vili's recent activity

  1. Comment on Marie Fredriksson - I en tid som vår in ~music

    vili
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    I felt like posting this in memory of Marie Fredriksson, who has passed away at the age of 61. She was best known as the female half of Roxette, but also had a successful solo career, mainly in...

    I felt like posting this in memory of Marie Fredriksson, who has passed away at the age of 61. She was best known as the female half of Roxette, but also had a successful solo career, mainly in her native Swedish. This is the title song from her 1996 album, which is one of my personal favourites.

    3 votes
  2. Nits - an introduction to a criminally unknown band

    Anticipating their new album that came out today, I've been on something of a Nits trip lately. (It's more pleasant than it sounds, I promise!) Since I think these guys should and could be better...

    Anticipating their new album that came out today, I've been on something of a Nits trip lately. (It's more pleasant than it sounds, I promise!) Since I think these guys should and could be better known, I thought I'd spread the gospel a little bit.

    Throughout their almost five decades of existence, Nits (or The Nits) have been critically acclaimed, yet have never really conquered the charts. There are various likely reasons for this. For one, they exist in that difficult-to-market realm of "art pop" and have continued to reinvent themselves and their sound from album to album. As a Dutch band, they have also never had the backing of a major British or US label, and although the songs are primarily in English, perhaps the singer-lyricist Henk Hofstede's accent has also sounded too non-native for the masses.

    If you do know Nits, you most likely know them from their minor 80s hits Nescio (1983) and In The Dutch Mountains (1987). Those two songs capture their 80s style pretty well in terms of their sound and lyrical content, and the videos are also great examples of their visual style.

    These two songs came out during what was actually their second distinct musical period. Their first four albums, released between 1978 and 1981, were riding the new wave wagon, a good example of which is the song Tutti Ragazzi (1979). But I would say that it was with 1983's Omsk where Nits really started to display their full potential and began to solidify into a core three-man unit of the aforementioned Hofstede, drummer Rob Kloet, and keyboardist Robert Jan Stips who had produced their earlier albums but now joined the band fully. There have been other members over the years, but these three are the main contributors; Hofstede with his voice and story-like lyrics, Kloet with his wide range of beats and rhythms that cross musical genres, and Stips who brings in a particular depth and space in which the songs can breathe freely.

    In addition to the two tracks I mentioned earlier, other songs from their 80s and early 90s output that I would recommend as an introduction include A Touch of Henry Moore (1983), Sketches of Spain (1986), Radio Shoes (1990), and Giant Normal Dwarf (1990).

    There has always been an undercurrent of melancholy to Nits's music, but it tends to be balanced with their quirky sense of humour. In the 90s, however, the melancholy started to take over, and Hofstede's lyrics became increasingly focused on the human condition while the music dropped some of its overt playfulness. Some wonderful pieces from this period include Cars & Cars (1992), Mourir Avant Quinze Ans (1994), Three Sisters (1998) and Ivory Boy (2000). This period also witnessed a major change in the lineup, as Stips departed the band in 1996. He joined back seven years later, from which point onwards they have been a three-member band.

    While the evolution of their style has been gradual, I would say that by the late 2000s, Nits had moved into their fourth major period. Whereas their influences have always clearly included artists like the Beatles (the band's name is sort of a nod to them), Talking Heads, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan, I feel Nits have more recently toned down some of their earlier experimentation and focused more on the qualities that made their influences such great songwriters. From this latest period, take a listen to The Flowers (2008), Distance (2009), Love Locks (2012) and Flowershop Forget-Me-Not (2017).

    This brings us to today's album, Knot, which is something like the group's 25th studio album. Or maybe 26th. Or something else, depending on your definition of a studio album. In any case, as I understand it, this new work was largely parsed together from hours of improvisation, and it does sound like that. The eleven tracks feel like mood pieces, fairly static paintings, captured moments. But I have of course only given the album a handful listens so far, so this is an early impression still. In any case, here's the album opener Ultramarine (2019).

