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Comment Re:I think you all get that this is communist BS (Score 1) 1216

Yours is the first comment to use "exploit" on the page (at the moment), and I completely agree. The right that people have in forming a government that oversees business is largely to avoid the exploitation of others. This is why slavery, indentured servitude, human trafficking and such are illegal.

The question I have is, how can you define exploitation? Minimum wage laws have been the stopgap in place for some time, but they seem to have flaws; plenty of people making minimum wage still can't support themselves or their families, while many of these people are working for corporations that make huge profits and pay their upper level management lavishly. It's difficult for me to not call that exploitation.

(Raising the minimum wage is one solution, but it's easy to admit that there are industries where different minimums make sense, particularly in how they're calculated... home health care is a good example of a problem spot -- where 24-hour-a-day live-in care doesn't really translate to 24-hours of work the same way a 9-5 job is an 8-hour salaried work day with benefits and time off, or a 3-hour lunch shift at a fast food hourly job with no benefits is just, well, 3 hours.)

Enforced ratios seem to be a good way of mitigating those problems. Highly paid leaders will still be highly paid, but they will only grow their own compensation by growing the compensation of those whom they manage. A vested interest in the worker-bees wages seems to be a good way to avoid exploitation.

Still, it would have to be a well-written law. How are "wholly owned subsidiaries" considered... if "Fast Food Corporation" franchises its stores as individual "companies", who are the lowest and highest paid individuals in the structure? How is ownership managed (if I'm paid in stock, or if I'm an unsalaried owner taking bonuses from profits, how does it count towards the ratio)? What is the effect on business that rely on offshoring work or sub-contract labor (if I "fire" all my basketweavers and offer them the same low-pay as sub-contractors, am I breaking a rule)? There's a lot to be considered.

Also, the choice of 12x is going to be a huge point of contention. Should it be 10x? 50x?

It's an interesting concept. I don't think it will happen in the US... definitely not soon, but I'd at least strongly consider it if it were up to me.

Comment Re: "Ethical" microtransactions? (Score 1) 177

In Candy Crush, you literally can't play unless you do something profitable to the developers (including texting friends or posting to facebook which is valuable in a free-advertising sort of way). From a psych perspective, this is playing on addiction by withholding something someone can actually use to have a different or more successful experience... the high gamers get from achievement and from actual playing and being rewarded with more "valuable" in-game items can be similar to the "gambler's high" that addicts have problems with in that way. I'm not convinced this is unethical, but I could see an argument for it (which is why gambling is highly regulated).

Buying cosmetic components can cause addiction, certainly, but as I said before I think it's more comparable to collectibles. Having them provides no benefit other than the satisfaction of owning them and bragging rights. Baseball cards, stuffed animals, and all sorts of things have lived through this business model. To Chanloth's question, though: are they profitable without addiction? Some are, some aren't... there's probably some difficult economics to ferret out there -- some people spend all their money on beanie-babies, but even if you exclude those few truly addicted, the things sold like hotcakes (to non-"whales"). I'm sure the game devs would love to have some people spend thousands on PoE, but I bet they'll be just as happy to make a profit with enough people paying a few dollars each. I'm skeptical that there's any way this is de-facto unethical, but I am convinced there's a difference between pay-to-win and cosmetic-only micro-transactions.

Comment Re:"Ethical" microtransactions? (Score 4, Insightful) 177

I don't think that's an accurate assessment. For one thing, you're sort of comparing the marketplace ethics to the ethics of addiction... any game can be addictive and destructive, does that make it unethical to create? The gamasutra article even mentions addiction, but it points out (even if implicitly) that the addiction is more towards actual game pursuits -- the example of acquiring rarer items by spending more time and money create a spiral. Cosmetic-only purchases may actually minimize that, since they don't affect gameplay, there's no driving reason to purchase them insatiably, other than maybe the same drive that causes someone to collect stamps or my little ponies. In that line of thinking, every "collectible" business model would be unethical... it's a hard argument to make.

Certainly, though, some of the things that DID make pay-to-win unethical in some people's minds is that it made people with more money more competitive, and advance quicker. The PoE model certainly ameliorates that situation, so it's a move in the right direction.

I've been playing the game for a while, due to a friend's recommendation, and I like it -- I particularly like the regular events and races -- but I'm also inclined to spend a few dollars customizing my character that I never would have spent in WoW or Diablo or other games, because I know it supports the creators and I feel it doesn't interfere with the economics or the gameplay.

