Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

Algorithms already recommend shows for us to watch on Netflix, songs for us to listen to on Spotify, and products for us to buy on Amazon but when it comes to reading good old fashioned books we are often on our own.  Sure, Amazon does make recommendations but those are just surface level recommendations.  Customers who bought this book also bought this book.  Or here are some other books by this same author.

But what if there was a way to make recommendations based on more subtle clues?  Such as you have an affinity for books with an orange cover so here are some more books with orange covers. Or here are some other books with strong female protagonists.  Well, in the near future that level of recommendation may be possible.  But that’s not all.  We may also have books that are interactive, gamified, and filled with all sorts of technological tricks that increase reader engagement.  And we’ll have all those thanks to a company called OverDrive.

According to Futurism:

“[CEO Steve] Potash envisions a slew of ways to improve books with AI, like smart assistants that take on the persona of an author, AR content that drops readers inside the historical scene they’re reading about, or games built into books that help students learn new words and concepts.

In the meantime, OverDrive is trudging ahead with backend AI systems, that either help libraries buy books that are more likely to circulate or help teachers find books that actually teach the lessons that they want to work into their curricula.”

These ideas aren’t exactly new.  They’re just hard to pull off.  And I wonder if they are even necessary.  Our imaginations already transport us to the historical scenes that we’re reading about and audio books already let authors talk directly to their audience.  But at the same time anything that increases reader engagement and gets more kids excited about reading is probably a good thing.  If there are ways to gamify reading that can let books compete with video games than that could be a real game changer.  Literally.

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Is OverDrive the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt has had quite the career.  After getting his big break on 3rd Rock from the Sun he has gone on to snag some pretty impressive roles in Hollywood blockbusters likeInception, The Dark Knight Rises, and Looper.  But it’s what he’s doing for his next act that could have the longest lasting impact: creating a production company turned tech company with the big idea that it can save creativity.

That may sound grandiose but the motivation is actually pretty simple.  Over the last decade or so creativity something that has been falling victim to a declining culture, one that has been overrun by an all-consuming 24/7 attention grab economy where formulaic click-bait is continuously churned out by bloggers and YouTubers who use SEO to created targeted content reverse engineered for maximum effect.  It’s a vicious cycle that drowns out actual art, leaving society worse off for it. Where is where Hit Record’s new approach would come in: more collaboration, less self-promotion.

As Venture Beat puts it, “It’s worth diving into Gordon-Levitt’s thinking here. He strongly believes that social media and tech platforms are screwing up the incentives for creativity. If you’re focused on figuring out how much attention you can get, or what the box office numbers will be, or whether you’re going to get famous, your priorities are twisted. (Gordon-Levitt recommends everyone reads the book Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier.)

‘If what you’re going for is posting on YouTube, or Instagram, or platforms that monetize through the ad model, where they’re really just going for sheer volume and have the ability to manipulate people through ads, virality is the measure of success,’ Gordon-Levitt pointed out. ‘And I think this is exactly at the heart of what’s interesting to me about doing [HitRecord]. I think if that is your measure of success, you’re going to undermine a lot of what’s actually meaningful and joyful about creativity. And I’m actually concerned for the human race’s creative spirit, because so much of our collective creativity is now destined for these platforms that are monetized by this sort of attention economy model. And it twists one’s understanding of one’s own creativity, and what the value of being creative is.’”

As a creative who gets zero attention and who has virtually nothing to show for seven years’ worth of effort I am all for changing our priorities.  I’m never going change my style and write click bait stories.  Never going to sell my soul just to go viral.  Never going to drive myself crazy worrying about how many likes or comments I get.  Would I like to be famous? Sure.  Would I like to make a real difference in the world? Of course.  Am I going to change who I am to do that?  Never.

That’s why I hope Hit Record takes off.  Billed as GitHub for creatives it has a chance to build a burgeoning community that would restore some of the lost luster to the art of creativity. And if the platform is successful then maybe people like me, who create content just for the pure joy of it, can finally find a home.

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Is Hit Record the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Jason C. seems like a nice guy.  He’s a firefighter with a friendly disposition who selflessly always looks to help others.  But Jason hasn’t always had it easy.  He has sensitive skin and gets ingrown hairs making it difficult for him to keep up with the daily shaving requirements that being a firefighter demands.

