The beauty of game design as a learning experience…[is that] it doesn’t feel like learning. It feels like… play… You’re learning the scientific method when you conjure up a game, but you’re also learning product design…Designing a game teaches your kid how to think. And it reminds you how much there is to learn from playing.
Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World
Monthly Archives: October 2019
How China’s Social Credit Score is playing out in Fuzhou and Xiamen. So far, all carrots no sticks.
In 2018 Xiamen and Fuzhou, two cities in Fujian province, a region on the coast in the southeast most famous for its historic trader links and global diaspora population, became one of just a handful of cities in China with their own city-level personal credit scores (个人信用评分). These are algorithmically created scores, using data gathered by the local government to assess citizens’ level of “promise keeping” (守信), that can be used at places like hospitals and tourist sites, or when paying school tuition fees and borrowing books. However, a look under the hood reveals a reality far from any utopian or dystopian picture.
A house divided
Both Birchwood and Rural include in their classwork mock elections, with the requirement that the students investigate the party platforms and form their opinions based on how they feel they address the issues of the day.
It’s a wonderful and essential part of the curriculum.
It’s something new for my kids, as outside of following the circus show of American politics we haven’t had many political conversations at the kitchen table. And, while in Taiwan it felt like we were a family state, or self-ruled, as we were not allowed to participate in local government in any shape or form, and we were so far removed from Canadian life we had little idea of what was happening.
They cast their mock votes with Catriona voting Green, and Camren voting Liberal.
It’s my hope that they will continue to think critically and not fall victim to all the disinformation that is so prevalent today.
A few photos from yesterday
Hillsborough Bridge Construction
The construction on the bridge, or the Hillsborough Speedway as I refer to it, has meant the end of riding my bike across to Charlottetown during rush hours. In fact it’s probably unsafe for the majority of cyclists who might use the route to make the trek to work.
We had long since planned that I would ride a bike to wherever I needed to be during the days that Sheryl was in need of our car. There is nowhere in the city that I can’t reach by bike in less than 30 minutes and if I can reach the entrance to the bike trail unscathed, it feels pretty safe. Bridge construction aside, it hasn’t gone as smoothly as planned, as I don’t particularly like riding in the rain, and with two active kids and all the errands that I need to run, we drive more than ride.
The bus has proven a great alternative, particularly on wet days. No where have I seen a happier group of bus drivers; they talk to the passengers, help them whenever they can, and know the regulars almost by name. I have seen some forget their bus pass and the bus driver wave them on, because they know them. It’s the exact opposite experience that I had riding the TTC in Toronto for the 10 years I lived there. It’s also an efficient time box for the type of work I do in the downtown – 9 to 4 is plenty of time to accomplish something. It’s a great stress free alternative to the car if you can make it fit into your schedule (which can be difficult when you have active kids who also require near daily trips to the grocery store).
The current construction on the bridge forces cyclists to ride as close to the edge of the road as possible, which is always full of garbage and gravel, and when I rode across last, there was only a few inches between handle bar and mirror. At one point I had a long line up of trucks behind me when on the bridge proper, because thankfully they realized it wasn’t safe to pass. I’ve seen the same with other cyclists.
It would be safe to say that the bridge is a product of an era when the car was the primary stakeholder in urban design. The recent construction of the Shoppers Drug Mart in Stratford, whereby it’s location is far enough away from the other buildings to require all but the most dedicated walkers to drive, indicates that this era is still alive and well. There is still a great deal of work to be done to make it attractive for people to even consider replacing their cars for bikes in Charlottetown’s bedroom communities.
Don’t Give Up
This song by Peter Gabriel will serve as my theme song for tomorrows marathon (as it has served for all my long runs). I don’t take anything on my person when I run, so I’ll likely start chanting the words over and over in my head whenever my legs turn to lead.
Robert Pollack: Rethinking Our Vision of Success
How do we understand that our 100,000-fold excess of numbers on this planet, plus what we do to feed ourselves, makes us a tumor on the body of the planet? I don’t want the future that involves some end to us, which is a kind of surgery of the planet. That’s not anybody’s wish. How do we revert ourselves to normal while we can? How do we re-enter the world of natural selection, not by punishing each other, but by volunteering to take success as meaning success and survival of the future, not success in stuff now? How do we do that? We don’t have a language for that.
We do have structures that value the future over current success. I’m at an institution that has one of those structures. Columbia University is one of the most well-endowed universities in the world. That endowment, which is permanent, according to the economic structure of the country, is stable, it produces wealth without taxation, and that wealth is, by government regulation, required to be spent in the public interest. My job is in the public interest, my teaching is in the public interest, my salary comes that way, my sabbatical, which allows me to find the time to talk to you now. The idea of an endowment is perhaps an expandable idea. If I were talking this way, not to you, John, but to the people I hope are watching this, it’s the most wealthy and powerful of them that I wish I was talking to. The more you have, the more you can set aside in a de facto endowment to stabilize the present so that the future doesn’t collapse on us.
