Category Archives: fun

Robot “Kind of” passes the Turing Test..

A chatbot from Europe named “Eugene Goostman” has managed to to trick a human being into thinking it is a 13 year old boy from the Ukraine. The bot was able to pass the Turing Test, which is basically whether a machine can convincingly imitate human intelligence to a degree that it fools someone who looks at the conversation into thinking both participants are humans without knowing which participant was human. The chatbot was only able to fool one of the three judges but that is a big step. To me the fact that a chatbot was able to imitate a human is huge. For years robots have been robotic, now they are able to become more and more human like, which to a degree is scary. I am, however, happy that the bot was able to imitate a human (sometimes it is not hard XD), it allows for many possibilities, one such is an improved artificial intelligence for video games (Big Gamer!). I have almost always been disappointed in games AI’s. I can remember playing games as a young child and thinking to myself “Woah, these enemies are just too dumb”. Now with a bot passing the Turing Test it gives me hope that one day video games can be a simulation at all times that allows for a challenging and engaging in-game environment. The future is unusually bright for robots and humans, I am almost positive that there are hours upon hours of fun to be had.

Link to Article


A ds106 communal postcard from Britian :)

I received the above postcard from the U.K. this past Friday, which was appropriate given it came the same day I was informed the Internet Course would be running during the first summer session—a week from today ! I was sure this class wouldn’t fly given there were only three students signed up since March, but it seems there was a last minute surge and it got approved. I’m actually thinking the next five weeks might warrant an in-depth exploration into the history of the internet with this group. I’ve been moving in that direction anyway during the Spring semester, but this awesome postcard from Vivien Rolfe, David Kernohan, Talky Tina?, and Alan Levine seals it. The scene in the postcard capturing the delivery of “Colussus” the Elliott 405. The museum is also home to a rebuilt Colussus, the world’s first programmable computer. It is pretty awesome—the digital in 1940s England seems so antithetical somehow—very paleoconnectivist, if you will . Here’s a nice bit from Wikipedia about the Colussus:

Colossus was the world’s first electronic digital computer that was at all programmable. The Colossus computers were developed for British codebreakers during World War II to help in the cryptanalysis of the Lorenz cipher. Without them, the Allies would have been deprived of the very valuable military intelligence that was obtained from reading the vast quantity of encrypted high-level telegraphic messages between the German High Command (OKW) and their army commands throughout occupied Europe. Colossus used thermionic valves (vacuum tubes) to perform Boolean operations and calculations.

Vacuum tubes for Boolean operations and calculations?! The “Boolean Vacuums” would be a great band name. I love this stuff, and this postcard made my weekend. I was impatiently waiting to scan it so I could share the love as far and wide as possible. Old gold computer history #4life!

The National Museum of Computing is now very high on my list of palces to visit worldwide, and I am wondering if we have something like it the States? I can’t really think of anything in D.C.? Anything similar come to mind where the national history of US computing is narrated and curated in physical space?

The Internet: Knowing is Half the Battle

We’re in finals week right now, and the last bits of work for the Internet Course is wrapping up. Over the course of this semester eight different topics were covered by eight different student panels. Due to weather related scheduling issues the last of these panels dealign with the future of the internet were tasked with presenting their work in an alternative manner. Thanks to the genius of Meredith Fierro, they chose to present the various futures by playing on the 1980s “Knowing is Half the Battle” GI Joe PSA remixes. The rest is just awesome!

Below are five seven of the seven (I’ll update this post with the other two once they come in) GI Joe PSAs used to explain the possible future of the internet.

