Category Archives: Points Made

Arguments, appeals for reason, or otherwise analytical.

KYS

A decade ago, I [inexplicably got invited](http://vjarmy.com/archives/2004/03/me_tonight_appl.php) to present at Apple Store SoHo. For an hour, I tried my best to regale Apple Store customers with game demos, a few jokes, and my best sales pitches. It was my first real-world post-college “presentation”.

It was pretty bad, from what I can recall.

These days, I can’t seem to stop talking. I’ve given two work-related talks in the last month. I’ve appeared on four podcasts in the last week. I actually like speaking in public.

What’s the difference between now and then? *Knowing.*

It’s knowing what you’re talking about, and trusting in that knowledge. It’s easy to fill yourself with doubt when speaking publicly, and worry that you might make a fool of yourself. Truth is, so long as you can speak naturally, you won’t.

It’s knowing your audience. Who’s listening, and what are they expecting? What do they want to get out of it? Figure that out, and focus on it.

It’s knowing your tools. Some expertise in PowerPoint or Keynote goes a long way, sure. But know what your laptop does when you plug it into a projector. Know if the venue even has a projector. (Sometimes it doesn’t.)

It’s knowing how to tell a story. Maybe there’s a hook, maybe there’s a twist, maybe there’s a moral or punch line. Your job is to get your audience to that payoff in an interesting way.

It’s knowing when to talk, and when to let things breathe. Silence feels uncomfortable, especially in front of a crowd. Giving your ideas space lets them develop and sink in. Avoid talking just to fill the silence. Avoid stating the obvious.

It’s knowing how to improvise. Network connections go down, so figure out what you’d do without the live demo. Questions come out of left field, so be game for anything. Figure out how to deal with curveballs.

And here’s the curveball in my advice: presenting isn’t any different from the rest of your life. All these skills? You need them just as much when you’re not waving your arms at slide decks.

Don’t treat it as a separate activity. You’re always presenting. You probably just didn’t know it.

Unicorns and Assholes

I was at the Agile UX NYC 2012 conference on Saturday, and Phineas Barnes gave a talk entitled “4 keys to success in a design driven company“.

The slide that caught my eye was this one:

The argument of the slide: don’t build a team with unicorns or assholes.

His definition for a “unicorn” was the person who has the strict unwavering vision, and claims to understand better than anyone else – including your customers – what your customers need. (I don’t think there’s any confusion as to what he meant by “asshole”.) [1. He did note the caveat to this rule is when you have a unicorn who is also an asshole, i.e. Steve Jobs. He said to hire that particular unicorn.]

It boiled down to three points:

  • You need a team who can listen and pivot, so they can respond over time.
  • You need a team that can value options.
  • You need a team who’s able to admit that they’re wrong.

Yesterday, the “fighting game community” blew up in a massive drama bomb.

The story is a bit complicated, but it boils down to an incident that happened on a web reality show put on by Capcom to promote one of their new fighting games. One of the team captains, Aris Bakhtanians, made a series of sexually harassing comments at a female player on the show, allegedly as a way to play mind games. When Twitch TV community manager Jared Rea asked “Can I get my Street Fighter without sexual harassment?”, Aris responded:

> You can’t. You can’t because they’re one and the same thing. This is a community that’s, you know, 15 or 20 years old, and the sexual harassment is part of a culture, and if you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community–it’s StarCraft.

And soon after, press coverage came, and things degenerated rapidly (see Boing Boing’s incendiary headline or the NeoGAF thread). The constant across most discussion over the last 24 hours is a repeated defense from some in the FGC that they like things just the way they are, sexual harassment and all, and anyone suggesting change is a traitor or infringing on their first amendment rights.

This isn’t really about the fighting game community, and it’s not really about building a lean startup. But it is about the company you keep, and the communities we build.

It’s in our nature to find like-minded people. We all want that acceptance and understanding and connection that comes from people who understand how we think and act. We like talking to people with the same hobbies, and we like working with people who have the same passions. That’s how we build our social circles, our teams, and our worlds.

