Posts Tagged «humanness»

Have you ever thought about an idea or heard something in the news that made you wonder how many people it would affect?  Or maybe you’re thinking about moving and would like to know a little bit about the people in your new home in comparison to where you live now.

ZIPskinny.com Home Page Census.gov has lots of great information, but it takes a few clicks to find anything digestible. That’s where ZIPskinny steps in. On the first screen it asks for a ZIP code.  After that you’ll see a screen with lots of demographics alongside several graphs.  It’s a quick way to get a good feel for the makeup of any ZIP code in the database.

But it gets better. ZIPskinny then allows you to enter multiple ZIP codes and provides a side-by-side analysis of each area’s demographics.  For example in my area I found out that single people are much more common than I thought.  Keep in mind that this data is from the 2000 census.

Happy data mining!

A couple of times every month I usually make some new business contacts outside of the traditional office context.  That means I’m usually writing down their e-mail address on a napkin or other spare piece of paper.  More than I’d like to admit, I either hear them wrong or can’t read parts of my own writing.

Verify E-mail Address Logo If you ever run into the same problem, Verify E-Mail Address may help.  When you enter the e-mail address of someone trying to contact the site pings the server and makes sure that the address is valid. What does that mean for you?  One less bounced e-mail, and the peace of mind knowing that a stranger isn’t receiving your message.

Keep in mind though, that if someone else has that e-mail address registered you’ll still receive a verified message.

Part of being human is to seek interaction with other humans. Usually that means as we move through life we build relationships with a growing number of people. Maybe you use Microsoft’s Outlook or Google’s Gmail to organize your contact information, and maybe you have a separate set of contacts for your professional life and personal life. What happens then if for some reason you need to call a friend from work (maybe a new job opportunity, social event, or emergency)? On the flip side what if you need access to professional contacts when you’re away from the office to move a project or idea forward?

image With that sort of arrangement it’s difficult to pull information from the separated contact management systems. Meet Plaxo. They’re in the business of combining all of those contacts into one manageable interface that’s accessible anywhere.

Beyond that advantage, it acts as a social network that lets all of your contacts update their own information. That way you never lose touch with contacts — unless you choose to.

It also provides some nice features like easy searching, instant messaging, click to call, and integrated mapping.

If you’re looking for a better way to manage your contacts it’s worth checking out, and it’s free.

Today an unusual site caught my attention. Not because it seems immediately useful though there’s potential for that. It’s called MyDrawings and the idea is that everyone shares one canvas that stretches on forever. Just scroll to a blank area and start editing. Note that to edit the canvas, registration is required.

Graffiti Snapshot While at first glance this might seem like a purely whimsical pursuit, I see a new potential avenue for artist advertisement and perhaps eventually a way for illustrators to discover more specifically what draws the human eye.

The canvas works just like Google Maps, with the ability to click and drag to new areas of the “graffiti map”. I can also see this being a source of inspiration for writers looking for a prompt.

On a larger level this electronic canvas captures the diversity of human perception.

image Everyone has a topic they’re passionate about. Whether it’s talking about combating global warming or brewing a perfect latte, opinions can be difficult to share with larger groups and finding an interested audience is one way to make sizeable impacts.

Here’s a platform to make that easier. Change.org allows its members to post information about things they’d like to change and these are published publicly. There are also ratings of popular (or unpopular depending on who you ask) politicians and nonprofits, records of what actions members are taking, and a mechanism to donate toward causes.

Lots of people are talking about how the Internet is connecting presidential hopefuls more directly with their audiences and this is another great example of that same concept in action. Change.org provides a summary of what its online population is thinking and will only become more accurate as more people join the community.

Once in a while nature’s call is too powerful to ignore. For bathroom warriors everywhere here’s a site for you: MizPee. The site claims to find the nearest and cleanest bathroom, then provide entertainment for the duration.

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It was only a matter of time before the last captive audience space was targeted.

I can certainly see the merit of an idea like this though I’m not sure someone in the throes of a “near-accident” would think to pull out their mobile phone and type in a search for bathrooms. More likely they would look for a nearby gas station, store or fast food restaurant.

But, for people who think ahead a little or who have exacting bathroom requirements this may solve their need.

If you haven’t already, see the first post in my series before reading this.

