Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Rise of Open Source Software

The Open Source Software movement has been gaining so much momentum within the Information Technology community recently that it is almost impossible to ignore. Technology players like IBM and Google have contributed to open source. Even Microsoft, whose CEO displays open hostility towards OSS, have contributed. Now media companies such as Yahoo and the New York Times have contributed to OSS.

CTOs and other key decision players in any company's IT department no longer consider OSS as an "if" but rather as a "when." It's not so much a decision as to whether or not to embrace OSS but rather to decide what their OSS strategy is and the timeline for executing on that strategy. It is also very likely that OSS is already being used within their organization.

Why is it that OSS is so compelling? It has a large community supporting it and the price/performance ratio can't be beat. I have blogged on this subject in more detail elsewhere.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Children of Men

I saw an interesting video the other day. The story line for Children of Men is a fairly straight up sample from the genre of post-apocalyptic science fiction and that alone makes it worthy to watch if you are into that sort of thing. That is not why I am writing about it here, however. What makes this movie interesting enough to comment on in a blog about contemporary culture is its innovative cinematic approach.

Industries are constantly looking for ways to converge. They do this to open up new markets and to form partnerships that enhance their value proposition without expanding payroll. One of the current hot areas for convergence is between the gaming and the movie industries. I have blogged about all of this before.

What makes the movie Children of Men interesting is in their approach towards convergence with the gaming industry. The cinematography of the movie is very reminiscent with that of the gaming genre known as the First Person Shooter. There are dialog shots in the movie that are filmed very similar to that of cut scenes in a game. In the action shots, they used a steady-cam behind the main actors as they progress through the scene. The effect is very much like being in a team based FPS where you are running behind the next gamer in front of you. You and the actors move through a battle zone trying to avoid being shot at which is a very typical challenge in a FPS style game. In another scene, one of the supporting cast members gets pulled off of a bus and you get to see her grim fate as the bus pulls away. This is a typical atmosphere building sequence that you may find in well made games.

I keep my eyes open for opportunities of convergence because I find it to be fascinating. I have previously noted other ways that the film and gaming industries are converging. What other ways do you see?

Friday, October 5, 2007

Interactive Fiction

Interactive Fiction is a literary genre where the reader must participate actively. It is a cross between a book and a game. Everything is in second person and you have to write it with minimal expectations about what has happened before or after any point in the story. This is not easy. I have blogged on this subject twice before.

I was so intrigued by this genre that I tried my hand at it by writing a piece and entering it into a competition. I invite you to read my submission. My piece is called Reconciling Mother.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival

I just came back from attending the ninth movie festival in Birmingham, AL called Sidewalk. What a blast! I have already reviewed the festival last year. The best stuff I saw this year came from the documentary genre. I caught three this year; Join Us, Lost and Found in Mexico, and The Paper.

Join Us documents the life of this family as it gets involved with a charismatic cult leader. It starts with the family getting out of the church and spending a few weeks in a deprogramming retreat. These folks basically signed away all their assets to this guy and worked for him for a dollar a day. He directed the parents to beat their children. Lest you started smirking in smug superiority, you would fall for it too unless you learn to recognize the eight signs of mind control by Robert Lifton. After the film was shown, various members of this family got on stage to answer some questions from the audience.

Lost and Found in Mexico was produced and directed by a psychotherapist who went to San Miguel for a week long vacation and resolved to move there which she did. Eventually, she video taped a collection of interviews of the U.S. ex-patriots living there to arrive at their motivations for doing this. Basically, we are talking about a pervasive mid-life crisis followed by a pattern interrupt of new people, places, and things. The director also got up after the film and answered questions from the audience.

The Paper follows various students working in a large, daily college newspaper (circulation 20000) who have the same issues as a professional newspaper but lack the basic political skills to keep it hidden. The paper answers the question why are so many newspapers such muck rakers? Because they need to keep their readership high in order to charge more for advertising. They tried all kinds of things but what they found out was that controversy and scandal motivate people to get and read the paper. Hey, maybe if they hired more psychotherapists, they could figure out what their readership wanted without having to resort to fomenting outrage.