I know that I should care about Jason.  Firefighters like him do tireless, thankless work to keep me safe.  And yet I don’t give a damn about Jason C.  At least not anymore.  How could I when he’s been torturing me for the last week.

You see, Jason C. is the first person I see every time there’s a commercial break when watching a game on the MLB app.  No matter the day, no matter the time, no matter the teams playing, braces wearing Jason C. is always there to remind me of how sensitive skin his skin is.  I’m an empathetic guy but there’s only so much that even I can take.  Gillette may be the best a man can get but getting subjected to hearing the same ad over and over again during every commercial break is not the best that a fan can get.

It may sound extreme to say but in my opinion this is borderline inhumane treatment.  A form of brainwashing pure and simple.  I get that we live in a capitalistic society.  That Gillette paid for this ad time fair and square.  And that I as a consumer have other choices.  But it doesn’t make what they are doing and what MLB is letting them do any less horrific.

Which is why we need to put restrictions in place.  If MLB isn’t going to air this commercial less and Gillette isn’t going to choose to run it less than we need to force their hand.  Pass legislation that puts limit on how often commercials can be run.

For instance, you could say that the same commercial can’t run in consecutive innings or that it can only run five times per game or ten times per day or whatever restrictions you want to put in place.  Because the way it is now (with the same commercial airing every inning, and as the first commercial of that break to boot) is not sustainable psychologically for viewers.  Plain and simple, it makes the games unwatchable and makes me want to use the app less which is the exact opposite point of the app’s existence.  Soon, viewers, fed up with getting force-fed, will start to leave in droves.

You would think that baseball, a sport that already saw a mass exodus of fans after the 1994 strike, would be especially cognizant of how they treat their fans.  And yet just the opposite is true as their app treats the fan experience as a complete and utter after thought.  Not cool MLB.  Not cool at all.

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Are advertising restrictions on the MLB app warranted?

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The other day I had dinner at Snakes and Lattes, an establishment that lets you play board games while you dine for a nominal fee.  One of the games that I wound up playing was my new all-time #1 favorite game: Patchwork.  A two player game where you compete to build a quilt out of oddly shaped Tetris like pieces while collecting buttons.  Believe me, it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds.

This got me thinking though.  If someone can make a board game about quilting then surely I could make a game out of something equally obscure, yet close to my heart.  A game about antiquing.

Here’s how it would work.  Each game would come equipped with multiple game boards depicting various settings where one might go antiquing.  There might be a house undergoing an estate sale, an actual antique shop, a garage sale,  a junk yard, a local swap meet, etc.  Whatever the case may be.

Each of these boards would be littered with random items and players would be tasked with collecting items from an assigned shopping list without going over budget as they navigate their way across the board with alternating dice rolls.  The key to the game would be to move about the board as efficiently as possible, to collect all the items on your list before your opponent collects all the items on their list.

Now here’s where things get interesting.  Also scattered throughout the board would be certain obstacles.  You may be forced to sell an item that you already collected in order to pay one of your bills.  Or your opponent may have an opportunity to swap out something from your collection for something that they don’t have a need for.  You may even be in a race to be the first to collect an item that you both need.  But have no fear.  If you pass by one of the conveniently located pawn shops you’ll be able to swap or buy back anything you need.

You’d also have an opportunity to use your creativity throughout the game.  Let’s say that collecting a bird feeder is on your list.  Instead of trying to collect the actual bird feeder on the board, you could instead find a few other smaller items, and assemble them into a bird feeder.  This ability to re-purpose items would be what separates the good players from the great players the way that triple word scores separate the wheat from the chaff in Scrabble.

Would this antiquing game be the Greatest Game Ever? Maybe.  Maybe not.  But surely it can’t be any worse than the game about gardening that I saw in Snakes and Lattes. In a world consisting of thousands upon thousands of obscure games, perhaps there’s room for one more.

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Is a board game about antiquing the Greatest Idea Ever?