My life continued for many years MMORPG-free. Then, deep in the labs of a company called Turbine some evil genius came up with a way around all of my objections. They offered a one-time payment for a lifetime subscription. A game with a pedigree no D&D game could argue with. Ever wonder where all these D&D races, rules, and ideas came from? The Father of fantasy writing and the idea that would launch all of the fantasy role playing games that would follow, J.R.R. Tolkien.

Following the success of the movie trilogy it was only logical that someone would make video games about the movie. I played a few of the hack ‘n slash, 3rd person RPGs. I wasn’t impressed. So when the MMO was announced, I didn’t pay much attention.

One fateful day a disc arrived in the mail inviting me to try the game in beta for free. Free? Free! “Ha,” I thought, “I can suck all the life out of the game during beta and never play again”. Best of all, my old D&D buddies got copies and we could play together for free!

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It seemed stupid, I told people I wouldn’t do it. What could on online role playing game offer that I didn’t already have? There are many great single player role playing games out there; my favorite of all time is the Gothic series, www.gothic.net . In Gothic there is a medieval world that’s truly alive, everyone stays in character, and you are the center of the universe. No one is better than you, and no one can take away from your experience. But paradoxically, no living person can add to it either.

I found myself learning weaknesses in the AI of almost all video games and exploiting them. No matter how new or great the game there is always a way around the next tough boss or “impossible” puzzle. Don’t believe me? Try building five pieces of +20% blur armor in Elder Scrolls Oblivion. Wear them all at once and say hello to God mode. You’ll be able to walk through the whole game bashing monsters in the face. All they can do is stand there and die.

Dungeons & Dragons Dice The video game industry and I grew up together. Back in the day, and in some respects still today, the RPG world was trying to match table-top gaming. Most video role playing gamers over the age of 20 have roots in Dungeons and Dragons. I did my time as dungeon master for 13 years – yes, I’m an alpha geek. Then everybody grew up, got jobs and the other people in their lives prefer they don’t spend every spare moment on weekends in the basement with potato chips and D&D buddies.

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The thought of inserting any device into my skull makes me cringe, but the potential benefits certainly are tempting. While reading A Step Toward a Living, Learning Memory Chip by Scientific American, I learned that a group of scientists has created a method of recording a set of patterns originally created via synapses in the brain to a device that can store that pattern for many days. The key here is that this transfer of knowledge doesn’t disrupt any other function in the brain, as far as they know. That’s always the caveat with new technologies though.

Computer Chip Beyond the physiological risk, this opens an entirely new realm of competition between humans. It’s almost like gamers with their hardware rigs, and the race to have the most realistic graphics and purest sound. Similarly, I can see a future where humans scramble to buy the latest upgrade to their implant processing subsystem.

My question is: what happens when the system gets bogged down with spyware or the more recent botnet scams? Because if implants go mainstream, wireless implants would soon follow. Would you be able to perform a system reformat and start over?

The ethics in a situation like that become debatable. I would argue that ascending too quickly and creating an addiction to embedded mechanical technology is dangerous.

For a present example, ask any World of Warcraft addict how fulfilling their life is.

Connecting with nature is one of the best ways to rediscover the center of being. No, if you live by a city I’m not talking about stepping outside to listen to the traffic honking and grinding by. I’m talking about immersing yourself in the sounds of animals and plants in their natural habitats. Drifting away on the rising soundwaves of howling wolves or slipping into a deep sleep under the rustling and swaying trees are both great ways to rediscover a primal part of humanness.

A Path Through the Forest Here’s a site that focuses on the preservation, discovery, and delivery of nature’s sounds and they do a great job. The Wild Sanctuary boasts “over 3,500 hours of wild soundscapes and nearly 15,000 species”. Their recordings are high quality and can make a living room feel like a jungle. The secret? Closing your eyes. Visiting the front page will start a continuous audio stream of natural noises to give you a sample.

What also caught my attention is their integration with Google Maps. Launching that part of the site opens up a brand new way to explore the world vicariously through recorded sights (if using Google Earth) and sounds. Some of the map scrolling can make the interface a bit awkward to use because the descriptor text and music can move off the screen, but I’m sure they’ll work that out as the service matures.

Earlier today I was listening to thunderstorms, this evening I just heard the bells of Notre Dame, and tonight I plan on listening to some monkeys in Africa . . . you get the idea :-}