Blog news: Ratings on comments, future post schedule

Just a brief update on a couple of changes around here:

I had been trialling the WordPress option to let people rate comments  on this blog (you may have seen the thumbs up/ thumbs down icons). I’ve turned it off for now, but thought I’d pass on some good and bad things I saw with it — feel free to leave comments if you feel strongly about the issue.

Good points about rating comments:

  • It’s very easy for people to feel that they can make a contribution to the discussion without necessarily having to write a comment. If someone else said something you agree with, instead of posting “I agree with Nick!” you can just click on the +1 vote.
  • It’s fun for people to be able to see how their comments are viewed by everyone else.
  • It’s another way for people to interact with each other, and interaction is one of the things I really like about blogging.

Bad points about rating comments:

  • It can put people off expressing strong feelings, especially if they disagree with the blogger, because they may get automatically voted down by ‘fans’. (I don’t expect anyone here to be all that fanatical, but since it’s my blog I do have a built in power bloc.) So people can feel oppressed if they want to say something unpopular.
  • On the other hand, that could happen anyway. It’s just that instead of  typing as a comment, “No! Spinks is a goddess! How dare you disagree!!!” it is much easier to click -1 on the comment you disagree with.
  • But if it actively puts people off from commenting then the whole discussion will get less interactive, less lively, and less interesting.

My gut feeling is that although the voting can be fun, the downside at the moment outweighs the upside. As I said, feel free to leave a comment if you feel strongly about it.

Future Schedule

Just for information, I am back at college full time at the moment and still adjusting to the schedule. With Arb’s help, I expect to be able to keep up fairly frequent posting but this will now depend on having enough time at weekends to write posts in advance. Especially when coursework and essays come due, I can’t guarantee how the schedule will hold up, but I have every intention of chronicling the effect Cataclysm has on the in-game communities in WoW. (Quite happy that the expansion is dropping just before the end of term – and although I’ll expect to be playing on a fairly low schedule I’ll see if I can find someone who plays more regularly as an extra guest writer.)

On the bright side, there will probably be more posts that touch on issues like the ones I have written recently about industrial societies and consumerism in MMOs. Textbooks can be pernicious.

Housekeeping notes, and wordpress updates

I don’t write about the blog itself often but for those who have been following along, you will know that I sometimes turn various new WordPress features on and off.

The last update was a few months back when I turned on the ability to rate posts. I thought  it might be fun for readers to be able to give quick feedback (like the equivalent of a thumbs up or down) if they didn’t feel inspired to comment, and maybe I’d learn more about what people liked. Bloggers generally tend to measure the popularity of a post by the number of comments received and number of hits – but number of comments might just mean that you wrote something controversial, and not necessarily just a good post that people liked. This isn’t a money making venture so I’m not pressured to write posts that will get a lot of hits; from my point of view this was pure curiosity.

It has been an interesting experiment. There hasn’t been a lot of feedback, possibly because the ratings don’t show up on the RSS feed or because people read from the front page and not individual posts, but it has been a good pointer to when a few people liked what they saw. So thank you if you did take the time to score a post.

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I’ve now turned that feature off, and instead turned on the ability to score comments. You can now go score each other :) WordPress use a slashdot style of scoring where you can either give a comment the thumbs up, or thumbs down.

So, have at it!

WordPress introduces the like button

Part of the reason for changing things around (other than FOR SCIENCE!) is because WordPress is now featuring the ability to say that you like a post. If you are logged into WordPress while browsing blog posts, you will notice a new icon on your menu bar.

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If you find something you liked then you can click there and:

  • the writer will be able to see how many people liked that post
  • you’ll have the opportunity to reblog it (this also has the side effect that if you wanted to reblog something to say how much you hated and despised  it, you have to hit the like button first)

So what is reblogging? Bloggers often get inspired by each other. I know that many times I have started a post by saying, “I read this really good article on blog X ((insert link)) … ‘”

When you reblog a post, WordPress will insert the title, link and some text from what you are linking and then let you add comments underneath. I’ll reblog a post later today with some comments as an example. The idea, I believe, is to make it easier for bloggers to repost something cool that they found with comments of their own underneath.

If you are interested to know more, here is WordPress’ news on the new features.