    I hope this little write-up will be of interest to some of you and that perhaps the linked music speaks to you on a level that pushes you to dig in deeper. If you use Spotify, the "This Is Nits" playlist is a pretty good next step to take.

    If you do take a listen, I'd be curious to hear what you think of the music. Or if you knew Nits before, I'd love to hear what you think my little introduction here missed, misinterpreted or should have emphasised more. And what's your view of the new album?

    7 votes
  3. Comment on What is your favourite tv show ? in ~talk

    vili
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    That's a good point. Even if some of the characters may look a little older and the style of their clothing has changed, the between-seasons time doesn't really make them grow or change in any...

    I don't think The Deuce or Show Me a Hero did a great job at aging the characters.

    That's a good point. Even if some of the characters may look a little older and the style of their clothing has changed, the between-seasons time doesn't really make them grow or change in any meaningful sense.

    You also mentioned community as the core element in both The Wire and Treme. Now that I think about it, while The Deuce certainly has its communities, they feel much more alienating, with characters not existing so much in relation to their peers, but rather as individuals responsible mainly for themselves. They all seem quite lonely, detached, and unable to find meaningful human connections, even while being constantly surrounded by each other. This may well be intentional, but it's a big contrast to the previous shows and something that I hadn't really thought about until now.

    And yes, Holt McCallany is absolutely brilliant in Mindhunter. The show also has one of the most interesting sound designs that I have come across. It's subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, and it works really well to underline and contrast with the visuals whenever needed.

    1 vote
  4. Comment on What is your favourite tv show ? in ~talk

    vili
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    Show Me A Hero was actually a difficult one for me, as I think I went in with far too high expectations. I felt that the mini-series format didn't do the story full justice, with the characters...

    Show Me A Hero was actually a difficult one for me, as I think I went in with far too high expectations. I felt that the mini-series format didn't do the story full justice, with the characters not having as much space to breathe as they would perhaps have needed. But I still enjoyed it hugely, and definitely need to watch it again now that I know what to expect.

    Similarly, I'm a bit divided about The Deuce. On the one hand, I absolutely love it, but on the other... I guess the long chronological jumps between the seasons didn't quite work for me, to be honest. The characters feel more distant, or something. But I actually haven't finished the last season yet, as HBO's streaming app had issues where I live and although they have fixed them now, we had already jumped into the second season of Mindhunter, so will see that to the end before returning to The Deuce.

    2 votes
  5. Comment on What is your favourite tv show ? in ~talk

    vili
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    For me, it's a toss between The Wire and Treme. The Wire is probably objectively better, but Treme has a direct access to my heart. The Wire is a tour de force exploration of a city, a society and...

    For me, it's a toss between The Wire and Treme. The Wire is probably objectively better, but Treme has a direct access to my heart.

    The Wire is a tour de force exploration of a city, a society and a social problem, on a level that no other show has accomplished. It is Literature, with a capital L, delivered through the small screen format. My advice to anyone new to the series: you need to give it a handful of episodes, not because the show will change, but because it may need to change you first. It took me a few episodes (and actually a couple of separate attempts) to get sucked into its vortex. But it may be easier these days, as The Wire was one of those shows that so fundamentally influenced how television is made today, so its narrative style is no longer such an outlier.

    Treme is also very much grounded on social problems, but it is also the most uplifting show that I have ever watched. Watching Treme just makes me happy, even when terrible things happen. I suppose it radiates a certain type of a spirit and approach to life that I can only admire and try to embrace. There is something about that piece of television, about its characters, its music, sounds and tastes that just make me feel home, happy and relaxed. Even if I have never been to New Orleans in my life.

    The bottom line, I suppose, is that David Simon creates worlds and characters that beat with the same rhythm as I do. Not all of his shows have been quite as dear to me as these two, but I have found them all interesting. And these two, I treasure immensely.

    5 votes
  6. Comment on What are some good news outlets you would recommend? in ~talk

    vili
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    Here are some sources that I follow for general news and news analysis. Personally, I try to use sort of neutral sources for general news ("what happened"), and then supplement with a variety of...

