Saturday, August 22, 2009

Endless frustration partially ended

Yesterday seemed to be a day of nothing but frustration. On top of the issue with the fraudulent co-author on, I got the gaming machine back from repair.

First, it took a MONTH to exchange a ram chip and the mouse plate around the touchpad.

When it returned, it was wiped of all information, even the drivers were all gone. I had to reinstall all drivers, and no, that did not happen easily and automatically. I also had to update and reinstall all the programs I had put in.

I am updating wow as I type, but all of that feels like child's play after I got up at 2 am tonight, unable to sleep from frustration, and finally managed to find the right way to install the drivers that followed the computer when it was new. Then I let it work on installing windows updates the rest of the night.

Anyway, this is for the Norwegians out there.

Hvis du tenker på å kjøpe en Asus maskin, tenk et par ganger til hvis du ikke er i nærheten av verkstedet deres på Kjeller, og du ikke tar automatisk back-up av arbeidet ditt hele tiden. Det tar lang tid å få deler, på tross av et godt system for å sjekke hva som skjer får du ikke noe mer hjelp enn dette når det begynner å drøye, og du kan ikke regne med at de tar vare på dataene på harddisken din. Den blir slettet, selv om feilen er et helt annet sted. Maskinen i seg selv er god, men det hjelper lite når den til nå har tibrakt en av fire måneder på verkstedet, og jeg har mistet mye av arbeidet jeg gjorde før RAM-kortet ble ødelagt.

Rett skal være rett, etter en måned tilbød de meg kompensasjon for at det tok så lang tid - en trådløs mus. Men det er ikke akkurat en fullgod erstatning for at jeg har vært uten et viktig arbeidsredskap i mer enn en måned.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Abusing user-generated information

Logging in to admire my lovely book on, I discovered something really weird. Suddenly, I had a co-author.

Somebody had, for some weird reason, put a Michael Peters as co-author of my book.

Where was he while I was struggling to put together that text? That long dark winter in Umeå, I could have used some company! But no.

I suspect that I have been the victim of an attack, where somebody have suggested that Michael Peters be added. It's now possible to change the information on Amazon. I have tried to use that to change things back, but it has not yet been updated. I tried again today, this time with a link to the publisher's page for the book.

What this means is that we can no longer trust Amazon for information on literature - neither author, publisher, editor or number of pages, all of which can be changed through this function concerning product information. Now, I normally use libraries for that stuff anyway, but, you know, sometimes Amazon is so nicely convenient. But now, obviously, also unreliable.

And who the #¤%& is Michael Peters?

I alerted about the problem through the system for book information updates, but nothing happened. corrected the issue the next working day, and the book shows correctly on their site now. still has to respond to my attempts of alerting them to the matter, but I called their sales contacts, and got the phone number to Nielsen Bookdata, their supplier. I have not had time to call yet, but I emailed a bunch of their editors, hoping somebody cares :)

Updated again:
The French version of Amazon has now corrected their information, and Nielsen Bookdata came back to me. Turns out they are not responsible (of course not), but they contacted the company they get their data from, Ingrams in USA. I assume that means Ingram Book company, and they expect the data to be corrected in 1-2 weeks.

However, while this is going on, the errors in the German Amazon are multiplying. Now they have not only changed authors, but also publisher. Somebody is "playing" amazon, and my book is one of their pawns. While I am pretty offended, I am also oddly fascinated. All this attention, on one little academic book!

Update: corrected the information, but in two operations. They did not react until I made them aware that the publisher was wrong, and then they corrected the publisher data, but not the author. I reported - again - the error in the author section, and then this was corrected immediately. In the cases where the error has been corrected, I used the system Amazon has implemented for user-generated metadata. For this has not worked though, and the error is still in the system.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Drilling isn't boring...

Check out this video from one of the most serious companies in Norwegian business! It's just absolutely fantastically hilarious! I am unreasonably happy that Statoil made it.

Yeah, still laughing.

OK, a quick check to see if this video was being written about. It turns out it was made for a team building seminar a couple of years ago. While it may be embarassing for the participants, who work in Statoil, I really hope they also understand that the kind of enthusiasm, self-irony and humour they express is admirable.

Another video surfaced in the process of checking though, this one from Aker, a company that among other things builds boats. This one is called "The Nutcracker", and the refrain is "have cracked worse nuts before." It received a price as the best Norwegian advertising video in 2005, some claim the best ever.

