • Mul­ti-fold­er organ­is­ing, not quite free tag­ging (which is a shame) but still nice for the folk­so­nom­i­cal­ly inclined.
  • When scrolling through a list of expand­ed new feed items, Read­er auto­mat­i­cal­ly marks items you’ve scrolled past as read. Which great­ly reduces the excise oth­er web-based read­ers force on their users when want­i­ng to mark a feed as read.
  • Per­for­mance is accept­able to good. It’s not as fast as Gmail, but vast­ly supe­ri­or to Rojo for instance, despite the con­sid­er­able use of AJAX.
  • There is an unof­fi­cial Mac OS X noti­fi­er that uses Growl.

Most of these fea­tures are not includ­ed in one or both of the pre­vi­ous two web-based read­ers I used for a length of time (Blog­lines and Rojo). Google have real­ly come up with some­thing nice here. I won­der when it’ll move out of the lab.

Why am I not using a desk­top based read­er? I’d like to (Net­NewsWire’s great for instance), just as I’d love to use a prop­er desk­top email client, but my mul­ti-plat­form, mul­ti-machine per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al use doesn’t allow me too. I work on at least two sep­a­rate PCs at work (a desk­top and a lap­top) and have a cute lit­tle iBook that I use at home. This all means I am a real web OS user. Fire­fox as brows­er (with Google Brows­er Sync to keep it the same across all installs), Google Read­er for RSS, Gmail for email and (until recent­ly) Google Cal­en­dar for, well, my cal­en­dar. Is it coin­ci­dence I seem to pre­fer Google prod­ucts for these things? Prob­a­bly not, Google seems to be doing a very good job at these kind of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty appli­ca­tions (just as Yahoo! seem to be lead­ing the way in social appli­ca­tions).

links for 2007-01-23

links for 2007-01-19

Surprises in Animal Crossing: Wild World

20070112T155404

So I’ve been play­ing AC: WW for over a weeks now and I must say it has lived up to my expec­ta­tions. It’s a cute and quirky game that does not fol­low con­ven­tion­al game design rules. There is no way to die, no (real) way to loose or even win. In a sense it’s more like a toy than a game; you can play with it end­less­ly, there is no goal to reach (apart from dis­cov­er­ing all it’s lit­tle secrets).

Cockroaches

One of those secrets was par­tic­u­lar­ly fun to dis­cov­er. After a few days of play I con­vinced my girl­friend to give it a try. So she put the car­tridge in her pink DS Lite. While I was cook­ing din­ner, she went through the begin­ning stages (dri­ving to the town in a taxi, get­ting a job with Tom Nook). A bit lat­er, I picked it up again and went about my busi­ness (I think it was fish­ing, I still have a large loan to pay off after the first house expan­sion).

After a while I went back into the house and found (shock! hor­ror!) a bunch of cock­roach­es run­ning around my care­ful­ly kempt inte­ri­or. “We have cock­roach­es!” I shout­ed to my girl­friend while run­ning around the house try­ing to squash them. The appar­ent source was some apples lying around. “Didn’t the ani­mals tell you don’t leave stuff lying around the house?” I asked her. They had, but where should she put them (the apples) oth­er­wise? Good point.

We had a good laugh after that episode. Be care­ful who you play this game with; it might be a chal­lenge liv­ing togeth­er in the real world – Ani­mal Cross­ing is no dif­fer­ent! But the real genius of the game is in these things. It’s a rules based world for sure (leave apples around the house, get cock­roach­es) but the mini-nar­ra­tives that it allows you to build in this way is crazy.

Letters

Anoth­er exam­ple is the let­ters I find myself writ­ing to the ani­mals. I’m sure they’d be hap­py with any kind of let­ter, as long as I men­tion some spe­cif­ic words maybe (like ‘hap­py’ and ‘friend’). In stead, I’m writ­ing ful­ly formed sen­tences, and include lit­tle details that would be appre­ci­at­ed by real peo­ple. In that way, it’s allow­ing for sub­tle role-play­ing.

Charity

On the sub­ject of role-play­ing (and there not being a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ way to play the game); I know I should be hard at work pay­ing off the afore­men­tioned loan (to progress to the next ‘lev­el’). But in stead I find myself spend­ing a lot of time and mon­ey on present for the ani­mals, and dona­tions to the muse­um. That might be role-play­ing (or that might be my real per­son­al­i­ty influ­enc­ing what I find plea­sur­able in the game) but the coolest bit is that it doesn’t mat­ter; any way of play­ing is valid.

Have any oth­er peo­ple had sim­i­lar expe­ri­ences with the game? Are there ways to apply this log­ic (the pat­terns inher­ent in the game) to oth­er domains?

Some closing links:

links for 2007-01-13