Gaming News: Warner Brothers buys Turbine, Brain Training doesn’t work, Will Facebook take over the Web?

It’s Sunday again and time for another dose of the weekly gaming news.

Warner Brothers acquires Turbine

The developers of LOTRO and Dungeons and Dragons Online was acquired this week by Warner Brothers. This deal means that Turbine loses their independence and that WB now owns all the rights to Lord of the Rings.

WB have been buying up a few games studios over the last few years, most notably Rocksteady (makers of Arkham Asylum) and TT Games (Lego Starwars). Although we don’t yet know if WB have plans for any of Turbine’s existing games, the MMO developer stated that fans can rest easy because nothing much is expected to change in the foreseeable future. But they would say that, wouldn’t they? We also know that Codemasters will continue running LOTRO in Europe.

In view of this announcement, I wonder whether the DDO offer wall which hit the headlines last week was less of a money making effort and more an attempt to prove the technology for Turbine’s new corporate masters. I suspect LOTRO will be fine, in fact it’ll probably be good for the developers to have access to the rest of the LOTRO canon. As for DDO, that’s a more interesting issue because Atari owns the D&D sublicence.

And if anyone is wondering what other IPs Warner Brothers owns which might be gameworthy, here is the list. The IPs which most intrigue me as possibilities are Harry Potter (duh) and The Wizard of Oz (the Oz books themselves are in the public domain, and it is a very well defined universe.)

Nolan Bushnell is Back at Atari

The legendary gaming entrepreneur who founded Atari in 1972 is back on the board. A couple of other senior directors left the board at the same time, including David Gardner who was Atari CEO until last December. Night of the Long Knives, anyone?

Brain Training Doesn’t Work, or Does It?

A study published in Nature (a respected scientific publication) this week showed that Brain Training games do not actually improve your memory or a host of other skills.

What they actually said was:

Statistically, there are no significant differences between the improvements seen in participants who played our brain training games, and those who just went on the internet for the same length of time.

So basically, messing around on the internet or playing just about any other kind of game would keep your brain ticking over as much as ‘brain training’. This is not to say that gaming can’t be good for you. There has been research showing that computer gaming helps people with dementia to keep their skills and memories, for example.

But good news! You don’t have to play a boring brain training game! Plants and Zombies for everyone!

You can like Facebook, but does Facebook like you?

Facebook’s F8 conference was used as a platform for announcing a whole slew of new changes and features.

Finally, giving permission to a third-party applications will become a one-click action, meaning that applications can get more data more quickly, and then keep it. Privacy concerns from users aside, this is the developers’ dream.

(My bolded text.) Facebook is not your friend. It is funded by advertising and by application developers. Any changes they make are with their funders and future funders in mind. This doesn’t mean that changes might not make life more convenient for users in future, but that isn’t the goal.

Social media sites, usually keen to support anything involving more people using social media have been awkwardly trying to backpedal on this one. Maybe, just maybe, it might not be a good idea to give facebook this much information?

Mashable, for example, explain the new ‘like’ button but with a caveat.

It’s in Facebook’s interests to lock up your social graph, and it’s in your best interests that it doesn’t.

Pete@Dragonchasers has also experimented with the new like button, and shares some of his concerns. My main concern is not so much whether I want to like webpages, it’s whether my friends might inadvertently share information about me. Just because I don’t mind my friends knowing my interests, that doesn’t mean I want every website they ever visit to know them as well.

Here’s more on how to protect your personal information on Facebook.

And if you run a blog on wordpress.com and would like to add a facebook ‘like’ button to the bottom of a post, you can generate some code to do that via GetSocial Live! There’s an example at the bottom of this post. I’m inclined to keep doing it, because Facebook users might like it and it’s really your choice whether or not to click.

Starcraft II gets an 18 Rating in Korea

This is bad news for the Blizzard team if the rating stands, given that Starcraft is practically a national sport in Korea. This week, the South Korean government’s Game Ratings board gave SC2 an 18+ rating.

Overclocker reports that an official cited:

the “game’s level of violence, foul language and depiction of drug use.”

Blizzard has gone back to them with their release candidate code to appeal for a second look at the rating. If they do have to adjust content to satisfy the Koreans, expect a delay in release.

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