    Here are some sources that I follow for general news and news analysis. Personally, I try to use sort of neutral sources for general news ("what happened"), and then supplement with a variety of sources for the analysis ("why it happened").

    News
    Reuters - fairly neutral
    BBC - UK centric but works for me
    Wikipedia - Current Events - decent daily summaries, often things I have missed elsewhere

    Science & Tech News
    Astronomy Now
    Discover
    Everyday Astronaut
    Nature
    Science
    Science Daily
    Scientific American
    Space.com
    Spaceflight Now
    Yes, space fascinates me.

    Analysis
    1843
    Aeon
    American Scientist
    Arts & Letters Daily
    The Atlantic
    Backreaction
    Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
    Caspian Report
    The Christian Science Monitor
    The Conversation
    Center for Strategic and International Studies
    Crux Capacitor
    The Economist
    E-International Relations
    Encyclopedia Geopolitica
    European Council on Foreign Relations
    Financial Times
    Foreign Affairs
    Foreign Policy
    The Guardian - The Long Read
    LessWrong
    Longform
    Lowly Institute - The Interpreter
    Nautilus
    Neurologica
    The New York Review of Books
    Politico (Europe)
    Politico (US)
    Quanta Magazine
    Reasons to be Cheerful
    Smithsonian
    Stratfor - Horizons
    The Verge - Longform
    Wait But Why
    Wired - Backchannel

    If anyone can recommend good sources for news and geopolitical analysis on Sub-Saharan Africa or South America, I'm all ears. Preferably in English.

    5 votes
  7. Comment on What games have you been playing, and what's your opinion on them? in ~games

    vili
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    I've been playing this game called Super Metroid. Some of you may have heard of it. I had actually never played it before. Talk about having a backlog! For my defence though, I've always been more...

    I've been playing this game called Super Metroid. Some of you may have heard of it.

    I had actually never played it before. Talk about having a backlog! For my defence though, I've always been more of a Commodore / Amstrad / Microsoft kind of a guy and only owned gaming consoles in the late 2000s. Time to time, I pop into older console and arcade games to see what I have missed.

    I'm surprised how modern Super Metroid feels. Or, perhaps more accurately, I'm surprised how little recent games that I automatically compare it to, such as Axiom Verge, Shadow Complex, Guacamelee or Hollow Knight, have actually built on top of it. Not that it's a bad thing. I love the core metroidvania design.

    In many ways, Super Metroid also feels more modern than its contemporaries. I suppose Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is the most typical comparison, although it came out a bit later. I love Symphony of the Night, but for me, Super Metroid, even as an older game, actually feels less dated. If someone released Super Metroid today, while I would certainly think that it is very hipstery of them to do so, I wouldn't really bat an eyelid.

    Or maybe I would bat half an eyelid. While the game controls exceptionally well for the most part, I feel the controls for the advanced jumps (rolling jumps, wall-jumps and double jumps) would in today's release be more streamlined. I also think that the player avatar would be slightly less tall, not only for aesthetic but also gameplay reasons.

    But other than that, the way the story is told through the gameplay, music, animations and graphics, they all work really well to create a strong and memorable atmosphere. And when the game pushes up the presentation to the next level, it is always an amazing moment as it's such a contrast to the norm that it establishes. I love some of the environmental puzzles that use the statues. The first time I activated one was a big "wow" moment. Same goes for the action sequences that are like interactive cut scenes. Amazing.

    Apart from me having had to google things like how to open red doors, what exactly to press to turn into a ball, how to wall jump, etc. (all of which are probably told in the manual), the game has also been very good at teaching me its mechanics and what I'm generally supposed to be doing. Although I do get lost. Quite a bit. Or rather, it's not that I don't know where I am (the map is generally good and the equipment screen gives me an idea of how far in the game I am) but I don't always know where something else is, which is to say it's sometimes a little unclear what to do next. There is quite a bit of roaming back and forth involved, which is of course part of the metroidvania design. But my roaming is a bit more aimless than usual in these games. Especially as some of the gates that I need to pass are literally hidden, and towards the end of the game, hidden even from the tool that is supposed to show me hidden things. That doesn't feel like very good game design.