Comment Interstate Commerce (Score 1) 658

I'm guessing this will fail legal tests at the federal level due to interstate commerce laws and privacy, but I could be wrong... from the article:

"...allowing them to install mileage meters connected their vehicles’ odometers or GPS systems that could better track non-taxable miles on private and out-of-state roads."

The state can't tax out-of-state anything, generally, but certainly not an activity (like driving) performed out of state (buying something online and shipping it in-state would be different). It's true that technology could allow them to determine the difference, as ShanghaiBill implied, but the court could rule that since there is no way to do this without infringing privacy (which itself is legally grey where driving is concerned), that the law loses based on the catch-22. At best, it could be forced to allow self-reporting of non-taxable miles (much like many states rely on self-reporting of out-of-state purchases for use-tax purposes).

It's an interesting conflict, however, that will certainly go to the judicial system to sort out, if the law ever passes.

Comment Analog vs. Digital? (Score 5, Insightful) 204

We've been historically terrible at deciphering ancient languages without something to help link it to a current language (such as the Rosetta Stone).

All this talk of data formats spanks of a very digital future, which I think we have a very hard time of predicting. The linked article is very binary... the grooves they explain can have "two or more" readable states, and their use of a QR code is interesting since it's an analog representation of an absurdly hard to decipher technology (without a key, as parent indicates should be the first thing). How would we encode data on these things? ASCII encoded English? Aliens would have to decode a language and then translate it. There's got to be something easier.

At least the QR code is ultimately a 2D picture, though. I'd imagine any thorough storage over that period of time will have to start with something extremely basic. Sculptures or 2D visual instructions that clearly lay things out. I think you could probably describe a mathematical encoding mechanism visually, but a language would take some work. The Arecibo message is somewhat famous for being a digital message that is notoriously difficult to interpret, and that's by people who would actually recognize some of the glyphs. The picture attached to the 1970s Pioneer vessels is higher resolution and easier to identify, and the audio/visual nature of the Voyager Golden Record is also interesting. But still the idea that these will be intelligently deciphered by themselves is tiny.

It's impressive that they're building something to last... they're just going to have to spend a lot of time figuring out what to put on it. Should lead to some interesting conversations.

Comment Re:simple (Score 5, Interesting) 497

Plenty of talented developers and teams get crushed by government red tape, bureaucracy, and the simple inability of most government agencies to manage their contracts. I can't figure out why but there is an enormous attraction for government program managers to micro-manage. Having worked on a handful of very expensive, very large government programs I can tell you that either side can make a project a disaster. But I've been on teams that can roll out a successful commercial project in 3 months that takes 3 years for nearly identical functionality in the public sector (DoD in my case). It's not incompetence at the individual level, either, in my experience; it's something institutional. Too many regulations that cause inflexibility and twisted risk/reward feedback for both costs and personal performance, and the antithesis of an evolution-as-improvement driven culture to match changing development standards.

Comment Re:Code Comments (and some core algorithms) (Score 1) 598

Ah, I'm glad someone already hit this. I'd have gone with a more generic "readability" and "documentation", but yeah.

I'd also include a few more mathematically interesting algorithms that push graphics as well as algorithm and iterative design. Breshnam's circle algorithm comes to mind, as well as fractal programming. For very precocious kids, pushing a 3d object from scratch is a great way to learn (i.e. rotate a cube using nothing but the ability to turn on and off a pixel).

On the other hand, while I would definitely avoid complex libraries as the "genuinely useful" curriculum, most coding these days kind of eschews these concepts, for better or worse. Learning how to wrangle a .NET, Ruby, or Java library set is just as important these days. I'm not sure how to handle that in a core curriculum.

Comment Stephen Few Loves his Bar charts (Score 2) 194

I completely Agree... I've actually had a few public disagreements with Stephen Few (on his blog - Hi Stephen) about his love of bar charts.

He's absolutely right, technically, on the visual perception -- that it's easier to compare lengths to basically anything else (like pie slices), particularly shapes that vary in more than one dimension (is a 5x5 rectangle bigger than a 6x4? If you know the dimensions you can do the math, but if you look at the boxes it's not as easy).

BUT, where I disagree (and I seem to agree with parent AC) is that people get tired of bar charts. Kids, in particular, have amazingly short attention spans, and as any teacher knows, engaging a child in a learning experience is very important, and different students will learn different ways. Your example of buying pizzas for a class is a classic example (although war is not the standard goal). Cutting a long subway sandwich or tootsie roll may not have the same effect. In fact, it's possible that the measurements Stephen Few relies on to measure visual perception could change if we took the time early on not to cater only to what our students are already good at, but to exercise spatial considerations that could improve.

