Introducing Virtual Micropolis

Virtual Micrpolis Logo

After a few years of owning the domain name, I am finally getting off my proverbial butt and doing something with VirtualMicropolis.com. My original idea had been, as is somewhat usual for me, a bit grandiose. I was going to get the spec moved over there and make it a community for everyone who built Micropolis to come and post their stuff. Because there aren’t any other places on the Internet to build a community (like Flickr, MOCPages, Facebook, Google+, ad infinitum…), or something.

Anyway, the point really came home last weekend in Des Moines where we were displaying our little corner of Micropolis again and we also had the TwinLUG QR Code out on the table next to it. As usual we got several people who tried to use it, and mostly it worked (The lighting was a bit weird), but the overwhelming response to being sent to the TwinLUG site was one of disappointment. What people really wanted to see was lots of pictures and maybe some more stuff about what they were looking at right then. Obviously it was finally time to do something about it.

To get this really rolling though I was going to need to scale things back to just a place where we could put up information and pictures about just the modules that Jennifer and I own. Almost all of them are ones that we designed with the exceptions of some that I bought off a TwinLUG member before he moved out of the country a few years ago (Hi Gary!). Thanks to the wonderful photography skills of Alyska Bailey-Peterson we had a base of some excellent photos to go along with the drek that I manage to shoot so that we could at least get the site off the ground before having to figure out where we were going to get more good pictures.

For this project I think we really needed a Wiki. A blog or other groupware CMS system was just going to have too much overhead and complexity for the basic requirements of setting up easily linkable pages that could be simply protected from spam or other ne’er-do-wells with some file management capabilities. I finally settled on DokuWiki and I’m pretty happy with the results so far. My one small issue is that for some reason there are no simple methods of setting text alignment, but everything else is great so I’m ignoring that as much as possible. If you’re looking for a good Wiki platform you should definitely add them to your list of candidates.

As of right now I’ve got pages up for eight modules and material for a couple more before we start to run out of images, but I think it’s a decent start and hopefully we’ll be able to keep some momentum on the project for awhile.

While right now the site is all about our collection and the layouts that we have been part of but I think we would be glad to broaden the content in the not too distant future. I do have things locked down so that even if you register for an account you can not make any edits until I tweak the account so please contact me if that is your intent.

Some help might be useful

I was out taking a walk through the neighborhood this morning and came up with an idea that, unusually for me, isn’t a crazy idea and most likely won’t lead to my financial ruin so I figured it was worthwhile to follow-up on it.

The city of Saint Paul has an official beautification project to put sidewalk poetry on newly built or replaced sidewalks throughout the city. The northern section of the St Anthony neighborhood, where I live, is no exception to the placement of these poems and it makes for a nice treat to see one while out and about. It occurred to me that it would be nice to have a handy map of such items, and of course the city does have such a map but it is separate from the maps that other cities and organizations maintain of similar art features and doesn’t include something like the Humpty Dumpty sculpture which is private yard art just a few blocks away from my house.

It seemed to me that coming up with a database of such features that user’s (or creators) could submit to easily with associated applications to be able to find local public art would not be much of a project to get off the ground or possibly even to maintain, and that it’s probably something that I should just see about doing.

The problem, as is so common with projects like this, is that all of the obvious domains that I could come up with for the project are already taken or are prohibitively expensive to purchase. So the help I need is to come up with a domain name to use that is available. Ideas?

(I’ll post other thoughts about my plans for the features for the site and apps later, though I would be interested to hear what other people think about the concept and how they might use it.)

Zune v2: The Good

A few of the things that I do think are really very good about the new Zune software are both the Podcast and the social/community support. I have been using services like Last.fm, iLike, and a large variety of others for a very long time now and am really happy to see that kind of support built-in as a basic feature that is incredibly simple to use and visually fairly appealing. So far, in the couple of hours I’ve been playing around with it, it’s wonderful.

Podcast support also is very well executed. The v2 software was able to use my existing cache of downloaded podcasts to seed the Podcast view and while I did have to do some cleanup and am having some difficulty getting some of the really old stuff integrated into single items in the Podcast list I was able to get up to date with the majority of what I regularly listen to simply by finding the existing item and hitting the “subscribe” button in the interface. I can not say enough positive things about how well this got implemented that it almost makes up for the total absence of support for the past year.

