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A few things Mark Wallace

Month: September 2009

Hark! Comes Calling

The crack team at Hark! launched our browser plugin the other day at TechCrunch50, though to seemingly mixed reviews. This is a project I spent more than two years working on as CEO and co-founder, and one I’m still involved in as a board member, and it’s a service I strongly believe will change how we use the Web. Some of the people who’ve taken a cursory glance at Hark! see only a privacy issue, but to me that’s a straw man: everything from Facebook to iPhone apps like FourSquare and games like Parallel Kingdom are changing how we think about what’s private and what’s not. As my co-co-founder Jerry Paffendorf puts it on his 7 Billion Friends blog, Hark! creates “an entirely new experience of being online live with other people.” As Jerry points out, this will branch out into many powerful and unforeseen places both on the Web and off. Sign up for the service and see for yourself. And add me as a friend when you get there. I look forward to bumping into you on the Web.

Inchvest in Detroit: $1 an inch

Jerry Paffendorf has a cool new project that’s looking not for investors but for inchvestors: for people to spend $1 to purchase one square inch of the city of Detroit. Check out the Loveland page over at Kickstarter for more details. Jerry has been chronicling his Detroit adventure in colorful detail over at his Tumblog, 7 Billion Friends. Inspired by the Million Dollar Home Page, Jerry wants to take participatory investment art off the Internets and onto the ripe canvas that is Detroit — a city that could use a good dose of free thinking if ever there was one.

How the Xerox Machine Changed Publishing

Joni Evans and the former tools of the publishing trade
Image stolen from The New York Times

I just noticed a great short piece in last Sunday’s New York Times by Joni Evans, one of the important figures in book publishing from the mid-1970s to mid-1990s (and now founder and CEO of wowOwow, a site for women). Evans gives a great, succinct portrait of the evolution of technology in the publishing trade, and how it changed how business gets done there. One great example: Before copying machines, there were rarely any bidding wars to acquire manuscripts, because the author would be sending a typescript copy around to one publisher at a time. If that publisher didn’t buy the book, it went to the next one on the list. Copying machines meant that manuscripts could go to many publishers at once. Having the property distributed simultaneously changed the competitive nature of the publishing market. These days we see similar effects at work across the Web, perhaps most notably in the news business at the moment. But Evans’s brief account is a great example of how such changes can come from unexpected quarters. Never underestimate the power of even the most pedestrian innovation to work the most profound of changes.

Discount Passes to Engage! Expo

You can use code MWVIP to get $200 off an all-access pass to Engage! Expo, which takes place September 23-24 at the San Jose Convention Center. It looks to be an interesting couple of days, featuring panels and talks on social media, virtual goods, 3D environments and more.

Online Game Addiction: DVD Giveaway

I have a few copies of Second Skin to give away, the recent documentary that looks at the phenomenon of addiction to online games like World of Warcraft. (I appear briefly in the film, commenting on virtual worlds in general.) The movie doesn’t do much hyperbolizing; the players that are followed in the film really do have it bad. The portraits are well drawn, and the games themselves aren’t really demonized, though if the film has a shortcoming, it’s in not adequately portraying the positive aspects of online gaming. Definitely worth watching, if you can find a screening. (It’s in San Francisco at the end of September.) If you want to check it out in the comfort of your own home, send me your name and address at themetaverse at gmail dot com, and I’ll fire off DVDs while supplies last (which isn’t going to be very long). I may have some t-shirts to give away as well.

Mothballs: the End of an Eve Online Corporation

I’ll begin this blog with an ending: My friend Jim Rossignol writes this week (over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun, a site he co-founded) about the five-year spree of StateCorp, a player-run “corporation” in the massively multiplayer online space opera known as Eve Online. (Eve’s corporations would be known in most other games as guilds or clans.) Jim helped run StateCorp over the entire course of its life — for much of which time he was arguably its lifeblood, without which it would have broken up. I was a member for a couple of years near the beginning, and on and off throughout. Now, with the corporation “in the process of moth-balling and disbanding,” Jim looks back at what he calls “the lengthiest and most fulfilling gaming experience” of his life. Considering the impact it made on me, I can understand his effusiveness. Continue reading

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