Some might call it the original "Second Life"…

About 3 years ago I encountered a free online “game” called Cantr.

It’s an interesting concept, almost like “Second Life” only entirely text based. Like Second Life, it’s not really a game but more a MMORPG (Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Game).

Over the years they’ve developed some very sophisticated processes and systems to manage the world’s animal population, disease, farming and even manufacturing. It’s actually quite amazing once you start digging in and realize that the game has essentially been created from scratch by a group of volunteer developers.

I’ve never been a huge RPG kind of person but while I was playing found it quite entertaining and an interesting outlet. I personally just plain ran out of time about a year ago (between a startup and a new baby time gets pretty valuable) and admittedly it was a bit of a sad day to get the “death notices” via email as my various characters died or were killed off by animals etc.

I still check in on it from time to time as I find the statistics portion really interesting and there’s a couple of things that triggered with me recently and I thought it deserved a post.

1. Deleted from Wikipedia too
As I posted about XPLANE getting deleted from Wikipedia the other day it turns out Cantr was also removed from the Wikipedia site a couple of months ago.

I’m in the process right now of belatedly working my way through “The Long Tail“, by Chris An. One of the examples he cites over and over again is Wikipedia and how, compared to the Encyclopedia Britannica etc., it has an almost unlimited storage capacity. Yet here’s two cases of what I would call classic “Long Tail” topics and they’ve been removed from the “limitless” encyclopedia because someone else felt they weren’t notable. Arguably Cantr’s “notability” isn’t on the level of XPLANE but it is still an site that has been around for several years now and has had several thousand people participate in it and help grow it. In it’s almost 5 year run it’s actually grown into quite an interesting social experiment.

Like XPLANE it’s my understanding that the Cantr folks expressed interest in helping bring the entry more in line with Wikipedia guidelines (i.e. neutral writing etc.) but they were also removed before much, if anything could be revised.

Obviously what I had for breakfast doesn’t need an entry in Wikipedia but from what I’m starting to see I’m wondering if they’re still setting the bar a little high for what qualifies as an appropriate entry.

2. Broadly Localized
At last count the game had been localized into 15 languages.

The interesting twist with Cantr is you pick the language your character speaks when you create them. Within the game the different languages all “spawn” (enter the “world”) where ever there is a concentration of other players in that language but everyone is placed within the same world, although at times in vastly different geographic regions.

Once in that language the rule is the characters must communicate in that language. Around the time I stopped playing it appeared a contingent of players form the French areas had started to encounter the Swedes. There was talk about how challenging it became for the two groups to communicate and they actually started role playing the process of teaching each other basics of their languages.

Like the programming the localization has all been done by volunteers and as a critical mass of players begins to express interest in playing in a specific language the admins are typically more than happy to bring it online.

Certainly another very interesting dimension to an already deep deep “game”.

If it sounds like something you might be interested in by all means drop by www.cantr.net, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. They’re always looking for players and best of all – it’s free.

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Two Years Old

My son, Oliver, is just a few weeks past his second birthday.

He’s not really sure what a computer “mouse” is – in fact right now he’s using it like a phone.

I just discovered that he knows how to plug it into the USB port on the back of my latop. I keep unplugging it (needless to say a second driver make things difficult to do) but it turns out he’s also figured out that when it’s red light is off that means it is unplugged – so he plugs it back in.

Hmm… kids. Amazing what they pick up.

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A most "Intriguing Post"…

Peter Dawson (a.k.a. “/pd”) surprised me, and just about everyone else I think, with what is easily the first “Best of 2006” post of the year.

Needless to say I was even more surprised when I came across his pick for “Best Intriguing Post”:

Best intriguing Post : was by Ryan !! I was stumped for an answer on “Your culture vs. “Our Culture” – where to draw the line… ” memo. He has raises a very serious point, which transcends not just Canada, but any culture within the ethos of humanity !!