    This has got me thinking about game design principles and how the core act of playing a game has changed in the past 30 years, which naturally has influenced the decisions that game designers today make as oppose what they did back in the early 90s.

    We often criticise old games when they have obscure mechanisms, insane puzzles or hidden content. And we often think that, given that there was no internet back then (well, sort of), those kind of design decisions were particularly inexcusable, or just money grabs to sell hint books or phone services. But I remember differently. I remember that back then, if I was stuck in a game for an evening, I would be talking about it next day with my friends. Maybe one of them had solved the problem or heard how to solve it. Or maybe we could come up with a solution together. Sometimes, I would call a friend quite late at night asking if they had cleared something that I was struggling with.

    Where did all this information come from? A lot of it must have been just word-of-mouth, passed on from one player to another. It would make an interesting study how knowledge like that got passed amongst gamers back then, from one clique to another, from one town to the next, and beyond. In a sense, games were a pretty social medium back then. It was often a collective group effort to complete a game.

    That said, I'm playing this in 2019 and through an emulator, and I'm not ashamed to say that I'm save scumming my way through. And not only that, but I'm also boss scumming. I'm not particularly fond of boss battles in any game -- I can certainly understand why many love them, but I just don't have the patience and/or the skills to pull through many of them. For people like me, Super Metroid's bosses are for the most part quite ingeniously designed, or so it seems. Just about every boss appears to have an exploit that you can use to fairly easily beat the boss, if you just happen to know where to stand and what to do. And so, I give a boss three to five tries, and then google for a solution, unless I have already spotted it myself.

    Addendum: I actually typed this up a couple of days ago. I have since finished the game. It felt a little too long and repetitive towards the end, but I think that's at least partly due to the different playing rhythm that I have available today with emulator state saves, rather than being confined to the game's original save system, which naturally gives the game a very different rhythm and a different type of repetitiveness. All in all, I really enjoyed Super Metroid and I remain amazed how modern it felt. The final parts in particular were pretty genius.

    2 votes
  8. Comment on What's a piece of media (show/movie/game/album/book/comic/etc.) that you passionately like, but never see anyone else mention? in ~talk

    vili
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    Seconded! Tristram Shandy is a brilliant work of 18th century postmodernism, written long before anyone had conceived of the term. A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy, also by Laurence...

    Seconded! Tristram Shandy is a brilliant work of 18th century postmodernism, written long before anyone had conceived of the term. A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy, also by Laurence Sterne, is similarly ahead of its time, and contains one of my favourite novel ending sentences. In fact, if the length of Tristram Shandy scares someone, A Sentimental Journey could be a shorter introduction to the author's style. That said, I don't really think one necessarily needs to read Tristram Shandy in full, or even in order, to appreciate it.

    Also, while on the subject, A Cock and Bull Story is a pretty hilarious film adaptation of Tristram Shandy that should definitely be better known.

    2 votes
  9. Comment on What do you do when you hit the point of chronically feeling low? in ~life

    vili
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    To play an armchair psychiatrist, I think one thing could be that as you are in your final year of studies, you are, even if only subconsciously, apprehensive about what will happen after you...

    To play an armchair psychiatrist, I think one thing could be that as you are in your final year of studies, you are, even if only subconsciously, apprehensive about what will happen after you graduate, and that feeds into what you are feeling. Graduation will be a big identity change for you. You are no longer a student, but will now be facing the "real world", and depending on your age, adulthood. As a student, everything has felt possible ("I can always switch my subject if I don't like it") and you have also had the guiding hand of the educational system for 20 or so years telling you what to do next. But after you graduate, you are suddenly in the driver's seat, with no clear objectives. And at the same time, things may also seem very final: is this what you really want to be doing for the rest of your life? Will you find your place in the world? Is what you have studied relevant for "real life"?

    Rest assured, most of us have gone through that. And all of us have found our places. In fact, most of us have had multiple places, some of which have had nothing to do with what we have studied. You'll find your way.