And if you think Statoil normally sends out this kind of silliness, have a look at "Tomorrow's Heroes", one truly touching movie, right up there with "Thanks for the trip" by Freia. I don't know if the sentiment carries past cultural barriers, but if you're not Norwegian just trust me, these two ads pull all the important strings in our national pride.

2009 election

It's election year in Norway, and the race for votes has started. I am a very bad watcher of politician discussions, and I much prefer to listen to them while I do something else. Looking at people talking never stimulated Me sufficiently. Perhaps I should take up knitting again, to stay awake.

However, there are some interesting websites out there, doing analysis. One such is Stortingsvalget 2009, a website that presents the online buzz before the election. They look at weblogs, at Twitter, and at the general online existence of certain words, and come up with graphs, some of which are beautifully presented. Take a look at this model of Twitter messages, for instance:

I am not entirely certain if their method of selection is quite suited for Norwegian weblogs and online discussions though. If there is a weakness to the system, my guess is that will be it. They rely heavily on technology developed by a Norwegian firm, Integrasco, which is promising, but at the same time they pull their weblog network analysis out of Technorati.

I am not quite certain how well Technorati works for Norwegian weblogs, many of which sail below the radar of popular search engines as they link in networks which may or may not have been captured by the web crawlers. Norwegian blog portals are for instance Norske Blogger, Bloggurat and, which is a very active blogg site linking to fashion blogs and young girl blogs, has very few hits at Technorati, compared to their activity level.

Now, Stortingsvalget 2009 may be compensating for the linguistic and cultural challenges, I don't know their methods that well. What it does is to demonstrate in a very interesting manner how it's possible to harvest and represent information from already existing online sources in very compelling ways.

And thanks to my colleague Inger Knude Larsen, for this interesting link!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

This is the year of reminders

In 2007 I packed up the office since I was going to be away for a year. When I came back, it took a year before I managed to unpack. There was something about the feeling of being slightly away that I enjoyed, an illusion of not being quite there. But at the same time I felt the absence of my books keenly, and one by one the boxes found their way into the office, there to be opened and rummaged through, in the search of one book or another.

Now I have managed to unpack almost all, and get them back into shelves. But then I have to make decisions like the following:

I am the proud owner of a copy of self-published material from the Institute of Nordic language and culture in Bergen, from 1983. It's not even removely relevant, and I think it used to belong to my husband. Do I throw it away? Before you say YES, I should mention that it contains two early works by professor Toril Moi, from before she finished her Dr. art. in Comparative literature.

It's 26 years old, and I bet Toril Moi would like to forget all about those two articles - one on Narcissism in Hedda Gabler, the other on Freud's Dora. I, however, find that I cherish them just because of that. In the shelves I just unpacked there should be (unless my daughter has borrowed it) a book by Toril Moi on one of the women she admires, Simone de Beauvoir. At the same time Toril Moi has almost become a similar icon to female Norwegian scholars: One of those big names that you mention to let people know that yes, there are great, successful Norwegian scholars out there.

And she came out of Bergen.

And in 1983 she published in this little, yellow booklet: Lacan * Kristeva * Freud * Hertz * Ibsen, Eigenproduksjon, nr 18, 1983.

I think I'll keep it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Puppy eyes

Puppy eyes
Originally uploaded by Rotill
I just wanted to show you all the cutest thing ever. It is one of the puppies from Hildringens kennel, which belongs to my brother in law and my sister. Last time I visited, they had six of these! Cuteness overload!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Assisting gently or biting viciously?

I am playing two games on Facebook currently - I am part of too many for me to keep track of, but two are currently sufficiently intriguing to keep me playing. Both are fairly simple games where I do things with, to or for my facebook friends. One is Vampires. I am a vampire who can fight friends or attack random "npcs" by questing, but I can also feed non-vampire friends to my vampire friends. It's in many ways a quite satisfying game, not because of the mechanics, but due to the fiction. The game is mainly a matter of clicking and waiting for the response from the website, which informs me whether the dice rolled for or against me this time. The quests are a matter of clicking somewhere else, and see if I get one of the items which I can get randomly, or just the regular points and currency. It's actually an extremely boring game, way below solitaire. But it has two highlights. I can taunt my friends when they lose, and I can sacrifice random people to have them mauled by friends.

