Why Isn’t Work as Fun as a Video Game?

Of Steve Barth‘s recent talk at the KMWorld & Intranets conferences, Dave Pollard wrote:

Millions of people voluntarily spend 20 hours per week or more playing multiplayer online games that are essentially complex collaborative role-playing activities. In doing this they do many of the same things that are essential to effective business collaboration: set goals, select roles, identify appropriate teammates, accumulate capabilities (i.e. learn) and experience, and engage in strategic social interaction. So why is it so hard to cajole employees, when they are paid to do these things, to do them as enthusiastically and with as much engagement as gamers do them for free?

Dave attributes much of the appeal of video games to their complexity. Video games offer a rich, complex environment, where business, on the other hand, is merely complicated. The entire article is well worth the read, if you have the time.

While I agree with Dave, I’d say there are additional reasons that people love to play video games more than go to work. One of them is dependency on their work. Folks don’t enjoy their work as much because they depend on it for their livelihood. They don’t depend on video games in the same way. If everybody depended on playing video games to live, many would find it as exciting as responding to email.

And that, in fact, is the case. Every office worker is forced to play a video game, and its name is Microsoft Office.

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Activa Holdings Files Suit Against Louisette Lanteigne

Back in May, I blogged about Louisette Lanteigne, a local stay-at-home mom who out of concern for the safety of her children was posting to her website what she understood to be safety and environmental violations at a nearby constuction site. At that time she was being threatened by the builder, Activa Holdings Inc, with legal action if she didn’t remove the photos from her site.

Well, she didn’t. So they filed suit. For $2 million dollars.

The story has since been picked up by the national press, Slashdot, and a growing number of bloggers.

From the Canoe story:

Her efforts led to letters and kudos from various government officials for reporting alleged violations. Then-environment minister Leona Dombrowsky wrote her to say, “Your advocacy on behalf of your neighbourhood is commendable and I encourage you to contact the ministry . . .to report any further incidents.”

Environment Ministry spokesman John Steele said work by people like Lanteigne is of great value because there aren’t enough ministry workers available to spot every infraction.


Murdoch [Activa’s lawyer] said Activa realizes it’s risking negative PR but the company thinks the lawsuit is the only way to defend its reputation.

“Ultimately, they’re confident it will be resolved in their favour,” Murdoch said. “They’re confident the right public perception will come about.”

Until now, there were two blog posts about this. Mine and Michael Hiemstra’s, along with a couple of articles in some local papers. Since launching their lawsuit, 20 new blog posts have been written, along with national and international press coverage. It is hard to imagine a worse PR situation for Activa than the one they have just created for themselves.

At the very best, Activa will win the suit and be remembered as the company who sues safety-minded folks into bankrupcy for criticizing them. At worse, they will be remembered as the company who, when found to be violating safety and environmental regulations, preferred to sue the messenger instead of clean up their act.

If you would like to share your thoughts with the folks at Activa, you can reach them at the following address (thanks, Martin):

Address: 735 Bridge St W , Waterloo N2V 2H1
Telephone: (519) 886-9400 , Fax: (519) 886-8955
Contact Peter Armbruster
Position Vice President, Operations
Product and Service Home Builders
Web Page: www.activagroup.ca (nothing there yet)

Problems installing Palm Desktop

Dear Lazyweb,

While I wait to get a registration confirmation email from the palmOne support forum, perhaps you can help solve this problem.

I’ve been trying to install version 4.1.4 of Palm Desktop on my Windows XP (Home Edition) machine without much success.

Here’s the problem…

It requires Administrator privileges to install. So I switch to my Adminstrator account and install it. So far, so good. It runs fine for the adminstrator account.

When I switch back to my ‘Limited’ user account, the account that use for my day-to-day computing, there are a few problems:

1. All of the shortcuts have been installed to the Adminstrator’s start menu. This is easy enough to fix. I just move them to ‘All Users’ start menu manually.

2. When I launch the Palm Desktop program as a limited user, I get the following error message, “Error: Invalid Configuration. Terminating the Palm Desktop.”

Right. Thanks for the helpful message. What am I supposed to do now?

Update (2005-11-16): I solved the problem by temporarily granting adminstrator privileges to my limited account and installing the software under that account. When I was done, I switch the account back to limited. Seems to work now.

Update (2006-01-29): R Burgos offers the following solution in the comments:

  1. Install the software under an administrative account.
  2. Run the windows registry editor and find HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREPalmSource, then right click on this key and make sure you add your limited user account to the list of accounts with unlimited privileges. Exit regedit.
  3. Go to the :/Program Files/PalmOne folder and right click on it. Make sure you add your limited user to the list and grant full control.
  4. Log-Off from the Administrator account.
  5. Log-in as the limited user. Run the Setup.exe installer for Palm Desktop. It should not ask you this time for administrative permission to install…it should just install and place all the icons in the desktop and start menu.
  6. You are done. Don’t forget to consider a registry backup in case something goes wrong or you change the wrong key etc.

Bought a Palm VIIx

Although I work in the tech field, I’m actually a rather slow adopter of technology. So when my wife announced to some friends last night that I had purchased a PDA, their response was, “Welcome to the new millenium!”

This, of course, was an overestimation of the leap I’d taken. Considering that my purchase was of a Palm VIIx the more appropriate response would have been, “Welcome to the 1990s!”.

Anyways, a local liquidator, XS Cargo was selling them for $49.99CAN. I’ve been thinking of buying a PDA since I finished reading Getting Things Done. As I was just looking for something that I could store and transport my todo lists around on, the Palm VIIx seemed like the perfect fit. And the price was right.

I’ve played around with it a bit, and it looks like it will do the trick. I just need to get a holster so I can carry it around with me.

Getting Back into Piano

When I was young, I played piano.