That’s not a taxation. That’s not a redistribution. It’s a withholding. It’s an agreement to do with less now for the sake of the future. I don’t see economic structures that do that. I don’t see politics that does that. But I see kids, like those in the street this week, knowing if we don’t do something like that, they don’t have a world.
Sheryl and I spent our Friday night having dinner at MadWok, which she found underwhelming (she needs more time to forget what PadThai really tastes like), followed by a quick trip to NoFrills, and capped by a visit to the local polling station to cast our vote in the advance poll. Once at home we attempted to finish El Camino on Netflix but failed.
This I think was a far more rewarding evening than in my youth when I would spend my time standing around in a crowded bar pretending to have fun.
This morning after having burpees for breakfast at Crossfit (the Saturday crowd are a lively bunch), we dropped by the Farmers Market to get some rainbow carrots, my sons surprise favourite, fill him with rice noodles and hopefully run into Elizabeth May. Which I did, as Glen Beaton brought me over somewhat reluctantly to meet her. I had nothing to say other than some niceties, but it would be rude to take her away for more than a brief moment, from what looked like a delicious lunch, to ask yet more questions of her.
She is I think the perfect antidote to the Andrew Scheer’s of the world.
I walked into the barbershop this afternoon 5 weeks after the last visit for another cut. At 22 minutes in and out it was slightly slower than my previous visit but I am more pleased with the result. Perhaps adding more time to a task does result in a corresponding increase in quality. I think she styled me as she might see her grandfather, if she had one.
She is new I think, and doesn’t know me, so we started our short time together with some small talk about Thanksgiving. My lack of desire for chit chat during an activity which brings no joy to me was apparent and we stopped at that.
I do continue to enjoy listening to the way they talk and phrase the beginning and end of topics. “Well it is October”, was a convenient excuse for talking about what they described as a dark topic. Todays topic was a comparison between getting tattoos and giving blood. Both use needles, but getting a needle at a hospital is seen as far scarier in part because of something leaving your body vs entering your body (ink), which is the case with getting a tattoo.
I wanted to ask them some questions about all the whiskey on display. Do people really want to drink whiskey while they are getting a haircut? Many places offer you something to drink upon arrival, which I think is polite. But the ones that do this best are the places that give you time to enjoy quality tea or coffee in an environment conductive to doing so. There is a barber in Quebec City that doubles as a café which looks worth a visit. Some places in Taiwan do this well, but most don’t which often resulted in hair floaties in my cup.
Todays barber was rather inspiring with her died hair color an exact match for the color pattern on her sneakers. Something I might try in the near future.
I’m seeing an increasing need locally for the same kind of design education I experienced and helped provide throughout my time in Taiwan and China. Not just theory and strategy, which I love, but artifacts creation – like wireframes and prototypes. Maybe there should be not just a learn to code movement here, but a learn to create and communicate your ideas movement of some sort as well.
Interactive Prototyping, Part 1
Wireframes and prototypes enable you to present your design concepts and show a Web site’s or application’s basic functionality to your stakeholders and clients
I signed up for the PEI Marathon recently, leaving it to the last possible moment due to my uncertainty that I could actually finish the race. A part of me is glad when it will be over as following a 14+ week running regime tests my propensity for boredom.
The route itself takes you through some of the most beautiful parts of the Island which makes the somewhat gruelling experience worthwhile (You don’t realize how hilly Charlottetown is until hit the arterial road after running 30k).
My inactivity all winter hasn’t positioned me for an entirely pain free run. Last winter was the coldest I’ve experienced in over 20 years and looking back over my activity data for that period it would appear I did nothing more than walk to and from the car. This has made for a maddenly slow return to fitness with no time to improve upon what I had built before. Fitness, especially with the slow recovery times brought on by middle age, is an investment which must always be paid.
For this training cycle I tried some different approaches. I eased up on the milage considerably, giving my body more time to rest. I averaged about 56km per week, topping out at 70, which is considerably less than I attempted in the past. When you include the stretching, body weight workouts and CrossFit, I devoted about 15+ hours a week to training. Generally, I follow a regime that doesn’t take in consideration my age, and I would push myself with both milage and speed. Often resulting in an injury of some sort. So far, other than some recent tightness in my achilles, I have had no long lasting issues. This may in part be due to the fact that I started this training cycle not by running but by going to CrossFit.