It’s not so hard to keep the assholes and unicorns out, but you need to be vigilant to ensure the people already inside don’t morph into either type. The longer you’ve been wrapped in a cocoon of like-minded people, the harder it is to stomach someone saying you’re doing it wrong.

If you attack someone for suggesting change, you’ve become an asshole.

If you go deaf to suggestions of change, or pull rank over a newcomer, or use the phrase “this is just how we do things”, you’ve become a unicorn.

Building a vision is important. So is having a backbone and defining your culture. Not all feedback is actionable or even necessarily worthwhile. But if you can’t listen, can’t value options, and can’t admit when you’re wrong, you’ve gone blind to change. You won’t be able to adapt, and someone is going to come in and eat your lunch.

The End Of The Crisis

In 2007, I had what I dubbed a “crisis of blogging faith“. Movable Type, my blog tool of choice, had been stagnating on the personal blogging front, while Six Apart was making a lot of noise about the enterprise. Within a day, I had a comment from Anil Dash:

We know we’ve been, honestly, focused elsewhere as we built up all the other work we’ve been doing. But, especially with the success of the other platforms and work like MT Enterprise, it lets us focus resources on the personal version of MT.

After four years of waiting, today I gave up — and migrated to WordPress.
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What If There’s Bears?

I am a huge, huge fan of Atlassian’s tools, and I’ve worked pretty hard to make them a part of culture at my office. They’ve just started a series of blog posts on using a wiki for technical writing, and I loved this bit:

>Do you feel nervous at the thought of customers adding angry comments on your documentation wiki? Spammers running riot? Here’s the flipside for you to consider: customers answering other customers’ questions in the wiki, external developers adding code samples to help flesh out your document, partners volunteering to write new documentation.

I think that when it comes to implementing any new technology (especially from being inside IT), there’s a lot of fear and belief that someone, somewhere, is going to misuse/abuse it. But we often lose site of the advantages that will come from the tool and clever use by your community.

“But what if…?” is the common thing I hear when talking about new technology, and my tongue-in-cheek response is now going to be “What if there’s bears?”, in due deference to this old Will Hines video:

Stop planning for doomsday. Pre-empt the obvious abuses, and handle the subtleties as they come.

Arguing With Friends About Gaming For Fun And Profit

About 10 years ago, when I was wearing the very unique hat of “Mac gaming journalist”, I got to meet a lot of remarkable people. One such person was Corey Tamas, who I met just as he was taking over Mike Dixon’s much beloved Mac Gamer’s Ledge and transitioning it into MacGamer.com, which recently relaunched after a few years of hiatus. Corey is a family man with a huge heart, a big Doctor Who fan (like bow ties, Doctor Who fans are cool), and one of the people that I will forever consider part and parcel of “Mac gaming”. He’s good people.

That said, sometimes he writes things I just can’t agree with, which brings us to today’s “10 Reasons Gamers Should Choose a Mac Over an iPhone/iPad“. Besides being a weird apples vs. oranges comparison – why not have both? – the ten reasons range from shaky to silly to flat-out wrong. Corey has authorized me to do my worst, so as a general survey of what’s going on with iOS gaming, here’s 10 Reasons Corey Tamas Is Wrong.
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Blinders

A random musing:

Yesterday, we were at MoCCA Festival 2010. After ducking into the last panel of the day, I found Katie sitting in the hallway with a few more bags. She showed me that she had picked up Volumes 1 and 2 of Cat and Girl, both signed by Dorothy Gambrell.

I suddenly panicked: I hadn’t seen a Cat and Girl comic in some large length of time, to the point where I had completely forgotten it even existed. After checking my feed reader this morning, I confirmed that it had been a year and a half. How could something I loved just drift out of my field of view, without me noticing?