    You also mention living abroad and whether the novelty of that may have worn off. As someone who has lived in a couple of different countries, and known many others who have done the same, I can say that at least based on my personal and totally anecdotal experience there definitely is a point, or actually multiple points, when you hit low points and question what you are doing. It too is a question of an evolving personal identity.

    I don't know how long you have lived abroad or why you moved, but after the initial excitement of moving to a country, which for me lasts about half a year, people tend to get to a place where things are no longer exotic and every day no longer constitutes a brand new and exciting challenge. You now know how to do your groceries, how to order in a restaurant, how to do your taxes, and so on. You have developed a routine. Everyday life is no longer a non-stop adventure. This can be depressing, as you have become addicted to the excitement.

    After the first year and a half or two years, you have also started to acclimatise, quite literally, as the weather and seasons no longer feel weird. It can be a surprisingly big thing psychologically.

    But at least you are still exciting, because you are a (or even "the") foreigner. You stick out. A few years later, this starts to change too. You have come to understand the culture and the language (if different from yours) to a level where you know what is going around you, both on an immediate as well as a social level. You can no longer really feel like an outsider. Or special. And this can affect you.

    Some years after that, there is a point that can be even harder to process. Up until then, whenever you boarded an airplane or a train to take you back to your original country, and heard your mother tongue (or your home dialect) being spoken by other passengers, you felt like you were going home. But at one point, you realise that this has reversed: now, you get the "I'm going home feeling" when you board the return flight and hear the language of the country in which you now live. Your adopted country has become your home. This can again be a tough idea to deal with. It starts to destroy the last vestiges of your detachment, those last excuses you may have had that you have used to justify yourself for not caring about social or other problems in the country that you live in.

    And so it goes. Little by little, your adopted country swallows you. It can be suffocating, particularly if one of your reasons for moving there was to look for something new and exciting, or to leave the old and boring behind. And even if it wasn't, you were still "special" when you moved in, but now you are just part of the furniture.

    But of course you aren't. Throughout your journey, you are still you, and you are a much richer you than you were when you originally moved in, thanks to all the experiences. Embrace that. And evaluate whether it is that excitement of the exotic that you are craving for, which no longer exists on the same level. If so, ask yourself if you really need it, or why you need it.

    My final, and again totally anecdotal, suggestion is to consider if you are getting enough exercise and eating well. The older you get, the more things like your metabolism will change, and your body will work differently from how you are used to it working. There comes a time, surprisingly early in your life, and often around the time many people are graduating, when you need to start taking active care of your body, while keeping in mind that also your brain is a part of that corporeal unit. At least for me, the older I get, the more exercise and diet affect my mood. And it is also a pretty vicious circle. If I skip exercise or eat poorly, in less than a week I find myself in a pretty low place mentally. And the deeper I fall, the more difficult it is to climb back up and motivate myself to exercise and eat better. But once I push myself back into a healthier routine, the brain pretty quickly becomes far less murky, the problems appear smaller, and life in general much more enjoyable.

    Again, all of this is just my personal experiences. Your mileage will vary.

    1 vote
  10. Comment on What’s something you would gladly eat for lunch very day for for the rest of your life? in ~food

    vili
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    For the last four and a bit years, I've been eating (well, mainly drinking) soylents, or meal replacements for my lunches. I'm circulating multiple brands and it works really well for me. Quick,...

    For the last four and a bit years, I've been eating (well, mainly drinking) soylents, or meal replacements for my lunches. I'm circulating multiple brands and it works really well for me. Quick, easy and nutritional. I could imagine myself doing this for the rest of my life.

    They aren't the most memorable lunches of course, but lunches rarely were for me anyway. And I wouldn't replace all of my food intake with soylents, as I love cooking and good food.

    3 votes
  11. Comment on The Witcher - Main trailer - Releasing December 20, 2019 in ~tv

    vili
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    For a long time, I had trouble getting into the games, but at one point I realised what Witcher 3's combat system is: it's a dance game. Once I made that realization and figured out the rhythms of...