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This year’s Super Bowl with its extravagant half-time show, million dollar commercials, and star-powered lineups headlined by Tom Brady was quite the spectacle.  But it wasn’t even the best event of the past week.  That honor belongs to a virtual concert held inside a video game in a stunt that could portend the future of entertainment.

The event, a Marshmello concert, was held within the widely popular Fortnite game for ten minutes, during which time weapons were banned.  A brief truce so that everyone could cut loose.  And as it turns out a lot of people wanted to cut loose with approximately 10 million players participating in the event, a new record for the number of concurrent players that were active within the game out of a total of some 200 million registered users.

As the Verge puts it, “Even if you’re not a huge fan of electronic music or have never heard of the EDM producer Marshmello, Fortnite’s live in-game concert was still a shockingly stunning sight to behold — it was also an unprecedented moment in gaming. It truly felt like a glimpse into the future of interactive entertainment, where the worlds of gaming, music, and celebrity combined to create a virtual experience we’ve never quite seen before.”

Although one that we are likely to see again.  Because now that the groundwork has been laid it’s likely that Epic will put on more concerts or other events within the framework of their game opening up unprecedented marketing and branding opportunities for all kinds of celebrities.  The Super Bowl is out.  Fortnite is in.

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Is a live concert inside of Fortnite the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,441 – Freedive

Need something to watch while you wait for Game of Thrones to return in April?  Then IMDb (the Amazon owned Internet Movie Database) has got you covered! Wait. What?

According to Mashable:

“IMDb Freedive offers a variety of content, spanning film and television, at no cost. There is no IMDb or Amazon Prime subscription required, as the service is supported by advertisements. Viewers simply need to create a free IMDb account to begin watching.

Older movies like The Illusionist, Memento, and The Last Samurai are currently available to watch on the service. Fringe, Heroes, Without a Trace, and The Bachelor make up some of Freedive’s current television offerings. (There are multiple categories on the service, including drama, comedies, horror, action, family, and so on.) The streaming service also boasts of a few IMDb original series’ that take a look at the movie and TV industry.”

Just when you thought that Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Go, and every other streaming service would provide you with an infinite number of viewing choices here comes another offering from an online database of all places.  Cord cutters may be rejoicing but personally I’m not sure what to make of it.  The last thing we need is more content.  What we really need is a better way to search through and discover what we already have.

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Is Freedive the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I want to be a vampire.  Correction.  I want to be THE vampire.  Not the immortal, suck your blood, afraid of the sun, Twilight vampire that you may be imagining.  But rather the person who won’t get to pick at all in next year’s fantasy football draft.  That’s right.  There’s a new kind of league in the making and it could turn a multi billion dollar industry on its head.

Here’s how a vampire league would work.  One team misses the draft entirely.  That person is the vampire and it could be anyone.  A random victim of fate.  An eager guinea pig.  Or perhaps the person who came in last the year before.

This person would then be tasked with filling out a roster entirely off of the waiver wire.  To make things fair they would also get to keep that #1 waiver priority throughout the entire season as well.  But here’s where things get interesting.  If the vampire team wins they get to swap out any player in your starting lineup with one of their own from the same position.  Suddenly they went from having Jeff Driskel as their starting quarterback to having Aaron Rodgers.

As time goes on and injuries accumulate around the league this vampire team will continue to amass talent thanks to their #1 waiver priority and the increased likelihood that in any given week they could pull off another upset and snag themselves another quality player.  Once the bye weeks kick in and fantasy football becomes even more of a crap shoot then all bets are off.  This vampire team of misfit toys might suddenly become an actual legitimate contender.

Now here’s where things get really interesting.  Since losing to the vampire team could cost you a star player do you risk a loss by benching all of the guys you’d be afraid to lose?  An intriguing strategy. Now all of a sudden its a waiver wire team versus a bunch of bench guys and once again all bets are off.  If faced with that scenario every week the vampire team could even run the table and win the championship without ever stealing a star player.

I for one can’t wait to start a vampire league next year.  After all, winning championships year after year has kind of sucked the fun out of fantasy football for me.  It’s time for a new challenge.  A real challenge.  It’s time to become the vampire!

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Is a vampire fantasy football league the Greatest Idea Ever?

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