Friday, March 14, 2014

Establishing a Pattern

Contextual shifts. They are tricky things to wrap your head around, especially when dealing with computers. Copy something from here, paste it into something over there. As I was passing an open office door earlier today I caught a glimpse of utter frustration bordering on anger. It looked like a Computer Problem in action. So I paused and waited for eye-contact. A few minutes later we had managed to resolve an issue that had been plaguing this person ever since we started using a different product to generate our publications. Apparently the tried and true method no longer worked because it involved a context shift. When you highlight and copy a piece of content from one program and paste it into another the results may not necessarily be what you expect. In this case links that worked fine pasted into every other context available resolved correctly, but when pasted into this new program they suddenly stopped working once the document was exported for publication.
The fix was a variation on the technique which I have just decided to call the "Old-School Bounce."

Many of us are familiar with methods for stripping out unwanted, often invisible, clutter around content.
Like keeping a link to Notepad handy to quickly strip out formatting marks, font flourishes, and other clutter from content copied from websites.
But in this instance the 'fix' was actually implemented in the context menu for the item. Right-Click, Copy Destination URL vs highlighting the interactive element and expecting the destination program to figure out which property of that element you actually wanted to paste.

And I just helped another person with a very similar issue. Linking a streaming web video into a PowerPoint presentation. Context, people! It's very important and Computers/Applications are currently really bad at communication their limitations to users. How would anyone suss out that a Web embed link won't work in a regular offline document if our regular offline documents now also live in the cloud? We live in interesting times.

As a Kickstarter backer of the new Carmageddon I was given access to the Pre-Alpha Early Access release of the game yesterday. It is good. Broken, rough edged, crashy (pun intended), but gloriously irreverent and ultimately a blast to play. I have spent countless hours with the games in that series and while it is most assuredly over the top violent, gory, obscene... it is also ridiculous and so obviously cartoony that it is also deliciously silly. In this newest iteration it is (currently) entirely possible to hit something hard enough to forcibly eject the driver (yourself) from the vehicle through the windshield. The game then completely ignores that you are no longer at the wheel and just lets you keep playing. Only one wheel left? Crumpled into a tiny ball? Flattened beyond recognition? Mere trifles. Mash the accelerator and have at them!
(I'm the 'car' underneath the officer. It's a fair cop.) Even in this early pre-alpha stage with only a single partially finished level (notice the checkerboard reference textures?) there is so much fun that I am giddy about what the future updates will add.

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