Website improvements

I’ve made some minor improvements to, by adding the little permanent link icons to individual posts, as well as the dinky little comment icons. I’d intended to add permalinks for everything a while back, since previously you’d have to sift through the monthly archives to find a particular post. When I upgraded to a new version of Moveable Type (my weblog software) and started using Trackback – basically, a way of making other people automatically link to your posts – it finally became necessary to add them.

For those who know or care about these sorts of things (i.e. hardly anyone), I still haven’t fully implemented Trackback because there aren’t any ping urls for my posts. I’ll get around to this sooner or later, once I’ve designed new templates. I’m also thinking about adding RSS feeds for, since everyone seems to be using aggregators these days. It makes sense to do it for the ‘middling’ and ‘tiny’ blogs, but I’m not so sure about ‘massive’ considering it’s rarely updated and the entries are more like essays.


I won’t be updating this weblog regularly for the next couple of weeks, as my first exams are starting on Friday. Over the course of 14 days, I’ll have eight exams totalling 22 and a half hours. Surely there’s a better way?


Just uploaded the new mmoe-TV article which I’ve been working on intermittently during breaks in revision. Turned out longer than I expected, but I’m reasonably pleased with it.

New comments system

I’ve added a new comments feature to the ‘middling’ column, since due to the nature of ‘massive’ I hardly ever post there. They won’t be activated on all posts however, but I’ve put them on this one in case people have anything interesting to say about previous posts.

Reasons to be cheerful

Reasons to be cheerful:

People on Metafilter liked my post about aerogel (inspired when I saw these pretty photos). I’m very pleased about this – Metafilter is being swamped with too much news culled from CNN, Slashdot, Kuro5hin and other web news portals these days, so I thought the readers might like a change and see something new. And they did.

I received an email from Giles Turnbull about how he liked the design of this weblog. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy receiving emails like that.

I had a moment of epiphany about a particularly troublesome bit of revision concerning DNA recombination. I’d spent about five minutes trying to figure out the exact mechanism, drawing things on bits of paper, when it suddenly struck me that I should look at the diagrams backwards.

I remember sitting in a friend’s room last term, when he put on some new music. I immediately jumped up and exclaimed, ‘Hey, that’s the music to Barry Norman’s Film Night!’ He corrected me and said, ‘No it’s not, it’s by Nina Simone and it’s called I wish I knew.’ And so it was, and in that moment he unwittingly had given me the secret of the song’s name which so many people loved but didn’t (and may still not) know.

About For Freedom

I just posted the ‘For Freedom!’ article. I was a little wary about doing this as I’m not sure whether it flows properly, seeing as I wrote it over a couple of weeks in two sittings (see if you can find the seam). However, I do think it has some good ideas in it and so I thought it was worth putting online, at least in a draft form.

Brad DeLong

Just as I’m in the process of writing a new article for Massive on degrees of freedom within games, Brad DeLong goes and posts this site’s URL to the Culture list which currently only has an intro article. Oh well.

The new article is proving to be particularly interesting to think about though, dealing with the issue of storylines and environments within games and how they define the amount of work game designers have to put in to increase the ‘proportion of freedom’ (and how game designers can get around this by creating the illusion of freedom and altering players’ expectations).

Introducing massive…

Welcome to, my new weblog covering massively multiuser online entertainment (mmoe), among other subjects. The format of differs quite a bit from my old weblog,; there are now three concurrent weblogs running called massive, middling and tiny, updating at different intervals and concentrating on different themes.

Tiny will be (in theory, as with everything else here) updated daily with various assorted interesting links.

Middling will have personal commentary and some links, updated every three days or so.

Massive is the centrepiece of this weblog and as such will carry on the Vavatch spirit of updating at completely random periods (nominally once a week, but who knows how the whims of the universe will change that?). Massive is one of the main reasons why I’ve created – I wanted a place where I could talk about massively multiuser online games – but more about those later. I’ll also cover space and biology topics, as usual. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to increase the length of articles in massive so they’ll go into some depth, and also back articles up with links and references. The latter is quite important to me; much of the stuff I read on weblogs is interesting but ultimately pure unsubstantiated speculation dealing in generalities – I want to avoid that.

So, you might ask, exactly what was the point of starting up a new weblog at Aren’t I just complicating things with this weird differential concurrent multiple weblogs thing? After all, I could simply write everything in one column.

I could, but I’m not going to since this keeps things more organised. I was aware on Vavatch that there were plenty of topics that interested some people but not others, and this problem would be exacerbated if I was serious about writing about mmoe. With this new layout, people can easily pick out and read what interests them – the serious articles, the personal commentary, or the random links.

I registered because I thought it’d be nice to have a change, and also because it’s a more relevant name than Vavatch.

*What is massively multiuser online entertainment (mmoe)? It’s any form of entertainment that involves over one hundred individuals interacting in some form, separated in physical but not temporal space. Games such as Ultima Online and Everquest qualify as mmoe, but not Starcraft or Quake. However, I’m not exclusively talking about massively multiplayer online roleplaying games (mmorpgs) here; they might have the lion’s share of the users and media attention, but that won’t last. I’m talking about any form of entertainment – it might be a group of a thousand people reading an online detective story, solving puzzles, finding hints and exchanging tips with each other (ring any bells?).

Why is it important? It’s a form of entertainment never seen before, and it draws together a number of new technologies that vastly increase the scope of entertainment in general, allowing it to be experienced collectively by more people than ever, over a longer length of time and larger physical space for less money. It sounds attractive, but it’s hard to do and has already seen the world’s largest game company lose $10 million in an attempt to put mmoe into practice.

Can you be more specific? Yes, I can. That’s the purpose of the mmoe section on this weblog – to explore in detail the possibilities of massively multiuser online entertainment and to look at the current developments in mmoe right now.
Continue reading “Introducing massive…”