Alison Litvin‘s The Future of the Internet – GI Joe PSA Internet of Things

William Strand‘s “GI JOE PSA on the future of RFID chips

Meredith Fierro’s “Self Driving Car G.I Joe PSA”

Jack Eaton‘s “GI Joe PSA 3D Printing”

Faisal Albellaihi‘s “Mesh Network GI Joe PSA”

Demi Fulcher‘s “Google Glass GI Joe PSA”

Zack Goodwyn‘s “Bitcoin GI Joe PSA”


Image credit: #006 Charizard on DeviantArt

I’ve been enjoying some time off over the last four or five days hanging out at home with the kids and refinishing 80 year old windows, though not necessarily in that order. It’s been an eventful few days (picnic, lightening) and pretty much web-free. I like getting consumed in something else every so often, and spending hours scraping and priming window sashes, or replacing a pulley systems through a hidden access panel was just what the doctor ordered.

One of the coolest moments of this downtime was when my oldest, Miles, was at the kitchen table typing away on the computer while I was removing a window. He’s only started exploring the web during the last few months (we downplay it in our house), and I think the recent discovery has a lot to do with his intense passion for all things Pokemon. For the last few weeks he’s been using it specifically to track down cards he wants to get on Ebay and Amazon—kinda like a dynamic online catalog.

But this time was somewhat different, he was alternatively typing and asking me how to spell words.

So I asked him, “What are you doing, Miles?”

To which he replied, “Leaving a comment on an open forum. It’s pretty cool, dad, you don’t even have to log in.”

Open forums. No logins. It was as if we were speaking the same web language after just a few shorts months. He spinned the laptop around and showed me the comment he had made on website. A site that has a top ten list for just about everything. The one he was commenting on was the “Top Ten Strongest Pokemon” poll. His choice was Charizard, and here’s the rationale he provided:

I think that charizard is the best becues he is icredibly strong.

He spells like his father ;)

This was his first comment he ever made on the web, and it was driven by his abiding passion for Pokemon. Beyond the catalog, the web provided a  space for him to communicate with an anonymous horde of others his strong feelings about Charizard, and that’s awesome. This is what it’s all about: a space to find out more about the things you love, share those discoveries with others, and make your opinions known, whether or not they are spelled correctly :) Moral of the story: start them commenting from a very young age ;)

I want the web to be a place to augment my kids’ passions, not just another space to login to refill his lunch money or review for a test. And I think a lot about my role in shaping that a reality for them. Starting slow has been the foundation.

Goofed by the Internet Course


Paul and I taught the Internet Course remotely last Tuesday and Thursday given that he’s in Pennsylvania and I was in Dallas, Texas for the Sloan-C Conference. After racing from the airport to the conference hotel in Dallas, I locked into the class via a Google Hangout alongside Paul to experience a truly impressive group presentation on Cyberbullying I already blogged about. It was a great class, and I was walking on cloud 9 as most faculty do after a great class, especially one the students take full ownership of.

So, I was more than excited for Thursday’s group presentation. I even got on Google Hangout five minutes early to see what was up, and perhaps talk some smack on the students. Lo and behold the group that was presenting were the only ones there. They were pretty concerned that the rest of the class didn’t show up, and they were wondering if the fact I was in Texas had anything to do with it. My worst nightmare came true while sitting in a hotel room 2000 miles away in Dallas, Texas: an empty classroom.


The students were freaking out a bit because the final four weeks of the class are focused on presentations wherein each group shares their research thus far. It depends on presenting to a group of people, getting feedback, and starting dialogues around what could be better, how, and why. All of which was not going to happen with two disembodied figures on a screen in an empty classroom. As this was unfolding I went into rant mode as the camera was facing the group at the front of the class. “What’s wrong with them?” “They’re dead to me!” “They will pay for this!” “I know where they live!!” And on and on and on.

After spewing my vitriol, Paul and I started to try and figure out if we can reschedule the presentations so the students could get some much needed feedback. In the mean time, the group turns the camera back on the classroom to show everyone in the class streaming into their seats from the hallway outside. They were messing with us! Those bastards!!

Now that’s my kinda class, the members of the inaugural #tic104 course just moved several notches higher in my estimation. Goofing on your professors and making us (well, really just me cause Paul is always locked in) pay for trapsing all over creation while they were locked in at home getting it done is a beautiful thing. Bully for them, I’m a very, very BIG FAN!

What the Heck is Electronic Mail?

