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Pokémon Go, from the Beach: Two Perspectives

Pokémon Go, from the Beach: Two Perspectives

I went for a walk to the beach today (not something I do often), and ended up at the end of Pico Street near dusk, right on the Santa Monica beach boardwalk. I was surprised to find not swarms of beachgoers coming home from a hot day in the sun, but instead, swarms of Pokémon Go players trying to snag a CP 875 Aerodactyl.

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I, for one, am at Level 15 (go Team Mystic!) and hip to the game that reminds me of my youth playing Pokémon Gold on the Game Boy Color in the back seat of the family SUV on the way to grandpa’s. And I knew lots of people were playing it, and that the Shutters on the Beach Hotel just happened to be a lured PokéStop at the time.

But even I was taken aback by what appeared to be living proof of a digital obsession so widespread we should seriously consider integrating voting functionality into the app for the upcoming election.

There are two different ways to view what I saw today, and both perhaps speak to a distinct vision of humanity. Like a wave unlike the ones tip-toeing to the sand at the beach today, both views came crashing over me at once.

In the first, humanity is more united than we appear, and not as divided as our politicians and media would have us believe. The power of technology to bring together people of all races, ages, and backgrounds towards a common goal. The fact that kids are going outside again and breathing fresh air, that adults who have severe social phobias can connect with each other over their mutual Pokédexes. I marvel at the optimism of free association and expression, the sweet air of voluntary and uncoerced engagement, the triumph of innovation, the cross-cultural barriers being smashed, free trade and the free exchange of ideas, art, technology and progress across ethnicities and languages creating a better world one Poké Ball at a time.

In the other, a technology obsession to the point of addiction, a culture starved for real art and craving bytes as a substitute for cosmopolitan nourishment. A megacorporation (or two) slurping up billions of data points from all citizens of the world to be used to create even more addicting and useless games with an even broader appeal. The best minds of our generation sucked into a hamster wheel of so-called technological progress while ignoring the real problems facing society and the world. The talking heads of the media catching Pikachu on air instead of holding our politicians accountable. To think of the children wasting away in fictional worlds instead of engaging with their peers and learning how to forge real connections in lieu of digital ones. And of course I could not help but think of this episode from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

What hath the PokéGods wrought?

It all, I suppose, depends on your perspective. But whatever you do out there, look both ways before you cross the street to catch that Caterpie. Happy hunting.

July 24, 2016Comments are DisabledRead More
My Top Ten Internet Gripes

My Top Ten Internet Gripes

Ok, girls and boys, time for some venting about the state of the internet today. Let’s look at some problems that we all face on a regular basis–dare I say first world problems?–and maybe some ways they can be fixed.


1. Facebook Grammar

This has been a problem from the beginning. Nothing gets my goat more than seeing a generalized plural pronoun used out of laziness, especially when Facebook has the gender information that would make the proper pronoun instantly accessible. If the user has identified herself/himself as female/male, why not say “X has updated her/his profile picture”?


2. Country Drop-down Menus

They are on every website, and it’s getting to be enough, people. Why should I have to wade through 150 sovereign nations to find my own country, especially if that country is the biggest market for the website I’m on? Why can’t websites at least auto-select my country so I don’t have to click and scroll, or click and roll, or type “U-U-U” like some MS-DOS hacker to find the United States? There is a good solution to this problem here, but I’m interested in even better solutions. Or, not having them at all.


3. Google’s Two-Tier Drive/Docs

Since Google’s transition to Google Drive, it would make all the sense in the world to have one drive. One drive for one group of folders. However, Google doesn’t see it this way. Instead, Google splits their drive into “My Drive” and “Shared with Me.” It may seem like a natural split, except that I can never remember whether docs I am collaborating on were docs I created or docs which were shared with me. And why should it matter? What’s worse, when you search for docs, it only searches inside the active folder. Which means often I am searching twice in the same search box for the same document.


4. Forgot Password Scripts

We get it already! If you forgot your password, you click Forgot Password, then you get an email with your password information and maybe a reset link, then you click reset, then you go to the site, then it asks you to create a new password, then half the time it asks you to log in again with the password you just created (why?), then it sends you a NEW email telling you your password has been successfully reset, and if it wasn’t you that you should call them and tell them. Why all this trouble? What’s so hard about resetting a password? If someone hasn’t already, someone should build a better plug-and-play solution. Or I should 🙂


5. Loading Gifs that Don’t Load

I know it’s because the gif is loaded with the site assets and only replaced after the AJAX call to the server returns data, and sometimes the backend is broken or you lose the network at a crucial moment, but for users, this is the internet equivalent of Apple’s spinning rainbow of death. The fact is, users don’t know or care why it isn’t working, they just see that there’s content that should be there, and isn’t. It’s frustrating, and it would be simple to fix–don’t have a loading gif onload, but instead only show it while data is actually loading. Or not have a loading gif at all.


6. Pinterest Rip-Offs

You’ve seen them all over the place. Pinterest had a cool liquid multi-column layout, so now every site on the internet needs to adapt that style. The reason it works for Pinterest is because it’s precisely what the Pinterest community needs. It doesn’t work for your blog, or some random photography site, or Plus, it’s unoriginal and it stinks. Make your own shitty layout, and leave original design to…not you. See here for a list of Pinterest ripoffs.


7. “Share this Purchase” Requests

We know you want to make your ecommerce site “social,” but no one, ever, is going to be enthusiastic about posting their purchases on Facebook. Not only is it in bad taste to brag about your new $200 three-slot toaster to an unwieldy group of fake friends whose preferences and tastes are unknowable, it’s also not realistic to think that these posts will result in any conversions. It’s best not to insult the intelligence of your buyers and leave these requests out entirely.


8. Facebook Open Graph

The proliferation of auto-shared Open Graph actions is out of control. My Facebook feed no longer provides any useful information and instead shows me a litany of useless, and sometimes embarrassing, information about my friends. For certain things, like music and offers, it’s kinda cool, but for everything else it stinks of desperation for Facebook and the advertiser in question. On this note, Facebook tricking people into sharing all their content by replacing “Authorize App” with “Okay, Watch Video” isn’t cool. Full disclosure: I am partially responsible for this, having brought Ustream to Open Graph in April.


9. Late-Loading Site Content

You’ve been there. The page starts loading, and you see a link you want to click, so before the page is finished loading, you attempt to click it. But just at that moment, some banner slides in from the top of the page and pushes everything down. So instead of clicking “Benghazi militia captured outside Tripoli,” you click “Doris Day impersonator dies from bike pump beating.” The worst perpetrator of this practice is CNN, which insists on telling you you’re using the US edition and asks if you want to make it the default (what else would I want?).


10. Unwanted Noise

This is a common frustration. My computer should not make any noise I don’t want it to make, and therefore, any website that is creating unwanted sound is a complete nuisance. Sometimes I’ll have my speakers on and one of those annoying talking heads greeting me will start babbling, or a preroll ad for a car will start zooming, and before you know it, everyone at the office is pissed. The only time I need my speakers is for a video or music that I voluntarily turn on. Everything else is a distraction. There are some workarounds to this but nothing that is that satisfying. I would put auto-playing video in this category as well.

October 26, 2012Comments are DisabledRead More