For the longest time this was a forced activity. My parents wanted me to have some musical training as a child, so from the age of 7 that’s what I got. And hated it. They always justified it by saying that I’d thank them when I was older.

And you know what? Now I do.

When I got to high school, I came to enjoy it. I’ll always remember the day that Rob Brown and Brett Humber, having heard that I’d already spent years of my life practicing piano, approached me in 9th grade to ask if I’d be interested in getting together for a jam session. So began my career as a high-school rocker.

Fuelled by wild dreams of fame and fortune, we jammed constantly. We spent every lunch hour in the high school music room. We’d get together on evenings and weekends. Any opportunity we had to play, we’d take it.

Of course, I needed equipment if I was going to become famous. This was the argument that I used to convince my parents to buy me my first keyboard, anyway. Mind you, they were so delighted that I was finally taking an interest in music, that they were practically racing to the store to buy me a Yamaha PSR-6 the moment I mentioned it. It was a nice little unit, but hardly professional grade. That would have to wait another year, when I bought a Yamaha DX11, followed up a couple years later with the purchase of a Korg M1.

At the same time, I continued to study classical piano. I even achieved some level of recognized competence with it, receiving my Grade 8 certificate from the Royal Conservatory of Music. I continued to take lessons afterwards, but never worked towards any kind of certificate.

I gave after-school lessons to neighbourhood children, a nice little side business that provided some spending cash for whatever adolescent adventures in which I found myself engaging.

I gave up piano when I graduated from high school and left for university. The keyboards were simply too bulky to keep in my dorm room. Besides, in the course of my years of jamming, I had picked up guitar and was slowly considering myself to be a guitarist rather than a keyboard player. And a guitar could fit in a dorm room. So just like that, I gave up what until then had been an fundamental part of my life.

Now it has been years since I played anything. In the past decade, I’ve spent maybe 15 minutes at a keyboard, and all of these have been at the houses of friends and family. I sit down at their pianos just long enough to punch out a few chords and confirm that I’ve completely lost all my skills.

Somehow, I’m starting to feel the itch to play again. I don’t know what triggered it, but I find myself missing the feel of ivory beneath my fingers. I miss the challenge of learning that comes with playing an instrument. I miss the feeling of gradual, but steady improvement that I’ve only ever felt with music. Most of all, I miss the ability to express myself in music, the medium to which I’ve always felt most attuned.

Which brings me to the point of this post: I’ve decided that I’m going get back into playing piano. Though I no longer have dreams of becoming famous or wealthy by it, I’d like to get competent again, at least enough to play some music that moves and interests me.

As much as I can, I’m planning to keep a record of my journey back to the piano here. Stay tuned for more posts on the topic, the first of which will probably be about shopping for a piano.

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Show Me Your Battle Scars

Steve Pavlina:

Sure there are some goals that would be really tough for you to accomplish. Maybe you’re right about certain things being impossible for you. So let’s see your battle scars then. Show me the wounds you’ve endured as a result of pursuing goals you couldn’t achieve. Let’s see that bankruptcy, that broken heart, the rejection letter, the lawsuit, the divorce, the public humiliation. Show me the total failures, the brutal disappointments, the smack-downs.

Let’s see them battle scars.

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On the Effectiveness of Aluminium Foil Helmets

Do you wear an aluminum foil hat to block the government’s mind control rays? It might not be doing what you think. Here’s a study from Ali Rahimi, Ben Recht, Jason Taylor, Noah Vawter:

Among a fringe community of paranoids, aluminum helmets serve as the protective measure of choice against invasive radio signals. We investigate the efficacy of three aluminum helmet designs on a sample group of four individuals. Using a $250,000 network analyser, we find that although on average all helmets attenuate invasive radio frequencies in either directions (either emanating from an outside source, or emanating from the cranium of the subject), certain frequencies are in fact greatly amplified. These amplified frequencies coincide with radio bands reserved for government use according to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Statistical evidence suggests the use of helmets may in fact enhance the government’s invasive abilities. We speculate that the government may in fact have started the helmet craze for this reason.

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Dan Briklin Releases wikiCalc 0.1

Dan Briklin has released an initial version of some software he’s been working on:

The product is the wikiCalc program — a web authoring tool that creates web pages. It is for creating and maintaining web pages that include data this is more than just unformatted prose, such as schedules, lists, and tables. It combines some of the ease of authoring and multi-person edit ability of a wiki with the familiar formatting and data organizing metaphor of a spreadsheet. While you edit using a browser-based UI in a spreadsheet, with the A-B-C 1-2-3 grid showing, the final output, like printout from the productivity product, is static and only shows cell borders where you explicitly set them. It handles freeform text in a wiki-like manner and works well with large blocks of text.

I haven’t tried it out yet, but it sounds like an interesting concept. Something to keep an eye on, anyway.

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Mark Cuban’s Plan to Eliminate Content Theft

Mark Cuban has some ideas on how to eliminate content theft:

The entire content industry is missing a unique opportunity to eliminate most content piracy and more importantly, to generate a whole lot more revenue by offering revenue sharing. If the NYTimes, to use them an example, were to offer 50 pct of the revenue generated from traffic delivered by affiliated websites, not a single website with half a clue would steal your content. Instead, every blogger, splogger and small content creator would look to find ways to link to your content and drive you traffic. Companies like LinkShare offer revenue sharing programs for product sales, why not offer the same for advertising sales ?

This is an interesting idea. I have no doubt that such a system would eliminate the benefit of content scraping. If I can make more money with a link to somebody’s content than with the content itself, why would I choose to steal the content?

However, I wonder if this solution would only shift the problem. Couldn’t you game such a system by renting a few thousand zombie machines to follow the link on your splog and collect a fat cheque from the content producer?

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