1977: “What the Heck is Electronic Mail?”

1977: “What the Heck is Electronic Mail?”

Last night in The Internet Course, the panel did an excellent job sparking discussion about the social, economic, and cultural impacts of the internet. And almost forty years later its pretty interesting that e-mail is still “the killer app.” So, as we’re talking about the impact of the internet on our culture over the last forty years, I couldn’t help but think of this  1977 image from Retronaut Tim Owens shared with me a few weeks back. Email was application that helped people grok how the internet would dramatically shift the foundation of communication technologies. In fact, in the late 1960 Donald Davies  conceptualized an early vision of the internet as way of updating the British mail system.

I think a much young Angelina Jolie said it best:

What the Heck is Electronic Mail?

1977: “What the Heck is Electronic Mail?”

1977: “What the Heck is Electronic Mail?”

In last night’s The Internet Course the student panel did an excellent job sparking discussion around the social, economic, and cultural impacts of the internet. It made me think how remarkable it is that almost forty years later e-mail is still “the killer app.” So, as we’re talking about the impacts of the internet over the past forty years, I couldn’t help but think of this  1977 Honeywell advertisement Tim Owens shared with me a few weeks back.

Email was the application that helped people grok how the internet would dramatically shift the foundation of communication technologies in the future. In fact, in the late 1960s Donald Davies conceptualized an early vision of the internet as way of re-imagining the British postal system, something Ray Tomlinson’s invention of email in 1971 fully realized.

I think a much younger Angelina Jolie said it best:

Taming the Web

internet_curriculumAnother 2001 edtech book Shannon Hauser gave me earlier this week is Larry Lewen’s Using the Internet to Strengthen Curriculum. This guide to internet research is all about how to domesticate the internet for education, and some of the quotes are interesting when framed around the theory I’ve been pushing as of late, namely that the web increasingly became anathema to the intellectual work unviersities imagined themselves doing at the turn of the millenium. There’s an increasingly prevalent notion during the late 1990s of  a “dilemma” wherein the web becomes a “double-edged sword” for education. Take this quote from chapter 2 of the book, which is appropriately titled “Taming the Web”:

I love this idea of serendipity as a hazard of the internet, and one which distracts us from the point of….learning? It’s a truly bizarre idea, but at the same time it also fasicinates me. The idea of blazing pathways across resources, disciplines, cultures, etc., through hypertext is seen here as one of the real limits of the web for education. And the money quote for me,  “as teachers, we need to tame the internet for our students.” I can’t help but think this is still part of the mindset when it comes to the siloed learning management systems that are pervasive in education. The open web is just too confusing and messy when it comes to teaching, we need stay down in the lead-reinforced walls of the LMS bunker until this fad passes :) Duck and cover!

But that’s not all, the next page has a solution! “condense the possibilities for our students” and “structure the experience for their success.” The idea of the web as a network, even thirteen short years ago, was seemingly unfathomable in education.


And while I would like to applaud the idea of training students how to use the web for research, it’s remarkable how dominated the language in this book is with verbs like “control,” “manage,” and “tame,” as if it were even possible. I can’t help but think that during the decade since this book was published, framed by the explosion of Web 2.0, schools and universities moved away from trying to control the web—given the futility of such an enterprise—and simply refused to enagage it as part of the curriculum. Faced with the impossibility of control, there was a fear-driven retreat to the bunker.

If you didn’t like this post blame Ben Rimes because his comment here gave me the idea for it.

Twitch Plays Pokemon: an Allegory for Scale?

GIF from Twitch PLays Pokemon

GIF from Twitch Plays Pokemon

Last week, during a discussion in the Internet CourseMatt Arnold brought up the game Twitch Plays Pokemon while we were talking about consumption and creation on the web. He noted that currently thousands of people were playing a Pokemon game online together. What’s more, millions of people (more than 32 million as of today) have watched the stream since this social experiment started just over two weeks ago.