But wait: this happens all the time. We forget about what used to be our favorite bands when they get filtered off our playlists or don’t come up on shuffle. We lose track of the friends we used to stay up late talking to because they’re not on our social network of choice. We stop enjoying the works of great writers or artists because they change websites, or their feeds break, or our bookmarks get corrupt.

I’m not complaining, and this certainly isn’t a screed about being dependent on technology. But it’s curious how the frequency that something is in my field of view correlates to my interest in it.

Steam OS X Release Coming?

Yesterday, Valve unveiled the first major overhaul to Steam‘s UI since the service launched. It’s gorgeous, even as a beta.

Within the release notes was a note of particular joy to me:

> Now using a WebKit based rendering engine for the client and in-game overlay web browsing components (replacing Internet Explorer)

As people have been digging around through the data files for the new version, they’ve noticed OS X window graphics, OS X menu files, dock icons, and strings about platform availability.

Moving to a cross-platform web rendering engine certainly doesn’t hurt this argument, either.

While a Steam port to OS X (or Linux) doesn’t mean that every game on the service becomes available to OS X gamers, it could mean that those games that are already cross-platform (Popcap’s stuff, some of EA’s recent titles, and plenty of indie games among others) would be.

I look forward to finding out what this all means.

(via Brad Shoemaker)

Going Beyond

On May 3rd of last year, I made a critical decision that I never spoke about here: I began a shutdown of VJ Army and Pop’n Navy, the two Bemani community sites that had been the lifeblood of my web presence since 2004. (No, my blog is not called VJ Army.)

The decision was not a hard one: a lack of time/resources for programming had left both sites in a code stasis for over a year. Bugs weren’t getting fixed, and no relief was in sight. Complicating things was a forum community that was mostly interested in sniping and trolling each other. I no longer felt like a member in my own forums, and that weighed heavily on my conscious. It was a deeply painful failure to keep what had once been a civil, “good” corner of the gaming community from turning toxic.
While the sites officially shut down a month later on my birthday (a perverse birthday gift for myself), users were able to export their personal data into a portable XML format until what was supposed to be December 31st, 2009.

IIDX Hardcore For Life

As it turned out, that day I was in Akihabara, playing the very games that I had fallen in love with back in 2003. As my interest in Bemani has waned dramatically over the last few years, it’s not lost on me that as I clicked away and slapped the plastic turntable back and forth, no thoughts passed through my head about recording scores or checking where I was ranked.

The data survived into 2010 until tonight, when I finally pulled the trigger and expunged all the data from my database. So if you hadn’t exported your data yet – I apologize, but you’re too late. I don’t have a copy anymore.

There were countless things I learned from the five years the sites ran: nerdy things about database optimization and PHP’s image libraries; hard fought struggles with moderating communities and building good controls for data review; pointers on staffing a no-profit web site and balancing life versus your projects. Maybe these lessons will surface in other posts over the coming year – maybe they won’t. There is just one on my mind tonight:

The best schools and books and teachers in the world are no comparison to going out and building something that people want to use. Go: dig your hands into the soil (as it were), and create something. Be the president, the support technician, the artist, the lead programmer, the project manager. Take all of the credit and accept all of the blame.
I’ve quoted this before, but I can think of nothing more fitting:

> Don’t be afraid. If you want to do something, just go ahead and do it, but be prepared to take the blame, to feel the fall. Don’t sit around waiting to be asked, to be given permission. Just get out there and do it.

As I said in the original shutdown notice – it was a great five years, and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.


Under The Radar at E3 2009

E3 has just ended, and if you’ve been reading any of the major gaming blogs this week, you’re probably tired of seeing the same names over and over. Halo. Gran Turismo. Mario. Castlevania. Modern Warfare. Metroid. Metal Gear. Final Fantasy. Wii Sports. Project Natal.

I find that every year, I get far more excited about the titles at E3 that slip by quietly – the niche games, the ones that only get two seconds during a montage on the screen. The games that may not get a formal press release or even much of a mention.

Allow me to point you at some of the things you may have missed at this year’s E3, both good and bad, across all major platforms.

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