Daily Archives: June 5, 2007

Greatly perplexed

Perplex City cards “Have some of these, Andy”, said Roo, passing me a silvery packet of cards. And thus began my current frustration – Perplex City.

Roo, you see, is secretly evil.

Perplex City is essentially a series of collectable puzzle cards of increasing difficulty, all tied in with a website where you can register and enter the answers, scoring points for each card you solve.

There’s also much more to it than that. Perplex City is – or rather, has been until very recent cancellation – also an Alternate Reality Game, where the puzzles and the stories told on the backs of the cards, combine with real-world clues and other media to act as an interactive game. Fellow eightbar writers Ian, Roo and Nick have all blogged about it before.

I’m late into it, and I’ve never played ARGs before… so I can’t claim to really “get it”. Unfortunately, on the very day that Roo handed me those cards, Mind Candy (the makers) announced that the current “Season 2” of the Perpex City ARG had been cancelled, although the cards will continue to come out. Still, I’m left with a stack of, well, far too many cryptic Perplex City Season 2 cards, to tease my poor brain. Maybe the ARG part would have blown my mind completely.

I’m really not sure I can solve them all…

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Oh Plazes, where art thou…

I had an email this morning announcing that the new Plazes is online, so it looks like all of the features should now be public.

There are just a few things that still bother me – I think if the team could sort these out, they might get a bit more uptake:

  1. Some of us have been kept up-to-date via email. The Plazes blog has been very quiet on the subject of the whole upgrade. I’m grateful for the alpha/beta exposure, but it seems like more awareness could have been built up around the new version by more coordinated use of blogs, email and other media.
  2. The Plazer for Windows and Mac has been re-released, but the Mac one in particular has had some problems. It would be nice if these were open sourced, or a better way of reporting issues existed than the comments in the new Mac group.
  3. The API has changed. I’ve seen inconsistent messages on the blogs or via email that certain parts of the API have been / will be removed before certain dates. The WhereAmI XML-RPC PHP endpoint has certainly been removed, and as a result my little Applescript for ecto is not currently working. The success of Web 2.0 sites is usually a lot to do with their APIs and the ease of use… right now, Plazes could be opening this up a lot more and letting the community play with the new features programmatically. The upcoming Hack Day is a case in point – participants could be making use of APIs offered by Plazes if they were made available.
  4. [added in a later edit] They seem to have stripped out some of the privacy features. Before, I could choose which of my IM accounts or email addresses to reveal publically or to contacts… this option seems to have gone. An unwelcome regression in function.

I still think Plazes is a cool site, but there’s so much more they could be doing to build their own momentum.

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Hack Day – Yahoo, BBC, London, June

One of the things I’m most looking forward to this month is Hack Day in London, an event sponsored by Yahoo! and the BBC.

Inspired by previous Yahoo! Hack Days, at IBM we’ve been running our own internal Hack Days – in fact, the third one has just happened. We’ve had great fun. Some of the coolest internal tools that I use (intranet-specific Firefox extensions, Sametime plugins, Second Life gadgets, and so on) have come out of the Hack Day experience. Kelly has so much more on her blog about our internal events. I have to say that I’ve often been more an observer of the internal event since I’m usually out with customers… but I participate in all of the internal communities, and I’ve enjoyed seeing what we as a group have come up with.

So, anyway, my colleagues James Taylor, Benjamin Hardill and I will be there at the London Hack Day(s) on 16th and 17th June 2007. We’re looking forward to meeting fellow hackers, discussing what’s new and hot in mashups, coding, Web 2.0 and the world, and hearing the speakers. I’m sure I’ll be live blogging, live twittering, and taking photos too!

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