Thanks for the nod Peter! I take it as quite an honor knowing there’s actually very few blogs online that he doesn’t subscribe to (in all seriousness I remember the number 500 being floated with respect to his sub list).

While I’m at it – Thanks also to Matthew Ingram from the Globe and Mail for his links (Globe & Mail post / Personal Blog post) earlier this week on my post regarding Jobloft’s second appearance on Dragon’s Den (where their deal fell apart).

A little link love is always good and I’m glad to know that people I enjoy reading are also keeping an eye on my stuff. If you aren’t already subscribed I highly recommend you check out both Peter’s and Matt’s blogs.

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XPLANE deleted from Wikipedia

About a week ago Dave Gray, founder of XPLANE, put up a blog post mentioning that the XPLANE record had been marked for deletion.

Apparently it wasn’t considered a “notable company” by a high school student named Veinor and was nominated for deletion.

Dave, and many others provided ample evidence of XPlane’s validity as a notable company in the Visual Design & Communication space. Dave readily admits that their initial contribution was most notable during the first Internet “bubble” – something Venoir, through no fault of his own, just wasn’t at a point in his life where he’d have any exposure to it’s impact.

The catch-22 in this debate was that many people who contributed support or evidence of XPLANE’s notability were immediately discounted because we haven’t obsessively edited reams of Wikipedia entries in the past. “Meat puppets” was how one commenter referred to us in a comment on Dave’s blog. The entry was labeled as advertising, even though Dave had no hand in writing it.

Despite the ample evidence to show XPLANE’s recognition in many name brand publications of XPLANE’s contribution and many people from within the industry showing support it was summarily deleted, and the page is now redirected towards the X-Plane, the first civilian space ship.

Needless to say I doubt the validity of Wikipedia even more now. I was already skeptical and wary of it based on the seemingly more and more frequent stories of mis-information being presented there.

A big concern is time distances us from the relevance or impact of an event in history. At an extreme example, even my generation has very little concept of the actual scale and impact of World War I or II. Yes we know it was a big battle but it wasn’t until I sat with my wife’s grandfather, who piloted Lancasters in the war, that I really started to get a sense of just how different that war was from anything we see today, and hopefully will ever see in the future.

Stories of hundreds of bombers flying in three vertical tiers in pitch blackness, trying to guess where the other guys around you were and then, once it was time to drop your payload praying there wasn’t someone else directly above you. Even hearing it directly from him I doubt it chilled me even to a tenth of what he felt night in and night out while he was actually there.

I’ll tell my son his great-grandfather’s stories, and hope he’ll tell his kids and so on, but like dubbing a Betamax tape (linked to Wikipedia in case anyone missed those too) each generation is going to degrade the quality of the story just a bit until it’s just a blurry image of its former self.

What then? Hopefully WWII is a powerful enough period in history that it’s relevance or importance in the world will never be questioned. I’m not trying to liken Xplane in any way to WWII but what happens along the way to all those smaller moments or contributions in history whose perceived importance will diminish much faster.

We’re living in an increasingly “iterative” society – with the the digital era very little is permanent anymore. In the physical realm of books etc. entries could come and go but there was always a physical record of it in the previous editions etc. Now though it’s been deleted, permanently. There’s no past record of it, as far as Wikipedia is concerned XPLANE doesn’t exist, never has.

XPLANE’s deletion isn’t the end of the world – even Dave himself said “certainly, XPLANE does not live or die based on whether Wikipedia thinks it’s important.” What I am concerned about is what else is being lost as people who have no experience with a topic mark it for deletion. Had it not been for Dave’s post many of us probably wouldn’t have realized it was nominated – monitoring Wikipedia isn’t anywhere on my to-do list.

How many other wikis silently get deleted everyday just because some kid looks at the entry and says “Hmm, never heard of it.”?