If I had to describe Crossfit in a word, I would describe it as humbling. Working with athletes, and being the beginner, has that effect.
Standing on the sidelines watching people, somewhat in concert, throw around metal bars, falling on the floor in exhaustion, with all the resultant cacophony of sound, makes it look like some kind of industrial ballet. The whole routine seems a bit ridiculous to me at times but it has forced me to address some problems head on that I haven’t dealt with since elementary school. Rope climbing, olympic style lifting, and some of the other movements require not only the development of a strong core (it’s done amazing things for my hip strength and mobility), they also require the development of grip strength. I’ve long since accepted my hard limits, missing the digits on my left hand means there are some things I will never be able to do, but I don’t ever remember testing those limits until now. In my childhood my inability to do strict pull-ups and rope climbing was an embarrassment, now I see it as a challenge. Luckily the coaching and community at Court6 make meeting challenges easier.
My somewhat more gentle approach to this cycle is with an eye to the future. I take my time during CrossFit and never lift heavy. If finances will allow I hope to run the NorthFace Ultra in Thailand this coming winter and have in mind either the Capes 100 in the summer or one of the many in the American Midwest.
This August past we were given the best of gifts as both of the neighbors, who for over a year caused me so much grief, moved out.
Their absence combined with beautiful weather, friends visiting from Taiwan, and the whole family together again made for a great month.
Stampy as I called him, and the young man who did nothing but scream at his tv all day and night, left suddenly without much fanfare, leaving the apartment above us to be occupied by people who have been largely invisible. The best kind of upstairs neighbors are those that don’t make their presence known.
The young person who would have loud parties in her bedroom was replaced by a delightful family who cook the most delicious smelling food. Certainly, they represent the best of apartment living.
It’s been so quiet that I was starting to believe that living in an apartment in Stratford wasn’t so bad at all. I even considered removing the earplugs that I started wearing last year.
But alas winter is coming.
Recently there has been a noticeable change in activity levels upstairs – with a new heavy foot and someone operating some kind of machine that vibrates the floors at all hours. As it turns out new residents have moved in with the tenants above bringing the number of adults to 5. There may also be a young child in the mix.
As far as problems caused by the housing shortage goes, this would be far far and away from those who are sleeping in their cars. We are warm and we have a place to sleep, for which we are thankful.
I’m playing catch up this week, trying to understand each political party’s platform, as I head to the advance poll this Thursday or Friday. I think this is only the 2nd time I’ve had the opportunity to vote and Sheryl believes it may be her first, so there is a certain thrill to being able to exercise this privilege.
The kids have questions too, but I’ve only been able to talk about this election in the most vaguest of terms. During the provincial election I was much more engaged, meeting with representatives, going to speaking events and digging into their various platforms. I’ve been distracted for this election and unable to attend the speaking events – Sheryl often needs the car and it’s still very difficult to get from Stratford to anywhere without one.
The only representative who made the effort to reach out in our building was Wayne Phelan of the Conservatives. As is often the case on PEI we established that first I grew up here, and how we might be connected. I went to high school with his older brother Alan. We also have something in common in that we both spent time in Asia. When asked if I had any questions, I felt like asking his opinion on resume padding, but seeing as he seems like a far more amiable person than his national leader, I simply apologized as I hadn’t had time to think through the issues.
The Liberal party did leave a poster, and the Green Party a slew of pamplets, which doesn’t seem so green at all.
I have a “can you please just get out of my way” attitude towards government, which places me at odds with all the major parties worth considering in Canada. It’s been easy to avoid governance for over 20 years, but it’s not so easy now.
Watching the debate last night was much like listening to my kids when they are tired of each other, often times nasty and frequently incoherent, with Elizabeth May seemingly the only adult in the room. She comes across as authentic and honest, something rare in politics I think. But we don’t vote directly for her and I remain unconvinced with Michele Beatons father.
I have a couple days.
A talk on data analysis
After a brief recap of the previous weeks talk on customer interviews, this week focused on how to extract that data into affinity notes and create an affinity wall. Being able to analyze deliberate or serendipitous research is an essential part two.
Creating affinity walls are a great bottoms-up and data-driven methodology which captures explicit customer requests, and tacit and latent needs. And if design studios walls are any indication, it is one of the most popular artifacts created by design researchers. When you are not directly involved in creating the part of the end product that you can see or operate, having walls full of research artifacts becomes a means of proving activity.
I have my doubts anyone will use these methods in the short-term, but I appreciate the opportunity to start introducing these concepts, and their terms, into the minds of these business owners. I know they work, and are being used elsewhere to great success, so perhaps if people hear the terms and concepts enough they will start investigating on their own.