This experiment came up again in the DTLT offices yesterday when Ryan and Tim were talking about it in the bullpen. This time I actually spent some time on the webpage watching the game unfold. I have to agree with others folks that its hard to look away, kind of like an ongoing, glitching game that is at the same time hypnotic. Last night I was telling Ryan how on first impression Twitch strikes me as the opposite of Wikipedia. Whereas the open encyclopedia was a model of the new read, write web providing a demonstration of struggle but ultimately effective knowledge creation. Twitch reminds me more of a paralyzed attempt to lumber through a real-time, cooperative web. Something that can be accomplished realtively quickly by one person takes forever for hundreds of thousands. The dark side of scale? :)

That said, folks are trying to collaborrate and strategize to counteract trolls, but it still seems overwhelmingly difficult given how many people are sending commands. I’m interested to see if there can be a massive, distributed community that’s able to play this game together smoothly and intelligently. Or maybe that’s not the goal of this social experiemnt? The game’s creator has little hope the game can ever be completed. Either way, it’s wild that a massive social experiment resulting in a stream of “big data” involving millions of people is not only possible on the web, but a source of entertainment for millions more. We live in strange times.

Bad Day on the Midway

GIF Credit: "Meet the Residents" Tumblr

GIF Credit: “Meet the Residents” Tumblr

After exploring Will Crowther’s early Interactive Fiction game from 1976, I somehow found myself thinking about The Residents’s interactive CD-Rom from 1995 Bad Day on the Midway. This was a crazy game, and it is one of the multi-media experiments from that era that has stuck with me. It’s somewhere between a game, art, and insanity. The interactive animation by the late Jim Ludtke is inspired. In fact, the game was optioned by Ron Howard for a proposed  series that would have been directed by David Lynch. It fell apart, but that’s one of those pop culture alternative history scenarios one could get lost in. The aesthetic of this game reminds me a lot of Bioshock, and I really wish someone would update this game so it could be palyed as a seaamless world—it is so beautiful.

Bad Day at the Midway She Knows All

In 2001 The Residents’ released a ten-minute video of the game as part of their Icky Flix DVD. The following video, which i think is from that DVD (am I wrong here?), gives you a sense of how compellingly expressionistic the world they created was, as well as how amazing an update could be :)

The Hardcore Gaming 101 review does a great job describing the scenario and talking  a bit about the game play:

You begin the game as Timmy, a young boy visiting a crumbling amusement park known as Midway. But Timmy doesn’t see a pathetic locale where everything is falling apart, but rather a world of wonder, with his thoughts appearing in written form at the bottom of the screen. He loves talking to the mechanical fortune teller, killing communists at the shooting gallery, and riding on the Marvels of Mayhem merry-go-round.
You are welcome to play out the game as Timmy, but where the story gets really interesting is when you begin jumping from person to person and seeing the game through their eyes. When you encounter another character, an eyeball cursor appears and allows you to switch your viewpoint. There are other video games where you possess characters, like Messiah and Geist, but in this game you aren’t simply riding the characters’ bodies; you actually become them, seeing a different set of thoughts and having very different experiences.

Jumping from character to character and playing the game as someone besides Timmy seemed pretty wild at the time. It underscored there was no particular goal to reach or treasure to acquire, but rather it was far more concerned with the experience of being there.  It focused on interaction and observation of the world around you, inhabiting other subjectivities, which was later accompanied by a certain amount of discomfort given you could “become” a serial killer or a nazi sympathizer. It was  an experience that pushed the interactive, immersive games of the mid-1990s into some trippy territory, kinda like the dark, b-side of Myst. In fact, like the Myst Reader books back in the mid to late 1990s, Bad Day at the Midway was turned into a novel only year or two ago. How bizarre is that? Updating CD-ROMS to novels is all the rage!

I’ve been using the expression “bad day on the midway” ever since I first played this game to suggest when an activity has gone terribly wrong. I’m not sure if the title is an allusion to something else, but it’s become part of my very linguistic being. Anyway, I’m gonna see if I can get my hands on this game and play around with it again. I miss little Timmy’s adventures on the Midway!