Pie charts have their place, if only to break up the monotony. Certainly we should teach kids ratios based on bars, lines, squares, and other things as well -- for the most part we already do -- but we should not say that any one way is the best, even if there's one measurement that "proves" it, at the expense of variety.

Comment Re:They forgot INTERCAL! (Score 1) 254

Worse yet, they forgot INTERCAL! Any language with a "COME FROM" command (rather than "GO TO") should make the list by default.

Of course, noone uses it, so maybe it didn't meet the criteria. Whereas I agree that SQL is hugely used. SQL isn't really a programming language, though... extensions such as PL/SQL help make it so, but those are very non-standard and tweaky in their own right. As a set-focused (relational) data processing tool, SQL actually does OK.

---Chip

Comment The animation was less brilliant (Score 1) 374

I'm with you on 7th Guest... it was way more playable to me, and the games since then resemble it much more than Myst, IMO. I really just didn't enjoy Myst... it was eye candy at the time, but very static -- there were far more engrossing and compelling games even at the time. I wouldn't even call it very "open"... If you got stuck on a puzzle you'd eventually have to solve it to move on, just like in any game... it just let you wander around a lot looking for clues in the mean time. It owed a lot of that style of gameplay to Sierra's adventure games (and others) that came well before it.

But calling the graphics brilliant... they were pretty certainly, but the animation lacked significantly compared to 7th guest which came out almost exactly the same time and looked fantastic as well as animated.

As to why it didn't influence more games... the shortcuts they used on CD-Roms back then are no longer necessary. They'd pre-animate and pre-render everything then just call it up from disk. More Power has allowed us to animate and render on the fly which means that, no matter how open Myst seemed, it's almost trivial to make something more open and fluid now and in a much better way. Myst's and 7th Guests's technology was breakthrough at the time, but it was a stop gap while more real-time technologies could take over.

Comment Re:Relative (Score 4, Insightful) 356

Agree with parent (CrzyP)...

Specifically, though, if they are "difficult to work with", then they probably aren't the best programmers. In that case, "Rock Star" may actually be a good term... people that are extremely talented at doing something, but do so by their own rules, frequently high, often attention grabbing and lacking focus or team spirit. (Not that there aren't great real rock stars, but you get my point). Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration, but still...

What you do need are top tier developers, forget what you call them. You can get to the top tier by having raw talent, or by being well disciplined. Working well with others is a boon; building code that is reusable, well factored, documentable and maintainable. If you have five team members each with five different strengths but no one-developer-to-rule-them-all, you can still build a fantastic team and great software. You need programmers who can mentor so that the rest of the team can improve. Toss the people that don't work well on a team, and while you're at it toss the managers that prefer hard-to-work-with people, or that can't manage teams of normal people. This is particularly important if your software is going to grow... individual "rock stars" don't scale.

Comment Re:gists? (Score 1) 328

Basically it's a synonym for "summary", meaning that a conversation or communication is summarized by someone (in this case likely the intelligence agencies) and this summary is called the gist.

The term gets used occasionally in conversation, as in: "Did you get the gist of his long, rambling speech?", or "I'm in a hurry, just tell me the gist of the story."

Comment Read the MOA, it's about protecting U.S. Persons (Score 3, Interesting) 328

My reading of this MOA is very different... The MOA is repeatedly clarifying that U.S. Person information is not to be SENT by the NSA (The NSA's Responsibility to ensure it is not in the data is clearly spelled out in the MOA, if it wasn't already explicit elsewhere). It ALSO indicates that IF Israel's ISNU find's U.S. Person data they must report the finding to the NSA and destroy the information.

The MOA does not give any indication when or why raw SIGINT data would be sent to ISNU, and while it is clear that the NSA does share raw intel, it is also clear that there are cases where the raw data is "Minimized" by the NSA to remove U.S. Person information. The MOA does not guarantee ISNU any access to NSA data -- which data we share is obviously going to be controlled by other agreements and laws.

So a) we share intel with Israel ... I'm pretty sure everyone should have assumed this, and b) we have documented safeguards to restrict that data to intel on NON-U.S. Persons. Really, read the memorandum, that's all it does... every page is devoted to protecting data on U.S. Citizens.

How is this a bad thing? This document is obviously showing intent to avoid domestic spying. Good! If you want to argue that the NSA is not following its own guidelines, or failing to protect U.S. data, this is not good evidence of that.

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