    For a long time, I had trouble getting into the games, but at one point I realised what Witcher 3's combat system is: it's a dance game. Once I made that realization and figured out the rhythms of different enemies, it actually became quite a pleasant experience to play Witcher 3.

    That said, I still never ended up finishing the game as the writing was so uneven and I really didn't come to care about any of the characters.

    But, if you ever want to give Witcher 3 another try, maybe try approaching it as a rhythm game. It really made a difference for me, and it's not an unpleasant game to play, mechanically.

    2 votes
  12. Comment on "If you like _____, you might also like _____." - Music recommendation game in ~music

  13. Comment on Play a game from your backlog for at least 15 minutes, then come back and tell us about it here. in ~games

    vili
    Link Parent
    That's a pity. For me, all web pages and email accounts have so far worked without issues. I have actually also noticed that there probably are more websites now than there used to be: some...

    The only complaint I had was that some of the email addresses you were supposed to contact were down when I played.

    That's a pity. For me, all web pages and email accounts have so far worked without issues. I have actually also noticed that there probably are more websites now than there used to be: some entrepreneurial individuals appear to have created websites for some of the search keywords, I assume to catch page visits and get ad revenue. I'm not sure how lucrative that business idea can be considering the apparent player numbers.

    After playing a bit more yesterday, my main complaint about half-way through the game would be the way that the game processes the answers. It seems like there is always one, and only one correct way to input an answer, and sometimes it's a bit infuriating when you know the answer but it takes time to figure out what exactly about the answer to specifically input as the answer. One puzzle needed me to figure out what sticks out in an lab order, and it took me a long time to find out that instead of writing in the item's name, I had to write in its weight. With my brain wired in a way where I'm perfectly capable of creating connections between things that don't have them, if I try the most obvious answer and it doesn't work, it will lead me down a weird rabbit hole of all sorts of really creative connections, each step taking me further away from the answer that I already had, just didn't know how to input.

    Still, I'm curious to see how the case ends and if the rest doesn't disappoint, I'll definitely look into the other games by this developer.

    3 votes
  14. Comment on Play a game from your backlog for at least 15 minutes, then come back and tell us about it here. in ~games

    vili
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    Game Played: The Black Watchmen Time: 4 hours Continue? Very much looking forward to. How to describe this...? Take The X-Files, the basics of interactive fiction, creative puzzle types from...

    Game Played: The Black Watchmen
    Time: 4 hours
    Continue? Very much looking forward to.


    How to describe this...? Take The X-Files, the basics of interactive fiction, creative puzzle types from escape room places, and about two dozen browser windows. Then, shake well. The result will be conspiracies, government science experiments of dubious morality, cold war history, secret societies, an undercurrent of occultism... the first four hours of this one have been quite a trip.

    The game bills itself as a "permanent alternate reality game" and so far the moniker feels earned, as more than once I have stopped to wonder what is actually real and what isn't. Much of it has been built on historical events and references that exist within that wonderful sphere of things that definitely happened but you can't quite believe that they did.

    The gameplay so far has gone pretty much like this: as an agent of The Black Watchmen, I'm given documents that contain information, and in order for me to proceed I need to make sense of that information, usually by exiting the game window, opening my browser and doing some Google searches, reading Wikipedia articles, and also accessing some websites and Facebook profiles that the game makers have created. When I arrive at an answer, it's usually a code, word or phrase that I need to enter into the game. If I get it right, I get to proceed in the story and get the next task. And for the most part so far, all of it has been pretty nicely and thematically done, with only a couple of tasks so far feeling a little forced.

    At the very beginning, the game lured me in with its hints of connections to a 19th century occult society that I remember having been very fascinated about back in my teens. About an hour or so later, I found myself youtubing a 20-minute documentary from the 1940s about a historical Soviet experiment where they bring a decapitated dog's head back to life. Not because I needed really to watch it in full, but because it was fascinating, as well as frankly quite horrifying. Somewhere in between, I also read quite a bit about coffee and Canadian ice-hockey. I have deciphered codes, rebuilt corrupted data, hacked websites, social engineered people, and more. At one point, I went through a fictional person's credit card bill, ended up cross-referencing it with Wikipedia data on certain real-world events, and came up with a pattern that ultimately gave me her login password at a fictional company's website. It took me half an hour to figure it all out and hack in, but it felt great to pull it off.

