Caveat: Venter

Think about all of the things that make your brain itch. These are mine.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Who Are These People?

My latest widget is up on just over a half dozen sites that provide free download figures to developers (and users), and to my surprise in a week and a half, I have managed to garner over 1,000 confirmed downloads. Now, don't get me wrong, I love the idea that people are downloading my game. After all, in almost a decade I have failed completely to market the thing to any kind of game company or agent (OK, I probably could have tried a little harder, but at a great financial burden). Nonetheless, my latest version, which I uploaded a whopping 10 hours ago, accounts for almost 250 downloads already.

I want to know who these people are! Better still, I want to know what they think. So far the only comments I have gotten on any of the sites were a) a response to my plea for critique (thank you, exq) and b) flame from a troll (I am almost certain that his assault on my game has increased its popularity, though that may be nothing more than post hoc thinking).

My wife says I am obsessed, tracking download growth for the last 10 days, and perhaps I am, but I have my reasons. My obsession has been driven by my bewilderment over the relative popularity of the widget. My first widget, which I released in mid-November, is still clawing its way through the mid-900s in download count, but I still have no idea whether people are using/playing my widgets or just downloading and dumping. It really is enough to make a man insane.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

New widget!

OK, I have yet to deliver any real expansion of my BridgeKeeper widget for Dashboard (Mac OS X 10.4), but I have felt a lack of motivation that has mixed well with all I have on my plate (work is about to get busier, both with more papers to grade and committee work to perform). Nonetheless, I have adapted a game I developed ten years ago, and now it's a widget. I was going to post it as a beta release, but the lack of certain standard features forced me to back off of that and make it an alpha. I now have a beta version (standard Dashboard UI elements, complete code, and moderately improved graphics) about ready to go out the door.

In any case, since it is not yet a full 1.0 version, it is only available here at The final release will be posted to other sites like Version Tracker, MacUpdate, Widget Developer, and Apple (maybe more, but the other sites have done little for BridgeKeeper and tend to have stiffer requirements for submissions).

This is a reworking of a Javascript version of Shih (yeah, I know what it looks like, but I got the name from Art of War because I liked the meaning), which is pronounced much like "sure," but with the "r" sound clipped. Those readers who have 10.4 (or 10.3.9 running the Amnesty widget browser) can give it a try. It currently has a single starting configuration and only the two-player variant, but then I have not taken a programming class in nigh in 26 years, and that was BASIC on a pre-C64 Commodore (just after the Pet).

Also, those non-Mac users running browsers other than IE should be able to download it (should look like a folder with a .wdgt extension) and run it in the browser. The rules are written in the HTML file. Any feedback would be great. Oh yeah, and if you happen to know how to write computer players for such beasties, we need to talk.

Apple and MacUpdate now have it for download. A couple more should be coming online soon.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Speed Dating Meets Academia

OK, so there was no dating involved, but the concept is the same. The students in one of my classes are, as is always the case, a little slow to come out of their shells. This was holding up the development of their papers about fiction (they will have other papers about poetry and drama in this Composition and Literature course). A solution came to me as I was struggling to sleep Sunday night: speed dating.

I took the format of speed dating and changed it a little to fit the material, and if my students feedback (and their continued discussions, even during a break) are any indication, it was a great success. I had them arrange the desks in facing pairs and set a six-minute countdown timer. They then took turns explaining to one another where they were thinking of going with their papers before questioning one another about details and providing their own reactions to the material. At the end of six minutes, the students facing one way each rotated one position around the room and did it again. We had six rounds of this.

By the end, they had each presented their ideas enough times in different ways and gotten such different feedback that they were well on their way to developing ideas. When we took a break, two pairs were still talking, and another two students took the discussion outside. When I returned, three more students were engaged in a new discussion. I had only just dreamed it might go so well, and we got every student talking during that time, instead of one at a time.

While this is not an ideal format for regular classroom discussion—far from it, in fact—it has brought even the most guarded students out to share their ideas. Next week promises to be lively if we can carry this energy forward, and I'll be doing everything I can to ensure it's there.