So, do you have a facebook friend you don't really like? Is one of your friends the boss of one of your other friends (who happens to be a vampire)? Did somebody just write the scholarly article you always wanted to write? Or do they just deserve some pain on principle? Vampires lets you take it all out on the more-or-less innocent, and you don't have to let them know they have been sacrificed. It's not a game you play with people you don't feel comfortable with, though. They have to be able to endure a beating - at least a fantasy-beating. The language is aggressive, funny and rough, and sometimes I wonder if the pleasure of playing Vampires is the same pleasure as swearing - a verbal release of emotion that can have no physical outlet.

The other game I play these days is Farmtown. This is a game where people are nice to each other, and by being nice, all gain. If you share, you get more than if you play solo, and the things you can give (and get) as gifts from your friends, are often locked to you for several levels if you want to buy them to your own farm. This means that if you want to flaunt anything, you need friends, and you need to treat them well enough that they want to share with you. Now, as all know this, the treshold for friendly behaviour is very low.

The Farmtown fiction is very satisfying in a different way. I feel like I am producing something worthwhile - or, at least, I get depressed when my harvest goes bad because I have been too lazy about the game. Also, I get to gather wealth and display it according to the dream of having a little house in the countryside. I have rows and rows of fruit trees, flowers blooming in odd places, and a small brown farmhouse that I am planning to upgrade to a white one. In a few levels I'll have rivers and bridges, and benches under the fruit trees, but currently I am restricting the decorations as I am playing for money for expansion and decoration. And I love it when people point out that I have planted in a pretty-looking way. I admire the intricate fields of some of the people I "work" for, harvesting in meandering patterns as the field is planted with plants that grow at different speeds and bloom in different colours. I particularly like the development of watermelons, and I can't wait to have peppers.

But people get their game-face on in nice little Farm Town too. Cheats and walkthroughs exist, to help you level faster. I tend to read these, but I don't think I want to, this time. I want to live in the fantasy of the hard-working farmer producing food and values out of the soil of the land. It lets me live with the knowledge that my real-life farming friends actually get their hands dirty and see results from it. Then I can go write another article about the importance of rules and affordances for ingame interaction.

Bite me.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

After Leipzig

I just returned from the GCO - Game Convention Online - in Leipzig. Invited by some of the members of the very interesting Hans Bredow Institute in Hamburg, I was fairly unprepared for the Leipzig experience.

GCO is a new convention startet as a cooperation between several actors with a vested interest in getting a larger "messe" or convention together to work, both as an attraction for the city of Leipzig, as a meeting spot for a group of game developers who are somewhat less oganised than the very established MMORPG designers, and as a place to promote and test games.

Just add academia, and you have quite a lot of different interests in the same object.

The different cultures became obvious from the first evening. In a regular academic conference I'd have been sadly overdressed for an opening, but the formal invitation where I had to write down the name of any company I wanted to bring was a hint that this wasn't a matter of a quick talk by some Headmaster before the wine and the cooling finger-food. Next to the expensive suits of the German businessmen and politicians I was still a sad, rumpled mess. What luck that I am a geek, and could wear an air of excentric distraction with authority obviously only aquired by much practice.

In the next few days the security level, the service in the speaker's lounge and the shuttle service to the hotel indicated that I was still in a culture not quite familiar. Also the sluggish internet connection at the conference grounds (totally lacking in the speakers' lounge - how did they expect us to prepare in there - free coffee does not make up for no net) and the lack of free wireless at the four-star hotel were indications that I was not in Academia any more.

The great part of the conference was however the opportunity to meet and listen to German scholars. I did spend a lot of time agreeing with Ren Reynolds that "There has been research done in this field, you know," but that's a common response in too many occasions, sadly. One of the better moments was spoiled by the speaker suddenly sorting the ludologists under "effect studies" - even after years of "please do a few google searches before you talk" that was a new one.

What I did find was where the psychologists studying games hunt. They are in Germany. According to one game researcher I talked to, most of German game research is on effects and consequences of games, with a heavy bias towards the problems games may lead to.

If we can somehow integrate the German game scholars in the European community, they might be a very valuable asset, as this is an angle which rarely is carefully discussed and explored in more game studies based English language conferences and journals. But such an integration needs to be desired by those who work within the field, and so far the lack of knowledge about what has become "common knowledge" among a fairly large group of game scholars is more a hindrance to being taken seriously than a challenge (which we need) to the hegemony of certain ideas in the game studies community.