    It's not the first game that I have played that uses the real world and the internet as its canvas and playground. But it might be the first one that really works for me in this genre. The ones I have played before have usually been great concepts but lacking a little in execution. But with this one, I have so far been hooked. I think I'm starting to be about a third through the story, but now that I look at the Steam page, it seems like this is just the first season of two, plus there are additional DLC stories as well. I'm curious to see where this experience takes me.

    7 votes
  15. Comment on Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo share Booker prize 2019 in ~books

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    This reminds me that I need to get back to The Testaments after I got side-tracked by a book about Taliban military organization in the Afghan war. I absolutely love Atwood's rhythm and wit,...

    This reminds me that I need to get back to The Testaments after I got side-tracked by a book about Taliban military organization in the Afghan war. I absolutely love Atwood's rhythm and wit, always have, but I must say that the story in the first 150 pages or so hasn't quite hooked me yet, hence my detour.

    1 vote
  16. Comment on What is this place in need of right now? in ~tildes

    vili
    Link Parent
    Perhaps automated content gathering wouldn't necessarily need to lead to automatic posting. Instead, the system could ask users to curate the content that it gathers and act as gate-keepers. I...

    Perhaps automated content gathering wouldn't necessarily need to lead to automatic posting. Instead, the system could ask users to curate the content that it gathers and act as gate-keepers. I actually wrote some thoughts about this some time ago.

    5 votes
  17. Comment on What is this place in need of right now? in ~tildes

    vili
    Link Parent
    Here's a completely undigested thought: could something like writing prompts be used to encourage participation? Prompts are quite a standard practice in education. Rather than just giving your...

    It's the age old problem of encouraging lurkers to comment and commenters to do so more often (while still maintaining standards), but there has to be some things we can do to help things along.

    Here's a completely undigested thought: could something like writing prompts be used to encourage participation?

    Prompts are quite a standard practice in education. Rather than just giving your students a topic to write an essay about (cf. posting a link to an article here), it is often a good idea to include statements and questions that guide students to think about the subject before they start writing.

    In recent years, prompts have also started to pop up on websites that ask for our reviews. Amazon, for instance, sends user submitted questions to product owners, which has generated plenty of review-type discussion on product listings. Similarly, Google's services like Maps and Play Store have switched away from just nagging you about leaving an open-ended review, and instead have started to ask very specific questions, at the end of which they perhaps also ask you to leave that more open review, after your mind has been prompted by the questions.

    This is also a typical tactic for bloggers. If you end your blog post with a question, you tend to get far more discussion than if you don't. And it's very much true here at Tildes as well: topics that specifically prompt a response from users, like the various ask.discussion threads such as this one, seem to generate more activity than plain article links.

    I'm not aware of any social media service that would systematically use prompts to encourage discussion and I don't know how this would function in practice. The range of potential topics is so wide that it would probably be impossible to come up with a standard list of prompts that could meaningfully cover article submissions automatically.

    I suppose one pretty straightforward way within the current system would be to just encourage or even mandate article submitters to submit a comment that either asks a question or states an argument for others to engage with. Over at Reddit, some subreddits do this as "submission statements" or such.

    But perhaps prompts could be a separate feature from comments. Both the original poster as well as others could (anonymously?) add questions and discussion prompts, which would show at the bottom of the submission, either before the comments or before the comment text box. Most of the time, it is easier to ask an insightful question than it is to provide an insightful answer. Yet, many may feel, or have even been taught to believe, that asking questions is a sign of ignorance, or in the case of a discussion driven platform like Tildes, considered "noise". But questions are very valuable, and often an interesting thought only manifests itself when someone else has come up with an even more interesting question or prompt to react to.

    So, might one key to generating meaningful discussion be to systematically encourage the creation of meaningful prompts in connection to articles posted?

    16 votes