Oh, and the software is very, very pretty. No really, it’s quite nice to look at which is a rarity.

Update: I can’t believe I forgot to link to my profile page!

Netflix public profiles

I finally got around to looking at the new community features on Netflix this morning. There’s some interesting stuff they’re trying to do here that I can’t help but think would work better with a more open model for social graphs. It was only a month or so ago that I found that a couple of friends had Netflix accounts and managed to get they added to my friend’s list. More interoperability would make that sort of oversight very difficult, though there is the obvious (to me) caveat that these systems should also make it relatively easy to partition how some of that information travels.

Anyway, some items in particular with the Netflix Community features that I found interesting where the difference between “public” and “private” information and the “Reviewer Rank”. I am, unsurprisingly, pretty low on the ranking coming in somewhere just shy of 65,000th.

But you can see some of that by going directly to my profile.

Identity shift

In the online world handles and usernames are a sometimes necessity that provide a certain small amount of obfuscation along with an often smaller string to remember a particular person. Back in the early 90’s when I first started seriously to get into the BBS community I went by “Line Noise“. At the time I thought it was perversely cool to have a handle that represented something that was an irritant to just about everyone.

Near the end of high school I got into MUDs (Actually, I think it was technically a MUSH) and found that Line Noise didn’t fit the usual fantasy-land setting and had to come up with something new. After a few false starts (most of which I don’t even remember, though I can say that they were without exception pretty stupid) I hit upon “Glyph“. The idea actually came to me while I was designing a new character that was a stereotypical old dwarf. Small, brown, and heavily wrinkled. At the time I thought it rather inspired to list the character’s description as having a heavily lined and creased face that in some lights almost seemed to look like a long lost language, or at least something very similar. That handle has stuck with me for well over a decade at this point and has been just rarely enough used (and it helps being a relatively early adopter for a lot of sites and technologies) that most of the time I could use it and people would have a decent idea that it was me.

I and the world have been changing over the years though, and now the chances of getting to use my preferred handle/username are getting more and more rare as more and more people find their way into places and I have found myself thinking that it would be nice to have something more unique again. A few years ago I signed up for an account on OkCupid and “Glyph” was already taken so I had to come up with something different. Given the nature of the site, I didn’t want to use my other fall back, “nstohlma” as it is a bit too revealing. After what I remember as a couple of days of thinking about it (though it is just as likely to have been a few minutes of intense thought and brainstorming) I came up with “Cavorter”. At the time it was a interesting play on the domain name that I had been using as my personal page for quite a few years. It is also, like “Glyph” in it’s time, a fairly unusual word and so not used by many. I actually have yet to see anyone else use it, though I’m sure there has to be someone somewhere. I think in large part L-Space is the last place that I will have used Glyph as my primary identifier.

Something else struck me while I was writing all of this up: I wonder about the change from a term that means something relatively static, to a word that means something relatively dynamic and if that means anything. I really have no idea, and it certainly wasn’t intentional.

Cryptic ideas for Blizzard

I just got a fairly unexpected email: NCSoft has reactivated my City of Heroes/City of Villains account for the weekend. It seems that they are launching a new retail combo-box of both editions of the game (Available only at that bastion of retail hell: Walmart) and want to try and get lapsed players, like myself, back into the game.

That was kind of cool, and I might take them up on it and log back in to take a look around if it doesn’t take too long to reinstall the game, but the item that I thought was really cool was the Veteran Rewards system that they touted in the same message.

Essentially, the longer you have an active account in the game the more cool stuff you get with your characters. I honestly have no idea how Blizzard could do something similar with WoW but I would love to see it happen.

Sign me up!

There’s a reason why I was pretty excited when my ex-wife brought home one of the “Happy to pay for a better Minnesota” lawn signs a couple of years ago. It’s still in my front porch window and will probably move with me.

Today’s full page ad in the Star Tribune from 203 of the wealthiest taxpayers of Minnesota shows that I’m in fairly decent company. It’s good to see this sort of activism.