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Wow. Didn’t see that coming…

Just finished watching the Season finale of the first season of Canada’s edition of Dragon’s Den. Generally a ho-hum, “Where are they now?” kind of episode – except for a couple of minutes right near the end that still have me picking my jaw up off the ground.

Jobloft.com
Well first off lets get to the big WTF? moment of the night which ended with the Dragons tearing up their $200,000 check and taking the Jobloft.com deal off the table.

Essentially in addition to the founders, the dragons, a camera crew and a handful of lawyers there was a guy in the room during the final “deal” that came out of nowhere and single handedly tanked the deal for the Jobloft guys. We learn partway through the piece that he was one of the founders’ instructors at Ryerson, named Dr. James Norrie.

For those who missed the segment, someone has uploaded it to YouTube:

From what we were shown in the edited program he basically jumped down the Dragon’s throats and immediately drew a pretty thick and broad battle line in the ground over company strategy. One of his first questions to the four, multi-hundred millionaires in the room was “Do any of you have business degrees?” – this was only the first of several thinly veiled insults he tossed towards the four new investors. Needless to say things went downhill pretty quick and the Jobloft guys were given the ultimatum by the Dragon’s of “It’s him or us”. They chose Dr. Norrie.

In their defense the Jobloft guys have put up a post on their blog with their side of the story. They obviously respect and admire this guy a lot, which I think is unfortunate.

I don’t care how smart, educated or brilliantly business minded you are (or think you are), and even with editing designed to play up the confrontation, there was so much wrong with the way he handled himself in that meeting. Personal attacks on potential investors, ranting and carrying on just isn’t the way to do it. Even based on the Jobloft guy’s take on what went down I can’t see any justification for him becoming so heated in the initial “So what are we going to do with this money” meeting. At the end of the day it’s just plain unprofessional.

I got the distinct impression that he felt the guys were getting screwed on the deal and that might explain why he was so “passionate”. Certainly the price-point was aggressive but when you’ve got the chance to have two moguls from your primary target market be financially interested in your success I think you can give up a bit of a premium. My advice guys, ditch Dr. Norrie – or at the very least reevaluate having “Director” attached to his name (consider an advisory role). I don’t know if it’s sunk in yet the potential damage he’s done to your business.

At the end of the day I think the Dragon’s were right – you need to sell heavily to the people who have the jobs to be filled. Getting thirsty people to your site won’t be nearly as difficult when you own the water source. Without job listings Jobloft isn’t anything – it doesn’t matter how many job seekers you have. An effective word of mouth strategy can find your job seekers but it’s going to cost some serious coin to get in front of all the corporate customers.

As for the rest of the Season…
I should go back and follow-up on the post I made after the first episode. Having watched most of the first season (missed one episode due to a PVR “error”) I have to say the show certainly continued to improve as the episodes progressed. Sean Wise gave the heads up in a comment here that CBC had swapped episode 3 for episode 2 at the last minute and I wonder if that was to make some quick tweaks to the format as I noticed an improvement even in the second episode to air (Originally episode 3).

In the end it still never became a “must see” for me but having ripped on it a little hard at the outset I felt like the least I could do was stick it out and give my honest feedback at the end. Generally very few of my impressions changed. I was glad to see the format got mixed up a bit so it wasn’t always the last pitch of the episode that got funding. The host still left me flat but Kevin O’Leary had his moments where I actually started to like him a bit (he usually managed to stomp those feelings down by the end of the episode).

At the end of the day though I think they largely made the right calls on the products that got made offers but in the end the standard issue deal of “We’ll give you your asking number, for 50%” grew pretty dull. If I heard “I want control” one more time I was going to throw my TV out the window.

Maybe it’s the entrepreneur in me but in the end I was left pretty sour by the show. For me it completely lost the notion of helping entrepreneurs succeed and more a feeling of some bizarre private hunting reserve for investors where all the animals are fenced in and they can pick of whatever they want.

I don’t know if I’ll watch the next season or not – I think right now it just hits a little too close to home.

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